12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana


For the past couple of years, I’ve had the word “Botswana” scribbled on a note above my desk, a place that I’ve been longing to visit for as long as I can remember.

Ever since I was a little girl, I would rip out pages from my parent’s National Geographics depicting lions on the hunt or Jane Goodall with the chimps, my curiosity piqued; even then, I had the desire to travel to these places and experience their wonders for myself. A few years ago, I visited South Africa for the first time, and I was hooked.

I have been counting down until I could return to Africa.

My curiosity was and is immense for Africa, and was fizzing with excitement to return, this time traveling to Botswana with De Beers Group. Yes, those De Beers. The diamond ones.

botswana travel

botswana travel

While going on safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana had been a dream of mine since I was little, deep down, I knew there was much more to learn about this unique part of Africa. I’ve been itching to dig deeper on my travels, and share stories and cover beyond the expected.

We all know that Africa is so much more than lions and gazelle. A complex and profound part of the world, I was eager to explore it through an entirely new lens – community, people, economics.

Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane in Gaborone, I realized that nearly all of my preconceptions about Botswana were off-base. But that’s why we travel, and I never forget that.

botswana travel

botswana travel

Botswana is special. Really special. And its uniqueness comes directly from something you might not expect – diamonds.

The cradle of humankind, the ancestral home of humanity, is right here in Botswana, and it is the people here who have made all the difference. Kind and welcoming, they have moved me tremendously. As I listened to their stories of how many opportunities they’ve had (thanks, in part, to De Beers Group and its partnership with the government of Botswana), I could feel the sand shifting beneath my feet of everything I thought I knew.

Botswana taught me so many things, and now it’ll sit firmly in my psyche as a place of exceptional education for me. Here are some of the most surprising things I learned while exploring Botswana – enjoy!

botswana travel

botswana travel

1.  Botswana is one of the world’s biggest producers of diamonds

While diamonds have been discovered all over the world, from South Africa to Russia, Botswana is undoubtedly at the heart of the diamond world. In fact, Botswana is one of the world’s largest producer of diamonds by value, contributing around 20% of the total world production of diamonds.

Botswana also contributes 60-70% of De Beers Group’s total diamonds, and diamonds count for nearly half of the government’s value.

Did you know that diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13?

botswana travel

botswana travel

2. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world.

The Okavango Delta has topped the bucket lists of most travelers enamored with wildlife who dream of safaris in Africa.

Perched at the geographical heart of southern Africa, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the closest thing to Eden left on the planet.

As crystal clear waters trickle down thousands of kilometers from wet highlands of Angola, they disperse almost finger-like out into the hot sands of the famous Kalahari desert. Here, classic Africa wildlife thrives in the largest wetland in the world.

Though right now the Delta is sitting in a drought, which is why it looks so dry.

botswana travel

botswana travel

3. The growing economy of Botswana is powerful

Fifty years ago, Botswana was one of the poorest places on the planet.

With only a couple of kilometers of paved roads, three secondary schools nationwide, and only one doctor for every 48,000 people, you don’t need me to tell you that the future seemed tough, and the outlook for many was bleak.

Then in 1967, a year after gaining independence, the first diamonds were discovered in Botswana, and everything changed. Instead of descending into chaos like you might have imagined (me), Botswana flourished.

De Beers Group partnered with the people of Botswana, setting up a 50/50 partnership called Debswana to mine diamonds. Not only that, but 15% of the whole company is now owned by the government of Botswana too – wow! So for the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been invested back into the economy here.

81 cents of every dollar from the partnership with De Beers Group in Botswana goes straight back to the country’s economy. In effect, the people of Botswana own part of De Beers Group. Let that sink in for a second.

Now, Botswana is considered to be an upper-middle-income country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its GDP has grown 500 times since 1960, and Botswana is in the top 5 countries with the highest increasing GDPs per capita. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

4. Botswana’s currency means rain

When 84% of a country is covered in a sandy desert, there is one word that reigns above the rest – rain or pula.

Pula is so significant to the people of Botswana that it also is the currency. After all, what is more critical here than rain?

Pula is also used as a greeting that means welcome, farewell, blessings, and cheers, among other uses. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

5. Botswana is home to the world’s largest African elephant population

Honestly, is there anything better than watching elephants in the wild? Especially babies?

Nope, didn’t think so.

botswana travel

botswana travel

6. It’s not a cheap tourist destination

Botswana is by far the most expensive country to go on safari in Africa.

Botswana is not the cheapest tourist destination to travel to. However, their policy is “High quality, low impact,” reducing visitor numbers by bringing in those willing to shell out for it. Appealing to those who want to enjoy a wildlife safari without the tourist crowds that are so common in many other national parks, Botswana is worth every dollar.

Conservation is vital in Botswana, and it’s been a global leader in a national commitment to protecting wild spaces. Approximately 38% of Botswana’s territory is protected as national parks, sanctuaries, reserves, and wildlife management areas.

Botswana has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, with more than 25% of the land area set aside for parks and reserves to conserve the national heritage.

botswana travel

botswana travel

7. Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa

Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa, according to the findings of the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Ranking 34 out of 180 countries, Botswana has consistently ranked high in terms of least corruption, outpacing even countries in Europe.

botswana travel

botswana travel

8. The value of diamonds in Botswana is both ethical and priceless

Diamonds represent up to a third of Botswana’s GDP and are an inevitable fact of life here. Botswana is peaceful, and all diamonds mined here are conflict-free.

Around 13,000 people in Botswana are employed directly through the partnership between De Beers Group and the Government of Botswana. With tens of thousands more supported through the supply chain of diamonds, and through the spending on employees and suppliers within the economy. In fact, around one in every 20 jobs in Botswana stem back to De Beers Group’s partnership with the government.

Even the first lady of Botswana was once an employee of Debswana, De Beers Group’s mining partnership with the government.

botswana travel

botswana travel

9. Zebras are Botswana’s national animal

Zebras were chosen as the national animal of Botswana for the most beautiful reasons. Seemingly harmless and lovable, they’re popular with the people of Botswana and are full of symbols for this unique country.

Zebras, with their iconic black and white stripes, signify the racial harmony in Botswana. These stripes join on the face of the zebra to form a diamond shape – remarkable given the role diamonds have played in Botswana’s development.

When Botswana became independent in 1966, the black and white stripes on the new flag were primarily influenced by the zebra, and the stripes were meant to represent the harmony between people of different races and ethnicities in Botswana.

botswana travel

botswana travel

10. Though maybe termites should be the national animal

Back in the ‘60s and ’70s, scientists discovered minerals from kimberlite, a type of rock that hosts diamonds, on the surface of the Kalahari Desert. But how did diamond minerals that dwell 40 meters below the surface of the earth come to see the light of day?

Termites dug them up while looking for water, building large mounds they call home. Termites led to the discovery of the Jwaneng mine – considered to be the richest diamond mine in the world.

Team Termite!

botswana travel

botswana travel

11. There’s no room for tribalism in Botswana

As I was flying from Botswana, editing photos, and listening to podcasts, This American Life started to share the most exciting story about Botswana’s progressive democracy. To combat tribalism, Botswana requires all civil servants to move to a different tribal area from their own for a few years. Holy crap! I’ve never heard anything like this.

While I’m far from educated enough to A. have an opinion on this and B. fully understand the nuances of something so complicated as tribalism in Africa, here’s the gist of what I’ve learned.

Post-colonial Africa is complicated, and a standard narrative is that after independence, ethnic violence ensues. When Botswana became independent 50 years ago, they were afraid that tribalism would rip the new nation apart so they did everything they could to create a feeling of one country and to avoid the patriotism of tribes, even forcing civil servants and teachers to live outside of their “tribal” areas.

botswana travel

botswana travel

12. Botswana is home to some of the kindest people

While in Botswana, I was always impressed by the kindness and friendliness of locals.

I saw and heard firsthand so many compelling stories from the people that live there. I learned so much about how diamonds have changed lives here. I could really see how De Beers Group has spent decades working on building a long-term positive legacy and creating a future for the people of Botswana.

The story of Botswana is fascinating, and the people are amazing. Now, when can I come back?

Did you know any of this about Botswana? What did you know about diamonds before? Are you Team Termite too? Spill!

botswana travel

botswana travel

Many thanks to De Beers Group for hosting me in Botswana, like always I’m keeping it real. All opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post 12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana


For the past couple of years, I’ve had the word “Botswana” scribbled on a note above my desk, a place that I’ve been longing to visit for as long as I can remember.

Ever since I was a little girl, I would rip out pages from my parent’s National Geographics depicting lions on the hunt or Jane Goodall with the chimps, my curiosity piqued; even then, I had the desire to travel to these places and experience their wonders for myself. A few years ago, I visited South Africa for the first time, and I was hooked.

I have been counting down until I could return to Africa.

My curiosity was and is immense for Africa, and was fizzing with excitement to return, this time traveling to Botswana with De Beers Group. Yes, those De Beers. The diamond ones.

botswana travel

botswana travel

While going on safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana had been a dream of mine since I was little, deep down, I knew there was much more to learn about this unique part of Africa. I’ve been itching to dig deeper on my travels, and share stories and cover beyond the expected.

We all know that Africa is so much more than lions and gazelle. A complex and profound part of the world, I was eager to explore it through an entirely new lens – community, people, economics.

Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane in Gaborone, I realized that nearly all of my preconceptions about Botswana were off-base. But that’s why we travel, and I never forget that.

botswana travel

botswana travel

Botswana is special. Really special. And its uniqueness comes directly from something you might not expect – diamonds.

The cradle of humankind, the ancestral home of humanity, is right here in Botswana, and it is the people here who have made all the difference. Kind and welcoming, they have moved me tremendously. As I listened to their stories of how many opportunities they’ve had (thanks, in part, to De Beers Group and its partnership with the government of Botswana), I could feel the sand shifting beneath my feet of everything I thought I knew.

Botswana taught me so many things, and now it’ll sit firmly in my psyche as a place of exceptional education for me. Here are some of the most surprising things I learned while exploring Botswana – enjoy!

botswana travel

botswana travel

1.  Botswana is one of the world’s biggest producers of diamonds

While diamonds have been discovered all over the world, from South Africa to Russia, Botswana is undoubtedly at the heart of the diamond world. In fact, Botswana is one of the world’s largest producer of diamonds by value, contributing around 20% of the total world production of diamonds.

Botswana also contributes 60-70% of De Beers Group’s total diamonds, and diamonds count for nearly half of the government’s value.

Did you know that diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13?

botswana travel

botswana travel

2. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world.

The Okavango Delta has topped the bucket lists of most travelers enamored with wildlife who dream of safaris in Africa.

Perched at the geographical heart of southern Africa, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the closest thing to Eden left on the planet.

As crystal clear waters trickle down thousands of kilometers from wet highlands of Angola, they disperse almost finger-like out into the hot sands of the famous Kalahari desert. Here, classic Africa wildlife thrives in the largest wetland in the world.

Though right now the Delta is sitting in a drought, which is why it looks so dry.

botswana travel

botswana travel

3. The growing economy of Botswana is powerful

Fifty years ago, Botswana was one of the poorest places on the planet.

With only a couple of kilometers of paved roads, three secondary schools nationwide, and only one doctor for every 48,000 people, you don’t need me to tell you that the future seemed tough, and the outlook for many was bleak.

Then in 1967, a year after gaining independence, the first diamonds were discovered in Botswana, and everything changed. Instead of descending into chaos like you might have imagined (me), Botswana flourished.

De Beers Group partnered with the people of Botswana, setting up a 50/50 partnership called Debswana to mine diamonds. Not only that, but 15% of the whole company is now owned by the government of Botswana too – wow! So for the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been invested back into the economy here.

81 cents of every dollar from the partnership with De Beers Group in Botswana goes straight back to the country’s economy. In effect, the people of Botswana own part of De Beers Group. Let that sink in for a second.

Now, Botswana is considered to be an upper-middle-income country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its GDP has grown 500 times since 1960, and Botswana is in the top 5 countries with the highest increasing GDPs per capita. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

4. Botswana’s currency means rain

When 84% of a country is covered in a sandy desert, there is one word that reigns above the rest – rain or pula.

Pula is so significant to the people of Botswana that it also is the currency. After all, what is more critical here than rain?

Pula is also used as a greeting that means welcome, farewell, blessings, and cheers, among other uses. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

5. Botswana is home to the world’s largest African elephant population

Honestly, is there anything better than watching elephants in the wild? Especially babies?

Nope, didn’t think so.

botswana travel

botswana travel

6. It’s not a cheap tourist destination

Botswana is by far the most expensive country to go on safari in Africa.

Botswana is not the cheapest tourist destination to travel to. However, their policy is “High quality, low impact,” reducing visitor numbers by bringing in those willing to shell out for it. Appealing to those who want to enjoy a wildlife safari without the tourist crowds that are so common in many other national parks, Botswana is worth every dollar.

Conservation is vital in Botswana, and it’s been a global leader in a national commitment to protecting wild spaces. Approximately 38% of Botswana’s territory is protected as national parks, sanctuaries, reserves, and wildlife management areas.

Botswana has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, with more than 25% of the land area set aside for parks and reserves to conserve the national heritage.

botswana travel

botswana travel

7. Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa

Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa, according to the findings of the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Ranking 34 out of 180 countries, Botswana has consistently ranked high in terms of least corruption, outpacing even countries in Europe.

botswana travel

botswana travel

8. The value of diamonds in Botswana is both ethical and priceless

Diamonds represent up to a third of Botswana’s GDP and are an inevitable fact of life here. Botswana is peaceful, and all diamonds mined here are conflict-free.

Around 13,000 people in Botswana are employed directly through the partnership between De Beers Group and the Government of Botswana. With tens of thousands more supported through the supply chain of diamonds, and through the spending on employees and suppliers within the economy. In fact, around one in every 20 jobs in Botswana stem back to De Beers Group’s partnership with the government.

Even the first lady of Botswana was once an employee of Debswana, De Beers Group’s mining partnership with the government.

botswana travel

botswana travel

9. Zebras are Botswana’s national animal

Zebras were chosen as the national animal of Botswana for the most beautiful reasons. Seemingly harmless and lovable, they’re popular with the people of Botswana and are full of symbols for this unique country.

Zebras, with their iconic black and white stripes, signify the racial harmony in Botswana. These stripes join on the face of the zebra to form a diamond shape – remarkable given the role diamonds have played in Botswana’s development.

When Botswana became independent in 1966, the black and white stripes on the new flag were primarily influenced by the zebra, and the stripes were meant to represent the harmony between people of different races and ethnicities in Botswana.

botswana travel

botswana travel

10. Though maybe termites should be the national animal

Back in the ‘60s and ’70s, scientists discovered minerals from kimberlite, a type of rock that hosts diamonds, on the surface of the Kalahari Desert. But how did diamond minerals that dwell 40 meters below the surface of the earth come to see the light of day?

Termites dug them up while looking for water, building large mounds they call home. Termites led to the discovery of the Jwaneng mine – considered to be the richest diamond mine in the world.

Team Termite!

botswana travel

botswana travel

11. There’s no room for tribalism in Botswana

As I was flying from Botswana, editing photos, and listening to podcasts, This American Life started to share the most exciting story about Botswana’s progressive democracy. To combat tribalism, Botswana requires all civil servants to move to a different tribal area from their own for a few years. Holy crap! I’ve never heard anything like this.

While I’m far from educated enough to A. have an opinion on this and B. fully understand the nuances of something so complicated as tribalism in Africa, here’s the gist of what I’ve learned.

Post-colonial Africa is complicated, and a standard narrative is that after independence, ethnic violence ensues. When Botswana became independent 50 years ago, they were afraid that tribalism would rip the new nation apart so they did everything they could to create a feeling of one country and to avoid the patriotism of tribes, even forcing civil servants and teachers to live outside of their “tribal” areas.

botswana travel

botswana travel

12. Botswana is home to some of the kindest people

While in Botswana, I was always impressed by the kindness and friendliness of locals.

I saw and heard firsthand so many compelling stories from the people that live there. I learned so much about how diamonds have changed lives here. I could really see how De Beers Group has spent decades working on building a long-term positive legacy and creating a future for the people of Botswana.

The story of Botswana is fascinating, and the people are amazing. Now, when can I come back?

Did you know any of this about Botswana? What did you know about diamonds before? Are you Team Termite too? Spill!

botswana travel

botswana travel

Many thanks to De Beers Group for hosting me in Botswana, like always I’m keeping it real. All opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post 12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide


I had three main requirements on my most recent trip to Italy and the Heart of the Dolomites:

  1. Eat as much pasta and drink as much wine as possible
  2. Fill every spare moment with adventure
  3. Experience an authentic Italian via ferrata in the Dolomites, the birthplace of via ferratas.

Via ferratas have gained a global reputation for being a fun and accessible activity for thrill-seekers who may not have the equipment and skills necessary for technical climbing but who want to experience hanging hundreds of meters in the air on the side of a cliff.

Via ferrata Dolomites is the best way to get a taste for adventure here.

via ferrata dolomites

If it sounds intimating, you’re not wrong.

While they are safe (especially with a guide!), via ferratas are not for the faint of heart.

Being comfortable with heights and exposure is a must for this adventure. But if you have some coordination and confidence, via ferratas are a great way to experience the mountains; in the heart of the Dolomites in the Agordino in Italy is the perfect place to try them out for the first time.

The perfect adventure tourist activity, if you’re looking for a bit of everything, be sure to check out via ferratas when you’re in the Dolomites.


Full of adventure but steeped in a bloody history

The term via ferrata means “iron way” in Italian, and it refers to a system of bolts, cables, platforms and ladders securely fastened to the mountain; they were built to help people scale sheer cliffs quickly.

Who in the world would come up with such a crazy idea?! I’m surprised it wasn’t a kiwi, to be honest.

Soldiers in the middle of mountain warfare, that’s who.

Via Ferratas were popularized during WWI when soldiers needed to move quickly and quietly through the mountains as they worked to fight to maintain control of the valleys below. As the Austrian-Hungarian Empire tried moving further south into Italy, the Italians worked tirelessly to protect their land and their people.

via ferrata dolomites

Trenches were built, high alpine roads were constructed, ladders were bolted on the side of sheer cliffs.

In Marmolada, the Queen and the tallest mountain of the Dolomites, the Austrian soldiers figured out it would be safer to go down the crevasses of the glacier where they could dig tunnels and effectively create a miniature village below the surface.

Their plan was a huge success, and the Italians didn’t know Ice City existed at all until years after the war had ended.

You know life must have been rough when willingly descending into and living in the crevasses of a glacier is better than being above ground.

via ferrata dolomites

WWI was the worst war for Italy, which had just become a unified nation in 1859.

By the time WWI came, Italy was not entirely an industrialized power and lacked the resources and military for large scale warfare. Worse yet, because the borderlines were still fresh, many Italians and Austrians felt they were fighting their cousins and friends. It was a bloody war that killed over 600,000 Italians and left millions more injured.

Fast forward one hundred years and via ferratas have graduated from impressive military tactics to fun recreational activities found all over the world. I’ve been on via ferratas in the USA and Wanaka, New Zealand but I was excited to experience the real deal in the heart of the Dolomites, where it was born.


Modern-day via ferratas in the Dolomites

My first via ferrata in Italy was Sottotenente Mario Fusetti Sass de Stria in Valparola Pass.

While certainly not the most difficult via ferrata in the area, this one is filled with history. The approach to the start of it takes you on an easy winding path through historical trenches and old structures from WWI. If you look carefully enough, you can even find shrapnel and other ancient artifacts from 100 years ago.

Using via ferratas requires some equipment, such as a harness, helmet and a series of slings and carabiners to make sure that if you take a fall, you won’t go very far. For our group, the guide also used a rope which he attached to us for extra safety.

via ferrata dolomites

We started to climb, moving in unison up the rock face, each meter giving us an even better view of the valley below than the last. During WWI, the only way to control the valleys below was to stake out on the peaks, taking turns bombing the enemies below.

It was so strange to be having fun and feeling a rush of adrenaline in a good way when only 100 years ago, these peaks were the home of horrific atrocities. Via ferrata Dolomites has a history that’s mind-boggling.

The climb itself was relatively easy and straightforward, and despite climbing over 200 meters, we reached the top in about 30 minutes.

The via ferrata is unique because you can complete it in a loop, quickly walking back down to the car park once you’ve topped out. We made the easy decision to take advantage of the pristine weather and continue going up, walking to the top of the peak.

The trail took us to through winding trenches, up ladders and into tight nooks and crannies, making us feel like little kids exploring an ancient fortress. We reached the peak of Sasso di Stria with ease and took a few moments to take in the view, rifugios in the distance.

via ferrata dolomites

During my three weeks in Italy, I had barely just scratched the surface of all the opportunities in the extensive network of available via ferrata Dolomites.

There are dozens of guide books to help you narrow down your choice, and there are climbs for every ability from the absolute beginner to the extreme rock climber. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the via ferratas on your own, you can always hire a guide. Just pop into the information center, and they’ll be able to recommend a local to take you up.

The Italian via ferrata is an absolute must-do for any adventure seekers traveling to the Dolomites. It’s more than an adrenaline rush. It’s a sneak peek into an unpleasant past, where the war was fought against the enemies. Soldiers were battling to stay alive in some of the most inhospitable terrain and conditions on the planet. 

Sure, you can do via ferratas all over the world, but Italy is one of the only places on earth where you can simultaneously get your thrills while moving through a living museum. Trust me; you won’t regret it!

Have you ever done a via ferrata? Is this an adventure you’d try when traveling? Are you interested in visiting the Dolomites too?


Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide


I had three main requirements on my most recent trip to Italy and the Heart of the Dolomites:

  1. Eat as much pasta and drink as much wine as possible
  2. Fill every spare moment with adventure
  3. Experience an authentic Italian via ferrata in the Dolomites, the birthplace of via ferratas.

Via ferratas have gained a global reputation for being a fun and accessible activity for thrill-seekers who may not have the equipment and skills necessary for technical climbing but who want to experience hanging hundreds of meters in the air on the side of a cliff.

Via ferrata Dolomites is the best way to get a taste for adventure here.

via ferrata dolomites

If it sounds intimating, you’re not wrong.

While they are safe (especially with a guide!), via ferratas are not for the faint of heart.

Being comfortable with heights and exposure is a must for this adventure. But if you have some coordination and confidence, via ferratas are a great way to experience the mountains; in the heart of the Dolomites in the Agordino in Italy is the perfect place to try them out for the first time.

The perfect adventure tourist activity, if you’re looking for a bit of everything, be sure to check out via ferratas when you’re in the Dolomites.


Full of adventure but steeped in a bloody history

The term via ferrata means “iron way” in Italian, and it refers to a system of bolts, cables, platforms and ladders securely fastened to the mountain; they were built to help people scale sheer cliffs quickly.

Who in the world would come up with such a crazy idea?! I’m surprised it wasn’t a kiwi, to be honest.

Soldiers in the middle of mountain warfare, that’s who.

Via Ferratas were popularized during WWI when soldiers needed to move quickly and quietly through the mountains as they worked to fight to maintain control of the valleys below. As the Austrian-Hungarian Empire tried moving further south into Italy, the Italians worked tirelessly to protect their land and their people.

via ferrata dolomites

Trenches were built, high alpine roads were constructed, ladders were bolted on the side of sheer cliffs.

In Marmolada, the Queen and the tallest mountain of the Dolomites, the Austrian soldiers figured out it would be safer to go down the crevasses of the glacier where they could dig tunnels and effectively create a miniature village below the surface.

Their plan was a huge success, and the Italians didn’t know Ice City existed at all until years after the war had ended.

You know life must have been rough when willingly descending into and living in the crevasses of a glacier is better than being above ground.

via ferrata dolomites

WWI was the worst war for Italy, which had just become a unified nation in 1859.

By the time WWI came, Italy was not entirely an industrialized power and lacked the resources and military for large scale warfare. Worse yet, because the borderlines were still fresh, many Italians and Austrians felt they were fighting their cousins and friends. It was a bloody war that killed over 600,000 Italians and left millions more injured.

Fast forward one hundred years and via ferratas have graduated from impressive military tactics to fun recreational activities found all over the world. I’ve been on via ferratas in the USA and Wanaka, New Zealand but I was excited to experience the real deal in the heart of the Dolomites, where it was born.


Modern-day via ferratas in the Dolomites

My first via ferrata in Italy was Sottotenente Mario Fusetti Sass de Stria in Valparola Pass.

While certainly not the most difficult via ferrata in the area, this one is filled with history. The approach to the start of it takes you on an easy winding path through historical trenches and old structures from WWI. If you look carefully enough, you can even find shrapnel and other ancient artifacts from 100 years ago.

Using via ferratas requires some equipment, such as a harness, helmet and a series of slings and carabiners to make sure that if you take a fall, you won’t go very far. For our group, the guide also used a rope which he attached to us for extra safety.

via ferrata dolomites

We started to climb, moving in unison up the rock face, each meter giving us an even better view of the valley below than the last. During WWI, the only way to control the valleys below was to stake out on the peaks, taking turns bombing the enemies below.

It was so strange to be having fun and feeling a rush of adrenaline in a good way when only 100 years ago, these peaks were the home of horrific atrocities. Via ferrata Dolomites has a history that’s mind-boggling.

The climb itself was relatively easy and straightforward, and despite climbing over 200 meters, we reached the top in about 30 minutes.

The via ferrata is unique because you can complete it in a loop, quickly walking back down to the car park once you’ve topped out. We made the easy decision to take advantage of the pristine weather and continue going up, walking to the top of the peak.

The trail took us to through winding trenches, up ladders and into tight nooks and crannies, making us feel like little kids exploring an ancient fortress. We reached the peak of Sasso di Stria with ease and took a few moments to take in the view, rifugios in the distance.

via ferrata dolomites

During my three weeks in Italy, I had barely just scratched the surface of all the opportunities in the extensive network of available via ferrata Dolomites.

There are dozens of guide books to help you narrow down your choice, and there are climbs for every ability from the absolute beginner to the extreme rock climber. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the via ferratas on your own, you can always hire a guide. Just pop into the information center, and they’ll be able to recommend a local to take you up.

The Italian via ferrata is an absolute must-do for any adventure seekers traveling to the Dolomites. It’s more than an adrenaline rush. It’s a sneak peek into an unpleasant past, where the war was fought against the enemies. Soldiers were battling to stay alive in some of the most inhospitable terrain and conditions on the planet. 

Sure, you can do via ferratas all over the world, but Italy is one of the only places on earth where you can simultaneously get your thrills while moving through a living museum. Trust me; you won’t regret it!

Have you ever done a via ferrata? Is this an adventure you’d try when traveling? Are you interested in visiting the Dolomites too?


Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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