How to Find the Photo Spot in Santa Maddalena and St. Johann Church in the Dolomites

How to Find the Photo Spot in Santa Maddalena and St. Johann Church in the Dolomites

The Dolomites is full of beautiful photo spots and a couple of the best photo spots is the Santa Maddalena Church and the St. Johann Church. This guide will show you how to find these Instagram spots in Santa Magdalena.

The Italian Dolomites is famous for its towering “pale” peaks, idyllic towns, beautiful lakes and amazing ski resorts. It is no wonder the Dolomites is getting more and more popular on social media. After seeing endless number of beautiful images on Instagram I decided to finally make the trip myself to see if the hype is real (it is).

Aside from the famous Lago di Braies and Tre Cime, Santa Maddalena (or Santa Magdalena) is one of the villages I was determined to visit and photograph. I will discuss how to photograph both the Santa Maddalena Church and the nearby Church of Saint Johann in Ranui in this post, including how to get there, where to park, etc.

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Camera Equipment You Need To Photograph Santa Magdalena Church & St. Johann Church in Ranui

When I was visiting the Dolomites I primarily had my ultra wide angle lens as well as my regular “walking around” zoom lens. However after visiting Santa Maddalena and Ranui I wish I had brought an super zoom lens instead since the churches were actually pretty far from where I was taking the photo (Instagram did not warn me enough!).

Here is the list of camera equipment I highly recommend that you take with you for the best photos of the Dolomites:

  • DSLR or Mirrorless Camera: I personally have the Sony Alpha a7iii, the full frame mirror less camera, but honestly any camera with the capability to interchange lenses will do. I do not recommend the iPhone because I don’t think it can zoom in far enough and still get the perfectly crystal image
  • Regular Zoom Lens: Depends on what camera you use, I generally recommend the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens for Sony users and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens for Canon users.
  • Super Zoom Lens: I didn’t bring a super zoom and I really wish I had. I would recommend the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens and Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens
  • Other things you could bring include a tripod, lens filter, etc. But a good camera and a couple of zoom lenses are key to take the postcard worthy photos in the Dolomites.

Santa Maddalena

Santa Maddalena (or Santa Magdalena) is an idyllic town located in Val di Funes near the Puez-Odle Natural Park. The famous Adolf Munkel trail starts not too far from Santa Maddalena at the foot of the Zannes mountain. The Santa Maddalena church is the symbol of this village and legend has it the miraculous image of Santa Maddalena was washed up by the Fopal River at this very location. With the Zannes mountain as a backdrop, the Santa Maddalena Church is one of the most photographed places in the Dolomites.

How To Find the Santa Maddalena Church

I had done a few internet research before visiting in order to find THE view point for Santa Maddalena Church but I don’t think any of them really helped me. What ended up happening was I was walking around aimlessly for 40 minutes in a 30C weather wondering where the spot was.

The actual Santa Maddalena view point is actually very easy to find. If you use Google Maps simply type in “Panorama di Santa Magdalena”. The yellow highlighted route is the route I walked from the center of town.

Santa Maddalena photo spot

Parking in Santa Maddalena

I don’t know if there is a particular parking lot that is closer to the view point as you cannot drive up the road I highlighted. Only local residents can drive up otherwise you will get yelled at. Therefore you will need to drive into the town of St. Maddalena and park at any parking lot there.

Walking to the Santa Maddalena View Point

Once you park your car, start making your way to the west from the center of town. When I was there I actually searched for “Santa Maddalena Viewpoint” which is not exactly the right place but it was going in that general direction.

As you walk west from the middle of town you will see signs like the one below. Soon you will start to walk along some farm house and mostly just grassy and farm lands with not much else in sight.

Santa Maddalena Sign to Visitor Park
Santa-Maddalena-walk-2
santa-Maddalena hike to the view point

When I was there in September it just happened to be super sunny and hot so hiking this route at 3pm was pure torture. I would suggest bring a lot of water, sunscreen and a hat if you are going on a hot day.

santa-Maddalena
Continue walking down the road
Santa-Maddalena-hill
The house on the left up the hill is where you want to head to

If you see signs towards “Panoramaweg” then that is the right way.

Panoramaweg

If you had googled ” Santa Maddalena Viewpoint” like I did, it will actually take you to this little “platform” thing which is not the right place. However this thing is actually at a fork. If you go towards the right you will actually arrive at the actual Santa Maddalena church! There is a bathroom there that you can use. I got really confused when I was there since I knew I was looking for a view point to look at the church, not to be at the church itself.

Therefore if you see the place below, go to the left and follow the path up the hill.

Magdalenaweg-sign

You will continue to go uphill for another 10-15 minutes, passing by a farm house and eventually as you keep going up you will see that postcard perfect scene you are looking for.

Santa-Maddalena-hike
Going up the hill
Hike-up-Santa-Maddalena-hill
As you go up you will start seeing the view

Finally you will arrive at a place with a bench (or you will start seeing other people) and that is the actual Santa Maddalena photo spot to see the church.

St. Maddalena church photo spot
Taken with a 75mm zoom, still looks so far away!

There may be a shorter and easier way to hike up to this view point in Santa Magdalena but this is the way I walked (which was quite hot, sweaty and far) but the view is totally worth it! There won’t be too many people on the trail so you pretty much have the place all to yourself.

How to Find the St. Johann Church in Ranui (SAN GIOVANNI CHURCH )

After you walk back to your car, the next photospot is the Saint Johann Church in Ranui or otherwise known as San Giovanni Church.

The San Giovanni Church is a small church located in Ranui in the foot of the Odel Dolomites. The mine owner Michael von Jenner commissioned the construction of this church in 1744.

It is easy to visit San Giovanni Church since it’s literally a 5-10 minute drive from St. Magdalena (or you can even walk 15-20 minutes from St. Maddalena). When you look for directions, put “Kirche St. Johann in Ranui” in Google Maps and it will lead you right there.

There is a parking lot at where the Google Map location takes you. From there you can actually walk to the church and look inside.

If you only want to photograph the church with the mountain peaks behind it, you will have to park on the side of the street at the beginning of the road “S. Giovanni” leading up to the official parking lot. There is a small platform that you can walk on to take the photo (the area is fenced off and the small platform is the only place for you to stand to see the church and take photos).

San Giovanni Church.
Photo of the church taken from the wooden platform at the beginning of the road

Additional Dolomite Blogs

If you are interested in planning your Dolomites itinerary, be sure to check out my other blogs on the Dolomites!

3 Days in the Dolomites Itinerary: https://serenaslenses.net/3-days-in-the-dolomites-the-best-dolomites-summer-itinerary/

Things To Do at Lago di Braies: https://serenaslenses.net/things-to-do-at-lago-di-braies-a-quick-day-trip-guide/

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How to photograph St. Maddalena church in the dolomites
How to find the Santa Maddalena Church