Lake Sørvágsvatn – Faroe Islands - Atlas Obscura

Lake Sørvágsvatn

The largest lake in the Faroe Islands seems to be held hundreds of feet above sea level thanks to an optical illusion. 


Lake Sørvágsvatn is 3.4 square kilometers in size, more than three times the size of the second biggest lake among the Faroe archipelago, Fjallavatn, and when viewed from above it appears to be contained far above the surrounding ocean.

When viewed from afar, its seems that the lake is tilted towards the ocean, but only spills over in one small waterfall. This optical illusion also creates the impression that the reservoir is located hundreds of feet above sea level. In actuality, the elevation difference between the lake and the ocean is only about 30 meters; however, steep and significant elevation changes in the surrounding hills give the lake its seemingly impossible look. The lake is situated in a deep depression, and its towering headland rises 252 and 376 meters on the left and right sides.

There is also some controversy regarding the lake’s name, since the people of Sørvágsvatn village take pride in naming the body of water after their home, while the citizens of some of the other nearby towns would rather call the lake “Leitisvatn,” since some of its waters intersect with their towns as well. Yet regardless of what the waters are called, the illusion they create is nothing less than nature pulling a big prank on all of us.  

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