1 week in South Tyrol exploring the Italian Dolomites: a photographer’s perspective

Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm in Souty Tyrol, Dolomites
  • Day 1: driving from Belgium to South Tyrol
  • Day 2: Lago di Braies + Lago Dobbiaco
  • Day 3: Tre Cime di Lavaredo + Cadini di Misurina and short stop at Lago di Misurina
  • Day 4: Lago di Sorapis
  • Day 5: The most beautiful churches of the Dolomites and a good hike: Church of St. Valentin + Geisler alm + church of St. John
  • Day 6: Sunrise at Alpe di Siusi + Seceda + Lago di carezza
  • Day 7: The end (or continue your holiday to Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia or drive further down south in Italy)
  • Extra: My top 3 places in the Dolomites/South Tyrol
Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm at sunrise

The Dolomites: massive mountain views, gorgeous landscapes everywhere you look, some of Europe’s most beautiful hiking trails (both for experienced and inexperienced hikers), delicious food,… Sounds good? I promise you that you have to put South Tyrol on your bucket list and I will help you plan the perfect trip!

I remember going to the Dolomites for the first time in 2019 and falling in love with the mountains. There are no words to describe how epic the scenery is in South Tyrol and how gorgeous the Dolomites really are. I went back in 2020 with my girlfriend during a 3 week roadtrip through Italy (and a few days in Germany + Austria). In this itinerary I’ll list the most beautiful places in the Dolomites for a 1 week stay. If you love nature, landscapes and outdoor activities, this is a must read. For your information: both times I went were in September.

The Dolomites (or Dolomiti as said in Italian) are a mountain range located in northeastern Italy. In 2009, the Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll notice that in the area both German and Italian are used as common language so all location names are indicated in Italian and German as well. In this blog, I’ll try use both the Italian and German names of all the places we visited. Let’s dive into the perfect 1 week Dolomites itinerary!

One of the views when hiking around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen

Day 1: driving from Belgium to South Tyrol

We woke up early in the morning and hit the road around 4.30 AM. We like to leave early to beat morning traffic in Belgium and to arrive at our destination in the afternoon so we still have some time to chill and maybe explore a bit. We booked our stay up front at Camping Toblacher See for the next 4 nights. Camping Toblacher See is well located to visit quite a few highlights in the area without having to drive too far. We like to stay a few nights at the same place so we don’t have to lose too much time breaking up the tent and setting it up somewhere else. For people who don’t like camping, there’s plenty of hotels in the area as well as nice airbnb’s. We loved our stay at the campsite but it was really cold in the evenings (it was beginning/mid September) and the sun disspeared behind the surrounding mountains early in the afternoon, between 4 and 5 PM. When I went with my friends in 2019 we did airbnb’s only which was more pleasant given the cold evenings and mornings. The first day we didn’t do much but set up the tent, get a shower and go to bed in time. I stayed out a little while longer to photograph the Milky Way above Lago Dobbiaco.

The Milky Way above Lago Dobbiaco

Day 2: Lago di Braies + Lago Dobbiaco

Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee

We got up early to catch sunrise at Lago di Braies (only a 20 minutes drive from the campsite). You can park your car really close to the lake. Lago di Braies is gorgeous but also way too touristic. If you go during the day, it’s packed with tourists who rent a boat to go on the lake or do the 1 hour walking tour around the lake. Both in 2019 and 2020 I visited it at sunrise and even then there were at least 30 people (mostly photographers). It’s gorgeous any time of the day, but at sunrise you have more chance of catching perfect reflections of the mountain in the back. When the sun comes up, the first light touches the top of the mountain giving it a beautiful orange hue.

After photographing sunrise at the lake, you can go on a walk around. This will take you 1 hour. If you go later in the day it will be beautiful as well, just way more crowded. A fun activity is to rent a boat and go for a tour on the lake.

After visiting Lago di Braies, we went to a nearby town, got breakfast, went to the store and strolled around a bit. After that, we went back to the campsite to explore Lago Dobbiaco. The camping is located near the lake so we just put the car next to the tent and spent the next few hours walking around the lake (it isn’t big) and the walking trails that are made in the area. I left the camera in the tent so I don’t have any photos of the walk but I’ll share some photos soon in this blog of a moody morning at the lake.

Day 3: Tre Cime di Lavaredo + Cadini di Misurina and short stop at Lago di Misurina

The next morning was very cold and moody with lots of fog over Lago Dobbiaco. I quicky grabbed my camera and went to take a few photos before starting the day.

After getting ready, we left to hike to Cadini di Misurina and the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo (maybe the most famous place in the Dolomites, also called Drei Zinnen). You can start both hikes from Rifugio Auronzo. Coördinates: 46.612404321613866, 12.29535912162288. It doesn’t matter which hike you start with, but we chose to start off with Cadini di Misurina (see photo below). Driving there from the campsite took us only 40 minutes but there was quite a line to pay to get to the parking (parking cost is 30 euros).

Cadini di Misurina, near Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Amongst photographers, Cadini di Misurina is well known and chances are very likely you’ve seen this place on Instagram before but to most people, this gorgeous place is still pretty well hidden. Almost everyone that parks their car at Rifugio Auronzo comes to visit the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo and they don’t even know a more epic view is hiding right around the corner.

Since the parking at Rifugio Auronzo is located at 2320 meters high, we were surrounded by clouds and couldn’t see much beyond 30 meters away from us. We decided to test our chances and do the hike to Cadini di Misurina anyway.

Rifugio Auronzo after the clouds cleared up a bit on our way back. On the right you see the walking trail to Cadini di Misurina.

How to get to Cadini di Misurina: You park your car at Rifugio Auronzo and you start the Sentiero Bonacossa trail. If you stand in front of Rifugio Auronzo as you see it in the photo above, the trail starts on your right (Coördinates for start of the trail: 46.61201906117308, 12.29640179689467). Every so many meters, you’ll find white/red marked signs that indicate you’re still on the right way. You can follow these and after 45 minutes you’ll reach the most gorgeous viewpoint in the Dolomites.

I could put 100 photos here but I think you get the point. Don’t miss this spot. We spent a little over 1h30 here since we had to wait a very long time for the clouds to clear. Afterwards, we went back to Rifugio Auronzo to start the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen hike.

Rifugio Auronzo and the Tre Cime di Lavarezo/Drei Zinnen covered in clouds

You can’t miss the start of the Tre Cime hike, if you look at Rifugio Auronzo, the trail leads around the mountains you see on the photo above. The hike around Tre Cime is 7+ kilometers and will take you 2 hours and 30 minutes. You can extend you hike if you want as there are many other trails in the area. I could go to the Dolomites for a third time to visit this area again and sleep in the Dreizinnenhütte to enjoy sunset, stargazing and sunrise here.

The hike is pretty flat, there’s only a height difference of 200 meters. There are gorgeous views all around so you’ll have plenty of time enjoying the views and taking some cool photos!

We spent a little over 4 hours here because we stopped for a drink on our way (you’ll pass 2 huts where you can get something to eat and/or drink) and because we took our time taking photos. On our way back with the car to the campsite, we made a short stop at Lago di Misurina for a photo.

Lago di Misurina

When we arrived we looked for a pizzeria in the area of the campsite and went to Pizzeria Hans (coordinates: 46.72909288326031, 12.222239118412032). Add this pizzeria to your list! To us, these were one of the best pizza’s we had during our trip (we were on the road for 3 weeks, more about Italy will come in another blog post). I suggest you make a reservation here because we had to wait quite a while to get a table. After dinner we made a reservation to come back the next day. The staff was friendly, they advised us on some good wine and the pizza was delicious. It was perfect to end the day.

Day 4: Lago di Sorapis

Lago di Sorapis is located at a height of 1925 meters and is known for it’s turquoise color. You can only reach the lake by foot or by helicopter. I think Lago di Sorapis is a must see during your trip as it is absolutely stunning. We did it on a Sunday and that seemed to be a big mistake because it’s a well known hike among tourists and it was way too busy and crowded. If you can, don’t visit this place during the weekend.

You can start the hike at Passo Tre Croci near Cortina D’Ampezzo. Here you have 2 options: take route 215 or 217. Both are beautiful but apparently 215 is a bit more convenient so we took that one. The hike isn’t hard but it will take you 2h30 to reach the lake. For this hike I do recommend you to take enough water with you as you can’t fill your bottles along the way and get yourself some good hiking shoes.

Afterwards, we had another delicious pizza and a few glasses of wine at Pizzeria Hans.

Day 5: The most beautiful churches of the Dolomites and a good hike: Church of St. Valentin + Geisler alm + church of St. John

In the morning we left the camping at Lago Dobbiaco and drove on to our Airbnb in Ortisei (also called Urtijëi). You can also stay in Val Gardena or any other town in the area for the next few days. Ortisei and Val Gardena are the most known and are well located for the spots we’re about to visit in the next days.

On day 5 we have 2 photogenetic churches on our schedule and a hike to Geisler Alm. Our first stop was at the church of St. Valentin. The church itself is really small but so beautiful. The majestic mountains in the back make it a perfect spot for photography lovers like me. Coördinates of the church: 46.54973276972923, 11.56295971369339.

Besides the church there’s not much to see here but we stayed a while to enjoy the good weather, take some photos and went on to our next activity: hike to Geisler Alm.

You can reach Geisler Alm by hiking the beautiful Adolf Munkel Trail (Via Delle odle). The Adolf Munkel Trail is considered one of the most impressive hiking routes in the Dolomites. You can park your car at the Zannes/Zans parking, close to Zanser Alm. From here you walk through the woods to Dusler Alm. After a while you’ll leave the woods behind and you’ll be able to enjoy the views on the mountain peaks. Once you’ve reached Dusler Alm, you continue your hike to Geisler Alm. You’ll find some signposts so it’s hard to miss. Once you reach Geisler Alm, you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful views and rest a bit before continuing the trail back down.

Geisler Alm, resting spot when hiking the Adolf Munkel Trail

When we did the hike, the Geisler Alm was closed so we just stayed here on the wooden benches for an hour enjoying the view and the good weather. Hike details: 9,5km. This will take you 4-5 hours.

After the Geisler Alm hike we got in the car and drove to the last spot for the day, the church of St. John (coordinates: 46.63531752485578, 11.724405361309648). You can’t walk to the church as they put fences around the area but you can leave the car near the road, take some photos and get going. It’s close to the Geisler Alm parking and doesn’t even require much of a detour.

church of St. John

Day 6: Sunrise at Alpe di Siusi + Seceda + Lago di carezza

Alpe di Siusi/Seise Alm

On our sixth day we got up early to see sunrise at Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm. Alpe di Siusi is without a doubt one of the most popular places in the Dolomites and I’ll show you why you need to visit this place as well. In 2019 we went during the day where we took the cable car up from Ortisei and we walked the plateau in the afternoon. If you don’t mind getting up early and want to see it in the most gorgeous weather conditions (at least if you’re lucky), you can visit it at sunrise as well.

Important note: there are no cars allowed during daytime at Alpe di Siusi so the only options to get there are either taking the cable car (if you go during the day) or parking your car at the Compatsch 50 car park (coordinates): 46.54068532712365, 11.618597533373148 and walk to Alpe di Siusi. The walking trail is flat so it’s not exhausting but it will take you 1 hour. Make sure to reach the plateau in time before the sun peaks over the mountain because you’re in for quite the show. The photos below show the different stages of the sunrise.

The best photo spot to enjoy sunrise (the one we used in all photos below) is Belvedere dell Alpe di Siusi, coordinates: 46.55264593368049, 11.656292335275515. On our way to the viewpoint we saw some deer running across the plateau which was a beautiful sight to see.

Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm

I’m not even sorry for the photo spam, no picture can do this sunrise justice. This might very well be the most gorgeous sunrise I have ever witnessed. It’s on a very close call with sunrise at Augstmatthorn in Switzerland (check my 1 week Switzerland itinerary).

After watching sunrise here, we went back to the car and to our Airbnb for breakfast and getting a shower. It was still morning so we had plenty of time to see some other places. Our next stop would be Seceda. Seceda is a mountain peak with a height of 2519 meters and is located in Val Gardena. The easiest way to reach Seceda is by taking the cable car in Ortisei (which costs 34 euro’s per person). From the cable car top there’s a few walking paths so it’s up to you to decide how much time you’re going to spend here. We walked a part of the ridge and enjoyed the views. You can also get a drink at the cable car station.

Seceda by drone

When we got back down it was early in the afternoon so we decided to visit Lago di Carezza (Karersee) as well. Coördinates: 46.40935924120133, 11.575099242282974.

Lago di Carezza/Karersee

Lago di Carezza is one of the many beautiful lakes in South Tyrol and is known for it’s reflections. The lake itself is really small. You can walk around it, which will take you 30 minutes or so but that’s it. If you have the time it’s nice to visit because it’s really lovely.

After visiting the lake we went back to our Airbnb, got some pizza in a cosy restaurant in the area and got ready to leave the next morning.

Day 7: The end (or continue your holiday to Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia or drive further down south in Italy)

This blog article ends here but I will make another blog post about the rest of our trip. After the Dolomites we continues down in Italy to visit Lago di Garda, Cinque Terre and Tuscany. You can also drive on to Switzerland, Austria or Slovenia from here as they’re all pretty close. If you only have 1 week then this itinerary is perfect to see the most beautiful places in the Dolomites. Enjoy planning your trip!

Extra: My top 3 places in the Dolomites/South Tyrol

In case you haven’t guessed it from the article, I’ll write down my top 3 spots in the Dolomites. I also made a Youtube video about it with drone footage, you can check that out here.

  1. Alpe di Siusi (preferred by sunrise)
  2. Cadini di Misurina
  3. Lago di Braies

Equipment used:

  • Camera: Sony A7 III
  • Lenses: Sony 24-105mm f4 & Tamron 70-180 f2.8
  • Drone: Mavic 2 Pro with Polarpro filters 8,16,32

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