Worldwide Explorer’s guides Marcus and Harry have just returned from leading six photographers on our first photo holiday to the Italian Dolomites. The aim of this trip was to explore the astounding scenery, and mountains, that the Dolomites offer. The sheer cliff faces, pinnacles and valleys of the Dolomites rival the very best in the world in terms of their beauty and photographic potential so we had no shortage of possible subjects.
Getting into the right place at the right time in mountainous areas can be tricky, and usually involves a long arduous uphill trek in the dark to get to your chosen viewpoint. This isn’t the case in the Dolomites however, where conveniently located 'refuges' provide an ideal place to stay overnight, and are just a short walk from some epic views for dawn and dusk. These mountain hostels, while basic, are comfortable and serve up pretty delicious Italian/Austrian inspired dishes in hearty-sized portions.
Driving into the Dolomites, there is a noticeable shift in the mountain scenery with distinct mountain groups rising up from fertile green pastures. The majority of these mountain groups have been collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not only for the mountains themselves but for the unique culture that exists in the valleys between these iconic peaks. Dining in a traditional pizzeria looking up to the mountains is just as much a part of the experience as seeing the views from atop one of those summits.
The first two nights of the trip were spent at a refuge with a relatively low altitude of 2340m. The view from the entrance of this refuge however was simply world class, and two nights there because it was anticipated that our customers would have to be dragged kicking and screaming down if they only had one night. Having a couple of days gave the opportunity to explore the area in a bit more detail, fine tuning composition and time to go over some lightroom editing techniques.
One of the other perks of the Dolomites is their accessibility, with many of the mountain groups having cable cars, chairlifts and well maintained trails. The third night of the trip was spent at a refuge where effectively all the ascent was done via a cable car leaving a relatively flat walk along to the refuge. A slightly simpler affair than the first refuge, and much smaller, it gave a greater sense of isolation and adventure sitting on top a 3000m plateau. It also offered a short 200m jaunt to an amazing view out over the edge of the mountain and down in the valley below where a distant town sat nestled, not a bad view to wake up to.
While the mountain refuges are quite comfortable, most with adequate facilities (some even had wifi), for the fourth night everyone was booked into a local hotel for a bit of rest and relaxation, as much rest and relaxtion you can get anyway when back up for sunrise the next morning that is. A couple of road-side locations provided an easy mornings work though, with some beautiful colour in the sky and a set of amazing mountains to match.
The hike up to the last refuge was the most demanding with a steep uphill section but with plenty of time there was no rush and everyone made it. The last morning in the mountains gave our group a bit of surprise, with everyone waking up to a good few inches of snow covering the ground and the surrounding mountains, with more falling and being whipped around by the wind - just a typical summer day in the mountains it seems! A few brave souls ventured out to enjoy the blank canvas, and with the temperature rapidly rising with the sun the snow began to melt, easing our journey back down the path and towards the end of the trip.
Many on the trip were first-time customers on our photo holidays but we hope to welcome them back on future trips for more unforgettable adventures. Dates for the 2017 Dolomites trips have already been announced, with two trips being run back to back this time. For all the details simply check out the Dolomites page here, and for more photos from the 2016 trip see the recent trips section.