It’s been two months since I returned from the Faroe Islands, and I needed that time to reflect on everything I’ve seen. I spent a week there, and it was probably my best trip so far. Even though I loved visiting Iceland last year, at times I felt it was a bit crowded in places that are better enjoyed in solitude; there were busses full of people on guided tours being shipped around the Ring Road, stopping at the major sights, making the most of their stopover in Reykjavik.
You will see nothing like that on the Faroe Islands. Tourism has certainly been steadily increasing in the last 5 years, but there are still very few tourists – it is likely you will make friends with other people visiting the Islands because you keep running into them (in our case, at on mountains and at Frida Kaffihus, the best coffeehouse on the island). In fact, there is very little of everything there – people, shops, cars… except sheep, mountains, and water, there is plenty of that. But that’s what makes the Faroe Islands so beautiful: it is a group of 19 islands largely untouched and unspoiled by man’s hand. The vast landscape made up of mountainous formations and contrasted by the sea winding in between islands will make you take a step back in awe. Don’t worry though, the roads are in excellent condition and you strangely will have internet in sub-sea tunnels between the islands.
The landing at Vágar airport was a bit more exciting than I had hoped for, largely because I landed inside a cloud and you couldn’t see even the edge of the plane’s wings. As I learned throughout the following week, the clouds in the Faroes are famously low-hanging, which definitely adds to the mood but is also a bit annoying when you’re trying to climb a mountain and end up inside a cloud once again, not seeing anything! The weather in early May was slightly underwhelming, but I live in Scotland, so I’m used to bad weather, right? WRONG. I thought I was prepared for slightly less than good weather as Scotland isn’t a country known for its warm climate, but the Faroes are much more unpredictable. It is fascinating how quickly the weather can there change, and how localized storms can be (often you can see them develop over a tiny area from afar). The winds are strong; sometimes so strong that you think you will get blown away (not so pleasant when you’re on top of a mountain ridge). And I was trapped in several hailstorms both in the car, and – more unfortunately – while hiking. Overall, think of the Faroe Islands as a stormy formation of rocks in the middle of the ocean halfway between Scotland and Iceland. However, the views will all make it worth a visit, because you will have never seen anywhere this beautiful in your life.
Before we get into my top places to visit on the islands, let me give you my two top tips for your holiday:
- Prepare for the weather. I read this on some other blogs and dismissed it slightly, but it is incredibly important. I stocked up on some hiking gear and a highly waterproof jacket, which I definitely needed. Get sturdy, waterproof hiking boots, most importantly. A lot of the trails are no more than sheeps’ paths, making it difficult to walk in anything but good boots.
- Have an itinerary but be flexible. Ferries get cancelled due to bad weather and you may not be able to hike because there’s yet another hailstorm.
This is probably one of the views you will have seen before coming to the Faroe Islands – Sørvagsvátn, the lake above the ocean. I did this hike on the day of my arrival. The weather wasn’t great, but this did not change anything about the fact that it was an absolutely stunning and actually quite easy hike. However, the last bit of the hike was definitely exposure therapy to my slight fear of hights (especially with abovementioned strong winds), but you can’t go to the Faroe Islands without visiting this impressive lake.
I actually visited Gásadalur twice on the same day – once in the morning, and once in the evening. As you can see from the pictures above, the difference is astounding. While the weather in the morning was relatively rough, it was beautiful and sunny in the evening and I even saw two puffins next to Múlafossur, the famous and picturesque waterfall close to the village.
Well… let’s say I planned this, but I didn’t actually manage to go. Out of the 7 days I spent on the Faroes, the ferry was cancelled on 6 due to the high waves that made the landing at Mykines impossible. The one day it actually left I had made different plans. If you would like to avoid this scenario, you can book the helicopter from Vágar airport, which is less weather dependent – but be advised that you will need to do this in advance (probably several weeks before you actually come to the Faroe Islands), and you will need to stay over night as there are no returns on the same day – the helicopter only goes there once per day (or less frequently in winter). It would have been lovely to visit Mykines and see all the puffins, so it is an incentive to return to the Faroe Islands for me!
Since the ferry to Mykines was cancelled the day I planned to go, I decided to hike to Drangarnir, since the start of the hike is pretty much at the same point the ferry leaves in Sørvágur. I was anxious about this hike – I am not a seasoned hiker by any means, and some of the reports I read made the hike sound daunting. However, as I found out, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Just walk along the pier, and continue on straight for several hours. It’s not steep or difficult, it’s just long (although that is obviously debatable if you are a more experienced hiker than me). You hike for about 2 -2.5 hours, on a slant, mostly without a proper path. I have drawn the approximate path on the map below.
All of the paths are made by sheep, which have a much narrower gait than humans, and it can get annoying after 2 hours of hiking and your feet almost falling of the path. But Drangarnir was probably my number one on the bucket list for the Faroe Islands, so I powered through. And it was so worth it. Having lunch next to the giant sea stacks in front of the islet of Tindholmur was amazing, and I even got to fly my drone. The whole hike with all my photo breaks and having lunch at Drangarnir took about 6-7 hours total, and I were pretty tired when we got in, but it was an amazing experience so I definitely recommend it.
It’s always sunny in Kalsoy… maybe not, but I had the best weather of all week in Kalsoy, and everytime I saw the island in the distance, it was sunny there. This island was definitely one of my favourite places on the Faroe Islands. A 20 minute ferry ride from Klaksvik will take you to Kalsoy. It is a long island with one single road taking you through different picturesque villages. From the last one, you can take the hike to Kallur lighthouse. It’s a short hike and well-described in some blogs, plus the increase in tourism has made the path more ‘well-trodden’ (literally), so you will be able to find your way easily. Stand at the edge of the island by the lighthouse, and just be impressed by the panorama.
Saksun was another top spot on the bucket list for me. It is a small village, or rather, collection of maybe 5 houses, in a peaceful valley with a buttercup road leading to it. It’s beautiful. Go there!
Klaksvík & Klakkur
Klaksvík is the second largest city in the Faroes at 5,000 inhabitans, and it’s actually quite a pretty city with the best coffeehouse on the islands (Frida Kaffihus, I probably gained 2 kg because of their delicious cakes). Above Klaksvík, there is Mount Klakkur. If you drive up a bit in Klaksvík to the Hálsur pass, the hike up will maybe be 20-25 more minutes? It’s a really short hike and has amazing views, so I definitely recommend this! Funnily, this short hike was turned into a really difficult one by the strong winds that made it almost impossible to get forward, or in fact, lift my feet of the ground, but I made it eventually. I had about 10 minutes to stare into the distance in awe, then the storm hit me. Tiny hail-needles were piercing my face and I sought shelter behind one of the huts until the storm passed. The descent took maybe 10-15 minutes. All in all, an interesting experience.
Gjógv, Funningsfjørður hike & Slættaratindur
Gjógv is one of the cutest little villages on the Faroe Islands. Not only that, but the drive there – on another buttercup road – is amazing, and passes both the starting points to Funningsfjørður hike (between Gjógv and Funningur), and the starting point for hiking up Slættaratindur, the highest mountain of the Faroe Islands (between Gjógv and Eiði). I did both of those on one day, and it was absolutely doable.
I had seen pictures of the Funningsfjørður hike online, and found the views stunning. A short 30 minute walk up from the parking lot at the highest point between Gjógv and Funningur will open up a view of the Fjord and surrounding landscapes. A little hailstorm on the way up was no problem, after all, I had had some experience with that already…
Hiking up Slaettaratindur was slightly more difficult, but actually not as bad as I expected. I had walked up all the way in about 1 hour, only to find myself in a cloud, and quite heavy winds which were a bit unpleasant. This meant that sadly, I didn’t actually see very much from the top, including the famous 360 degree panorama – but the views from the walk up were already quite good. Maybe this also calls for returning and finally seeing what it looks like from up there?
The capital. It’s a cute little city that I didn’t see too much of, trading city sightseeing for hiking. Most of the restaurants of the island are in Torshavn, as are most of the clothes stores. My personal favourite store was Tutl, a record store with an amazing collection of vinyls, particularly supporting a surprisingly diverse Faroese music scene. Two records in hand, I headed for a restaurant. Sadly, my restaurant experience was not as good – which was probably my own ‘fault’ due to being a vegetarian. When we asked a traditional restaurant if they had any vegetarian options I could eat, the looked as if I had insulted their ancestors… oops. I understand that traditional Faroese food obviously heavily relies on seafood and meat (particularly mutton/lamb), I am clearly just a bit spoiled by the UK’s rich abundance of vegetarian options.
The roads are in excellent conditions. You will likely pass several sub-sea tunnels on your road trip across the Faroes, so it is wise to get a ‘Tunnel Pass’ from your car rental company to save some money (pays off after using tunnels 3 times).
Well, as mentioned above it’s not great on the Faroes for vegetarians like me. However, there is also not a big ‘restaurant culture’ – and someone I spoke to told me that maybe up until 10 years ago, it was not common at all to go to a restaurant. Even now, the majority of restaurants are only in Tórshavn, the capital. Not going to restaurants made it easier because this meant I could cook the meals myself in our airbnbs. This in the end made my life a lot easier. Just make sure to stock up on loads of groceries at Bónus (which you may already know from Iceland).
And two bonus spots for the end…