Discover La Val: What to See & Do in Alta Badia’s Most Beautiful Mountain Village


Kate + Vin

A panorama of La Val in Alta Badia
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Looking to visit La Val in Alta Badia? We have you covered. Dive in to discover the pastoral charm of this peaceful corner of the Dolomites. Crowned as the first “European hiking village,” La Val is a paradise for anyone craving breathtaking landscapes alongside captivating history and culture.

Perched high above the Badia Valley, (also known as Val Badia and Gadertal) in the holiday region of Alta Badia, lies the secluded village of La Val. This Ladin-speaking hamlet, hidden away like a secret whispered between the mountains, also answers to La Valle in Italian and Wengen in German, but as we discovered, once you wander its paths, the village simply becomes the escape you’ve been seeking.

In this post, we share the top things to see and do in La Val. You’ll uncover a realm where nature’s splendor is matched only by the depth of its history and the warmth of its people. Whether you spend a day or a week here, La Val compels you to slow down, breathe, and connect with a simpler, more profound way of life.

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About La Val

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La Val is the smallest mountain village in Alta Badia.

The first thing you notice upon arriving in La Val is the tranquility. It’s so tangible, you feel as though you could carve out a slice of the silence, fold it neatly, and slip it into your rucksack to carry back home.

Nestled at the foot of the imposing Sass dla Crusc massif, known to many as Sasso della Croce or the Heiligkreuzkofel, or ‘Kreuzkofel’ for those favoring brevity, La Val is a precious enclave of centuries-old mountain farming culture that remains woven in everyday life.

The village is surrounded by dense forests, lush meadows, cozy farmsteads, and a myriad of trails leading to heavenly vistas. This backdrop, coupled with the community’s deep-rooted care of its natural and cultural treasures, has rightfully positioned La Val as the first in South Tyrol to be honored as a “European Hiking Village.” Earning such a distinction shines a light on the village’s flair for keeping its history and traditions alive, all while serving up authentic adventures that welcome both the casual walker and the seasoned trekker.

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Sasso della Croce roars over La Val.

La Val’s location between the Fanes-Senes-Braies and Puez-Odle Nature Parks, near the piercing green Rit Meadows and the flower-drenched Armentara Meadows, makes it an ideal hiking destination — especially for those also seeking intimate encounters with ancient Ladin culture and cuisine. La Val boasts the highest percentage of Ladin speakers in all of South Tyrol.

If you are not familiar with the Ladin region of the Dolomites, it’s a cultural sanctuary where the Ladin language, an ancient Romance language, is still spoken, and traditional customs are clung to like treasures. Unlike other regions of the Dolomites, Ladin communities were isolated for centuries from outside influence due to their remoteness. Today, the Ladin people embody a living link to the past, offering you a unique window into a way of life that’s still in tune with the rhythm of the land.

Hike the Memento Vivereto to Sacred Heights

memento vivereto tru de meditaziun la val

One of the most soul-mending hikes in La Val is along the Memento Vivereto (Tru de meditaziun), or Path of Reflection. More than a hiking trail; it’s a 45-minute pilgrimage from the center of La Val through the Bosch da Crosta larch forest and meadow to the historic St. Barbara Church and the ruins of the St. Genesius Church.

However, this path doesn’t just meander through the landscape. It invites you to meditate on the beauty of your existence. Along the way, you’ll encounter five distinct stations, or introspection points, that serve as a narrative of life itself. Each one is a chapter, reflecting a phase of life, anchored by a biblical quote.  

Tip: We found out after hiking the trail that you can pick up a helpful leaflet about the Memento Vivereto at La Val’s tourist office or its parish church. Think of it as your guide to introspection, a nudge to ponder the path underfoot.

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The Church of St. Barbara

memento vivereto st barbara church

The star of the Memento Vivereto is the Church of St. Barbara (also referred to as Chiesa di Santa Barbara and Barbarakapelle). Enthroned on a hill with a view that commands the valley below, this small church captivated us the first moment we saw it in a guidebook years ago. Its bell tower, with its haunting Gothic styling, rises starkly, stitching earth to sky in a way that is both profoundly moving and mysterious.

According to historical records, the Church of St. Barbara was hammered into existence in 1490 by the rugged hands of miners who smelted ore into iron in the ancient furnaces found in Valparola, a valley to the south near the mines of Monte Pore. This mountain in the Ampezzo Dolomites towers over the scenic Passo Giau high mountain pass, which runs from Cortina d’Ampezzo to Selva di Cadore.

The minerals from Monte Pore’s mines were coveted for their capacity to craft the finest swords in Medieval Europe. Consequently, this little-known corner of the Dolomites played a pivotal role in forging the blades that shaped empires.

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Kate admiring the Church of St. Barbara bell tower.

In 1491, a bishop from the diocese in nearby Brixen (Bressanone) consecrated the church, dedicating it to St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners, and St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters and metallurgists. For centuries after, miners made the pilgrimage to the Church of St. Barbara seeking protection against the perils deep in the belly of Monte Pore.

With its perch beneath sprawling, high-mountain meadows, the church wasn’t only a beacon for those toiling in the depths of the earth. It also stood as a hallowed waypoint for shepherds, guiding their flocks to prime grazing lands — marking a sacred stop in their annual rhythm known as Almabtrieb.

The footprint of the St. Barbara Church is not large, but inside, its intricately painted vaulted ceiling, showcasing several saints, extends upwards, conjuring the feeling you are in a vast cathedral. As you gaze up, the saints seem to watch over you, their presence magnified against the dance of color and light.

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Centered is a depiction of St. Joseph Freinademetz — South Tyrol’s inaugural saint, born in Val Badia.

On the church’s northern wall, you may notice another face looking at you. It is here you will find a humble drawing of St. Joseph Freinademetz — the first saint of South Tyrol. Born in Oies, a hamlet of Val Badia, he is revered by South Tyroleans and especially cherished by those of Ladin heritage. Joseph was a polymath who knew seven languages and served as a missionary in China during a time of Christian persecution.

Outside St. Barbara, once you’ve reluctantly shifted your eyes from the dramatic vistas that span from the pale faces of Sasso della Croce to Sass de Putia (Peitlerkofel) — which, at first glance, resembles a prehistoric locomotive barreling towards the sky — you’ll find another marvel. There, etched into the walls of the church, a time-worn fresco endures. It freezes a moment of raw emotion: the crucifixion, with the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John huddled in prayer beneath Jesus. This precious work of art is from the 16th century.

The Church of St. Genesius

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Continuing on the trail stretching beyond St. Barbara, you’ll meander through a serene passage lined by ash trees, which suddenly gives way to another of La Val’s hidden treasures: the Church of St. Genesius. Standing as a stoic Romanesque relic, it is likely the oldest structure in Val Badia. The church once was the heartbeat of La Val’s parish and is known in Ladin as Dlijia vedla.

Historical records first acknowledge its existence in 1382. Like us, you might find yourself curious about the rationale behind constructing two churches so intimately close. The story goes that the bells of St. Genesius were simply too faint to summon the faithful to prayer. In response, a second bell tower was erected, its bell forged to resonate in harmony, ensuring the call to worship could reach every corner of the valley.

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Kate tackles a tricky stone labyrinth laid at the foot of St. Genesius.

Why this church was left to ruin is also interesting. Due to the growing population of La Val, a new parish church was built in the center of the village in the late 1800s. The original St. Genesius Church was eventually abandoned becoming a wood and hay storage shelter for the tiny hamlet of Tolpëi, which unfurls beneath the remaining church tower and a portion of its outer wall. On this wall, you can see the remains of three paintings of the Stations of the Cross.

Tip: If you do not have the time or ability to hike the Memento Vivereto, you can also visit both churches by driving to a parking lot on the edge of Tolpëi. From there, it will be clear which direction to walk.

Wander the Les Viles

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Scattered across the La Val region, you’ll encounter clusters of age-old farmsteads known as “Les Vils.”

After exploring the haunting beauty of the St. Genesius Church ruins, you have the choice to wander back to La Val along the Memento Vivereto or delve deeper into the heart of Ladin mountain farm culture. Venturing beneath the church through Tolpëi’s cluster of farmsteads is something we highly recommend.

These community clusters are unique to Alta Badia. Known as “Les Viles”, they are traditional peasant settlements that arose centuries ago as a means of survival against the often harsh conditions of the Dolomites. Bound by blood or bond, the Viles in the region are home to tight-knit clans that share resources like fountains, water troughs, and ovens.

When we wandered through Tolpëi, we were captivated by the sight of groups of wooden and stone farmhouses and barns huddled together on a sun-drenched slope. This clever arrangement, we discovered later, was designed to conserve every inch of valuable farmland. Its effectiveness was evident. We were instantly smitten by the immaculately kept vegetable gardens hugging the homes.

les vils alta badia tolpei

The architecture of these ancient hamlets is not found elsewhere in South Tyrol. It’s a novel mix of Rhaetian and Roman styles that fosters a sense of community distinctly different from other traditional Alpine farmsteads. The Ladins protect this communal way of life by requiring each farm be handed down to the eldest son.

Beyond Tolpëi, you can also trek upslope to explore the Viles of Ciablun, Runch and Biei. From there, you can hike back to La Val by passing through the Vile of Cians instead of returning via the Memento Vivereto.

Tip: When visiting the Viles, make plans to savor authentic Ladin cuisine by dining at the Ciablun Hofschank or Lüch de Survisc Hofschank.

Where to Stay in La Val

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La Val offers so many charming places to stay it can be overwhelming to research. Determining what is best for you will boil down to the type of experience you are seeking and where in the La Val area you would like to stay. To help you out we have recommended two places in the village itself and two farm stays located in the Les Vils.

Accommodations in the Village Center

  • Hotel Pider is a budget-friendly 3-star option that places you right across from the parish church.
  • Hotel Alpenrose Dolomites is a wonderful choice if you would like to enjoy a pool and spa during your time in La Val.

Accommodations in the Les Vils

  • Agriturismo Ciablun is a lovely farm stay in the Vile of the same name. It is also home to the Hofschank we mentioned in the tip above.
  • Agriturismo Tolpei is a gorgeous working farm in the Vile near the St. Barbara and St. Genesius churches. We couldn’t take our eyes off their lush garden!

How to Reach La Val

La Val is located in the heart of Alta Badia. The village lies between the towns of Corvara and Brunico and can be reached by taking the SS244 highway which runs north to south. If you are arriving from Bolzano, it is about a 1.5-hour drive.

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⇒ Get Help Planning Your Dolomites Vacation

If you are feeling overwhelmed with planning your trip to the Dolomites, do not despair. You are hardly alone. The region is very complex — from the multiple languages to the labyrinth-like geography. If you want help, check out our travel planning services. We offer a variety of services that will ensure you experience the best of the Dolomites without the stress.

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