It could be argued that the Dolomites are the most beautiful mountain range in Europe. If you follow travel pages on instagram, there's a reason that you will be bombarded with photos of this superb part of Italy. I visited the region in July 2021 and these are the spots that stopped me in my tracks. German and Italian are official languages in the region so expect to see two names for most of the locations.
Lago di Carezza / Karersee
Lago di Carezza is a small alpine lake that is famous for its wonderful colours, reflection and views of the Latemar mountain range. This place as stunning in person and was my favourite spot in the entire Dolomites.
When to visit: Sunrise to have the place mostly to yourself but I have seen lovely shots from sunset as well.
Location: 46.40941842153433, 11.575045598062573
Insider tip: If you are going to go for a short hike around the lake, be sure to look out for the signs to the even smaller Lago di Mezzo (Mittersee) for some early morning mist and a lovely reflection of the Latemar mountain range.
St. Jacob's Church/ Chiesa di San Giacomo/ St.-Jakobs-Kirche
This has be one of the best located churches in the alps. Dating back to the 13th century, it offers superb views of the Val Gardena below. Located in the hamlet of Ortisei, the church is only accessible by foot up a pretty steep path. Public parking does not exist in many of these little hamlets in the Dolomites, so I recommend going to a restaurant or a bar for a drink/apple strudel and afterwards leaving your car there whilst you hike to the church.
When to visit: The views are epic at any time of the day. I'm sure sunrise would be great here.
Location: 46.658256991888386, 11.677770365973876
The one and a half hour hike from Zanser alm car park is a little steep in parts, but the views at the top make the hike worth it. The clouds hid the mountains for the majority of the time we were up there but they came out to play just as we were starting to hike back down to the carpark. Relax on the lovely wooden reclining seats whilst you wait. This is another spot I had seen many times on instagram and I was surprised to find that the "lake' reflection you see from here is in-fact a little pond. It however still makes a great shot. To get to Geisler Alm, follow trails 35,36 or 6 to get to the top from Zanser Alm car park.
When to visit: I have seen beautiful shots at this spot at sunset. but my photograph was taken at 2pm and (in my view) came out pretty well.
Location: 46.62120938006369, 11.749722990376263
Car Park: 46.63777550849485, 11.762683423845113 (It was 6 euros to park in July 2021)
St Johann Church/ Chiesetta di San Giovanni
Another classic Instagram Dolomites church. Unfortunately its popularity on Instagram has caused the damage to the field around the church so recently a viewing platform, fence around the area, a no drone zone, an electrified fence in the meadow and a paid turnstile to access the church itself have been installed. Still this is a famous church for a reason.
When to visit: All day.
Location: 46.63524141639546, 11.724613234554868
Alpe di Siusi/ Seiser Alm
Alpe di Siusi is the largest high altitude Alpine Meadow in Europe. Access to the meadow by road is limited for majority of the day but we were able to drive right up to the mountain huts after 8pm. The sunset wasn't the best but it's easy to see why its such a popular site.
When to visit: Super early for sunrise or just before sunset in the summer for free access.
Location: 46.5530098328789, 11.658122240264401
Another popular church for photographers, St.Valentin Church offers amazing views of the majestic Sciliar Massif mountains. Parking is particularly difficult around the church so it's advised to park in the nearby town of San Valentino and do the 20 minute hike up to the church. You won't be disappointed.
When to visit: Sunrise and sunset offer splendid light for photography.
Location: 46.54981608543795, 11.563319249895404
The Giau pass is a high mountain pass located in the province of Belluno. It connects Cortina d'Ampezzo with Selva di Cadore and Colle Santa Lucia. Located right in the centre of a vast mountain pasture, it offers amazing views of many of the Dolomites most popular mountains: Marmolada , Tofane , Croda Rossa, Cristallo, Sorapiss, Croda da Lago, Lastoni di Formin and Cadini di Misurina. It is also known as a legendary stage in the Giro d'Italia bike race. If you own a drone, you will have a field day capturing serpentine like roads here with dense woodland.
When to visit: Many of the mountain passes are shut during the winter months due to snow so it's best to visit during the warmer months of the year.
Location: 46.482604073973214, 12.054660200525838
Croda da Lago
The hike up here (taking hiking trail 437) had a large steep section but the views at the top didn't disappoint. Glass like reflections on a calm day. Unfortunately for us, it was pretty overcast for our visit. There is a lovely rifugio around the lake which is a great spot to have a drink and some food and take in the views before heading back down, the rifugio also makes for some great reflective photographs too.
When to visit: Any time of day. Sunrise here would be great for sure.
Location: 46.48936076616456, 12.105962020115912
Starting point for hiking trail 437: 46.50628842087599, 12.082701904047758
Snake road for great drone photography: 46.50283241694404, 12.079440338009238
Lago di Misurina
This was a spot I had wanted to visit for a long time and luckily, we managed to get accommodation just within eight minutes drive. Glass like reflections can be had here of the Marmarole and Sorapiss mountains and the Istituto Pio XII rehabilitation centre.
When to visit: Sunrise and sunset both offer spectacular photography here.
Location: 46.584072120711646, 12.255268293718819
Lago di Braies/ Pragser Wildsee
Often nicknamed "Lago di Instagram" or "The Pearl of the Dolomites", this is another very popular spot within the Dolomites. No matter what time you visit here, you won't be by yourself. The authorities have really clamped down on numbers in the summer months between July to September so its advised to check online if you have to reserve a time slot here.
When to visit: I recommend visiting from May to October and arriving before 8am to enjoy free parking and minimal people. Parking after 8am is expensive so beware.
Location: 46.69565247876172, 12.087215956069084
Lago d'Antorno is a picturesque lake with some of the best views of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo mountains. There's a little wooden bridge and a small pond that make a great composition.
When to visit: Sunrise offers amazing light but I have seen lovely sunset photos too.
Location: 46.595255227863554, 12.265269352807712