The Badia Valley (German: Gadertal; Ladin and Italian: Val Badia) stretches over a length of 16 km and is home to a variety of unique natural and cultural treasures. The region at the southern end of the valley is referred to as "Alta Badia." The Badia Valley is viewed as the heart of the Ladin culture, and is surrounded by majestic peaks of the Dolomites, including the Heiligkreuzkofel (2,908 m), the Lagazuoi (2,778 m) or the Piz Boè (3,152 m above sea-level). For a long time, these mountains shielded the inhabitants from outside influences, as a consequence of which they developed a unique language and lifestyle surviving into modern times. In the late-19th Century, the first alpinists came to this remote valley, laying the foundation for what later became known as "gentle" alpine tourism. In 2009, the Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site – thus, parts of the southwest flanks of the Badia Valley were placed under protection as the Puez-Geisler / Puez-Odle Nature Park, and parts of the southeast valley flanks as the Fanes-Sennes-Prags / Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park. The region of Alta Badia at the end of the Badia Valley is divided into six villages: Corvara, Colfosco, Stern / La Villa, St. Kassian / San Cassiano, Abtei / Badia, and La Val. Each individual village has its own unique character, its own history – all of which make Alta Badia to perhaps the most-authentic region of the Dolomites.