As travel quickly rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the strongest sectors has been active and adventure travel. Americans took up new outdoor activities such as cycling and hiking, which saw massive growth during the pandemic, and now they want to take that on the road. At the same time, many realized that life is unpredictable and having great travel experiences now, not “someday,” is important. The more “Bucket List” type trips, from safaris to epic hiking routes like the Tour du Mont Blanc, have also seen jumps in bookings.
Many of the leading tour companies specializing in these kinds of trips are reporting record reservations, and travelers are booking big active and travel trips into late 2023, a year and a half out. Active and adventure travel is my favorite kind of travel, but these trips can be expensive and require advance commitment, so it is important to choose wisely. The knowledge and personalities of the individual guides is key to your enjoyment, and with complex logistics, often in far-flung or exotic locales, you need to use an organization with expertise in this kind of planning and execution. Strong networks of local contacts get you the best, most unique or most charming accommodations, the best meals along the way and memorable local, immersive experiences.
Since summer is prime vacation travel time and many Americans are starting to plan their return to travel right now, I’m devoting June to profiling and speaking with the women who run some of the best tour operators in the business. After all, the majority of travel decisions and bookings are made by women, so whether you are traveling solo, with other women, or with your husband, boyfriend or partner, you might appreciate the perspective these women have about what will make your trip the best. The first entry was giant global cycling and hiking luxury specialist Butterfield & Robinson (read here). The second was the boutique and all-bespoke active travel gurus at Gray & Co. (read here). The third was world-renowned safari company Micato Safaris (read here). Today I’m featuring Dolomite Mountains.
Dolomite Mountains is an active tour company specializing in in Northern Italy’s Dolomites and Lake Garda, as well as the island of Sardinia. They have both small-group scheduled departures and custom trips for alpine and AT skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, road biking, e-biking and multi-sport, plus a high level of focus on local culinary pleasures. The Dolomites are one of the world’s greatest year-round outdoor playgrounds, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the next Winter Olympics venue (for the second time). It is home to the largest interconnected ski lift and trail system on earth, is one of the world’s most famous mountain biking destinations, and has one of the most acclaimed one-day road cycling rides on earth, the Sella Ronda. But it is also a region with hundreds of miles of hiking trails and hundreds of miles of ski trails, many small towns and almost no chain hotels. Just about every accommodation and worthwhile restaurant is small and family-owned and operated, and having strong local connections and expertise, from hoteliers to outdoor guides, is vital here. Dolomite Mountains crafts custom adventures for clients who seek stylish, low impact programs with outstanding quality and value.
The Dolomite Mountains team is nearly all women, and company founder Agustina Lagos Marmol is a multilingual world traveler, adventurer, rock and mountain climber, windsurfer, cyclist, skier and devout hiker. She has traveled and lived in various countries, but her heart is shared between the Dolomites, where she lives; Sardinia, where she was recently married; Lake Garda, where she learned to windsurf; and Argentinean Patagonia, where she grew up fly fishing and horseback riding on her family’s estancia. Before entering the world of travel, Agustina studied photography and fashion design in California. In 1994, she discovered the Dolomites while working for a Canadian-based travel company, which led her to settle down in this magical part of the world and start her own outdoor company. After more than two decades living in these mountains, Agustina has hiked, climbed, cycled, and skied almost every corner, but still delights in discovering new treasures – a variation of a trail, an untapped guide, or a new mountaineering museum – and sharing them with guests.
“Our roots are in the Dolomites, one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes on Earth. The Dolomites’ vertical walls and long, narrow valleys provide an unparalleled location for hiking, biking, climbing, and skiing – and much more! One of the only local Italian tour operators based here, Dolomite Mountains has the benefit of local knowledge and expertise unlike any other. We provide authentic experiences so our guests can explore and enjoy the real Dolomites, taking in local culture and inspired regional and gourmet cuisine, in addition to the vast panoramas and trails.
We combine the beauty of the incredible Dolomites landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with accommodations that best reflect the style of the area. We partner with our hotels, B&Bs, and mountain inns to provide guests with the ultimate, personal experience. And our passionate, expert guides not only hail from and live in the region, but hold the highest international certifications, and love sharing insights that extend beyond what other companies offer.”
Q: Have you seen an increased interest in active travel among women travelers in the past few years?
A: Yes, there are more women traveling, and we are doing more women-only group trips. Many of the women are working women in their 50s, whose kids are grown up, so they can leave their husband and travel on their own or with friends.
Q: Have you done anything as a company to encourage or facilitate travel by women?
A: In the Dolomites, we are offering three women’s hiking trips, and we’re doing a couple of private women trips in Sardinia. More of our business is individual travelers and private group trips.
Q: What trends have you been seen recently or expect for the future in terms of types of travel or who is traveling?
A: We have definitely seen an increase in groups of girlfriends traveling together. We still have a lot of couples, and we’ve seen more multi-generational trips. Most of our group trips sell out, but mostly they are couples and not as much single travelers. We are definitely seeing an increase in active-travel requests, which is our sweet spot.
Q: What destinations are hot right now and going forward?
A: Italy is always very hot, and continues to be hot.
Historically, we work in the Dolomites, and there is a lot of interest in this region, especially among travelers who have already done one or two trips to other regions of Italy. We have also had a lot of interest in Sardinia.
The Lake Garda area is up-and-coming and has some gorgeous hotels like LeFay and the Lido Palace. Lake Como receives a lot of media attention, but really Lake Garda has so much active and adventure travel, as well as being the largest lake in Italy with wonderful culinary and spa options.
Q: What does your company do to make travel as great as it can be – what makes your company special?
A: Dolomite Mountains is locally based in the heart of the Dolomites, and we work with 100% local guides and staff. We always ensure that guests get to interact with the culture where they are traveling. Because our guides are local, they help our guests really delve into the roots, the history, and the culture of the regions they are in. We are all about the community, and the clients really appreciate that aspect of our trips. Our experience is very personalized, from the team handling reservations, who are local, to the guides and drivers.
Q: Do you have any advice for planning a trip or picking a trip or destination?
A: Our website has a lot of details about our trips and possible itineraries, which can really help those looking for options to explore. For example, if you’re interested in a multi-sport trip, you can visit a page where there are a dozen detailed itineraries with images, prices, what is included, maps and more.
Q: Any other thoughts that would be of interest to active travelers or women travelers?
A: Because you have excellent guides, you can push your limits and do things that you didn’t realize you can do.
Families on trips love the active element. As a family, you can really bond over the adventures, and it’s so much more fulfilling to have shared adventures with your family. We have some families where the mother will take place in some of the adventures, and then send the kids off to have some adventures on their own, so she can do a softer adventure, spa or have free time. But we also have groups of women and families, where the women are very hard-core adventurers. We offer all levels of adventure from easy hiking to aggressive Via Ferratas, and from easy e-biking to aggressive mountain biking, or high-level road cycling.
One thing that is nice is the combination of active travel plus spa, available in the Dolomites, Lake Garda, and Sardinia.