The Ultimate Faroe Islands Photography Guide

“Isolated, idyllic and awe-inspiring. This may be the world’s best photo destination.”

Photo by Sebastian Boring

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Adrift in the North Atlantic below and among churning clouds rests a hidden archipelago. The land seems as if its geography was sketched out for the map found in the opening pages of a fantasy novel. Ocean shores seem carved by unseen hands to accommodate mermaids, and steep black cliffs could offer perfect shelter to imagined dragons. Wizen bearded men with leather hands toil aboard fishing sloops as the sun rises over the deceptively calm ocean waters. At evening they will return to their families who live in wooden hobbit-like huts with sod roofs. This place is the Faroe Islands, a photographers paradise, and it is rapidly becoming an enjoyable travel destination for the wayward shutterbug.

Drangarnir Sea Stack in the Faroe Islands - Photo by Sebastian Boring
Drangarnir Sea Stack in the Faroe Islands - Photo by Sebastian Boring

Introduction to the Faroe Islands

Never heard of the Faroe Islands? Not to worry, you are not alone. The islands are numerous but small. Eighteen of these mountainous islands seem tossed as if rocks into the ocean and collectively have a landmass smaller than half of the smallest US state, Rhode Island. Situated in the middle of the North Atlantic, roughly halfway between Iceland and Scotland, the islands are easy to miss.

Roughly 43,000 Faroese inhabit these islands home, and they are a hardy laid back people. This national character seems natural given their isolation, nordic history and the islands temperate temperament. Atlantic weather patterns mean that there are times when you can hold out both hands and collect snowflakes in one while feeling the warmth of the sun on the other. This ever-changing weather makes the islands particularly photogenic. Black rain clouds will cling to mountain tops on sunny days while waterfalls paint majestic rainbows against cliff faces as the cascade into the sea.

Braced against this schizophrenic weather shaggy sheep casually chew the bright green grasses and seem utterly ambivalent to the changing conditions and treacherous cliffs. The Faroe Islands get their name from these woolly inhabitants. Called Føroyar by the Vikings, the islands name translates to Sheep Islands in the old Norse language.

A Shaggy Sheep in the Faroe Islands - Photo by Rav
A Shaggy Sheep in the Faroe Islands - Photo by Rav

Photographing The Islands

There are 18 islands, so there is no shortage of photo spots. In this post, we will cover but a few of the major ones, and you can find even more in the PIXEO App. So without further adieu, here we go:

Tindhólmur and Drangarnir in the Faroe Islands - Photo by Tomáš Malčo
Tindhólmur and Drangarnir in the Faroe Islands - Photo by Tomáš Malčo

Tindhólmur – Vágar Island

As you fly into the main island of Vágar, one of the first things that will take your breath away is Tindhólmur. Tindhólmur is an uninhabited islet along the southern shore of Sørvágsfjørður. It is also home to the stunning Drangarnir, a stone arch sea stack that is other worldly. Photograph this stunning geological formation from the coast near the village of Bøur.

Múlafossur Waterfall - Photo by Chi Liu
Múlafossur Waterfall - Photo by Chi Liu

Múlafossur Waterfall – Vágar Island

Múlafassur is perhaps the most famous location in the Faroe Islands. This 100 ft ribbon waterfall empties from a clifftop directly into the ocean. There are several lookouts and trails along the coast to the south that are perfect photo spots. This shooting location is stunning, with the small village of Gásadalur in the background and the Árnafjall mountain towering behind it. As if this confluence of beauty wasn’t remarkable enough, the sun also sets just to the left of Árnafjall from July to August.

Sørvágsvatn at Vágar Island - Photo by Annie Spratt
Sørvágsvatn at Vágar Island - Photo by Annie Spratt

Sørvágsvatn – Vágar Island

Also known as Leitisvatn, this photo location is a bizarre juxtaposition between the sea and a lake. Sørvágsvatn is the name of the lake, the largest in the islands, and a cliff called Trælanípa is where photographers will typically capture this natural quirk of geography. Hiking to the location is relatively easy, but there is now a small fee to access the area to help conservation efforts.

Tjørnuvík Village on Faroe Islands- Photo by Annie Spratt
Tjørnuvík Village on Faroe Islands- Photo by Annie Spratt

Tjørnuvík Village- Streymoy Island

Tjørnuvík is a quaint Faroe village with a beautiful black sand beach. It also is an ideal spot to photograph the very photogenic Risin and Kellingin sea stacks to the north on the island of Eysturoy. This area in general, however, is replete with other stunning photographic opportunities both in the village and around it.

Saksun Village on Faroe Islands - Photo by Marc Zimmer
Saksun Village on Faroe Islands - Photo by Marc Zimmer

Village of Saksun – Streymoy Island

Saksun is where you go to photograph sod covered houses that appear half-buried in the earth in a stunning Tolkienesque valley. The contrast of stone and dark wood make this place magical and regrettably is often subject to visits from tourists with no consideration for the fact that these are peoples homes. Don’t be a Johnny Instagram and have respect for the Faroe people’s space.

Trøllanes and Kallur Lighthouse on Kalsoy Island - Photo by Marc Zimmer
Trøllanes and Kallur Lighthouse on Kalsoy Island - Photo by Marc Zimmer

Trøllanes and Kallur Lighthouse – Kalsoy Island

Kallur Lighthouse is known for its perillous placement along a mountain ridgeback, with an even more precipitous cliff standing watch behind it. Wind-swept clouds careen over the clifftop while waves crash against the rocks below. The location requires a bit of a trek to reach but lugging your photography gear up the mountain to capture this icon of the Faroe Islands is worth it.

Seal Woman in Mikladalur - Photo by Siegfried Rabanser
Seal Woman in Mikladalur - Photo by Siegfried Rabanser

The Seal Woman at Mikladalur – Kalsoy Island

Ancient islands such as this one are often replete with legends and old stories. Faroe is no different, and perhaps one of the best known is the legend of the Seal Woman. This fairytale tells of a vengeful mythical creature who takes the lives of Faroese men as payment for the misdeeds of one dastardly Faroese farmer long ago. A stunning statue of her stands along the shoreline of Mikladalur.

Gjógv Village - Photo by Annie Spratt
Gjógv Village - Photo by Annie Spratt

Village of Gjógv – Eysturoy Island

The small community of Gjógv is home to many colourful houses in a golden kissed green valley at the water’s edge. The number of descriptors in that previous sentence should be enough to convince you that this little village is worth a stop. We highly recommend you plan your photo visit around golden hour when the village’s vibrant colours will be very saturated.

Eggjarnar Cliffs on Faroe Islands - Photo by Eileen Sandá
Eggjarnar Cliffs on Faroe Islands - Photo by Eileen Sandá

Eggjarnar Cliffs – Suðuroy Island

The Eggjarnar Cliffs are probably the best of the hidden gems of the Faroe Islands. On the southern-most island of Suðuroy, these cliffs are not only fantastic to photograph, but the area played an important role in WWII. You will discover gun emplacement ruins, still-standing pill-boxes, and other fascinating visual treasures here. Perhaps best of all, you may have the area almost entirely to yourself.

Viðareiði Church on Viðoy Island - Photo by Bodey Marcoccia CC by-sa
Viðareiði Church on Viðoy Island - Photo by Bodey Marcoccia CC by-sa

Viðareiði Church – Viðoy Island

A small white church sits overlooking the sea in the remote northern village of Viðareiði. Encircled with an ancient stone wall and nuzzled neatly in a valley of mountains, the current church replaced a previous one destroyed in a ferocious storm in 1892. Stories tell of how this storm washed away part of the cemetery, and in Hvannasund, 10 km to the south, locals discovered coffins carrying the dead from Viðareiði and returned them for reburial.

Getting to the Faroe Islands

You have two options here, you can fly, or you can ferry. Flights regularly depart from Denmark, Iceland, Scotland and Denmark. If you choose the Ferry option, you can take one from  Hirtshals, Denmark which will take you there and to Iceland. You can even bring a car, but be prepared, the journey to Faroe will take about 37 hours.

Driving in the Faroe Islands

When you plan your photographic expedition to the Faroe Islands, you’re probably going to want to rent a car and drive. You should know before you go, however, that the islands are a bit, shall we say, treacherous when it comes to driving. In addition to left-hand side driving, the island’s routes also include such pleasures as long narrow single lane tracks, powerful wind gusts, blind corners and endless tunnels under the sea.

These tunnels lack lighting, and they are very long. No matter how seasoned a driver, you will feel trepidation as your road trip begins to feel like spelunking expedition. As well, when you do return to the surface world, expect to be engulfed in thick fog that will appear out of nowhere. All this while haphazardly attempting to avoid running into the oblivious sheep who are more content when they are staring you down on a roadway. For these reasons, it is mandatory in Faroe to drive with your lights on, and the speed limits are lower than other European destinations.

Oh, and we may have forgotten to mention that car rentals are expensive as well. A decent week-long rental of a fuel-efficient compact will set you back at least USD 1,500.00. To compound the costs, most of the major roads, ferries, and tunnels also have tolls. It is important to anticipate these hidden costs in your photo adventure budget.

But, we are not discouraging driving; it truly is the best way to get around the islands. Be sure to arrive at your planned photo destinations early to avoid crowds and give yourself enough time in your planning to truly enjoy and take in the location.

Road to Gásadalur, Gásadalur, Faroe Islands - Photo by Michael Fousert
Road to Gásadalur, Gásadalur, Faroe Islands - Photo by Michael Fousert

Always Have a Plan B

As well, you will quickly discover that while the Faroe Islands seem to love the photographer, it hates them too. You will take all the necessary preparatory steps before a shoot. Book your hotel, plan to arrive for the perfect light, know the weather report, and pack your gear correctly. Only to get there and see nothing. A thick blanket of rogue fog, hard rain, high winds, or any other climatic catastrophes will put a damper on your plans. For that reason, always have a plan B and be patient. If you give it a minute that snowstorm may turn into a sunny partly cloudy rainbow with sunset. Then again, it may not. Have no doubt; it will seem at times that the Faroe Islands know you and they are out to foil your plans. Don’t be discouraged, because when it is perfect, it will be more than worth it.

Buttercup Routes

Once you arrive, keep an eye out for the Buttercup Routes. These buttercups are used to indicate scenic routes on road signs and maps. Following the Buttercup Routes will make for one of the most photogenic and beautiful road trips you will ever experience.

Roadside Houses on Faroe Islands - Photo by Michael Fousert
Roadside Houses on Faroe Islands - Photo by Michael Fousert

Photography Tips

Lenses

Bring Wide Angle Lenses are a must. A lot of the photo locations are fixed places for shooting. Not because there are restrictions on where you can stand, but because at many of them you will die if you try to get another angle. At a minimum, have a 10-15mm lens in your kit to capture the vast majesty of some of the location. Bringing along a photogenic travel companion/model to emphasize the scale is a good idea as well.

Filters

The Faroe Islands are a land of waterfalls, beaches, and jagged wave washed sea rocks, so getting that silky smooth long exposure effect will be essential. Be sure to pack a Variable Neutral Density Filter to achieve these effects.

Flying Drones in the Faroe Islands

If you are lucky enough to have a drone, then the Faroe is a great place to bring it. But there are several local rules that you must follow. The following page will give you a rough breakdown on the restrictions for drone operation:

https://www.visitfaroeislands.com/plan-your-stay/practical-information-2/drones/

As a final point, this area is windy, and by the sea. Make sure you have the necessary pilot skills to fly in these conditions, or your drone can, and likely will be, lost at sea.

Camera Weather Housing and Dry Bags

It’s going to rain, and your gear is going to get wet. Protect it. ‘Nuff said.

Power Considerations

Expect European plugs and not many of them. So having a power bar and the necessary adapters are essential. A power inverter for charging while driving is also a good idea to keep your batteries fresh and ready to go as you transit from location to location. If you take this approach, be sure to book a rental with cigarette lighter plugins and USB ports.

Conclusion

There is really no way to contextualize all the photographic possiblities that Faroe Island has. There are far too many picture perfect photo spots to cover in one blog post either. Hopefully this however gives you a taste for the adventure and you have now added the Faroe Islands to your photography bucket list. Be sure to use the PIXEO map and colleciton to discover even more stunning spots on this 18 island artists archipelago. You will not be dissapointed.

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