As the holiday season approaches, many look for unique and memorable ways to celebrate Christmas. And if you're looking for a magical winter experience, look no further than spending Christmas in the Dolomites in Italy. Nestled in the heart of the Italian Alps, the Dolomites offer stunning scenery, charming towns, and festive Christmas traditions that will warm your heart.
Are you wondering what the Dolomites have to offer other than beautiful background scenery? Let's take you on a magical Christmas tour to explore the beauty of The Dolomites, its traditions and food and not to miss the cutesy little hamlets on the way!
The Dolomites in December
When planning your visit to the Dolomites in December, expect to see the mountains blanketed in snow and the air to be crisp and fresh. The Christmas season is particularly special in this region, as many of the towns and villages come alive with holiday markets, twinkling lights, and traditional celebrations. December is the peak season for Christmas festivities, but you can also enjoy the winter wonderland experience from late November through early January.
What are the Local Traditions for Christmas in the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are rich in unique Christmas traditions that make the holiday season even more special. Here are three of the most popular ones you should remember when you're visiting the snow-capped mountains!
If you're looking for a slightly darker Christmas tradition, the Krampus Run is not to be missed. In many towns throughout the Dolomites, locals dress up as Krampus, a mythical creature with horns and fur who punishes naughty children and runs through the streets with chains and bells. It's a thrilling and slightly terrifying spectacle that's sure to get your heart racing.
Another popular tradition in the Dolomites is the Presepe Vivente or living nativity scene. These scenes are set up in many villages throughout the region and feature local actors portraying the characters in the story of the Nativity. It's a beautiful way to experience the Christmas story and get a sense of the region's deep religious roots.
La Befana is a witch-like character who delivers presents to children on the night of January 5th, the eve of Epiphany. According to legend, she was invited by the Wise Men to join them on their journey to Bethlehem, but declined and later regretted it. Now, she travels the world on her broomstick, leaving presents for children in hopes of finding the baby Jesus.
What Should You Do in the Dolomites During Christmas?
Visit the Christmas Markets
Throughout the decades of their existence, Christmas markets have always provided a unique ambience while adapting to social and cultural shifts like the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars. Since keeping up with the times also entails adapting, these markets are also leaders in sustainability, a trendy concept today.
One of the highlights of Christmas in the Dolomites is the abundance of festive markets that pop up throughout the region. These markets offer a unique shopping experience, with local artisans and craftsmen selling handmade gifts, ornaments, and decorations. You'll also find plenty of delicious food and drinks, including traditional sweets, hot chocolate, and mulled wine. The vibrant cultural scene of South Tyrol in Bolzano is enriched by the Christmas markets, which begin at the end of November and last until early January. Having a historical history that dates back to Medieval Germany—the first one-day Christmas market was held in Dresden in 1434!—going there won't just provide you with a ton of options for lovely decorations, but also with a lot of tasty treats and fairy lights.
Take the Five-star market route across the Dolomites
After a stop, enjoy a five-star itinerary that includes the Christmas markets of Bolzano, Merano, Vipiteno, Brixen and Brunico. Each has its own beautiful old town atmosphere and the charming streets of these South Tyrolean gems are alive with Christmas spirit. Start at the biggest Christmas market in Italy: Bolzano ( you can refer to the upper paragraph).
Moving on, you have the elegant resort town of Merano with many beautiful stalls along the Sparrow River, which has beautiful scenery of snowflakes falling as the moon illuminates the city. You can buy various artefacts from the thirty or so stalls selling regional nativity scenes, glass and ceramic items, aromatic candles, and glittering decorations!
Brixen and its magnificent cathedral, St. Michael's Parish Church, also serves as the region's southernmost point. You can visit this wonderful church and look at the decorations surrounding it.
The charming 35 stalls in Brunico can be found after passing through one of the town's four gates. They give beauty to the attractive town centre and its colourful buildings.
In Vipiteno, the Fugger Town, there is a special Christmas market where you may browse the stalls while listening to the Zwölferturm tower's 25-bell carillon. It is a very lovely sight that was created in an Innsbruck factory and vibrates across the entire town to the sound of an aria written by a local musician, adding to the holiday charm. Sipping some warm apple juice while listening to the Christmas melody is surely a treat to the tongue and the ears!
Go Skiing or Snowboarding
The Dolomites are a world-renowned skiing destination, with over 1,200 kilometres of ski runs and 450 ski lifts. If you're a fan of winter sports, there's no better place to spend your Christmas vacation than on the slopes. You'll find a range of ski resorts throughout the region, from beginner-friendly runs to more challenging black diamond trails. And if you're not a skier or snowboarder, there are plenty of other winter activities to enjoy, such as snowshoeing, ice skating, and sledging.
Attend a Traditional Christmas Mass
Religion plays an important role in Italian culture, and Christmas in the Dolomites is no exception. Attending a traditional Christmas Mass in one of the region's beautiful churches is a special way to experience the holiday season. You'll hear carols sung in Italian, see elaborate nativity scenes, and witness the local community come together to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas, truly, is the most beautiful time of the year!
Enjoy a Festive Feast
Food is a central part of Italian culture, and Christmas is no exception. Many restaurants and hotels in the Dolomites offer special holiday menus, featuring traditional dishes such as panettone (a sweet bread with candied fruit), tortellini in brodo (pasta in a rich broth), and cotechino con lenticchie (a sausage and lentil stew). And of course, no Italian meal is complete without a glass of wine or prosecco to toast to the season.
Take in the Scenery
Even if you're not a winter sports enthusiast, the Dolomites are a stunningly beautiful destination year-round. During the Christmas season, the snow-capped peaks, frozen lakes, and picturesque villages ( take a look at the most enchanting villages to visit, down below) take on a special charm. You can also take a scenic drive or hike to take in the breathtaking scenery, or simply cosy up by the fire with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa, as you enjoy the warmth and feels of Christmas!
Discover the villages in the Dolomites
Check the antiques at Val Gardena
Walking through Val Gardena's numerous charming towns, you will discover many wooden statues and stores offering all different kinds of shapes and motifs. Val Gardena is home to a particularly special handcraft culture. The Christmas market in Selva di Val Gardena, Nadel da Mont, is one of two communities that thrive throughout the holiday season with an especially festive ambience. This market features nine cheerful wooden cabins and thirteen tiny wooden gondolas dotting the area bringing the festive joy. It is a great place for skiing and is a part of the Sellaronda circuit.
There is romance in the air when historical photographs line the streets and a contest for snow sculptures is added. The capital of Val Gardena, Nadel Urtijeii near Ortisei, is a stunningly charming town, with its vividly coloured residences highlighting exquisite regional architecture. With an authentic Christmas village, the location's charm reaches its pinnacle during the holidays. The welcoming wooden shelters known as loden lounges are your invitation to sample some delectable treats or to appreciate a wooden sculpture while taking in some local musical performances. Under the watchful gaze of the majestic Dolomites, stroll through the charming alleyways and share a kiss beneath the mistletoe. Imagine living your fairytale dream!
Meet Santa at Paisc da Nadé, The Christmas Village
As soon as you arrive in Alta Badia, the kind Ladin people welcome you with open arms. The region's picturesque towns cap off a wonderful trip filled with breathtaking views, incredible experiences, and delectable gourmet cuisine and wine. Here, Christmas is celebrated to an even higher pitch with glistening ornaments, timeless tunes, and wonderful customs like San Micurà, Saint Nicholas, who makes his appearance on December 6 with gifts and joy. A string of magical lights adorning the homes, concerts, delicacies, and charming nativity scenes will evoke feelings of true holiday cheer from Laval to Colfosco, Corvara, and Badia, in addition to San Cassiano of course.
And when the snow falls, take part in an alternative, vintage adventure like the 3,1-kilometre-long Trù dla liösa Form toboggan run. This natural slope descends from Piz Sorega (2,003 m), via meadows and woodlands, to San Cassiano while offering views of the Lavarella and Contourines. This place has always been a hit with kids (and adults) alike!
Sightsee at Ortisei
On the slopes of Rasciesa Mountain is Ortisei, one of the magnificent communities of the Dolomites, situated like a rare pearl in the centre of the lovely Gardena Valley. It is one of South Tyrol's most enticing tourist spots. This makes it the ideal location for fans of the mountains and winter sports. This region has been inhabited since the beginning of time, and it has a long history that dates back to the first native settlements, which were likely made by Ligurians.
Due to its lovely historic centre, the oldest section of the village has been honoured with the distinguished title of Italy's most beautiful hamlet. The unusual wooden architecture of the hayloft and the ancient homes built in the Blockbau style, which are emblematic of Nordic culture, will amaze you. This method makes use of stone for the base and wooden beams that overlap at the corners.
There are numerous churches, including the Church of St. Osvaldo and the Church of St. Margherita, both of which are adorned with stunning murals and stained-glass windows. Its stained-glass windows with illustrations also show the most significant local historical occasions. The Regina Pacis Sanctuary, located in the hamlet of Soravia, is another significant place of prayer.
You should visit the fascinating museums to learn more about the culture and customs of this fairytale mountain town!
Ski through the Toblach village
The lovely village of Toblach is located in Trentino-South Tyrol, amidst the alluring mountains of the High Pusteria valley. The vibrant cultural hub is frequently referred to as the Dolomites' Gateway and is situated in the Three Peaks region. You can take advantage of the nearby paths that make it simple to reach renowned ski resorts and mountain cottages.
Major international events are held at the 120 km of ski slopes, 5 ski resorts, and 31 lifts that make up the Three Peaks Ski Area. The Ski Pustertal-Express makes it simple to travel to the Plan di Corone ski resort, which has 119 km of slopes for skiers of all skill levels. The Nordica Arena ski complex, which was constructed in 2009, is a well-known winter tourist destination in Toblach and provides suitable routes for experienced athletes and marathon runners.
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