Santa Maddalena in Val di Funes is one of the most beautiful places in the Dolomites! This is the iconic region in South Tyrol that you see on almost every single postcard and for me personally it’s one of those places where I could sit and stare at the view for hours!
So far I have visited this beautiful valley 3 times, each time under different circumstances. This guide is written out of personal experiences and only includes photos that I took myself in these locations.
Besides photography Val di Funes is also the perfect locations to go hiking. You’ll be walking along the green pastures and discover some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Dolomites. In this guide I’ll also discuss some of my personal favourites!
- Planning your trip to the Dolomites
- How to reach Santa Maddalena
- When to visit Val di Funes
- Photography Guide
- Which photography gear did I use
- Where to take the best photos in Val di Funes
- Where to stay in or near Val di Funes
Val di Funes Santa Maddalena Photography Guide
Val di Funes, also known as Villnöß, is a commune in the South Tyrolean region in the Dolomites. This municipality consists of several small villages such as Koll (Colle), St. Jakob (San Giacomo), St. Magdalena (Santa Maddalena), St. Peter (San Pietro), St. Valentin (San Valentino) and Teis (Tiso).
The most popular of all is Santa Maddalena, which is located at the rear end of the valley at 1339 meter and only has 378 inhabitants. It’s most famous trademark is the Santa Maddalena church with the Odle mountain peaks in the background. An old legend says that this is the place where the miraculous image of Santa Maddalena was washed up by the Fopal river.
Planning your trip to the Dolomites
🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com
💰 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
🎒 Pack a power bank, hiking shoes and trekking poles.
🚗 Rent a car to drive to the best places in the Dolomites with SunnyCars.com
📚 Read Photographing the Dolomites and Walking in the Dolomites
How to reach Santa Maddalena
Santa Maddalena is one of the small villages in Val di Funes and it’s one of the last ones before you reach the Odle mountain peaks.
Coming from Bolzano – Santa Maddalena is a 44km drive from Bolzano and it will take you around 35 minutes to reach the village.
Coming from Brunico – From Brunico it’s a 45 minute drive to reach Val di Funes and a distance of 45km.
After arriving you can park your car at the official parking lot of Santa Maddalena.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Coming from Bolzano – There are two options if you’re staying in Bolzano. You can either take the train to Brixen and then hop on bus 330 to Santa Maddalena. Or you can take the Alto Adige bus in Bolzano but you also have to make a detour then to Brixen and switch to bus 330. But the total transport time is around 1h45 minutes for both options.
Coming from Brunico – You can take bus 401 to Brixen and then get on bus 330. or you can take the train to Brixen and then transfer to bus 330 as well.
When to visit Val di Funes
Val di Funes is stunning during every season but I’ll list some of the most important differences for you!
Spring – Green pastures, soft temperatures and lower amount of tourists.
Summer – The valley is covered in beautiful wildflowers but there’s also a lot more people.
Autumn – Val di Funes is one of the most best places to see autumn foliage in the Dolomites.
Winter – The landscape turns into a beautiful Winter Wonderland.
My favourite time of day to take photos at Santa Maddalena is a couple of hours before and during sunset.
Which photography gear did I use
Ever since I stared my photography journey I stayed loyal to the same camera namely the Canon 6D MarkII. It’s my loyal companion on every trip and allows me to also take beautiful self portraits.
If I am shooting landscapes and self portraits I like to have a mix of several lenses with me.
A wide angle lens such as the Canon 16-35mm where I highly prefer the f2.8 compared to the f4.
My standard zoom lens the Canon 24-70mm. If you’re just starting out and you want to invest in a high quality lens that can manage a lot of diversity then this lens is perfect for you!
A professional zoom lens such as the Canon 70-200mm to create a beautiful depth of field and focus more on details in the landscape.
Where to take the best photos in Val di Funes
The church of Santa Maddalena
One of the most iconic viewpoints of the Santa Maddalena church is along the Panorama road. This small hiking trail leads all the way up through the green pastures and there’s a small dirt road a little higher up where the meadow is covered with wild flowers.
The second photography spot is located a little more downwards in the valley where you’ll find a cute little bench on the side of the road.
Not only does it make for a great viewpoint, it’s also the ideal place to sit and admire Val di Funes in all its glory. For me it’s always important not to just see a place through the viewfinder of my camera. I want to take it all in: the colour of the sky, the wind which causes the clouds to roll over the mountain peaks, the sounds of chirping birds high up in the trees. It all contributes to the experience!
TIP – As you can see there’s a difference on the two photos below. On the left side the pasture underneath the bench is closed off whereas in the middle of the Summer there’s no fence to be seen. They do this to prevent you from getting on the pastures during certain months so you won’t trample the new seeds that are already growing.
If you follow the curve in the road you’ll end up at farm where there’s a wooden fence. Here you get a different angle of Santa Maddalena and the mountain range in the back.
Val di Funes
For this angle you need to walk back down to the Santa Maddalena church where behind it you’ll find another cute bench that overlooks another part of Val di Funes.
It’s a lesser known photography spot and there’s no church in it but I do think it looks absolutely stunning!
San Giovanni Church
Besides Santa Maddalena the San Giovanni church is the most famous church in the Dolomites. Its popularity literally exploded on Social Media and honestly the locals have no idea what exactly is going on or why it became so popular.
Unfortunately all of that popularity brought on some negative consequences as well. Hundreds of people were trampling the meadow in front of it, a field that’s someone’s private property. To protect it a tall wooden fence was built surrounding the entire meadow.
They did however make a platform for photographers to stand on so they could still take photos of the San Giovanni church at the best angle without damaging the pasture in front of it.
For the small amount of €4 you also get access to the church itself. The pathway leading to it is clearly marked and a wire is in place which indicates you shouldn’t go over it and onto the pastures.
If you’re reading this post I kindly ask you to respect these rules and to help preserve this place in all its glory. There’s a lot of people who disrespect this place and I am asking of you to please not be one of them.
Can you imagine some people even show off on Social Media and show to their large following how they are jumping these fences? I am not saying I am holier than holy, I’ve also done some stupid things to get a photo. But the longer that I am in this profession and the more I’ve traveled I realise that it’s just not worth it.
If you follow the Panorama road from Santa Maddalena you’ll also encounter a stunning viewpoint over the San Giovanni church!
Where to stay in or near Val di Funes
- Unterkantiolerhof – This lovely hotel is located in the heart of Val di Funes and has a view over the Odle mountain range.
- Forestis Dolomites – This brand new 5 star hotel offers a panoramic view over the Dolomites. It’s the perfect hotel if you want to pamper yourself or if you’re looking for a more luxurious holiday!
- Zum Alten Moar – This stunning chalet style hotel is surrounded by the mountains and has an outdoor pool.
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