Once again, Marmot Tours has set the standard for others to follow. Now, I can’t make my mind up about Raid Alpine or Corsica...
The Alpine Massif stretches from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic and is the most extensive and varied mountain range in Europe. Unsurprisingly, it is also home to the world’s highest concentration of road cycling climbs. Peddling your lightweight road bike around the entire range has to be one of the ultimate cycling challenges – Marmot Tours makes this possible. Our Raid Alpine takes you from Nice to Lake Geneva, and what we call the Raid Dolomites continues the journey through Switzerland and Italy to the corner of Austria and Slovenia.
Marmot Tours has crafted our Raid Dolomites route to include as many iconic climbs as possible as it crisscrosses the range in an easterly direction. Taking nine days, it is probably one of our toughest cycling holidays. Still, taken at a modest pace and with the support of our attentive and energetic guides, it is a manageable challenge for anyone who has previously enjoyed any of our other Raids.
During this incredible journey, you will experience different cultures, architecture and flavours whilst feasting your eyes on vast mountain vistas – it is a holiday, so we keep it fun.
If you want to visit the Dolomites, but do not have 11 days to spare, then our Dolomites Minibreak or Classic Cols of the Dolomites & Stelvio tours with their flexible itinerary, may be the cycling holiday for you.
To find out more about the history and format of a Raid, please check out our blog here.
It is important to us that you book a holiday that’s right for you, so do read the Trip Notes for all you need to know about how this holiday works, food, accommodation & travel…
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
To get a flavour of this trip, head over to our YouTube channel to watch our Cycling the Italian Dolomites video.
Departure Dates & Prices
We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts off the basic trip cost (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):
- Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of the start of your holiday for our 5% early bookers discount
- Get a group of 10+ people together for a 7.5% group discount and, as the group organiser, receive a £150 voucher for your next holiday
- Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards
Please note that there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.
Day 0: Arrival day
We offer included transfers at specified times from Geneva (GVA) airport to Thonon-les-Bains (1hr).
Meet your guides, assemble your bikes and come to the welcome briefing followed by a great dinner.
Full travel advice and group airport transfer arrangements (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.
Day 1: Thonon-les-Bains to Spiez
Following the customary photo overlooking Lake Geneva, your journey starts by climbing gently over the Pas de Morgins (1369m) and into Switzerland. The next HC climb, the Col de la Croix (1778m), is no stranger to the Tour de Suisse. It starts with a series of steep switchbacks that quickly takes you through sun-drenched vineyards high up above the Rhône valley, but be warned – it has a bit of a sting at the end. This leads you to the Col du Pillon (1546m) and Saanenmöser Pass (1279m). From here, you can enjoy 49km of mostly downhill to your hotel on the edge of Lake Thun.
173km with 3070m ascent [ride profile]
Day 2: Spiez to Furka Pass
You start the day with a delightful section of flat following the shore of Lake Thun to Interlaken. From here, you take on the Grosse Scheidegg (1962m) – thought by many to be the best road cycling climb in Switzerland. The road is closed to vehicles (including our support van), making this a very pleasurable climb, and the view up the glaciers to the north face of the Eiger is breathtaking.
Next up is the beautiful Grimsel Pass (2165m), which leads into the infamous Furka Pass (2429m). Our destination is a hotel up at 2100m, affording us unrivalled views for our 2nd night in Switzerland.
115km with 3730m ascent [ride profile]
Day 3: Furka Pass to Chiavenna
The Swiss are famous for their cheese and road building – fueled on the former, we experience the latter! The mythical St Gotthard Pass (2107m) is a road that defies gravity as it snakes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Swiss Alps. The road was a feat of engineering only to be surpassed by the construction of a new road and tunnel, which now takes most of the traffic. The pass marks the start of a 70km descent, the first 5km of which are on smooth, well-maintained cobbles, also known as the Tremola road.
Starting at 250m ASL, the Passo del San Bernardino (2065m) is a significant challenge. However, as on the Gotthard, we use the old road, making it a delightful climb. The day’s final challenge is the Splügen Pass (2114m) with its field of hairpins and abundance of marmots. Your destination is Chiavenna down in Italy, so celebrating this challenging but remarkable ride with a triple-scoop gelato would seem appropriate.
198km with 3250m ascent [ride profile]
Day 4: Chiavenna to Bormio (Cepina)
The climb to the Passo del Maloja (1815m) takes you back into Switzerland and onto the Engadine Plateau and the stylish resort of St Moritz. Staying high and enjoying breathtaking scenery for the rest of the day, we link four great climbs – Bernina Pass (2328m), Forcola di Livigno (2315m), Passo del Foscagno (2291m) and Passo d’Eira (2210m). This spectacular ride is rounded off with a great descent to your hotel in Cepina on the outskirts of Bormio, where we spend the next two nights.
133km with 3200m ascent [ride profile]
Day 5: The Stelvio and back to Bormio (Cepina)
The Passo dello Stelvio (2758m) needs little introduction. It’s a bit of a beast with many 8.5% sections and a few at 9%, so you’ll be pleased to get to the top for a celebratory Bratwurst! Despite the challenges, it is one of the world’s most iconic and enjoyable road-cycling climbs. It is also the highest pass on our journey, making it our Cima Coppi.
Once at the top, all you need to do is roll back to the hotel in Cepina or head into Bormio for a relaxing afternoon. You are now at the midpoint of our cycling challenge, so it seems appropriate to have a ‘recovery day’.
53km with 1620m ascent [ride profile]
Day 6: Bormio (Cepina) to Bolzano
The narrow mountain road over the Passo di Gavia (2621m) has been stirring things up in the Giro d’Italia since 1960s. It is also a fantastic climb with striking views over the glaciers of the Stelvio National Park. After quite a technical descent, you nip up the Passo del Tonale (1883m) into the Val di Sole. Here we join a surfaced cycle path that takes you through lush meadows and pretty villages.
Next up is the Passo della Mendola (1363m), which lines you up for a roller-coaster descent into the Adige Valley and onto your hotel on the outskirts of Bolzano.
152km with 2950m ascent [ride profile]
Day 7: Bolzano to Cortina (Pocol)
There may be an uphill bias for most of the day, but you are in for another spectacular ride. Your day starts traversing Bolzano on a great, traffic-free cycle path before climbing (steeply) out of the deep valley towards the Alpe di Siusi and onto the Passo di Pinei (1437m).
The towering limestone peaks, green fields and picture-perfect villages welcome you to the Dolomites, and the climb to the Passo di Gardena (2121m) is an excellent introduction. We then descend through Corvara and take on the northern side of the Passo di Valparola (2192m). The landscape is idyllic, but there are still plenty of ruined buildings and trenches to remind us that this was the front line and the scene of a brutal battle during WW1. A fantastic descent over the Passo di Falzarego (2105m) takes you to our hotel above Cortina, where we spend two nights.
102km with 3070m ascent [ride profile]
Day 8: Highlights of the Dolomites
Raids are generally point-to-point journeys; however, the original idea was to “go and ride it all”, so we feel that taking in a loop over some of the most iconic climbs in the Dolomites is justified, if not essential.
Riding the eastern side of the Passo di Giau (2236m) first thing in the morning is magical, and the 360-degree panorama from the top is mind-blowing. This leads nicely into the Passo di Fedaia (2057m) at the foot of the Marmolada glacier. This climb includes an 18% section, which is a good warm-up for tomorrow.
107km with 3310m ascent [ride profile]
Day 9: Cortina (Pocol) to Carnia
Today’s destination is a welcoming hotel nestled in the corner of Italy, Austria and Slovenia. Here the mighty rivers that originated in the Dolomites and the Julian Alps merge and fan out onto the plain of Friuli – this seems an appropriate place to end our epic cycling traverse of the Swiss and Italian Alps.
However, that much-deserved, cold beer is 100 miles away, and there is more excellent road cycling to be enjoyed. Starting with a downhill to Cortina, we then tour Monte Cristallo over the Passo di Cimabanche (1530m) and Col Sant Angelo (1768m) to Misurina, for some great views of the towering rock pillars of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The Sella Ciampigotto (1790m) marks the end of the Dolomites and the start of our grand finale – Monte Zoncolan (1735m). With 10.1km averaging 11.9% (including 6km at 15%), this is a fitting climax!
160km with 2850m ascent [ride profile]
Day 10: Departure day
We offer transfers from the hotel to Venice Marco Polo (VCE) airport (2hrs) at specified times.
Full travel advice and our group airport transfer arrangements (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.