Every time we go to the Dolomites for a hiking holiday in summer, we choose our “base camp” carefully to make sure that we have easy access to both hiking trails and necessities. Last time we went (which was in summer 2019, thus pre-COVID-19), the choice fell on the top-tier skiing destination Arabba at the foot of the Piz Boe mountain peak. Below you will find our tips on where to find what around Arabba and what to do besides hiking trips. If you are looking for hiking trails in the Dolomites, check out our Hiking the Alps section.
Hiking holiday in the Dolomites, Arabba: Overview
- Where is Arabba located?
- How to get to Arabba?
- Where to stay in Arabba?
- What to do around Arabba (besides hiking;-)?
- Where to shop around Arabba?
- Where to eat in Arabba?
Where is Arabba located?
The Dolomites is a mountain range in northeastern Italy, stretching from the Cadore lake in east to the Adige river running past the city of Trento. Arabba is located in the heart of the Dolomites, close to popular hiking spots like the Pordoi Pass and Falzorego pass. It is a top-tier skiing destination in the wintertime as it lies at an altitude of 1600 meters (5250 ft.), and is connected to several of the peaks surrounding the Piz Boe mountain via cable car. Most of these cable car lines are also active in the summer time, which means that you can hike up to a peak and take the cable car down or reversely, in order to save your strength to do as many hikes as possible. Arabba is thus a great location for a hiking holiday in the Dolomites.
How to get to Arabba?
If you want to go for a hiking holiday in the Dolomites and you live outside continental Europe (or just very far from Italy!), chances are that you will want to go by airplane. The closest international airports are Venice (Marco Polo) to the south and Innsbruck to the north in Austria. The easiest and fastest thing to do is to rent a car and drive on your own to have maximum freedom and flexibility, but you can also use (semi-) public transport to get to the Dolomites, and then rent a vehicle (car, motorcycle, scooter, bike) to get around once you have arrived at your accommodation.
Airport shuttle bus options to various destinations in the Dolomites (including Arabba) are for example AlpinBus and SudTirolBus, but they are not inexpensive (+100 euros each way). If you are flying to Venice Marco Polo, you can, however, go with the ATVO bus line up to Cortina d’Ampezzo for as little as 13- 18 euros per person and then find a bus onwards to Arabba and other destinations with the regional bus company Dolomiti Bus.
Where to stay in Arabba?
In spite of its small size, Arabba is packed with accommodation options due to its immense popularity as a skiing resort. Not all are open or fully operational in the summer time, but you might get great accommodation for almost half of what you would pay in the skiing season. We did just that when we booked four nights at the three-starred Residence Baita Antlia through booking.com, and got a fully equipped studio flat with access to a big terrace and wellness facilities for just 72 euros/80$ per night.
You can, however, also find much cheaper accommodation but it requires that you plan and book well in advance as these places tend to fill up fast. Besides booking.com and Airbnb, you can look for accommodation through smaller, more specialized websites like MiaCortina and Dolomiten-Suedtirol – both pages are available in English. Regardless where you choose to stay in the Dolomites, it is important to pack for a much lower temperature than you otherwise would for an Italian summer holiday; think layers and long sleeves rather than shorts and sandals.
What to do in Arabba (besides hiking;-)?
Arabba and many other locations in the Dolomites are also popular for biking and mountain biking, not least because it is possible to take your bike on several cable car lines and then bike down. The cable car lines are also great to use just for experiencing the view from the top without doing much more walking than a simple stroll. If you want to swim and your accommodation doesn’t have a pool, there might be a possibility to use a hotel pool nearby or check if there is a waterpark or public pool close to you.
There are also plenty of beautiful clean lakes for swimming in the Dolomites, but be aware that the water temperature might be quite refreshing, not to say downright freezing. If you are looking for some more cultural sights, we can recommend going to the Andraz castle ruin but check opening times and days in advance. There are multiple museums and landmarks dedicated to World War I in the vicinity of Arabba, while you might have to drive a bit further to find museums dedicated to other topics.
Where to shop around Arabba?
As many small villages in the Dolomites, Arabba doesn’t have any actual supermarkets but a few more or less overpriced cramped mini-markets. These are absolutely fine for covering your immediate needs (like beer, biscuits and snacks) and often offer local specialties, but for a bigger selection, lower prices and (generally) fresher fruit and vegetables you should aim for going to a bigger village like Canazei or Zingerle, and find a proper supermarket like DeSpar (part of the European Spar supermarket chain) or Coop.
If you are looking for gifts or local specialties, even the smallest villages tend to have a gift shop or something similar where you can buy honey, wine, handicrafts etc. For shopping clothes, you will have to go to actual cities like Cortina d’Ampezzo or Bolzano although some villages like Arabba have a few sports shops with ski and bike rental as well as apparel for these activities.
Where to eat in Arabba?
Depending on your choice of accommodation, you might be able to cook at home but you simply can’t go on holiday in Italy without dining out AT LEAST once. Although Arabba is small by area, it has a lot of good eating out options due its popularity in winter as well as summer. The best restaurant in the village is Miky’s Grill underneath Hotel Mesdi, which despite the casual name and slightly hidden location serves a quite fancy menu with quite fancy prices. As the cheapskates we are, we managed to eat there for around 50 euros (free appetizers, 2x primi courses, 1x dessert + beverages) but the usual spending per person is probably more like 100+ euros (111+ dollars).
Another wonderful, but much cheaper restaurant which is worth driving to is the one at the camping site Sass Dlacia. I would never have thought that I could get a gourmet meal at a camping site restaurant, but the signature dish at Sass Dlacia is just that – a creamy risotto with dwarf mountain pine! For all restaurants in the Dolomites, you should be aware of the opening hours – many are closed between lunch and dinner, so if you get hungry late afternoon your options are limited. Some are also open for breakfast, and serve a hearty English-style breakfast – but often with local specialties like cured ham or seasoned bread. We had a lovely morning meal like that at the Rifugio Burz restaurant, just a cable car ride up from Arabba, where the friendly staff whipped us up a great omelet with cured ham, in spite of it not being on the menu.