You have probably heard of Lago di Braies and have seen photographs on instagram of 'influencers' cruising around the lake in a wooden boat with a stunning mountain as the backdrop. We all have.
Trust me though. The Dolomites don't end at Lago di Braies. There is so much more to photograph here, which doesn't include hustling for a spot to set your tripod up and breaking onto the wooden jetty before the boat house even opens (and I thought I have seen it all).
If you're into photography the Dolomites should be very high on your priority list, but what you should also prioritise is doing a proper research before you venture out into this mountain range.
I have spent over 12 weeks in the area in 2018 researching for my independent guide to the Italian Dolomites and this article is a small part of the series on where to photograph in the Dolomites to avoid the crowds.
13 Breathtaking and Easy To Reach Photography Locations in the Italian Dolomites
Map of The Photo Locations in the Dolomites
1. Baita G. Segantini
To call this a lake is a bit of an overstatement. However, small doesn't mean insignificant! In fact this tiny pond provides, at least in my eyes, the best mountain reflections in the whole of the Dolomites.
The spot takes its name from the little Malga (a backcountry restaurant) nestled right near the shoreline and located only 30-minute-walk from Passo Rolle, near the town of San Martino di Castrozza. It's one of the highlights along the hike to Passo Mulaz, but can be enjoyed on its own.
There is also a dirt road that you can drive on, ending right at the restaurant, but I wouldn't count on it. It's often closed to tourist traffic and local authorities discourage from using it, rightly so. Do the nature (and yourself) a favour and just walk.
2. Lago Di Braies
If there is one place you can skip in the Dolomites without feeling guilty, it's this one. Although Lago di Braies is undeniably beautiful, the crowds it attracts take away from its glory.
The tip I always give to my readers to show up early in order to avoid the crowds doesn't apply here. Regardless whether it's 6am or 2 pm, you can always expect a lot of people at the jetty, many of whom don't respect the surroundings.
The shoreline is pretty eroded and there is a lot of trash lying around. The facilities are lacking and the greedy car park attendants don't even try to be nice to visitors, because they know that the business will keep on rolling regardless.
The 8 kilometre road leading to the lake is often so stuffed with traffic, that by 9am the cars are turned around. I hope the local authorities will introduce some improvements in the future. Maybe allow only shuttle buses to go to the lake to ease the traffic, but for now the buses are stuck in it just like everybody else.
Lago di Braies has certainly fallen victim to over-tourism. The only time I have found a little bit of peace and quiet is when I strayed away from the crowds and decided to hike around the lake in the early morning hours.
The choice is ultimately yours whether you decide to visit it or not, but I wanted to shed some light on the problem, because I wasn't aware of it before I visited the lake myself.
3. Alpe Di Siusi
Rolling meadows, scarcely erected huts and dramatic mountain range as the backdrop, Alpe Di Siusi is the definition of the Italian Dolomites.
After a few failed attempts of capturing a good enough photo to do this place justice, I finally succeeded during one cold and snowy autumn morning.
Getting there requires quite some planning. There is a paved mountain road from Siusi (Seis am Schlern) to Compaccio (Compatsch), but it is closed to traffic between 9am to 5pm, except for the guests using hotel facilities in the area.
You can travel there in the early morning then stay for the whole day and drive down after 5pm. If you are caught driving on it without a valid hotel reservation you are risking a hefty fine (over 100 Euros) and I have met people, who had to pay it.
There is a paid parking area in Compaccio, where you can park your car and hike further toward Adler Lodge (it takes around 1 hour one way). Don't try to drive further! If you do, you will be breaking the law. There are clear signs prohibiting further traffic from Compaccio, but I have met tourists who blindly ignored it.
There are also two Gondolas you can use to reach Alpe Di Siusi: St Ulrich Seiser Alm from the town of Ortisei or Seiser Alm from Siusi (Seis am Schlern), but they both open at 9am, which means you won't get there for sunrise, if that's your objective.
The mountain you see as the backdrop is Sassolungo and you can scramble to one of its peaks along the via ferrata Oskar Schuster.
4. Tre Cime
If I close my eyes and imagine paradise, Tre Cime National Park comes pretty close. The iconic three peaks are not to be missed when planning a trip to the Dolomites.
The best way to explore the area is by hiking the Tre Cime circuit. It will take you via Forcella Lavaredo (photo above) and rifugio Locatelli (photo below), where you can plan an overnight stay.
5. Lago di Carezza
When travelling around the Dolomites you will often notice that each place has two names: a german and an italian. This backdates to World War I and the conflict between Italy and Austrio-Hungarian Empire costing many lives.
Today Lago di Carezza in the South Tyrol region is also known as Karersee and the mountain range you can see reflecting in its surface is called Latemar.
The access to Lago Carezza couldn't be easier. There is an ample parking lot on the other side of the road and like with many spots, the easier the access the more people you can expect.
The whole lake is fenced off with signs (in English, German and Italian) placed every few meters warning about fines for trespassing. Sadly it doesn't seem to work on many people. If you want to see beautiful places like this one, preserved for future generations, please don't be afraid to speak up when you see someone ignoring the signs.
6. Cinque Torri
Over the years this unique mountain feature has become rock climbers favourite. Recently though, it's photographers who can often be seen hanging around until late hours to capture the last light hitting the peaks of Cinque Torri.
This easy to get to spot offers endless composition possibilities. There is plenty of paths you can use to explore the area and I covered the details in this article.
7. Seceda Ridgeline
I have spent a significant amount of time in the Puez Odle National Park and I can rest assure you that Seceda ridgeline is just one of the many amazing spots you can photograph here. Although there is no denying that this is the most famous spot in this area of the Dolomites.
The nearest town, where you can catch the Col Raiser gondola to jumpstart your hike to the ridgeline, is called Santa Cristina Val Gardena. From the top of the gondola station it's an hour uphill hike along a very well maintained path to the ridgeline, where you can admire the view above.
If you want to get there for sunrise I recommend that you stay in the nearby rifugio Firenze overnight.
8. Cima Cadin
Arguably the most dramatic range in the Dolomites, Cima Cadin has recently seen a surge of fame thanks to instagram. Yet I feel this is another spot which is quickly falling victim to its own beauty with the instafamous viewpoint quickly becoming eroded.
There are three great spots, from where you can admire the dramatic spires of this range:
- Near rifugio Auronzo - an easy to reach hut accessible via private (and expensive) mountain road.
- From Forcella Lavaredo along the circuit around the Tre Cime.
- Around 30 minutes into the hike connecting rifugio Auronzo with rifugio Fonda Savio (pictured below)
Cima Cadin can also be summited along the via ferrata Merlone, one of my favorite ferratas in the Dolomites.
9. Lago di Limides
This tiny lake is often overlooked by the visitors, overshadowed by bigger contenders on this list. The lake is also not there the whole year around. To get the shot you need to plan your visit before it dries out at the end of the season, usually around September.
I have visited it twice, the second time in October with a plan to capture the autumn foliage, but to my surprise the lake was gone!
What can you see reflecting in its surface? Mount Lagazuoi, with its famous rifugio perched right on its top and the Tofane Di Rozes, a home to another famous via ferrata - Giovanni Lipella.
Lago Limides can be reached within half an hour from rifugio Col Galina, around 1 kilometre away from Falzarego mountain pass along a well marked path.
10. Lago di Antorno
A small lake in the close vicinity of the much larger Lago Misurina, Lago Antorno offers reflections of the western face of the Tre Cime.
Although you can't see all three of the peaks, the surroundings more than make up for it with a picturesque little bridge and many daisies and other wildflowers adorning its banks during the summer.
11. Lago Federa
This is an absolute must do in autumn. The perfect time for visiting Lago Federa is in the second half of October when all the surrounding it larch trees turn golden.
The nearby located rifugio Palmieri is the only hut, which stays open as late as the start of November, to accommodate the guests flocking to the lake to see this spectacle.
You can reach the lake along the Croda Da Lago Circuit, one of my personal favourite day hikes in the Italian Dolomites. You can find more information about it here (Coming Soon).
12. Passo Giau
There is no shortage of mountain passes in the Dolomites. I have driven and photographed through so many, I have dedicated a separate post to them.
But to me one stands out above the rest and that's Passo Giau. It connects the towns of Cortina d'Ampezzo with Selva Di Cadore. Both are ca. 30 minute drive from the pass.
Passo Giau is not exactly a secret either. In fact it's a mandatory stop for many photography tours operating in the Dolomites. I don't know of any though, which include the experience of summiting Ra Gusela - the signature peak visible from Passo Giau. I had the pleasure of catching sunrise on its top and you can read all about it here.
13. Val Di Funes
This list wouldn't be complete without the iconic Val di Funes and its two churches. Type in 'Dolomites' into google image search and this spot will appear the most. At least it does for me, but who will ever be able to understand google algorithms right?
The San Giovanni church which you can see on the photo above is photographed more often, simply because it's easier to find. There is a small parking area at the end of the road in the town of Santa Magdalena. The access to church is limited, but there is a small platform built for visitors, offering great access if you want to snap the iconic photo.
Because shuffling for a spot is not my cup of tea, I have decided to venture a bit further away for a more elevated angle.
The backdrop of San Giovanni church is none the other then Seceda Ridgeline, mentioned in the post previously with its highest peaks: Furchetta and Sass Rigais, the latter accessible through a via ferrata of the same name.
The other church - Santa Magdalena (photo below) is a bit further away. Best way to reach it is to leave the car parked in town and walk the road past the church, then down along the path visible in the photograph and again uphill for an elevated view. It's a private road and the car traffic is prohibited to tourists.
Travel resources for your trip around the Dolomites
Motorhome Republic - Motorhome Republic is a search engine that'll compare the best campervan rental companies and guarantees the lowest prices in the Italian Alps.
Discover Car Hire - If you decide to rent a normal size car and opt in for hotel stays.
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.
Have you got any questions about any of the spots or need helping with planning your trip to the Dolomites? Post them in the comments below!
Join thousands of monthly readers and get my posts delivered straight to your inbox