The Italian Dolomites is one of the most photogenic and most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. No wonder so many photographers head there in all conditions chasing the light. I’m lucky to live within a 3-hour drive of these incredible mountains and can therefore return several times during the year. Here is a selection of 7 of the best photo locations in the Dolomites.
7 of the best photo locations in the Dolomites
Tre Cime di Lavaredo | Cinque Torri | Lago di Braies | Monte Lagazuoi | Alpe di Siusi | Passo Giau | Lago di Sorapis
1) Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Or simply Tre Cime) is the highlight of any trip to the Dolomites. The three towers dominate the area and their dramatic, inaccessible shape make for great photography. There are three rifugios (mountain huts) in the Tre Cime area for overnight stays. The most popular is rifugio Locatelli for its location. The photo above was taken almost from the front door! Night photography is very rewarding here. There are a number of beautiful mountain lakes within easy reach, including Laghi dei Piani, another gem for photography.
2) Cinque Torri
Cinque Torri (Five Towers) is another easy-to-reach, dramatic location. The five towers dominate the gentle mountain plateau and attract photographers year round. Rifugio Scoiattoli (The Squirrels) is accessible by chairlift and views like the one pictured above can be captured from its terrace. The surrounding area is perfect for easy hikes, especially in early summer when there is an abundance of wild alpine flowers. A wide-angle and macro lens are a must.
3) Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies (Braies or Pragser Lake) is a hotspot for Instagrammers. At the top of the lake there is a boat house, photos of which have flooded the internet over the last few years. Yet just a short walk around the lake (a 2-hour easy stroll), will allow you to enjoy the lake almost for yourself, especially if you stay out for sunset. The best times to visit are early summer when the lake is at its fullest and mid October, when autumn colours kick in.
4) Monte Lagazuoi
Mount Lagazuoi rises up above the Falzarego pass and offers incredible views over the rest of the Dolomites. It is popular among photographers because it is so easy to access. A gondola ride takes you straight to the top where you’ll find a cosy rifugio that serves excellent food and understands photographers’ needs. Book it well in advance; it’s open in winter and summer season. A telephoto lens will be the most useful here to capture the distant mountain peaks.
5) Alpe di Siusi
Alpe di Siusi is the largest mountain pasture plateau in the Dolomites. Here you’ll find beautiful meadows dotted wooden huts and wildflowers. The sharp mountain peaks make great backgrounds for your shots. The accommodation here is more expensive, but for good reason; you can literally walk outside and shoot! When you’re done, head to a relaxing spa or go for a spectacular hike.
6) Passo Giau
The Giau Pass is one of the most popular routes in the Dolomites. The dramatic Ra Gusela peak that dominates views from the top of the pass is the main reason. You can drive this mountain road year round, even in winter as it is so well maintained. It also pays to explore the nearby area on foot. There are a couple of small ponds that are perfect for capturing reflections and the ridge on the opposite side of the road makes a great foreground. Expect to find many fellow photographers up here – but don’t worry, there’s room for everyone!
7) Lago di Sorapis
One of my personal favourite spots is Lake Sorapis. The unbelievable turquoise colour of the water is the main attraction, but the whole area is simply beautiful. This is a very delicate environment so please limit your impact on the area by staying on the trails, and do not swim in the lake! There is a small rifugio nearby; this is the only accommodation available. The hike is not long, but is steep and exposed in a few places. The view of the lake is worth the effort! Early summer is the best time to come as there will be wild flowers everywhere and the lake is at its fullest.
Photography in Dolomites – When to go?
If you’re planning a trip to the Italian Dolomites, think carefully about the tourist seasons there. Unlike the rest of Italy, the Dolomites has two peak seasons; a winter ski season and a summer hiking season. Spring and autumn are considered off-season and many hotels and restaurants are closed. Rifugios, gondolas and chair lifts may also be closed. There are three key times of the year that I would recommend for photography; go early summer (June to beginning of July) for alpine wildflowers, plentiful lakes and relatively few tourists. Mid October is best for autumn colours. The bright, yellow larch trees will be in view along the mountain passes or within easy reach of a moderate hike. Even though this will be off-peak season, you’ll still find accommodation. My final suggestion is to come in winter, even when there is lots of snow as the roads are well maintained. The ski lifts are perfect for reaching some of the best views in the area and the snow-capped peaks will be at their most majestic.
Luka Esenko is a landscape and nature photographer when at home in Slovenia, and an avid travel photographer when on the road. Spending time in the mountains and travelling are his two biggest passions and he likes to combine them with photography. Luka runs workshops in and around the Julian Alps and the Italian Dolomites. He is also co-founder of PhotoHound, a location-sharing platform for travel photographers.