Selva di Val Gardena

Table of Contents

Val Gardena is an alpine valley nestled in the Dolomites of South Tyrol, Italy. With a rich history dating back to the 10th century and a predominantly Ladin identity, it is considered an integral part of Ladinia.

A Journey Through History

The first documented mention of Val Gardena dates back to the late 10th century when Bavarian Count Ottone of the Rapotoni lineage bestowed the “ad Gredine forestum,” or the forest in Gardena, to the bishop Gottschalk of Frisinga. This historical legacy is woven into the fabric of the valley, and it’s evident in the culture, architecture, and traditions that thrive here today.

Geographical Splendour

The Dolomites of Gardena decorate Val Gardena while the Rio Gardena flows through it for 25 kilometers. The valley also boasts several lakes, mostly situated above 2000 meters, including the Lech dl Dragon, Lake Crespëina, lech Sant, lech da Iman, lech da Rijeda, and Lech dla Scales. These geological wonders, along with the unique sandstone formations, contribute to the valley’s unparalleled beauty.

The Heart of Val Gardena

Val Gardena comprises three municipalities: Ortisei, Santa Cristina Valgardena, and Selva di Val Gardena, each offering a distinct charm. Other areas like Laion, Ponte Gardena, Oltretorrente, Bulla, and Roncadizza, bathed by the Rio Gardena, are also considered part of the valley. Despite being officially trilingual, the valley’s population predominantly speaks Ladin, adding to its unique cultural tapestry.

Val Gardena from Passo Pordoi

Unrivalled Infrastructure and Transport

Until 1960, the Val Gardena railway, which connected Chiusa, Ortisei, and Santa Cristina Valgardena, was a vital transportation route. Today, the “Val Gardena Mobil Card” offers tourists unlimited use of all public transport in South Tyrol, enhancing accessibility and convenience. For electric car users, numerous charging stations have been installed across the three towns, ensuring the full functionality of electric vehicles.

Winter Wonderland in Val Gardena

Val Gardena is renowned for its winter tourism, particularly skiing. The valley features 500 kilometers of downhill slopes, 83 modern ski lifts, 30 kilometers of hiking trails, and 115 kilometers of cross-country ski trails.

Whether you prefer alpine skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or simply admiring the mountains from a warm pool, Val Gardena has something for everyone. Thanks to its connection with Dolomiti Superski, the world’s largest ski carousel, the Sellaronda, and the nearby Alpe di Siusi, it is a haven for winter sports enthusiasts.

Furthermore, the valley regularly hosts international competitions and World Cup Alpine Skiing races, with the Saslong slope being a popular venue for Super G and downhill races.

Lift in Val Gardena

Beyond Skiing: Embracing Outdoor Adventures

Beyond skiing, Val Gardena offers a plethora of outdoor activities. Its long-standing summer tourism tradition boasts numerous hiking trails and Via Ferratas, facilitating trekking and climbing in the Dolomites. The presence of many Alpine huts and functional ski lifts allows for high-altitude excursions in relatively short times. In recent years, numerous mountain bike trails have been added, making various areas accessible to biking enthusiasts.

Sports in Val Gardena

Val Gardena is home to the esteemed HC Gherdeina, its ice hockey team. As of 2015, they were competing in the A1 series, the top division of the Italian national league. The valley has produced remarkable sports icons, such as Carolina Kostner, a world and European figure skating champion, and her cousin Isolde Kostner, a highly skilled alpine skier. Notable regional athletes also include the speed skier Peter Runggaldier and the climber Karl Unterkircher. The Gardena Ronda and Sella Ronda ski circuits are renowned for skiing enthusiasts. As for football, F.C. Gherdëina represents the valley, though they have remained in the local amateur divisions since their establishment in 1992. Additionally, Val Gardena has been a preferred summer retreat for numerous high-level teams.

Via Ferratas in Val Gardena

Val Gardena offers mountain enthusiasts various opportunities, including some of the most famous Via Ferratas in the Dolomites. The most well-known are the Tridentina Ferrata, Schuster Ferrata, Meisules Ferrata, Sass Rigais Via Ferrata, Piz Duleda Ferrata, and the decommissioned Sandro Pertini Ferrata.

Culture and UNESCO Heritage

Ortisei is home to the Museum of Val Gardena, which showcases a wide range of collections related to the valley. Ladin, one of the Rhaeto-Romance languages, is the predominant language spoken in the region. Furthermore, the official UNESCO platform is situated on the Alpe del Mastlè in Santa Cristina’s territory, symbolizing the area’s designation as a UNESCO natural heritage site on June 19, 2009. This declaration highlights the valley’s cultural richness and the preservation of its natural beauty, which has been cherished for centuries.

Furthermore, adding to the list of notable personas from Val Gardena is Giorgio Moroder, an esteemed figure in the music industry. Born in Ortisei, Moroder is a prominent record producer, songwriter, and DJ, celebrated internationally for his groundbreaking work in electronic music. His illustrious career has been recognized with multiple awards, including three Oscars, thus amplifying the cultural significance of this region.

Landscape on Sassolungo

Mountain Huts in Val Gardena

In the Dolomites of Val Gardena, there are 65 mountain huts, nearly all of which have been family-run for generations. Each of them offers a unique menu that ranges from traditional dishes to more sophisticated cuisine, including seafood. The restaurants always offer a wide selection of wines, mainly from South Tyrol, to complement their menu. The joy of skiing becomes a pleasure, with a good lunch in a cabin or a refuge along the slopes.

Gastronomic Specialties of Val Gardena

The rich and fascinating history of Val Gardena’s gastronomic delights dates back generations. The farmers of Ladin valleys had limited ingredient options, so they developed creative ways to process and preserve their produce. As a result, they created a range of unique and delicious specialties that people still enjoy today.

Over time, Val Gardena has modernized and incorporated new ingredients to expand the range of recipes while still preserving the authenticity of tradition. As a result, homes and restaurants throughout the valley offer an incredible variety of dishes.

One of the most popular dishes is Crafucins. They are Ravioli filled with spinach and served with a variety of sauces. Another must-try is Puessl, an Apple Schmarren dish that is a sweet treat for any food lover. You cannot miss the famous Canederli, Gnocchi, and Gröstl, a hearty dish made with roast meat and potatoes.

If you have a sweet tooth, you must indulge in Tëurta de Furmenton, a buckwheat cake served with cinnamon and berries. This unique dessert is a true delight that will leave you wanting more.

Regarding snacks, South Tyrolean speck with Schüttelbrot and gray cheese is a perfect treat for a day in the mountains. This savory dish is ideal for those who want a quick pick-me-up while exploring the beautiful Val Gardena region.

Furthermore, in summer, you can join cooking courses by Gardenese farmers to learn and prepare traditional specialties. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn from locals and experience the authentic flavors of Val Gardena’s gastronomic scene.

Michelin-starred Restaurants in Val Gardena

Among the many restaurants in Alto Adige awarded Michelin stars, three standouts in Val Gardena. Suinsom in Selva, Alpenroyal Gourmet, and Anna Stuben in Ortisei.

Suinsom, meaning “At the top” in Ladin, offers a blend of tradition and innovation with fresh, high-quality ingredients. 

The gourmet restaurant at Grand Hotel Alpenroyal, led by Chef Mario Porcelli, combines maritime and alpine flavors.

Anna Stuben at Hotel Gardena / Grödnerhof, headed by Chef Reimund Brunner, focuses on local and regional products in a warm and elegant wooden setting.

Traditional Handicraft Economy

Val Gardena’s traditional handicraft is intricately connected to woodwork, with a special focus on sculpture. Moreover, the art of carving the dense Swiss pine wood originated in the 17th century in Pescosta, a charming hamlet of Ortisei. Additionally, it remains a thriving industry in the valley to this day. Notable artisans from Gardena who gained recognition beyond the valley include Giovanni Battista Holnaider, a skilled weapons maker who settled in Cavalese. Furthermore, Marchiò Molziner established a wood sculpture workshop in Venice. Moreover, people celebrate the region for alpaca farming and its artisanal production of clothing and fabrics crafted from the wool of these magnificent animals.

Ortisei in Winter


Val Gardena is a perfect holiday destination that caters to a wide range of interests. If you’re an adventure seeker, you can indulge in various outdoor activities that will get your adrenaline pumping. You can go skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or even paragliding. Furthermore, if you’re a food enthusiast, you can indulge in some of the best dishes the region has to offer. From traditional South Tyrolean cuisine to Italian delicacies, there’s something for every taste bud. 

Moreover, the natural beauty of Val Gardena is truly breathtaking. With its picturesque landscapes, towering mountains, and crystal-clear lakes, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe. But Val Gardena is more than just a place to admire nature’s beauty. It’s an experience that immerses you in a unique culture you won’t find anywhere else. 

So, whether you’re looking for an adventure-filled trip or a relaxing getaway, Val Gardena has something for everyone. It’s a destination that will leave you with unforgettable memories that you’ll cherish for years to come.