The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site
The most beautiful mountains in the world
They may not be the highest peaks in the world, but they may be the most beautiful – thus mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner on the Dolomites. And nor is he wrong! UNESCO has recognised the uniqueness and value of the Dolomites by awarding them world heritage status in 2009: some 142,000 hectares, 2,400 plant species, and impressively unique in terms of their geology, botany and landscapes.
Famous mountains, famous people
Painters, sculptors, writers and poets have all made the Dolomites the subject of artistic works. In the 18th century, while they were still called the Limestone Alps, scientists came to study these mountains - including French aristocrat and geologist Déodat de Dolomieu, who gave his name to the dolomite rock and thus to the Dolomites. In the 19th century the first mountaineers and peak baggers declared the “pale mountains” to be their climbing Eldorado, while skiing as a sport began here at the end of that century. Thanks to Luis Trenker, mountaineer, actor and film director, and later also to Reinhold Messner, the Dolomites finally achieved worldwide fame in the 20th century as one of the world’s most beautiful mountain landscapes.
A wonder of the world
But world renown has not been an unqualified benefit: the 1970s saw excessive numbers of tourists in the Dolomites around the Catinaccio massif. Protective measures were urgently required and thus South Tyrol’s first nature park, the Sciliar-Catinaccio Nature Park, came into being in 1974. Finally, in 2009, nine areas of the Dolomites were recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The diverse rock structures, rugged forms and pale colour can all be traced back to the impressive 100-million-year-old history of the Dolomites that takes in a primordial ocean and volcanoes... a world heritage that is truly a wonder of the world!