Peter Orsel

The 8 Best Photo Spots of The Dolomites

Are you considering a road trip through the north of Italy? I’m here to give you my favourite photo spots in The Dolomites. The Italian mountains are a dream for many travel photographers and it’s one of the best locations for a mountain road trip in Europe. 

If you follow some travel photographers on Instagram, I’m sure you will recognise the places below. I’ve been three times over the last years and here are my 8 favourite photography spots for a road trip through the Dolomites!

By the way, if you plan your trip in Autumn season, I wrote a specific post about the best photography spots in autumn season! 

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Beautiful panoramic view of Seceda in the Dolomites of Italy

Seceda

The first spot I want to mention is the massive viewpoint of Seceda. I’m sure you’ve seen this spot on Instagram before, but trust me, it’s so much better in real life. 

With an attitude of 2500 meters and the outstanding mountain peaks, it’s one of the most unique mountain views you can find in Europe.

☀️ Best time to visit

It’s hard to say what’s the best time to visit Seceda. The best time to be here is definitely at sunrise, but there aren’t many options to be here that early. That’s mainly because of the lift you are most likely to take to the spot itself. On a side note the rules about wild camping aren’t particularly straight forward. I saw people doing it, but officially it’s not allowed. 

During day time you simply have to be lucky with the conditions. You could decide to wait for sunset, but it means you have to hike all the way back in the dark. 

Oh and it doesn’t matter if there are other people around, as they just add something to the scale of your composition. So, don’t worry if your only option to be here is at daytime.

💵 Necessary costs

It’s possible to hike to the top, so you won’t have to pay any cable car costs. But it’s fair to say that most people go to Seceda using the cable car. There are two connected gondolas to get on top of the mountain. From the end station it’s a short walk uphill to reach the viewpoint.

  • Parking your car. If you get there on time, you can literally park under the cable car station. It’s €1,60 per hour.

  • Cable car return ticket: €35,- per person. If you’re intending to take more lifts on your trip, consider the Gardena Lift Pass. With this card you can take unlimited lift rides in this area for 3 or 6 consecutive days.

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

The cable car runs from 08.30 until 17.30. Personally I stayed from around 09.00 and 15:00, but I think you could easily spend the full day here. There are many hikes, the views from every spot are breathtaking and there are nice mountain huts for some food and drinks.

📍  How to get there? 

The best way to arrive at the cable car early is to grab your car. It’s possible to take a bus too. Click here for the current time tables of the buses in the Val Gardena area. If you take the car, just navigate to the cable car station. The address is Str. Val d’Anna, 2, 39046 Ortisei BZ, Italy. Just click on the link and It will lead you to Google Maps.

Santa Magdalena

The second spot to share is the wonderful little town Santa Magdalena. There are two famous churches and these are the symbols of Val di Funes, the name of the area. Even though they’ve been photographed a lot over the last years, they’re super peaceful to see. The small one in the fields is called San Giovanni and officially located in Ranui. The other church is simply called the church of Santa Maddalena.

If you spend more time in this area, consider visiting Geisler Alm! I never visited myself, but it’s on my list. For some good advice about the Adolf Munkel trail, visit the blog of Moon & Honey Travel!

☀️ Best time to visit 

If you ask me, I’d say that this spot is most beautiful at sunset. The orange glow on the Odle Group peaks are just stunning. I visited the spot once during a sunset and once during cloudy conditions. The clouds can be nice and moody too, but I prefer the brighter days.

💵 Necessary costs

The only costs you have to make for this spot are the parking costs for wherever you park your car. If you want, you can pay and enter the church area of the St. Giovanni church. There’s a gate for automatic payments. I personally didn’t visit the church, as I came for the views with the backdrops. Don’t drive to the panoramic viewpoint, as it’s not allowed for non-residents.

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

Don’t be like me, don’t underestimate your walking time here. The churches are quite far from each other and especially the panorama view isn’t easy to reach. It will take you around 30 minutes to get to the famous viewpoint. 

Choose one of the viewpoints for the photos with an orange glow on the mountains, because you won’t have time to make it from one spot to the other during the same sunset. I personally love the panoramic view more than the tiny and lonely church!

If you’re visiting during day time, I recommend to walk the panoramic route from one of the viewpoints to the other. It will lead you through the small town and gives a little bit of extra dimension to your trip! Don’t forget to say hi to the cows.🐮 

📍  How to get there? 

Like many spots in the Dolomites, I recommend to use a car. The town is super small, but I never had parking problems. If you buy a parking ticket for the meter, it’s valid for the whole town, so you can drive to the viewpoint of the tiny church and then park at the other spot to walk to the panorama view. Navigate to this spot for the tiny church, and you can’t miss it. 

If you’re looking for the panorama view over the town, you have to walk for 30 minutes. I parked my car here and I think it’s a decent spot to reach the panorama or both spots by foot.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

I love this area so much. Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This spot has endless possibilities for photographers and is also known as Drei Zinnen. There’s a loop of 10-15 km to hike around these peaks, giving you all the compositions you could wish for. You can even go and climb some of the peaks around Tre Cime – like Il Paterno, or Paternkofel in German, but don’t forget your via ferrata gear for that. 

The spot gets really busy during day time, so I would recommend to go as early as possible. The area breathes history as it was the decor of World War I. You can find some old tunnels to walk through and it truly gives some extra dimension. 

☀️ Best time to visit 

I would recommend to go to Tre Cime during the summer. When it’s winter (or early spring/late summer) it’s definitely beautiful as well, but the toll road will be closed due to snowfall and you have to hike 4km (and a lot of height meters) to reach the start of the loop around the peaks.

During Autumn, you will see the orange trees while you drive or hike up. As soon as you arrive at the starting point, the trees are gone as the hiking area is above the tree line. 

Best time of the day? Sunset or sunrise. Believe me, it’s definitely worth it! There isn’t a lot of shadow as you’ll hike around an altitude of 2500m, so it can be hot during summer days. For food and drinks there are some rifugio’s along the loop.

💵 Necessary costs

In the summer months the toll road is open, but it’s an expensive one. It costs 30 euros to get up to Rifugio Auronzo. Parking is included. But, just as I mentioned above, it can get crowded so arrive at least before 9am to have a good parking spot. If you hike up, park around Lago d’Antorno. From there it takes you a steep hike up, but it saves you some money. 

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

Take at least a full day to discover this area, and don’t do it on the last day you’re here. There’s a lot more to see than I’ve shared in this small post and it makes you want to go again and again. I’ve been there four times now and I still didn’t see everything.

📍  How to get there? 

There are buses from Cortina d’Ampezzo and Dobbiaco. These will save you the costs of the toll road, unless you’re visiting the place with a full car. You can also jump on the bus just a bit before the toll road. If you decide to drive to the top, this is where you should navigate to.

Mount Lagazuoi

Mount Lagazuoi is so underrated in my opinion. Located in the Falzarego Pass and with an attitude of 2775 meter, it’s a must on a trip to the Dolomites! Panoramic views, good food, nice hikes, you’ll get it all here. I didn’t find it in most of the photo guides, so here it is! 

☀️ Best time to visit 

Summer and autumn are probably your best bets for photography purposes. There’s a lot to do, so why not spend a full day here? If you want to enjoy an amazing sunset and sunrise, you could stay in the mountain hut. A wonderful experience I’ve done myself and I highly recommend it! 

For booking the Rifugio at Mt. Lagazuoi, head to their website. Make sure you book well in advance as it gets sold out all the time!

💵 Necessary costs

The good thing is that you don’t have to make costs here if you’re on a day trip. It’s possible to hike up the mountain and go the same way (or another way) down. Parking is free, but it can get busy during the day. You can bring your own food and drinks or buy something in the mountain hut. Pro tip: The apfelstrudel here is the best I had in the Dolomites. 😏

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

You can either hike up the mountain or take the cable car, and as you can guess, your choice determines the time you will spend here. The cable car runs from 08.30 until 17.30.  

It takes around 1,5 to 2 hours to reach the Rifugio, the center piece where all the views get together. You can spend as much time as you want up on the mountain. If you’re just here for the views and some food/drinks, three hours on the top must be enough. Hiking back is certainly easier than up, so take another hour to get back to your car. In total that would be 6 hours. But, I definitely recommend to stay the night. The sunset and sunrise experience will be amazing.

📍  How to get there? 

The best way to arrive at the cable car early is to grab your car. It’s possible to take a bus too. Click here for the current time tables of the buses in the Val Gardena area. If you take the car, just navigate to the cable car station. The address is Str. Val d’Anna, 2, 39046 Ortisei BZ, Italy. Just click on the link and It will lead you to Google Maps.

♿️  Extra 

As a bonus feature of this mountain, it’s accessible for everyone. So if you’re having troubles with walking, climbing or if you have to use a wheelchair, you can still reach the mountain hut by using the cable car. It’s one of the only mountain tops with this option, so I thought it’s pretty worth it to write about it here.

Alpe di Siusi

One of the most dreamy places of the Dolomites if you ask me: Alpe di Siusi. It’s in the German speaking part, so if you ask for Seiser Alm, you’ll get to the same spot! This place is a must on your Dolomites trip. Endless meadows, cabins everywhere and stunning mountains all around. I seriously wonder how they mow all these fields of grass. 56 km2 of alpine pastures. It’s simply amazing.

☀️ Best time to visit 

I went three times so far and both sunset and sunrise are good. Make sure you plan your time well, as it will take you at least one hour of walking from the parking spot to reach the famous viewpoint. If you go for sunset, you will see the orange glow like above. 

During summer time, you’ll see the sun rising on the left side of the mountain range. During autumn or winter time, the sunrise will move behind the mountains.

💵 Necessary costs

The parking lot costs €19 euros. If you arrive very early and you leave before the parking guard is there, you can park for free. This works for sunset too, if you arrive after 6 or 7pm, the parking guard is likely to be home already and you can park for free. There are no costs to enter the site and you can spend as long as you want wandering through the alpine meadows.

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

This totally depends on your wishes. If you’re here for just the shot, two hours must be enough. If you’re interested in seeking new perspectives, get lost in the fields, find places to eat and things like this? I think you could spend at least a full day here. It totally depends on what you’re looking for. 

For most of the photographers, I’d say 4 hours is enough. This means arriving three hours before sunset, walking back to the car in the dark. You could easily spend a full day here. The last time I went, I brought my skateboard and I cruised the great roads during day time, after shooting the sunrise in the fields. Best day ever. 

📍  How to get there? 

You’ll have some options to reach Alpe di Siusi. I chose to drive up, but you have to do your homework before you do that. First of all, the road isn’t open all the times. Between 9am and 5pm the road up is closed for tourists, unless you have a reservation at one of the accommodations. Going down is always possible. If you decide to take the cable car from the other side of the valley, you won’t make it for sunrise or sunset.

If you take the car, navigate to this spot. From there it will take you around 45 minutes to hike 4km to the famous viewpoint, as it’s forbidden to drive further than this parking terrain. Don’t ignore this rules, there’s active surveillance. 

🎁 Bonus: Siusi

If you’re driving to Alpe di Siusi, do yourself a favour and stop in Siusi as well. You’ll find the super famous church with an amazing backdrop of some stunning mountain peaks. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, and if not. Here’s a photo. This option isn’t possible if you take the cable car, so only when you drive by car to Compatsch.

Passo Giau

One of the most beautiful roads of the Italian Dolomites, if you ask me. Passo Giau. The road starts in Cortina d’Ampezzo and leads you all the way up to some beautiful mountain viewpoints. During my last trip I went car camping on top of the road and I woke up with the best view I’ve ever had. Besides that, you will pass the famous snake road when you drive up. The snake road is famous on Instagram and simply amazing to capture from the sky. It’s hard to get creative with this shot, but give it a try!

☀️ Best time to visit 

Sunset and sunrise are nice, but if you have to pick one, I would say sunrise. The light is better and waking up with that glow is simply amazing.

💵 Necessary costs

It’s free! You can drive up the road and park your car close to the rifugio at one of the free spots. It can get crowded during the day, but you shouldn’t have any problems parking if you come for sunset or sunrise.

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

I would highly recommend to shoot sunrise and do a hike afterwards. You can climb up to Averau and Nuvolau and it’s one of the best hikes I did in the Dolomites. You’ll feel like you’re walking through moon landscapes and the panoramic views on top are simply amazing.

📍  How to get there? 

You should navigate to this location for the famous viewpoint at the top of Passo Giau. This is the place where you want to be for sunrise. Just walk up the hill and you’ll get some of the best 360-views you’ve ever seen. If you want to go to the snake road, head to this location. Make sure you park your car safely, as it’s a road where motor and car drivers drive fast, without having a clear overview on the streets.

Lago di Sorapis

This spot made me want to go to the Dolomites for many, many years. It was the first Dolomites location I saw on Instagram and one of the first spots I pinned on Goole Maps. Unfortunately I hiked this trail twice with clouds all around, but I still recommend everyone to go. It’s a once in a lifetime experience! Or twice in a lifetime, if you decide to go twice, just like me. I’ll probably go a third time. I have to see it without clouds too. 

☀️ Best time to visit 

Experiencing the sunrise at this spot was one of the most peaceful moments in my life. It’s super calm, there’s no noise at all and just stunning nature all around you. The downside, it’s not easy to get there at this time of the day. One of the options is to hike (2 hours) before sunrise to be there as early as possible, or you can stay the night at the mountain hut next to the lake. 

You can book it pretty old school by texting the rifugio, and they’ll get back to you to confirm the reservation. Hiking at dawn can be risky, as there are huge cliffs and slippery paths along the way.

💵 Necessary costs

If you decide to do it in a day trip (most of the people will do this), you wo’n’t have any costs. Staying in the Rifugio costs you around €55,- euros for a night, based on half board.

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

The hike will take you around 2 hours (one way), so if you take a day trip, I highly recommend to take at least 6 hours for your trip. 2 hours of hiking, 2,5 hours of sightseeing around the lake and getting some food, 1,5 hours to hike back. The way back will be easier as it is downhill.

Hiking to Lago di Sorapis is not for the faint-hearted

📍  How to get there? 

As you’ve probably seen above, it takes a 2h hike to get to the lake. Arriving at the start of the trail (path 215) works best by car. You can navigate to this spot at Passo Tre Croci. From there, it’s a one way hike to the lake and you can’t get lost. Be sure to bring enough water and good hiking boots. Also, be steady on your feet, as you will pass extremely narrow cliff paths as seen above. You don’t need via ferrata gear, but please, be aware of the height and hold tight to the steel ropes if you’re not feeling safe. You could decide to do path 216 on your way back. It’s going up, a bit more challenging but they said the views are magnificent.

Lago di Braies

Last but not least. Lago di Braies a.k.a. Pragser Wildsee, or Lago di Instagram if you ask travel photographers these days. This place became so Insta famous the last years and is totally converted into a money machine for the local neighbourhood. Paid parking at a modern kiosk, people leaving garbage all around, big warning signs for people not to fly drones, expensive boat rentals and even more expensive pier rentals in the early morning. Yet we still go there. Simply because it’s too beautiful to skip, and at the same time too easy to visit.

🚁 Flying a drone

The first time I visited I noticed that there were some signs saying that it’s forbidden to fly a drone. It’s not on the DJI No Fly Map, but I thought people just didn’t like it. When I came back in October 2022, I wanted to fly my drone secretly, but once I arrived I saw – I kid you not – about 15 people flying their drone, standing around the little cabin. No one cared and it seems like they just decided to deal with it.

☀️ Best time to visit 

This is a spot you want to visit before 9 o’clock. It’s possible at sunrise, but don’t forget your tripod for long exposures. It’s ok to arrive a bit later if you ask me, so you have some extra light covering the mountains. At 9am the rentals start, so that’s why you should come before. 

Another reason to be here as early as possible is the calm water of the lake. The best reflections will be there right after sunrise. I visited this lake during autumn as well and it was magical to see the trees popping up in yellow and orange around the lake.

💵 Necessary costs

Parking your car will cost you €8,- euros, no matter how long you stay. If you decide to rent a boat, it costs €19,- euros for 30 minutes or €29,- euros for 60 minutes. For the real influencer, there’s an option to rent the pier from 7 to 8am. Legends say it’s about €150 euros before 8am and you can book this expensive stuff here. 

⏰ How much time should you spend here?

Two to three hours should be enough for this spot. Taking photos is nice, but it won’t cost you a full morning. When you’re finished, you could decide to walk around the lake to get some different perspectives, but most photographers just come to see the cabin, take a short boat trip and get back to the car.

📍 How to get there? 

It’s easy to navigate to Lago di Braies. You can take the bus from Dobbiaco or Cortina d’Ampezzo, or take the car and park next to the lake. Another fun option could be to rent a bike. There are some amazing cycling paths in the area that will lead you to lesser known spots. Oh and they have e-bikes too, so you don’t get tired!

That’s it for my favourite photo spots of the Dolomites. I know there are a lot more spots and you could easily spend weeks in the mountains here. When I go back, I will add all my new recommendations to this post!

2 Responses

  1. Hi Peter, a lovely blog of Dolomites, and you took some very beautiful photos in the Dolomites for sure! Just admiring those photos that you took at Lake Braies, definitely ones of the best that I’ve seen so far on the many blogs. It looks like they were taken from a more elevated area than the cabin level. Was it taken from an area as part of the circular walk around the lake? I’m going there in a week’s time and would not want to miss the opportunity to take some nice photos of the lake, therefore your response would be invaluble, thanks.

    1. Hi Allison, thanks for your kind words! Behind the cabin, there’s some elevation you can climb on to get the photo of the lake with the cabin in the foreground. The other photos from very high up are taken with a drone! These photos don’t require the full circular walk around the lake. Just make sure you arrive before 9am, and during summer months maybe best around 7am to take the best photos here!

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