Even if the locations are virtually endless, I decided to include to most famous in this small photography guide, with some informations that may become in handy to know before you are actually on the spot.
1. TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO (THREE PEAKS OF LAVAREDO)
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo in english) are surely the most popular location of the Dolomites and one of the most spectacular places of the area for sure.
You can drive up till the Rifugio Auronzo from the Misurina lake, but there’s a toll to pay if you want to arrive to the hut with your car (currently, it’s 30€/car); other options are public transports from Misurina which are a little bit cheaper (around 8€/person round trip) or by feet, since there’s a steep trail that start close to Misurina and reach Rifugio Auronzo in about 2h and 30m.
Once you arrived to the Rifugio Auronzo you’ll have to take a fairly easy 1h30m hike to the Rifugio Locatelli (Drei Zinnen Hutte) to get the classic view like in the photo here. From there, you can continue on the main trail that goes around the peaks and connects you back to the parking lot or you can return back from the same way you came.
If you continue, you’ll arrive in another famous photographic area, where you’ll find a few small lakes and a small stream; both are perfect foregrounds with the majestic peaks in the back! You can reach this area also from the parking lot by taking the trail in the opposite direction, and you’ll be there in about 45 minutes.
Let’s talk about when you should visit: the best time here is summer for me, by far; you get wildflowers pretty much everywhere, the whole place is really colorful. Oh, and don’t forget that the road that leads to the first hut is close from late October (depending on the snow) till May, so if you’ll be there during the other months you’ll have to take quite a long and grueling hike to arrive up there, with snowshoes on if there’s snow.
The best time of the day is sunset without any doubt, since the last light of the sun will hit the walls of the Three Peaks. Night is also an option, if you have some clear skies I highly recommend to try a few milky way shots!
2. BRAIES LAKE (PRAGSER WILDSEE)
Why? Well, because it’s beautiful to start; second, it’s easy to reach since there’s no hiking at all involved (except a walk around the lake, but I wouldn’t call that “hiking”) and last but not least because of all the advertising that received on the social medias.
Since it can get really, really crowded during the high season (summer) I might recommend to visit this spot in autumn; there are many larches around the lake, so you can shot far more interesting photos during the fall season compared to summer; less people and more beautiful shots, for me it’s a no brainer!
Whether you choose to go there in summer or autumn, be sure to arrive there really early in the morning since you won’t find any people around (except maybe for some other photographers); if you can’t be there for sunrise, my second option would be sunset for sure.
3. ALPE DI SIUSI (SEISER ALM)
This spot is a 2h30m drive from the Tre Cime/Braies Lake area; the road to arrive to Compaccio (Compatsch), which is the small village (mainly composed by hotels) from where you’ll find all the roads and trails to visit the meadows, is open to the public just from 5 p.m. till 9 p.m., while during the rest of the day is open just for those who have an hotel reservation and locals. From Compaccio there’s another stretch of road to do to finally arrive in the meadows area (like in the photo up here), but it’s a limited traffic area so be sure to stop at the main parking lot and don’t go further if you don’t want to get an expensive ticket! You can drive there just if you have an hotel reservation in that specific area. Yes, we like to make things complicated here in Italy, I know.
The Alpe di Siusi is always a great spot, regardless of the time of the year, but for me summer and autumn are probably the best; in summer you get that nice side-light (like in the photo) and the green fields, while in fall you get the sunstar in the photo and some colorful larches. Now it’s up to you, which one do you prefer? Both sunrise and sunset are great here; during sunset you get the sun going down behind you, so you also get the last light on the peaks!!
There are two options to visit the Seceda: the first one (and the easiest one) is the cable car (32€/person), that from the parking lot will take you up there at 2500m in around 25 minutes, while the second one is on feet, but it’s going to be quite a long and steep hike to the top. The cable car is not open all-year round, so be sure to check out first if it’s running during your trip there, otherwise you may only have one option; generally it’s closed during the low seasons, so autumn and spring. If you want to catch sunset or sunrise up there, unless you book one of the few expensive cabins the only way to do it is with the tent; the opening hours of the cable car won’t coincide with your photography schedule, since they open around 9 a.m. in the morning and close around 5:30 p.m. in the evening.
If I have to choose the best season to be there, summer would be the one of me; as for the Tre Cime there are plenty of wildflowers here too which are great for foregrounds and wide angle shots. At sunset you get the light on the peaks, at sunrise you get the sun rising right in front of you; for personal taste I prefer sunset (I don’t like to shot in the sun direction), but both are great moments to be out there!
5. CINQUE TORRI
This place is also one of the easiest to reach: being really close to Cortina d’Ampezzo, you can drive down the towers (except from late July till the end of August and when there’s snow on the road); from the parking you’ll arrive to the Rifugio Scoiattoli (the spot where all the most popular photos are made) with a 25 minutes easy hike; other options are the cable car that will take you directly to the Rifugio Scoiattoli or by feet from the cable car parking, with a 1h30m trail.
I like this spot all through the year; in summer you get wildflowers below the towers, in winter you get some beautiful snow textures and in autumn you get some colorful larches around the place. You really can’t go wrong when visiting the Cinque Torri! At sunset you get the last light on the towers while at sunrise you get the sun peaking through the rocks!
6. SORAPISS LAKE
The Sorapiss view it’s one that has to be earned: the hike to arrive here is about 2h long, and you have to be in good shape to take it. It’s quite easy, but it’s not a walk. Just be aware of that. There’s also a section where you have to walk on some boulders using fixed ropes for balance. Again, it’s fairly easy, but it’s a mountain hike.
The best (and probably only) time of the year to visit is from early summer (when the snow melts) till early autumn, when the snow comes back again. Mid summer though is when you should be there: later you might find little water in the lake due to the lack of rain. At sunset you’ll get the sun going down right in front of you, while at sunrise you’ll have the sun at your back which will fire up the “God’s Finger” above the lake.
7. LIMIDES LAKE (OR LIMEDES LAKE)
Both sunrise and sunset are great times to be there, but I’ve always personally preferred sunrise: you get the sun right in your face, lighting up the Tofane mountains reflecting in the waters of the lake. A true gem of the Dolomites!
In summer the place will be full of wildflowers too, while in autumn you’ll find golden larches all around the lake which will create a magic atmosphere.
8. LAGAZUOI HUT
A telephoto is required here, if you want to get some close-ups of the mountains all around the hut. Since you can shoot in almost all directions, both sunrise and sunset will be great for photography; best season in my opinion are summer and winter, with the main aim to get low clouds hanging over the valley while the peaks are above. Catching the so-called “sea of clouds” in such a marvelous place is the dream of all nature photographers.
In order to shoot the golden hours here, you’ll have to take the cableway at the Falzarego Pass and spend the night at the refuge: the only other option you have is to take the steep trail (which in winter is a ski run) from the Falzarego pass, which will take you not less than 2h to arrive at the hut.
9. GIAU PASS
From there, you can decide whether to roam around the place or take one of the available hikes that will lead you further into the mountains. You can reach the Giau Pass from Cortina d’Ampezzo, after a winding 13km stretch of road. Be careful in the cold season since there are a few parts where the road is always slippery.
This locations is great in all seasons: in summer you’ll get wildflowers, in autumn the foliage and in winter a snowy landscape. It all depends on what you prefer. At sunset you’ll have the sun setting in the valley on the left, while at sunrise you’ll have the sun rising from the valley on the right. There’s also a nice seasonal pond not far from the Giau pass, where you can get a nice reflection of the mountain range!