From windswept islands to jagged mountain peaks here’s where to take your tripod in Europe
European landscape photographers are constantly tempted to head for the plains of Africa, the national parks of America or the mountains of Asia in search of inspiration, but there are some stunning and varied shooting locations in their backyard. Here are some of our top recommendations on where and when to go in Europe to capture great landscape photos…
1 The Faroe Islands
The most famous image of the Faroe Islands – a tiny autonomous territory of Denmark spread across 18 islands in the North Atlantic – is of Múlafossur waterfall in Gásadalur, which tips into the sea very close to the main airport at Vágar. Other stupendously photogenic sights include the spectacular island of Tindhólmur, the vertiginous Vestmanna bird cliffs, the nearby ‘hanging lake’ of Sørvágsvatn and the puffin-infested island of Mykines.
If planning to visit, it's worth being as flexible as possible when it comes to the dates around your trip, as flights can often be cancelled at short notice due to the high Atlantic winds in the region.
2 The Dolomites, Italy
A spectacular alpine-like mountain range in northeastern Italy close to the border with Austria, the Dolomites are a series of 18 jagged peaks that hide emerald lakes, breathtaking vistas and plenty of chocolate box villages.. Key sights include alpine lakes at Lago di Carezza and Lago di Braie, the alpine meadow in the Alpe di Siusi plateau (try a photo-hike) and the iconic three peaks of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Although the Dolomites are at their warmest and most colourful between May and September, aim to visit in late spring for crocuses and snowdrops or in early autumn for cool hikes amid colourful falling leaves.
3 Madeira, Portugal
If vertigo isn’t your thing then give Madeira a swerve. Switchbacks aplenty will take you to Pico do Arieiro, a 1,818 metre peak that hosts an observatory and the start of some truly vertiginous hikes amid epic jagged peaks. The island is famous for its levadas, man-made channels created to carry water for irrigation. Levada do Alecrim has dramatic waterfalls yet few visitors. For something completely different don’t miss the cliffs of the Ponta de São Lourenço headland.
For a unique, secluded and photogenic getaway Fajã dos Padres close to Funchal is a photographer’s dream. Accessed by an incredibly steep cable car, this organic farm is largely a banana plantation string along the bottom of a cliff.
4 Lake Bled, Slovenia
Is it worth going to Lake Bled? Situated in northwestern Slovenia, this exquisite sight in the Julian Alps has become a favourite of coach tours and mass-tourism, but there is a simple reason for that; its serene blue-green glacial lake stuns from all angles. That’s good news for the intrepid photographer because it’s relatively easy to beat the crowds at the common viewpoints by getting there really early.
Go in autumn for fall colour and in winter for soft light, though always aim for early morning – an hour before sunrise – for reflections and delicate mists. The best viewpoints that look over tiny Lake Bled Island and its gorgeous mediaeval castle include Ojstrica, the quieter Mala Osojnica just above, and Gače in the forest to the west.
5 South Iceland
Surely one of the most enticing places on Earth to take scenic photos, southern Iceland is best known for its many waterfalls, such as Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. However, there are dozens more to explore away from the tourist favourites, such as the double waterfalls Granni and Haifoss, and the dramatic river-fall at Hraunfossar. A long drive from Reykjavik to the floating icebergs at Jökulsárlón and the resulting ‘diamond beach’ of iceberg shards is hard to resist.
Presume to spend your entire time in Iceland wrapped in waterproof trousers and jacket, battling the elements, which includes extreme strong wind as well as rain. Take a steady tripod and plenty of cleaning cloths to keep your lenses free of water droplets.
6 Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain
Have you ever got up before dawn to climb to the top of a volcano and then been back on the beach for breakfast? This volcanic island is full of surprises for anyone who can’t stand sun-beds. Far above the sun-kissed beaches – though only an hour’s drive – is Teide National Park in the centre of the island. Here you’ll find volcanoes, craters, vents, lava flows and incredible rock formations. You can actually stay at a hotel in this barren landscape, though the Parador de Cañadas del Teide does require booking well in advance, particularly for August’s Perseids meteor shower.
For perhaps the ultimate volcano shot head up Mount Teide on a pre-dawn hike to capture its triangular shadow on top of the clouds below. At 3,715 metres you’re not going to get all the way up in the dark so stay at the tiny Altavista del Teide Refuge near the top at 3,260 metres; you can book your bunk bed in advance and get the last cable car up from the Teide National Park the previous night.
7 Andalucia, Spain
It’s perhaps best known for its Alhambra palace, but Spain’s most southerly province is replete with a potpourri of landscapes ripe for imaging. While most visitors stay on the coast to sit in the Sun, a short drive inland unlocks sights such as El Torcal de Antequera Natural Area (for a unique karst landscape, Ibex mountain goats and a nearby wolf sanctuary), Doñana National Park (for exotic birds including flamingo) and the Tabernas in Almería (for Europe’s only true desert landscape).
While you’re in Andalucia you should make time for its most famous sight, the Alhambra, in Granada. One of the best preserved palace/fortress/medinas of the old Islamic world, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is best photographed in winter when the light is at its softest.
Often visited by cruise ship, but just as easily seen by train or car, Norway is a place of epic landscapes. Tromso and the Lofoten Islands (for Hamnoy’s iconic red buildings) are where to head for Northern Lights while to the south are its sky-blue fjords. A fjord is a long, narrow and deep body of water that reaches far inland and there are thousands of them in Norway such as Nærøyfjord, Sognefjord, Lysefjord and Geirangerfjord.
Pulpit Rock/Preikestolen, a dramatic mountain outcrop above Lysefjord, is not a place for the faint of heart. About 600 metres above the fjord below, it’s got no fence and has become a controversial place for risky Instagrammers. It attracts 200,000 visitors each year.
9 North and West Iceland
Although it’s the southern part of Iceland that gets the most visitors it’s worth exploring the northern and western section of this fabulously photogenic country. Snaefellsnes Peninsula contains the iconic Kirkjufell mountain, often seen as a backdrop in Northern Lights photos. Easily accessed via Iceland's ring road are the north’s classic sights such as Goðafoss waterfall, the Mývatn and Hverarönd geothermal areas and the tiny town of Húsavík.
Though most visitors drive straight past its access roads, the small peninsula of Vatnsnes in Iceland’s northwest is home to the offshore dragon-shaped rock formation called Hvitserkur. A short drive away is Illugastadir where it’s possible to see and photograph grey seals from a hide.
10 La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain
It’s been in the news because of the drawn-out eruption in late 2021 but this lesser-visited Canary Island should be on your list for its world-class hikes, peaks, vistas and miradors. A must-visit is Roque de los Muchachos, the highest point at 2,423 metres on the edge of an old caldera that’s home to some of the world’s largest and most important telescopes. The night sky is transparent though the entire island has a trail of stargazing platforms and interpretation boards.
One of La Plama’s most fascinating destinations is the red and white Fuencaliente lighthouse at its most southerly point, which makes for a great foreground in landscape and nightscape shots.
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