Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site: 10th anniversary

Lara Sinner

Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site: 10th anniversary

In order to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place must not only be of outstanding natural beauty but must also possess exceptional geological, biological and ecological importance and contain essential habitats ensuring local biodiversity. Moreover, it must have a plan to maintain and protect its natural beauty. The Sciliar-Catinaccio Nature Park, Latemar massif and GEOPARC Bletterbach were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 26.06.2009 – exactly ten years ago. To mark this special anniversary we are holding a series of events in the region. 

Silent stone witnesses – the Dolomite atolls of Val d’Ega

“Les plus belles constructions au monde” – that was the verdict of the architect Le Corbusier when he set eyes on the craggy peaks of the Dolomites for the first time. The Catinaccio and Latemar massifs – known for their spectacular towers and spires, sheer faces and mighty plateaus – are among the most photographed mountains in the world. 

Stone giants

The Catinaccio massif between Tires, Val d’Ega and Val di Fassa, presents a different face from each side. Seen from the regional capital Bolzano, it is a huge monolith with a flat roof. From Alpe di Siusi it shows its deep gorges and valleys. From the west visitors can admire a seemingly endless row of summits and ridges one after the other – the remains of a mighty reef which stood here 240 million years ago. It is amazing to think that once upon a time all this was covered by water.

The more brittle rock of the Latemar massif between Val di Fiemme in the Trentino region and Val d’Ega contains a high density of magma rock and marine fossils left behind from the time when it was a lagoon separated from the rest of the sea by a reef. In the turquoise waters of the Lago di Carezza it is still possible to see the horizontal layers and the rock formations left behind by the reef. 

Rainbow over the Latemar
Enrosadira Rosengarten-Catinaccio
Latemar antique Look

Alto Adige’s oldest history book

The Catinaccio/Latemar mountains are particularly interesting from a morphological point of view. The differences in altitude and surface, tectonic activity, diverse rock composition (light reef limestone contrasts with dark volcanic rock) and weathering bear witness to changes in the climate over time and make the massifs like one huge open book telling the history of Alto Adige.

These mighty chains have also been important places for international research into fossil atolls dating back to the Triassic Period. It is here that fundamental principles of geology were first recognised and formulated.

Today it is the landscape and beauty of the mountains which draws countless hikers and nature lovers to this area in the far north of Italy. From stunning sunrises to the unique phenomenon known as ‘enrosadira’, when the mountains glow at sunset in hues of red, purple, pink and orange, the Dolomite atolls of Val d’Ega are a truly majestic sight.

The Dolomites UNESCO Geotrail is a highlight for all visitors keen to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site on foot. It leads across the Italian Dolomites in ten days – stage 2 (intermediate, 7 hours, 20.3 km) leads from the Lavazè ridge to the Passo di Costalunga, while stage 3 (difficult, 6.2 hours, 15.2 km) leads from the Passo di Costalunga into the heart of the Catinaccio mountains. 

“High towards the sky they stretched, bathed in sunlight and strangely similar to giant organ pipes.” (J. Gilbert, The Dolomite Mountains, 1864)

 Autumnal sunset in Carezza
Lake Carezza autumn
Latemar in the sunset with rainnow

Lara Sinner

is responsible for Web Concept & Content at clicktext, the South Tyrolean agency for corporate content. She loves and lives writing, and her stories reflect what the land of South Tyrol – and especially the Val d’Ega – has to tell!

The Italian version of this text is the work of our translation wizard Serena Schiavolin, responsible for Italian content at clicktext, who brings a typical Italian touch to our stories!