The Dolomites are named after French naturalist Déodat de Dolomieu who, in the second half of the eighteenth century, was the first to study the particular type of rock predominant in this region.
The unique mix of minerals present in the rock gives the mountains a special light shade, which is why they are also called the pale mountains.
However, at sunset and sunrise the Dolomites are set ablaze by the rays of the sun in a spectacle of colours ranging from pink to fiery red. This is the effect of the famous Enrosadira, or Alpenglow phenomenon. Two hundred and fifty million years ago, these mountains were a mass of shells, corals and algae, submerged in tropical seas. Emerging 70 million years ago, and eroded by time and weather, today they represent a magnificent geological treasure and give the landscape an incomparable beauty.
Cortina d'Ampezzo, whose mountains are completely inserted in the UNESCO area and under protection of the Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites, is the perfect place to wander and discover this uniquely beautiful world of immense vertical walls, spires and pinnacles , green valleys, high mountain pastures, forests, streams, beautiful lakes, canyons and waterfalls.
The Tofane, perhaps the most impressive group of all the mountains that overlook the splendid Ampezzo valley, have three main peaks, all of which are taller than 3000m. Tofana di Mezzo, or the Tofana in the middle, which once housed a selection of small glaciers, is the tallest of the Tofane at 3,244m.
The Cristallo, with its 3.221m, is one of the most majestic and celebrated mountains in the Dolomites, and together with Pomagagnon it closes the Ampezzo valley to the north, forming a scenic backdrop with high visual impact. Like the Tofane, the Cristallo is characterized by tall rocky walls that often drop vertically all the way to the subalpine level, whereas the massifs of Fanes and Croda Rossa present less hilly plateaus interspersed by vast grasslands and high altitude meadows.
The characteristic pale grey rock formations of the 5 Torri (2.252m), located south of the Falzarego mountain pass, are instantly recognizable from their particular shape, reminiscent of medieval towers. The area was a First World War battleground between Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies, and many constructions from that era have been restored, today offering itineraries of great historical interest.
The summit of Faloria (2,231m) is the starting point for many ski-runs and routes used by hikers in summer. Legend has it that this was the house of God, Monte Ciasadio, as it was called by the Ampezzan people, because every morning the sun rises behind it.
Lagazuoi (2.827 m), which gets its name from the lakes that form here during spring, has since 1965 been connected by cable car to the Falzarego mountain pass. The area, which was used as summer pasture during the eighteenth century, was a notorious battleground during the First World War.
The Croda Rossa d'Ampezzo, with its 3.146 meters above sea level, marks the border between Tyrol and Belluno in the Nature Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites. It owes its name to the presence of Jurassic limestone and chalk marl, which give it the particular shade of red that distinguishes it from the paler tones of other Dolomite mountains.
The characteristic shape of Becco di Mezzodì (2.602m), a familiar feature of the panorama south of the valley, derives its curious name (the beak of midday) from its shape which resembles a beak, and from the fact that, seen from the centre of Cortina, the sun hits its highest peak exactly at noon.
Together with Becco di Mezzodì and the 5 Torri, the Croda da Lago mountain range, with its highest peak reaching 2.709 meters above sea level, closes the Ampezzan basin to the south. Its name refers to Lake Federa situated at the foot of its eastern slope, at an altitude of 2.038m.
As one of the mountains surrounding the famous valley of Cortina, the visual impact of the Pomagagnon (2.178 m), is truly spectacular. Its dramatic effect is more due to its close proximity to the valley, creating an illusion of grandeur, than to a remarkable elevation.