The Greatest Cycling Climbs – The Passo Valparola

Written by Robyn Oppenheimer on 21st February, 2019

The Passo Valparola is the stunning mountain route in the heart of the Dolomites, steeped in World War I history. This climb which is home to magnificent geological structures and mythical legends of the great Italian cyclists, has remained on the bucket list for many road riders.

The Location

The Passo Valparola is located in the Dolomites.  This enchanting area in North Eastern Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we would argue offers the most spectacular views in all of Europe. The Dolomites is home to hundreds of cycling routes and if you’ve got the legs for it, you can tackle the Sella Ronda from here or the mammoth Passo di Giau, the climb that breaks Maratona dles Dolomites riders each year.

Cycling the Valparola Pass, The Greatest Cycling Climbs – The Passo Valparola

Why Passo Valparola?

Starting from Pocol, this ride is one of our favourite cycling routes in Europe. It’s not a well known ride until you really get under the skin of its history or know about it as one of the climbs in the annual Maratona, which attracts over 10,000 cyclists each year.  The road over the pass was built during World War 1 to help bring supplies to the front line.  Today, the road is a paradise for cyclists famed for its role in the Maratona and its occasional appearance in the Giro d’Italia.

Cyclists riding the Passo Valparola during the Maratona

The Stats

The ascent from Pocol is 13km long and the average slope is 5.4%. Alternatively, you can climb the mountain from the opposite side from La Villa, at an average gradient of 5.8% over a distance of 13.9km. Many riders attempt the twin challenge of the Passo Flazarego and Passo Valparola – the combination of the two climbs can make the last segment of the Valparola extremely challenging.  However, the scenery is awe-inspring as you wind up through the woodland and then out into the rocky landscape.  On this great European climb the photo opportunities are endless as you ascend the final elevation of 2200m.

Off the bike

We reccomend staying in Corvara, one of the most beautiful places you can visit. The hotels are ski chalet style rustic, except for 2 or 3 luxury places such as Hotel La Perla (go there for the burrata even if you don’t stay!). What is special though is the views down the valley. Look out over the Sella and watch the rugged Dolomites change colour from yellow to orange as the sun sets on this magnificent place.

If you plan on eating in Pocol there are numerous restaurants including ‘Baito Il Cervo’. The menu may be limited but you can dine whilst looking out over the stunning views of Cortina, ski destination for the rich and famous. Alternatively there is a restaurant on the descent from the Passo Valparola at the Camping Sass Dlacia – an excellent choice if you want to try some traditional South Tyrolean cuisine.

If you have the time, we also recommend visiting the Museum of the Tre Sassi Fort, one of the most fascinating insights to the Great War in the Dolomites.  The fort was bombarded by the Italian artillery during the War and in its place, there is now a museum and information centre.  If you are at the fort and look west, you will see the Marmolada glacier and in between is a mountain with a huge hole in its side – the historically important Col di Lana.  This was the scene of fierce fighting and huge loss of life, leading to its nickname of ‘Col di Sangue’ or ‘Blood Mountain’.

Passo Valparola in the Italian Dolomites

If you have been inspired to cycle the Valparola pass, why not give our cycling specialists a call? Our specialists can help you build your perfect cycling holiday.  Whether you want to join a training camp, use an electric bike, or ride our GPX routes independently, we are able to tailor your trip to you.