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A top location for many Europeans and travelers from further afield, the Italian Dolomites are a mountain range in the east of the European Alps. Maybe you've heard the associated term "Via Ferrata". Many of the world famous Via Ferratas (which means Iron Path in Italian) were constructed during World War 1 as the frontline between the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Troops and the Royal Italian Army was along the Dolomites, high up peak to peak. To travel between such strategic locations chains, ropes and iron ladders were used by the soldiers to gain an advantage over the enemy. Nowadays the Via Ferrata are open to the public and are one of the main reasons tourists frequent the area. Another reason is photography. Escaping into nature is becoming ever more popular.
Instagrammers are flocking to the wooden jetty at Lago di Braies in record numbers but there's so much more to the Italian Dolomites than an overpriced canoe ride on Pragser Wildsee.
Personally I've been taking photos for over 5 years now and I've been to some incredible photography locations such as jaw dropping Iceland, off the hook Canada and stunning New Zealand but the Italian Dolomites not only look but also feel very different. They are easy to travel and although the weather is very tempestuous in summer, road trip around Dolomites is manageable all year round. I highly recommend a trip there even if you're not into photography. Hopefully my photos will inspire you to book your tickets.
10 Breathtaking Photography Spots in the Italian Dolomites that Are Not Lago di Braies
Map of some of the best photo spots in the Dolomites
Below you can find an interactive map of the photography spots in the Italian Dolomites. I have also included spots that are not featured in the list but should not be overlooked. Such as the churches in Val di Funes and Croda da Lago mountain chain. Lago di Braies has also made the cut, because as over photographed as it may be, if you connect to your creative side and don't replicate the same shot over and over again, you can certainly find some awesome compositions of the lake.
1. Baita Segantini
An uphill walk from the car park transports you away from the quiant nearby village, into the jagged mountains, towards one of the many hundred refuges that called the Dolomites home. This one, Baita G Segantini, lies next to a small pond where the Pale di San Martino Mountain Range reflects. I camped up there (not sure about the legality of that) and had the whole place to myself. Whilst I was falling asleep I kept seeing flashes of light, someone was photographing my tent!!! I went outside, into the dark, and saw no one. Initially perplexed, I then realized that a lightning storm had developed in the valley at a lower elevation and although it was perfectly clear overhead a tremendously powerful squall was no further than 100m below me. Thankfully it subsided pretty quickly and I managed to stay high and dry. It was nonetheless worrying at the time.
2. Lago di Misurina
On the way to Parco Naturalé Tre Cime from Cortina D'ampezzo, which is an awesome base if you plan on exploring the area, you'll head past two alpine lakes. The second is Lago D'Antorno but the first is the much larger, and much more developed, Lago Di Misurina. A reflecting lake where the famous Grand Hotel Misurina can be snapped. Although this sunset was a perfect end to the day it was on this night that Iceland beat England in the Euro 2016, definitely a damper on the whole experience.
3. Refugio Lorenzi
One of the most picturesque refuges in the Dolomites. Surrounded by mountains and offering spectacular views into the valleys, the deck is a great place to snap the sun rising before having a decent breakfast and heading for the day into the mountains. The gondola costs around 20€ return but is closed temperamentally due to maintanance. It's a tough hike up and I wouldn't recommend it until late July when all the snow has melted.
4. Gran Cir Summit
The summit of Gran Cir gives you an incredible view over Corvara and the valley it lies in. The Via Ferrata route that leads there is a 2a (quite easy) in climbing terms and should take no longer than 3 hours. A small indignation for such an awesome reward. I arrived at the summit all alone, well before sunrise, and started setting up my equipment. I then noticed a group of 8 or so people coming up on the trail after me, a group of Italian students. Well the serenity of the peak was short lived and soon we were having strong coffee, Italian biscuits and swigs from hip flasks full of amaretto but the best was one of the ragazzi starting loudly exclaiming/borderline shouting, (which is the regular audible level when speaking Italian) that "È tranquillo, è tranquillo" which I cleverly deciphered to be "It's so tranquil" and although I really enjoyed his company I don't think he saw the irony of the situation.
5. Lago di Carezza
Once upon a time, a water nymph called the pristine waters of Lake Carezza home. One day, an evil sorcerer was overcome by the sound of the nymph as she sang to herself. Obsessed by the beauty of the nymph, he sought the help of a witch to capture her. An elaborate plan involving a disguise and the casting of a rainbow across the lake to woo her ensued.
Unfortunately for the sorcerer forgot to wear his disguise and was outed by the nymph even as she marvelled at his rainbow. Evading his trap, she jumped into the lake. Completely distraught at his own foolishness, the sorcerer smashed the rainbow into a million pieces, which fell into the lake’s waters below where they both stay to this day. This is the story behind the magnificent colours of the lake, a stop not to be missed.
6. Parco Naturale di Puez-Odle
One of the most underrated parks in the Italian Dolomites. Parco Naturale di Puez-Odle is famous for the Seceda Ridgeline which is featured later in this post but there are so many more spots there that are overlooked. Just take the time to walk around, admire the mountains and find some unique compositions. I never realized how beautiful this shot was until I got home and started editing it. At the time it was a mere "oh that's nice" *snap snap snap* then continued on my hike. I find it funny that there are photography locations that I've been to what feels like hundreds of times and never came out with a shot that I'm happy with. This one however, what I consider to be one of my best shots, took a couple of seconds and required no planning whatsoever.
7. Seceda Ridgeline
The Seceda Mountain Range is incredible from all angles but from the top of the Seceda Gondola. The view along it's ridge-line is very special. It's an easy spot to hike to from the top of the Col Raiser Gondola and lies near several homely refuges. I stayed in Refugio Firenze which has an awesome patio, decent grub and some incredible mountain vistas.
8. Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Tre Cime, or the Drei Zinnen in German, marks the language border between the German speaking and Italian speaking parts of the Dolomites. It's also one of the most visited photography spots too. Consider taking the time to hike from Refugio Auronzo to Refugio Lavaredo and then to the Dreizinnenhütte but remember it's not just the three famous monoliths that should be your focus, the whole park is jaw dropping. There's a good number Via Ferratas in the area and because of the park's popularity, there's a toll road up to the refuge. I left my car at the bottom hiked up to Rifugio Auronzo traversed across to Rifugio Fonda Savio then walked down toward Lago Di Antorno, then hitched back to my car. It's another easy short loop which offers spectacular views.
9. Lago di Landro
A reflecting lake close to Tre Cime. Lago di Landro, no more than a road side pull out, is a great spot to stop on the way to Lago di Braies. Hopefully you'll get better weather than I did. I went there three times and got nothing but dull clouds. Well I guess you can't get lucky everytime but let this be a friendly reminder that the weather can be treacherous in the summer here, expect a few of your precious days to be called off on account of rain.
10. Lago di Antorno
A small pond in the vicinity of the much larger Lago di Misurina, Lago di Antorno offers reflections of the western face of the Tre Cime. Although you can't see all three of the peaks it's nonetheless beautiful with a picturesque little bridge and many daisies (plus other wildflowers) on its banks in the summer. This is a photo of my climbing buddy, who was also featured earlier in a photo of Tre Cime, he was a true trooper the entire trip by putting up with my sporadic awakenings in the early hours to photograph the sunrise at 05:30 possibly still tipsy after a night of too many glasses of Italian vino.
I hope you enjoyed my subjective list on my favourite photography spots in the Italian Dolomites. The Dolomites cover a vast area of jagged peaks and whilst I was there I found that getting ten minutes away from the beaten path offered great rewards. Rewarding not just in the sense of exploration and photography but also rewarding in the sense of satisfaction one gets in paving their own road. Photography is a very competitive market and I believe it's by standing out and doing something original you'll appeal to a wider audience.
How to Travel in the Dolomites
Undoubtedly the best way to see the Dolomites is by trekking from refuge to refuge. This requires a lot of planning and physical effort but you'll spend the majority of your time where you want to be, up in the mountains. The most popular alternative is to rent a campervan. By renting a motorhome you can be in the right place at the right time and not have to worry about hefty hotel bills, you also have the luxury of being location independent. So, for example, if the weather turns bad, which is quite common in these tempestuous mountains, you can simply drive away from the storms that are very localized.
Travel resources for your trip around the Dolomites
Motorhome Republic - Motorhome Republic is a search engine that'll compare the best rental companies and guarantees the lowest prices in the Italian Alps.
Rentalcars.com - If you decide to rent a normal size car and stay in campsites then Rental Cars is the worlds number one rental car provider.
Booking.com - Are you looking for accommodation in the bigger towns of Corvara, Cortina, Bolzano or even in Venice which is the closest International Airport to the Dolomites? Booking.com is a great place to search for accommodation.
Via Ferrata Dolomiti - A useful website containing practical information on all the hikes and climbs in the area
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
After his world travels started in 2011, Jack Bolshaw set his sails on conquering the world one photograph at a time. Now he currently leads guided photography excursions in different world wide locations. The motto he tries to adhere by as much as possible is "If you don't go, then you don't know" which has successfully landed him photos that have won international competitions and recognition with many publications.
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