Do You Have to Pay to Photograph in the Faroe Islands?

The combination of vastly increased living standards for many people around the globe, individualism and social media has created a boom in tourism never seen in the history of humanity. Towns, areas and countries such as Venice, Dubrovnik, The Isle of Skye, US national parks, Iceland, The Netherlands and The Faroe Islands are feeling it (and that is just to name a few). The Faroe Islands seem to do something different.

The Faroe Islands has within the past two to three years come on many photographers radar. Rightly so, this small country has some of the most dramatic and spectacular landscape in the world.

The epic view of Trælanipa and the "flying lake".

In my latest video, I visit the cliffs “Trælanipa”. Trælanipa is one of the most famous locations in the Faroe Islands because of the dramatic perspective and optical illusion of a flying lake. One of the reasons for fame is definitely down to its popularity on Instagram. I explain in the video, that until recently it was free to visit this location.

However, from summer 2019 the owners of this land has started to charge a fee of 200DKK (around $30) to visit this location. As the Faroe Islands is a very small society, (around 50000 people) you can imagine this has sparked a debate and there are arguments for and against. With visitor numbers up to 200 people a day in high season in 2018 there is a fair share of pressure on the environment. Numbers are numbers and the farmer saw an opportunity to create an enterprise. New parking lot, free coffee, a chat with the locals and toilets are all part of the experience.

Trælanipa from another perspective. Can you see the small human?

In the spring of 2019, the Faroese government took the initiative to invite people from around the world to do voluntarism. Free accommodation and food in exchange for work. Work focused on repairing and creating new trails in the most touristy areas. Trælanipa being one of such locations. The work is far from done, but from my knowledge, they will repeat the event again in 2020.

The characteristic sea stack Drangarnir. There is a seven kilometers hike to get out there.

Another location that charge for visiting is the hike that leads to Drangarnir. The now iconic sea stack arch. Officially, a guide is mandatory and you will have to pay a fee of about $70. I have experienced exceptions to this, which bear witness to the fact that the Faroes is a young country when it comes to tourism. There are no common or best practice on how the locals ought to deal with the increased demand.

The view towards Malinsfjall.

On the northern-most island Viðoy, you can hike the mountain Villingadalsfjall and get a spectacular view above the town and have the mountain Malinsfjall in the background. Here the fee is also 200DKK ($30). This is a response from the owners, as they sometimes have to climb up Villingadalsfjall and help tourists down who are suddenly caught in the fog. The Faroe Islands has been a famous hiking destination for a great many years before the regular tourism and photography tourism increased. The vast majority of “outdoor” visitors are still hikers.

The old turf huts in Saksun.

In the small (and now infamous) town Saksun you will have to pay a fee of 70DKK ($11) to enter the beach. You are still allowed to photograph the old turf huts but do not touch the grass. According to the farmer, this was his response to VisitFaroeIslands using his property to increase tourism in the Faroes without compensating him.

The cutest bird in the world.

Another location charging a small fee (50dkk, $8), is the hike up the mountain in the small town of Gjógv. The reason for this fee I know not, but Gjógv is a well-visited town by all sorts of tourists. Likewise, to visit the “puffin island”, Mykines, you will have to pay for a boat ride (round trip) and entrance to the Island. That is around $25 all in all. This money goes to the maintenance of the nature, protecting the bird life, creating and maintaining walking paths, etc.

The probably most iconic location in the Faroe Islands, Gasadalur. Free for all. I can recommend the small restaurant in the town.

This is what you will have to pay for (so far) if you want to photograph in the Faroe Islands. No, you do not have to pay to photograph but some locations charge a fee. There are different reasons to this fee. Some locals see a business opportunity while others implement it as compensation and others again use it for maintenance. It is of course all some sort of response to increased tourism. Is it good, bad, whatever or what do you think, let me hear down below? If you want to see even more photos from the Faroe Islands, you can check out my gallery.

The response of paying a fee to hike to certain locations in the Faroe Islands is just a small part of a bigger debate on what to do about increased tourism. What solutions do you know off to find the balance between visitors and a sustainable eco-system (here I mean eco-system in the broad sense, cities included). Let me hear down below.

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16 Comments

Leigh Miller's picture

Probably to offset the damage and nuisance caused by people flocking to their homes for instagram pictures....

Stuart Carver's picture

I always thought this was a myth until i recently went to Ashness Bridge, what an eye opener.

Agree. I'm from the US; if I'm going to pay the airfare, travel, hotel, dining, etc. expenses to get to the Faroes in the first place, an extra couple hundred dollars for the "site visitation fees" (because I'd go to all of them) isn't going to stop me. If the money helps the landowners maintain the sites, great. It's just part of the total cost of the trip. As an amateur photographer it's a simple question: do you want the photos in your catalog or not? If you do, pay up.

I'm always a bit amazed to hear people complain about such fees, whether in another country or here in the US, when they've spent a fair bit of money to get to the site in the first place: the airlines deserve your money but the farmer whose field you've just trampled doesn't?

To Mr. Iversen: excellent photos.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Damn, that's a beautiful place! Awesome gallery photos.

The fees seem reasonable to me. Though, no doubt, they'll add up on a given trip. But, still, worth it and just plan for it.

Henrik Ploug's picture

I have thought about going to the Faroe Islands, but this commercialisation of nature will keep me away.

Nature should be free for everyone to enjoy. It shouldn't be a business.

Tell that to the farmer whose property is trampled by the masses. We live in a world where many people don't care about the land as long as they get what they want out of it.

Nature isn't free because tourists (including photographers) destroy it, and then locals have to pay for restoration.

Rob Mitchell's picture

I don't like the idea of charging people to look at what is essentially for free. Then again, there's a ton of stuff around us that we are not 'free' to photograph. Namely copyrighted buildings and structures.

That said, I have compassion for the people too. Instgrammers and the like messing up things for the rest of us lead to situations like this. We're free to go there or not, don't like the conditions the land owners are imposing, don't go. Go somewhere else.

Most of those sites are on private land and people started destroying it, so the proceeds go to cleaning up after jerks.

Fristen Lasten's picture

I will be purchasing the Faroe Islands from the Danes.

I absolutely support the landowners who charge for site maintenance and provide access to prime viewing areas. This is not the commercialization of nature, National Parks in Canada and the U.S. have been charging fees for decades.
If paying a fee gives me parking, a washroom, hot coffee, an opportunity to chat with the locals and well maintained trails, great! If an entrance fee discourages instagrammers, tour buses and overcrowding, even better. If only a fee could impact the weather, now that is worth paying for.

Igal Pronin's picture

I'm not against paying a small fee here and there, but $11-30 is quite high, especially given the fact, that all Nordic countries are already expensive.
The real problem starts when you're on your own, have some spare time and want to re-visit some locations for a better shot...

R Thomas Berner's picture

St. David's Cathedral in Wales has a per-camera fee as do many, if not all, Native American reservations and pueblos in the United States. With the Native Americans, you then need permission to photograph individuals and they frequently want a fee.

I think the fee should be for everyone, not just photographers.

Mats seem to be happy, that the money from the entry fee is used to build paths so visitors do not walk over pastures to cause erosion. He also says that most behave good given the opportunity. And then he quits the paths later in th video to walk parallel to it. Come on Mats, get real. Own up to what you say or don't say it!

I had to pay for some of the Cinque Terre trails as well. I don't mind as they're emptier than the free trails which are full of school groups and more frugal tourists.