Spanning an area of 6000 hectares (or 56 square kilometres), the Alpe di Siusi is Europe’s largest high-altitude alpine meadow. The vast plateau harbours some 800 different species of wild flower and is liberally studded with rustic wooden huts, babbling streams and small ponds. Set against the superbly proportioned Sassolungo group, an epitome of the Dolomitic ideal of what a mountain should look like, there is a nearly in finite number of creative photo opportunities to be had here. To take full advantage of the scale of this landscape, a stay in one of the many hotels and rifugios atop the plateau itself is highly recommended.
How To Get Here
The Alpe di Siusi is most easily accessed using the gondola that departs from Ortisei in the Val Gardena. Ortisei can be approached from the east via the Passo Gardena or Passo Sella, or from the Val Isarco along the SS242 or SP64.
Alternatively, it is also possible to take a gondola from just outside the village of Siusi to reach to Compaccio on the west side of the plateau. Finally, there is also an access road that leads up to Compaccio from Siusi, although this is closed to private vehicles between 9am and 5pm.
Parking Lat/Long: 46.57304, 11.6706
What to shoot and viewpoints
The scale of the Alpe di Siusi gives plenty of scope for exploration, originality and new perspectives of the classic Sassolungo backdrop. Recommending individual viewpoints is difficult as there is so much potential; instead, take the time to discover your own favourite compositions in this fascinating area. The following circuit provides a good starting point and will take roughly two hours.
Viewpoint 1 – Sassolungo
The decking of Ristorante Mont Seuc at the top of the Ortisei gondola immediately provides a superb vantage point from which to view the Alpe di Siusi meadow. Looking south-east, the unfolding panorama is dominated by the Sassolungo / Langkofel group, a distinctive mountain comprised of three prominent rock formations; Sassolungo (long rock) on the left, Cinque Dita ( five fingers) in the middle and Sasso Piatto ( at rock) to the right. The Sciliar peaks encircle the plateau to the south-west, capped by the characteristic spire of Punta Santner, the emblem of the Alpe di Siusi.
The best composition is undoubtedly towards Sassolungo, although a variety of focal lengths all prove effective depending on how much foreground you wish to include.
To begin the circuit, descend east along the vehicle track just below Ristorante Mont Seuc, following signs for paths 8 and 9. The track soon makes a sharp turn to the right to face west. Continue descending for 10 minutes to reach the newly built Adler Mountain Lodge, then turn left to arrive at Sporthotel Sonne.
Viewpoint 2 – Sporthotel Sonne Lake
The east side of Sporthotel Sonne is home to a small but superbly situated lake which provides an excellent foreground to Sassolungo. A good path encircles the banks and provides easy access to many possible compositions. On still days, try to get as low to the waters surface as you can in order to make the reflection of Sassolungo as large as possible. Again, a number of focal lengths work here, although a standard zoom generally strikes a nice balance between capturing enough foreground and ensuring the backdrop doesn’t look too small.
In July, it is not uncommon to see spectacular blue dragonflies hovering over the water’s surface, providing an excellent opportunity for some macro work.
You can also get a pleasing composition from the far shore without including the lake at all, instead making use of two wooden huts just in front of a small copse.
Viewpoint 3 – Wooden Huts & Sassolungo
To continue, briefly retrace your steps back towards the Adler Mountain Lodge and then turn left onto path 6b, following signposting towards Baita Sanon. The path weaves through the meadows and is exceptionally photogenic, leading across a small stream (sometimes dry) to reach two superbly positioned wooden huts on the left.
Easily identified by the faded orange roofs that contrast beautifully with the dark wood, the huts create an excellent foreground when framing Sassolungo. The huts can be placed directly below Cinque Dita in a landscape composition, a shot that looks particularly striking when there is some good foreground light to highlight the roofs.
By moving slightly further right and shooting in a portrait orientation, you can position the huts as an effective foreground for Sassolungo, cropping out the other peaks.
A further 10 minutes of walking along path 6b brings you to Baita Sanon, owned by the Kostner family.
Viewpoint 4 – Baita Sanon
The farmhouse rifugio serves traditional Tyrolean dishes in a spectacular environment, providing an excellent excuse for some food photography! Make sure you take a look inside to admire the beautiful wooden architecture so characteristic of the region. Once again, the view from the decking towards Sassolungo is wonderful.
Viewpoint 5 – Punta Santner
To complete the circuit, stay on path 6b and follow this west to reach a junction with a larger track. Turn right onto this, now following signs for path 8 and then 6 as you pass between Hotel Icaro and Monte Icaro. Either stay on the large track to return to the Adler Mountain Lodge, or for an arguably more scenic route turn left onto path 6a shortly after passing Hotel Icaro.
As you ascend back towards the gondola station, there is a good view of Punta Santner (formerly Punta del Diavolo – the Devil’s Tower) to the southwest. A longer lens is required to do this shot justice, framing the aesthetic mountain against one of the many huts.
To return, stay on path 6a, passing Malga Contrin to reach the top station of the Ortisei gondola in 25 minutes.
Flora and Fauna
The diverse range of plant life, flowers and insects found throughout the Alpe di Siusi makes the plateau perfect for some close-up macro photography. Use the lens aperture to try to strike a nice depth of field compromise, aiming for a wide enough angle to remove any distracting background elements while keeping enough of the foreground in focus. A tripod and ring or off-camera flash setup can greatly improve the effectiveness of macro work.
Approach: There are excellent views straight out of the Ortisei gondola with the opportunity for many hours of walking as desired.
Disabled access: The Ortisei gondola is wheelchair-accessible and there are a number of well-surfaced paths and roads on the plateau, making it an ideal venue for those with limited mobility.
Best Time of Year/Day
The huge scale of the area ensures there are excellent photo opportunities year round, although the plateau undoubtedly looks best in June and July when the meadows are carpeted in flowers of every conceivable shape, size and colour.
During the summer the sun sets on the north-west faces of Sassolungo, making it an ideal late afternoon and sunset location.