The churches of Val di Funes have become Instagram favourites. But there is more to do in this idyllic slice of the Dolomites. Discover panoramic vistas, rocky trails and a relaxed corner of Italy.
The quaint churches of Val di Funes nestled in rolling green meadows under the jagged spires of the Puez-Odle massif are a remarkable scene. Images that have become a regular favourite on Instagram show the diversity of the Dolomites landscape. Rural charm and quirky architecture meet dramatic rocky towers.
It’s a beautiful and surprisingly quiet valley in the Dolomites.
There are several great vantage points for capturing the churches. But the best are on some of the easy hikes from the villages, where you’ll see first-hand the stunning location that put Val di Funes on the map.
The towering peaks visible from almost everywhere in the valley, also make an excellent excursion into a lesser-visited part of Val di Funes. The Aldolf Munkel trail leaves from San Giovanni Church and climbs up directly under the jagged peaks of Odle-Geisler. With dramatic scenery, hospitable alpine farms, and with a decent hit of exercise, it’s one of our favourite hikes in the Dolomites.
Val di Funes is a beautiful part of the Italian Alps, here’s how to see the best of it, including those iconic churches.
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1 – GRAB THE INSTAGRAM SHOT OF SAN GIOVANNI CHURCH
The church made famous on Instagram in Val di Funes is San Giovanni Church in the small village of Ranui.
This white stone church commissioned in 1744, contains an onion dome with a star bearing a nod to the martyrdom of John. Various artworks inside the church tell the story of his life. It’s an attractive building, but its fame is due to its location. Nestled in a sweeping green meadow it’s backed by the magnificent soaring spires of Odle-Geisler, part of the Puez-Odle massif.
WHERE TO TAKE PHOTOS
There are two great spots to take photos near the church. One is by a fence that has been erected on the edge of the field to stop reckless visitors encroaching on the private property in front of the church. The second is a minute walk up a nearby road. You can find both locations marked on the map at the end of this article. There is free parking for around 12 cars about 2 minutes’ walk from the church.
The other great location to take photos of the church is from the Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg hike – see details below.
San Giovanni is a working church, attended by locals completely perplexed by its recent burst of online fame. Be respectful and follow all the rules on the signs near the two photo spots.
2 – CAPTURE THE BEAUTIFULLY-SET SANTA MADDALENA CHURCH (ST MAGDALENA)
The other famous Instagram location in Val di Funes is the Santa Maddalena Church and village. The church is constructed from a more traditional light grey stone with pointed spire. According to local legend, this is the spot where a mirage of Santa Maddealena was washed up by the Fopal River.
Legends aside, the Santa Maddalena church and the Obermesnerhof Farmstead make a beautiful photographic ensemble. As the village sits further back from the jagged Odle-Geisler peaks, it offers a magnificent contrast of genteel rural countryside beneath an inhospitable and desolate mountain landscape. This setting is one of our favourites in the Italian Alps.
WHERE TO TAKE PHOTOS
Away from the villages, the views of the church nestled in the valley with the entire massif visible in the background are breath-taking. The best photos of the Santa Maddalena are taken from the rolling hills that sit just northwest of it. You can find the location marked on the map later in this article.
Santa Maddelena is only a 15-minute walk away from San Giovanni Church, and it’s a great place to start the excellent Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg trails that offer uncompromising views of the Santa Maddelena Church.
3 – HIKE THE PANORAMAWEG AND SUNNSEITENWEG TRAILS OVERLOOKING THE VALLEY
Start – Santa Maddalena | Distance – 7 kilometre round trip | Time – 2 hours, 30 minutes | Elevation – +/- 250 metres | Difficulty – Easy
The Funes Valley has so much more to offer than a couple of Instagram photos. Although recently growing in popularity, this part of the Dolomites has remained relatively untouched by tourism. The rolling green meadows covered with flowers in spring are dotted with rural farmsteads where you can watch local farmers tending to rows of perfectly cut hay.
Two excellent hiking trails provide a unique way to see the valley. Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg meander up and down rolling hills and capture the best of the idyllic rural nature of the area. Allow your senses to be filled with the intoxicating aroma of freshly cut grass; the sway of wild alpine flowers; and the sights of traditional farmers working in the fields.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HIKE
Start in Santa Maddalena and follow the roads up to Santa Maddalena church. From the church take the path north-west rising up the rolling hills for great views. Follow the signs for the Panoramaweg as it contours the valley and drops to meet another path. Turn right heading into San Pietro.
On the way back from San Pietro take the lower Sunnseitenweg back to Santa Maddalena.
If you want to shorten the walk, you can skip San Pietro, or return by the 330 bus runs roughly hourly up and down the Funes Valley from Bressanone (Brixen) train station to Santa Maddalena.
4 – CLIMB THE ADOLF MUNKEL TRAIL TO THE BASE OF THE ODEL-GEISLER PEAKS
Start – Ranui | Distance – 16.5 kilometre round trip | Time – 5 hours | Elevation – +/- 1000 metres | Difficult – Medium
If you have 24 hours to spend in Val di Funes, you’ll have enough time to hike up to the base of the soaring spires of Odle-Geisler. Appearing like a jagged saw above the beautiful Val di Funes, this rocky wonderland is an excellent and slightly strenuous day hike in the Dolomites.
Starting from the Instagram favourite San Giovanni Church in Ranui, the Aldof Munkel Trail (Sentiero delle Odle) will take you far away from the tourist-route into a rocky wonderland with high alpine farms and spectacular scenery.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HIKE
Start in Ranui and take path 28 following a road which becomes a track as it ascends steeply through a forest. After just over an hour the trees thin and the peaks appear. Turn right on path 35 (this is the Adolf Munkel Weg) to Rufugio Malga Brogles where a carpet of alpine flowers frames the rocky views of the Puez-Odle massif. The rifugio still houses a working dairy farm and is a beautiful spot to sit and admire the views.
From the rifugio, backtrack the way you came, but ignore path 28, and stay on path 35 as it traverses directly under the peaks. It’s a rocky, part scree path that’s so close to the peaks you’ll be straining your neck to see them. Turn left on path 36 following signs down to Malga Glatsch and then Rifugio Zanes. At Zanes turn left on path 33, back along the valley floor to Ranui.
5 – OTHER SITES & ATTRACTIONS IN VAL DI FUNES
If you have more than 24 hours to spend in Val di Funes, then you have time to stay a little longer at those sunset vistas, appreciate the area in more detail and discover a few more things to do. Not only are there many more hiking trails to explore there’s also some great activities to keep you entertained. Here are our suggestions.
MINERAL MUSEUM IN TEIS
Understand the unique mineral geography of the South Tyrol area at the Teis Mineral Museum. As a result of volcanic activities more than 290 million years ago the area is blessed with a huge amount of alpine minerals, many of which are on display at the museum. It’s open from April to November at 10am to 12pm & 2pm to 4pm Tue-Fri; and 2pm to 5pm Sat & Sun. Cost: €5
THE PUEZ-ODLE NATURE PARK
The nature park is a protected habitat for animals including eagles, chamois, deer and marmots as well as many rare plants that grow in the rocky soil. Information about hiking paths, mountain biking and other recreational activities can be obtained from the Funes Nature Park House. The visitors centre is open from 9am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 6pm from May to October, then again from December to March.
HIGH ROPES ADVENTURE PARK
If swinging through the treetops – Tarzan style – in the shadow of the Puez-Odle peaks sounds like fun, you’d be right. The High Ropes Adventure park has a number of different courses with suspension bridges, balance beams and zip wires. It’s open from 9am to 6pm May to October and costs €20 for adults or €55 for a family.
Takes some of the steepest bike tracks in the area with minimal effort and zero emissions by hiring an e-bike. Mountain bike tours operate every Tuesday from May to October and are a great way to see a lot of stunning scenery in a short space of time. Plosebike have tours and courses that tackle some of the mountain trails in the area for all levels of difficulty and fitness.
WHERE TO STAY FOR VISITING THE VAL DI FUNES
There are a number of options for staying in Val di Funes. Santa Maddalena, a small village in the most picturesque part of the valley, is where to stay if you want to get away from it all and have those magnificent views from your balcony.
San Pietro, on the other hand, does not have the same great views, but is the largest village in the valley and has facilities (shop, restaurants) which the others lack. It’s the perfect village to try some typical Italian foods. A bus running up and down the valley connects the villages making it easy to get between them, even if you don’t have a car.
Book well in advance and beware, a number of hotels/apartments have a minimum stay requirement. Here are a few recommendations from us.
Finding budget accommodation in Val di Funes is not easy. But these tiny bedrooms or apartments allow you to stay right in the centre of Santa Maddalena for a very reasonable price with very friendly hosts.
These apartments are ideally located a very short walk to the cafes and restaurants of San Pietro. Each has a balcony with fine mountain views, but you need to be staying for at least a few days in order to book.
This hotel has simple wooden furnished Alpine decorated rooms, but the real draw is the location. Set amidst rolling fields in the most picturesque part of the valley, the views are sensational. 2 night minimum.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN VAL DI FUNES?
It’s possible to spend as little as a few minutes or as much as a few days exploring the area. If you are on a short trip – we recommend 1-week in the Dolomites – and you want to see as much as possible, then we suggest spending around 3 to 4 hours in Val di Funes.
This will allow you to hike the Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg trail; a unique path that showcases the best of the area. Strolling along these paths, high above the valley lined with idyllic farms and picturesque villages is a side of the Dolomites often overlooked for more dramatic landscapes.
If you have 24 hours to spend in Val di Funes, you would be able to soak up the idyllic valley setting with its Instagram-able churches, and still have time to explore the high alpine dramatic landscapes. The Adolf Munkel hike up to the base of the Puez-Odle massif is a slog, but a very rewarding one.
Two days in Val di Funes would allow you to see all the classic sights, plus enjoy some of the other outdoor activities in the valley.
If you have a bit more time, the beautiful Valle Di Cembra has a similar photogenic vibe and is well worth a visit.
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WHEN TO VISIT THE VAL DI FUNES
The Val Di Funes looks best in late June / early July when flowers cover the meadows, the hay is being cut and the snow has melted from the paths under the massif. This means most of the hiking paths will be open, but the upper crevasses will still contain some un-melted snow, giving the area a lovely alpine feel.
Late July and August also have fine conditions but the Dolomites can be busy during the summer school holiday months. September or early October is better for crowds, the air will start to get that autumnal crispness and the foliage will be moving from colourful flowers to muted golden tones.
Whatever time of year you visit try to photograph the churches and walk the Panoramaweg and Sunnseitenweg in the late afternoon or early evening. At this time, the churches will be basking in soft sunlight and the rocky massif in the background will not yet be covered in shadow.
HOW TO GET TO VAL DI FUNES
Val di Funes is located in the Dolomites, a large mountain range in northeastern Italy. As a popular location for both skiing and summer hiking, there are plenty of good options for getting to the Val di Funes.
The closest airports to Val di Funes are Innsbruck which is 93 kilometres away and Verona which is 191 kilometres away. If you arrive at Innsbruck keep in mind that you will be taking the car across the border into Italy. Most car rental companies allow this, however, if you break down, you will be negotiating between Austrian and Italian car rental offices.
MAIN AIRPORTS SERVICING THE DOLOMITES
(DRIVING DISTANCES TO VAL DI FUNES)
CANOVA DI TREVISO
228 kilometres | 3 hours
VENICE MARCO POLO
250 kilometres | 3 hours, 30 minutes
93 kilometres | 1 hour, 20 minutes
191 kilometres | 2 hours, 45 minutes
BY TRAIN & BUS
To reach Val di Funes by public transport it is best to fly to Verona and take the train to Bressanone/Brixen (2 hours) and change onto the 340 bus which runs up the Val di Funes terminating at Ranui. The 340 departs hourly (between about 8:30 and 19:30) and stops regularly.
The 339 bus also shuttles up and down the valley, giving you access to an attractive pass and the hiking base of Zannes. Unfortunately, there are only 3 or 4 services a day. You can find the timetables here.
There are no regular direct buses connecting Val di Funes with other valleys in the Dolomites. To travel to Val Gardena, just one valley to the south, you need to change buses at Bressanone/Brixen.
Hikers’ Bus / But if you want to make the journey on Wednesday you are in luck. Val di Funes has just begun to run a once-weekly hikers’ bus during hiking season. It departs Ranui at 9:00, stops at various points along the Val di Funes, before heading into Val Gardena and terminating in Ortisei at 10:10. Currently, it only runs one way (€12) and you need to make a reservation (+39 0472 840 180).
The Dolomites is accessed via several international airports, each of which have car rental desks. Val di Funes is a 1-hour, 30-minute drive from Innsbruck, a 2-hour, 10-minute drive from Verona, and a 3-hour, 20-minutes from Venice. There are a number of free car parks in the Val di Funes, with the larger one at Ranui costing €4 a day.
The Dolomites is a large area which is best explored in your own car. Driving in the Dolomites is relatively easy which, all our tips are in our 1-week Dolomites itinerary.
We recommend rentalcars.com for your hire car. They compare prices across all the major car rental companies.
Another great way to get to Val di Funes is to walk. If you are staying in Val Gardena, take the Resciesa funicular from Ortisei (St. Ulrich) up to the Rescieca Plateau. Then follow path 35 (Adolf Munkel Trail) as it passes over the summit of the ridge and descends to Rifugio Malga Brogles. From here you can either drop directly into Santa Maddalena (3 hours) or take a more circuitous, but dramatic route under the Odle-Geisler peaks.
VAL DI FUNES MAP & GUIDES
If the plan is to do a bit of walking in Val di Funes (and why wouldn’t it be), then the excellent Shorter Walks in the Dolomites is a cheap and effective way to have a number of fantastic hikes at your disposal.
MORE READING FOR YOUR DOLOMITES TRIP
The Dolomites is an area we love going back to. With exception hiking, dramatic scenery and a blend of Austrian and Italian culture it’s one of our favourite destinations in the Alps. Here’s some more reading to help plan your Dolomites road trip itinerary.
See the best of the Italian Dolomites on a one-week Road Trip Itinerary
Breath-taking Dolomites views hiking the Sassolungo–Langkofel circuit
How to hike to the turquoise waters of Lago di Sorapis
10 breath-taking reasons to visit the Italian Alps
How to visit Lago di Braies – Italy’s alluring emerald-green lake
Complete guide to hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop
9 Great Hikes in the Dolomites – Easy strolls to exhilarating hikes
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