“Awe-inspiring.” “Breathtaking.” “Majestic.” All words you may have heard to describe Alpe di Siusi (also well known as Seiser Alm) — Europe’s most dramatic high mountain plateau. But the one you really need to know before visiting is “vast.”
Alpe di Siusi is immense. Picture an area even bigger than Manhattan looming thousands of feet above the valley floor of the Dolomites. A heart-pounding playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and stripes, Alpe di Siusi sprawls over 34 square miles.
It’s a landscape of utter wild Alpine abandon tempered by a bounty of rolling meadows unlike anywhere else on the planet.
With 900 miles of hiking trails, you could spend an entire holiday in South Tyrol exploring the area. But if you’re like many travelers, you may only have set aside a day or two to visit this mountainous wonderland hidden near the heavens. If that’s the case, this guide is for you.
We walk you through how to experience the most iconic scenery of Alpe di Siusi — the Sassolungo (Langkofel), Sassopiato (Plattkofel) and Schlern (Sciliar) massifs — in all their glory. You’ll also find a mountain load of tips such as where to eat and additional sights to consider as you plan your Alpe di Siusi adventure.
A Hike All Can Enjoy
The hiking route we highlight winds through the plateau past rustic farms, mountain huts and thickets of evergreens. The striking mountain panoramas of Alpe di Siusi never leave your sight. Each trail we recommend ascends easily making this itinerary ideal for any age and skill level. No matter the season of your visit you can embark on this trek.
We detail the hike from two different starting points and their nearby attractions so you can determine which one appeals to you the most. Select the one that aligns most conveniently with where you’re staying and your interests.
No matter where you choose to begin the hike, the route returns to your starting point. You’ll get to experience the dramatic difference between the mountains from opposite directions. Round trip will take you 4-5 hours.
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Where is Alpe di Siusi?
Before we jump into specifics on this hike, let us paint a clear picture of where Alpe di Siusi is located. The name of the plateau can cause some confusion for travelers as it also denotes a broader holiday region in the Dolomites.
The Alpe di Siusi holiday region includes the plateau as well as villages and valleys lying far below to its north and west. Also often associated with the plateau is the holiday region of Val Gardena, which runs more to its east.
As we show below, both holiday regions serve as excellent launching points for hiking Alpe di Siusi. Whether beginning your hike from Val Gardena or Alpe di Siusi, the hiking route we cover is the same. The only difference being your starting and endpoint.
By the way, you do not need to base yourself in either holiday region to enjoy Alpe di Siusi while visiting South Tyrol. You can be on the plateau in only 40-60 minutes by car from Bolzano, Brixen or Merano.
Alpe di Siusi Hiking Option #1
The first hiking option we cover involves setting out from Ortisei (St. Ulrich) in Val Gardena. From the heart of Ortisei, you will take the Mont Sëuc Cable Car (Mont Sëuc means Alpe di Siusi in Ladin). In a matter of minutes, you will be on top of the plateau. From here, you will embark across the plateau to the tiny village of Compatsch (Compaccio).
After departing the cable car station any doubts you may have had about hiking a “pasture” vanish. Few sights anywhere can rival the sky-bound beauty of the Sassolungo Group unfolding before your eyes.
Using the Mont Sëuc Cable Car to Reach Alpe di Siusi
Here are the step-by-step directions to take the Mont Sëuc lift:
- If arriving in Ortisei by car, you have a couple of parking options to consider. You can park in the underground garage at the Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station or at the underground “Garage Central” parking lot in the center of Ortisei. From Garage Central it is just a 5-minute walk through town and over a foot/bike bridge to the station. Both parking areas are nicely located if you intend to also explore Ortisei.
- Once at the Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station, purchase a round trip ticket. The current cost is €19,90 per person.
- To reach the cable car boarding area, insert the ticket into the turnstile ticket slot to gain access. Then wait for a station staff member to direct you to board an available cable car. Sit back and soak in the views on the way up. To the east, the Seceda massif and alp will gradually reveal itself.
Hiking from Mont Sëuc
Begin your hike by heading left on trail no. 9 towards the Sassolungo Group. The trail will descend through stands of pines until opening into the rolling meadowland.
On your left, you will pass the Malga Schgaguler Schwaige, the first of many mountain huts on Alpe di Siusi. “Schwaige” “Baita” and “Rifugio” are all used to denote mountain hut. These relaxing Alpine refuges have tended to travelers since the Middle Ages.
When you approach a fork in the trail stay on trail no. 9 to the left which will bring you past the Sporthotel Sonne. Follow trail no. 9 for a good distance enjoying the rugged faces of the Sassolungo Group staring down on you. Eventually, you will come to Hartlweg which intersects the trail. Take a right onto Hartlweg.
When Hartlweg runs into trail no. 6B take a right to visit Malga Sanon if you are ready for a refreshment or a bite to eat. If not, take a left onto 6B.
Trail no. 6B will merge into trail no. 9 for a short distance. You will come to an option to take trail no. 3 to the right, but continue on 9 until you come to the second intersection for trail no. 3. Then take a right onto 3 towards Compatsch.
Stay on trail no. 3 until it ends at trail no. 30, which is also known as the Hans & Paula Steger Weg. Named after two South Tyrolean climbing and skiing legends who once called Alpe di Siusi home.
Take a right onto trail no. 30 and follow it for roughly another 20 minutes until reaching Compatsch. The Sciliar mountain from this stretch is at its most stunning.
Once at the village, you can give your legs a rest at the restaurant in the Nordic Ski Center. It offers a more contemporary setting than the rustic mountain huts you encounter, but the menu serves up delicious pasta if that suits your mid-hike appetite.
After you’re done visiting Compatsch, set out to return to the Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station via the same route. You’ll pass by Malga Schgaguler Schwaige again, which is where we had the best forking meal in South Tyrol. From their terrace, you can devour your final views of Sassolungo before zipping back down to Ortisei on the cable car.
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Alpe di Siusi Hiking Option #2
If you are interested in spending most of your time in the Alpe di Siusi holiday region, embarking on a hike of Alpe di Siusi itself from Compatsch is an excellent option to choose. Some of South Tyrol’s most alluring villages, churches and castles reside in this holiday region.
To start out from Compatsch, drive 7 miles above the village of Seis. Keep in mind the following:
- The road leading towards Alpe di Siusi is closed to incoming traffic from 9 am to 5 pm so be sure to arrive before 9 am. The road is not closed to outgoing traffic so you can leave at any time.
- Parking is available on the left of the road in Compatsch near the Alpe di Siusi visitor center in a lot called P2. The cost to park is €17,00. You can avoid paying the parking fee by parking in one of the roadside lots you’ll encounter on the drive up, but then, of course, you’ll extend your hike uphill.
- If you happen to arrive after 9 am when the road is closed, all is not lost. Take the Alpe di Siusi Cable Car up from the village of Seis. The cable car cost is €17,00 per person so it pays to arrive before 9 am and park.
Hiking from Compatsch
This hiking option follows the same route as above except instead of hiking to the Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station, the mid-point for your hike will be the Malga Schgaguler Schwaige before heading back to Compatsch.
You can certainly hike up to the cable car station and enjoy a refreshment and meal there if you wish in their restaurant. But our preference is the Malga Schgaguler Schwaige. Nothing beats their food and views in our opinion.
Here’s the hiking route you will follow from Compatsch. From the parking lot, you will pick up trail no. 30 (Hans & Paula Steger Weg).
Follow trail no. 30 until it intersects with trail no. 3 where you will take a left towards Saltria. Trail no. 3 will eventually merge into trail no. 9 where you will have the option to go left or right. Be sure to follow trail no. 9 to the left.
Stay on trail no. 9 and then take a right onto trail no. 6B. This trail will slowly curve to the east until coming to Hartlweg. Like above, you can stay on 6B to take a break at the Malga Sanon if you wish or take a right to continue trekking across Alpe di Siusi.
Hartlweg will lead you to trail no. 9 where you will take a left. Follow trail no. 9 all the way to Malga Schgaguler Schwaige.
After you have enjoyed a hearty meal and glass of South Tyrolean wine or beer, set out for the return hike to Compatsch. It’s worth pointing out that you do not have to initially take trail no. 9 back if you don’t wish. Take a glance at your map and you will see other trails that will eventually bring you to trail no. 30 into Compatsch.
Bonus Hiking Option: Let Curiosity be Your Guide
Reaching the plateau and simply wandering trails as your heart sees fit is an enticing option for free-spirited souls. Many trails are accessible to all and marked as such that you can roam without ever getting lost.
Find a trail that loops if you’re set on trekking Alpe di Siusi without seeing the same sight twice. Just be sure to bring a map from the cable car station so you can estimate how long it will take to reach any given point that interests you.
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Additional Tips & Considerations
- Make plans to explore Ortisei and the fascinating tradition of woodcarving in Val Gardena before or after hiking Alpe di Siusi.
- The Parish Church of St. Ulrich in Ortisei is well worth a visit as well. Built in the late 1700s, the church’s red bulbous dome is easy to spot making it a beacon for history and architecture lovers. Its interior is among the most gorgeous we have ever seen. Precious frescoes, oil paintings and woodcarvings adorn every inch.
- The Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (the lift operates until 6 pm from mid-June to mid-October). The station begins operating in mid-May after ski season and closes again in early November before reopening for the ski season typically in December. Mountain weather can impact opening and closing dates so make sure to review the lift schedule.
- Want to see the sunset on Alpe di Siusi? You’re in luck. Once per week in the summer the Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station runs from 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm to allow evening walks and dinner at their restaurant. Review the night schedule to see if the dates align with your trip to South Tyrol.
- If you are planning to hike in Val Gardena for more than one day, save money by purchasing the Val Gardena Card. This card allows unlimited use of specific lifts and cableways. Note: The Val Gardena card does not provide access to lifts based in the Alpe di Siusi holiday region.
- If you wish to experience Alpe di Siusi when the meadows are in full bloom with wildflowers, time your visit from mid-June to mid-July.
- Hiking isn’t the only way to enjoy Alpe di Siusi. If you’re a biking enthusiast, consider renting a mountain bike or e-bike. BAMBY rental is located right next to the Mont Sëuc Cable Car Station.
- If you like the idea of enjoying Alpe di Siusi with a blanket of snow, plan on a visit from November through April.
- The mountain huts on Alpe di Siusi are not open year-round. Be sure to review this mountain hut list and schedule prior to planning your hike.
- Want to see cows lazily roaming the pastures of Alpe di Siusi? Visit the plateau beginning in mid-July. The cattle typically are driven up in early July and driven back down by mid-September when the food supply has dwindled.
- Harness the natural energy of Alpe di Siusi to improve your wellbeing. Be sure to explore the wellness products originating from its meadows. Up to 80 different kinds of grass, herbs and flowers can found in just a handful of hay from Alpe di Siusi. Local companies like Trehs create natural cosmetic and wellness products based on the ancient wisdom passed down through the ages from the mountains of South Tyrol.
- If you embark on a hike of Alpe di Siusi from Compatsch, don’t miss a visit to the historic gem of St. Valentin Chapel, which sits below the Schlern massif in Seis. Its steepled-beauty has graced the mountain backdrop since 1244.
- Like all the regions of the Dolomites, Alpe di Siusi is shrouded in age-old legends. Witches long ago performed rituals on the plateau. You can embark on a spell-binding hike from Compatsch that takes you to the famous “Witches’ Benches”.
- For additional Alpe di Siusi hikes of various themes, lengths and difficulty, check out the official Alpe di Siusi holiday region website.
- For recommended hiking gear and clothing to wear while hiking Alpe di Siusi, access the guide in our free South Tyrol Travel Resource Library. Before any hike, pay attention to the weather forecast as mountain weather can change quickly.
Have you embarked on your own Alpe di Siusi adventure? If so, let us know in the comments below any additional tips, insights and hikes worth sharing.