For the 50+ Traveler

The Dolomites make up just a small portion of the Alps, but these northern Italian mountains have a unique appeal and alabaster beauty that put them in a class of their own. Reaching nearly 11,000 feet at their highest point, the Dolomites are the craggy playground of locals and tourists alike.

As beguiling as the Dolomites are, they’re also exceptionally historically relevant and have a fascinating geological past. Their stones could even have some major health benefits!

Here are seven fascinating facts about the Dolomites.

Historic tunnels in the Dolomites from WWI.

1. They Were The Site Of Some Of World War I’s Fiercest Battles

Since the Dolomites straddle the border between Austria and Italy, they were the location of some of the most ferocious battles of World War I. Even now, the mountains are gouged with tunnels and remnants of the war. The terrain of the Dolomites made the mountains particularly intense for both the Italian and Austrian soldiers. Both sides needed to contend with freezing temperatures, high altitudes, and the instability of the mountain itself.

The Dolomites in Italy.

2. They’re Nicknamed The Pale Mountains

The Dolomites are light colored due to their composition and are especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset. Because of their striking beauty and coloration, they are often called the Pale Mountains. Their otherworldly appearance has made them the subject of plenty of folklore, stories, myths, and legends over the centuries. The mountains might have even inspired famous works of literature.

A bench near the Dolomites in South Tyrol, Italy.

3. They Are A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Because of their outstanding universal value, the Dolomites were designated a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. Their extraordinary beauty is only one of the reasons why they were honored. The Dolomites are made of dolomitic limestone, a rare material that gives the mountains their signature spires, sheer cliff faces, and crags. The unique composition of the Dolomites is tremendously valuable to geologists, who study the range to learn more about the forces that shape our world.

The Dolomites in South Tyrol, Italy.

4. They’re Home To An Ancient Culture

The Ladin people have called the Dolomites home since 5 B.C., and they are known for their cultural contributions and fine craftsmanship. They’ve managed to preserve many elements of their original way of life, including their own language, though the two World Wars and numerous attempts to delegitimize them.

The ice mummy at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology.

5. An Ice Mummy Was Discovered In The Peaks

Otzi might be 5,000 years old, but he barely looks a day over 1,000! This spectacularly preserved ice mummy was unearthed in 1991 on the Similaun Glacier, deep in the heart of the Dolomites. Originally it was speculated that Otzi died of exposure or natural causes, but investigation proved that he was shot with an arrow. His discovery has allowed us to learn a tremendous amount about our ancestors. You can see the famous iceman for yourself at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

The Dolomites in Italy.

6. Powdered Dolomite Could Have Incredible Health Benefits

Although the research isn’t totally conclusive, dolomite could have some incredible health benefits when administered as a supplement. After it’s ground up, the stone acts as an effective vehicle to deliver calcium and magnesium and can help with heartburn. It can also strengthen bones. It seems that the Dolomites aren’t just pretty to look at -- their stones could be used to enhance our lives and improve our overall health.

Passo Giau in the Italian Dolomites.

7. They Were Once Underwater

As amazing as it is to think about, this massive mountain range was once deep under the waves. There is an abundance of evidence that proves that the fossils and formations found in the Dolomites originated under the sea. While nobody knows for sure what made the peaks break through to the surface, scientists speculate that catastrophic global events and furious volcanic activity caused them to emerge. The fact that the Dolomites were formed in the ocean provides us with an important opportunity to uncover ancient fossils and the preserved remains of coral from prehistoric times.

The Dolomites are arguably the most dazzling and mysterious mountains in the world. Their natural splendor, gorgeous coloration, and captivating past make them a must-visit destination. See the mountains that rose from the ocean for yourself on your next trip to Northern Italy.

Planning a vacation to Northern Italy? Don’t miss Venice and Milan.