Many visitors to Arabba come for the pristine valleys and guaranteed snow all season long, but few may realise that they’re skiing in the middle of an amazing natural UNESCO World Heritage Site!
The tiny village of Arabba is nestled high in the Dolomites, a range of mountains in northern Italy that forms part of the Southern Limestone Alps. The Dolomites are a spectacular sight: pale crags of rock thrust up from evergreen forest, sheer cliffs casting dramatic shadows. Their characteristic shape and colour are easy to recognise. Once called the “pale mountains,” the Dolomites are named for 19th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, who was the first to describe the carbonate rock, dolomite, which makes up the mountains.
In 2009, the Dolomites were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their intrinsic beauty and importance to the fields of geology and archaeology. Today, they are a popular place for skiing in the winter and mountain climbing, hiking, cycling and paragliding in the warmer months.
Arabba is located at the foot of the Sella Group, an enormous, plateau-shaped massif (a compact group of mountains) and is surrounded by mountain passes and ridges, which makes access to other ski areas very easy in winter. Because of its high altitude (1600 metres), snowy climate and mostly shaded location, Arabba has become a playground for die-hard ski enthusiasts. But it wasn’t always this way. Long before skiers flocked to this area, the Ladin people made this part of the Dolomites their home. The area is now known as the ‘Ladin valleys’.
The Ladin People
The Ladin people are an ethnic group native to northern Italy. They speak Ladino, a Rhaeto-Romance language that was influenced by the Latin-speaking Romans. There are about 30,000 people in the Dolomites today who still speak this ancient language, and Ladin cuisine is still served in the area.
To delve deeper into this fascinating and ancient people that call the craggy Dolomites home, take a drive about 45 minutes north to visit the Museum Ladin. The museum organises exhibitions, concerts and lectures on Ladin culture and language and includes interactive exhibits on the region’s geology, archaeology and crafts.
How to Get to Arabba
If you plan to get to Arabba by car, the sixteen-hour road trip will take you through such captivating European cities as Reims, Strasbourg, Stuttgart and Innsbruck.
If you plan to fly, which is by far the easiest and fastest option, you can get very reasonable rates from Ryanair or easyJet for the two-hour flight into Venice Marco Polo International Airport. You can book a Venice transfer through Shuttle Direct to ensure that a driver will be waiting for you at the airport to whisk you and your ski gear away to Arabba on a 2 and a half hour drive. Since Arabba is almost impossible to reach by public transport, we strongly recommend this option.
Where to Stay
Chalet Barbara – This cosy, budget hotel is well-located at the foot of the Podroi Pass, which connects Arabba with neighbouring Canazei. A ski-in ski-out resort, you can hop on the ski lift right behind the property. If you’re looking for a great combination of value and convenience, the Chalet Barbara is an excellent choice.
Hotel Al Forte – Located just under two miles from the ski slopes of Arabba, part of the Hotel Al Forte was once a fort during the First World War. The building’s history is visible in low stone doorways, archways and narrow stairwells. Its combat days done, the hotel is now decorated in traditional Alpine style with light wood furnishings and exposed ceiling beams.
Lagació Hotel Mountain Residence – For a ski chalet, the 4 star Lagació Mountain Residence is unapologetically modern. The spruce trimmings and roaring fireplaces are present, naturally, but the angular lines of the front balconies and the futuristic furniture set the Lagació firmly in the 21st century. With luxurious amenities like panoramic windows, helicopter rides and a private supply of mountain spring water, this plush resort can cater to your every need.