Our top cultural tip: Transhumance – The return of the sheep

  • Period: June (ascent) and September (descent)

The return of the sheep to the Val Senales is an ancient tradition, but still practised. This historic custom, also known as transhumance, has now been added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It is the world's only example of transhumance that involves crossing both a glacier and a state border.
Every year in mid-June the shepherds leave the villages of Vernago and Maso Corto in Val Senales, driving flocks of three or four thousand sheep. They then cross the Giogo Basso and the Giogo Alto to reach their summer pastures near Vent, in the Austrian Ötztal valley. During this transhumance from the Val Senales, the farmers and their flock cover almost 44 kilometres in two days, including walking across snow fields and rocky ravines.

In mid-September the sheep, the shepherds and their dogs set out on the return trip, which is much less dangerous than the outward journey. The descent from the high pastures is celebrated with a traditional festival dedicated to shepherds.

We recommend the hike from Maso Corto to the Bella Vista hut to watch the sheep arriving at around lunchtime, and then the return journey to Maso Corto walking behind the flock.


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