Getting Wild in… the Faroe Islands
In July 2017, I finally visited the Faroe Islands. This is somewhere that I’d wanted to visit for a while, because it ticks my boxes of a bit unusual, remote and not very warm.
My friend and I had four days to explore these islands, to take photos and experience this stunning place for ourselves.
Highlights from the trip
The landscape of the Faroe Islands is rugged and wild. It’s very similar to the Scottish Highlands, so if you enjoy it there – weather and all – you’re going to love the Faroes.
We were only there for 4 days. Some people explore these islands for up to two weeks! So a four-day itinerary really is cramming a lot in. To do this we hired a car, so that we could drive and stop off where we like to see the sights.
Gasaladur is the waterfall and stuff.
Saksun is a pretty village at the end of a valley and probably one of the most photographed places in the Faroe Islands. The valley ends in a tidal lake, connected to the sea, where the pretty grass-roofed houses of Saksun cling to the side of the hill above. We stopped here for an hour or two to take in the scenery. If you stay for longer, you can walk around the lake (be sure to check the tide times on the village notice-board). There is also a hiking route that takes you over the top of the hills to (PLACE NAME HERE).
Vidareidi is the northernmost village on the Faroes and you must make a stop here. It has one of the most stunning views that I have ever seen. A white church perches on the edge of a hill. I sat on the rocks just down from the church, admiring the view across to the other islands. And there was hardly anyone else about, other than the locals just going about their daily business in front of this fantastic backdrop. On a good day, you can see the blue outlines of (ISLAND), (ISLAND) and (ISLAND) in the distance, as the sun beats down and the surf crashes into the rocks below. A gentle stream gurgles into the sparkling sea and the seabirds circle around, looking for lunch. On (ISLAND), you see the abandoned village of (VILLAGE). It’s here that you’ll see exactly how crazy the Faroese weather can be. While you drive through rain on the rest of the islands, Vidareidi can be sitting in pure sunshine.
The road tunnels: why does nobody talk about the tunnels? These are the arteries of the islands. In the Faroes they love to build tunnels. Not just tunnels through mountains, but also tunnels under the sea. Which, as a driver from a small island, somewhat fascinates me. Some, such as those on Kalsoy, are pitch-black single-lane tunnels, with passing places. The main tunnels under the sea are wide, fast roads. You feel like you’re entering an underground lair.
Seeing a concert in a cave as part of the Summartónar music festival. (TODO)
Fisk & Chips in Torshavn. You thought fish and chips was an English dish, didn’t you? Well be prepared to be blown away, because this little fish and chip takeaway in Torshavn shows the Brits how it’s done. Perfectly battered and fried fish, with a generous portion of soy, salt and vinegar flavoured chips. I was in heaven. Be prepared to wait 15-20 minutes, as it’s all cooked fresh to order! Or you can try phoning ahead with your order. This was my cheapest meal of the week at “only” 79 DKK (about 10 GBP/11 EUR). There’s no room to sit inside, but there are picnic tables outside where you can eat your meal (I promise you won’t take long eating it).
Kalsoy & Kallur lighthouse is an afternoon trip in itself. It’s a long slender island that the locals admire. It only has a couple of tiny villages and isn’t connected to the other islands, either by bridge or tunnel. To get there, you have to travel by ferry from Klaksvik. So we felt like we were exploring new territory. We came here to see the “Kallur” lighthouse, perched on the northern tip of the island, which is another sight that’s been Instagrammed a lot. (INSERT PICS HERE). But once you’re at the lighthouse, the views over the islands are stunning. Note: if you’re planning to take your car onto the ferry to Kalsoy, be sure to arrive early (45 minutes to 1 hour before departure) to make sure your car gets a spot, as the ferry doesn’t hold many cars.
As of June 2017, there are no direct flights to the Faroe Islands from London. For visitors coming from the U.K., the national carrier of the Faroes, Atlantic Airways, operates twice weekly routes from Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports. They also offer package deals with car hire included. These start from (PRICE).
But, as the schedule is limited, we decided to make our own itinerary, by first taking a cheap easyJet flight to Copenhagen, and then picking up one of the daily flights operated by SAS.
Note: this is a risky option, as the easyJet and SAS flights must be booked under different itineraries. This means that you may have to find (and pay for) a new connecting flight, if your first flight is so delayed that you miss your connection. (And given easyJet’s poor on-time record it’s statistically quite likely that your flight will be delayed.) In addition, if you’re bringing hold luggage then you would need to retrieve it and then check it in again.
For those reasons I probably wouldn’t do this option again but for us it worked out OK. Copenhagen Airport’s different terminals are connected airside so it wasn’t an issue that easyJet flies in to one “terminal” but SAS flies in to another.
Where to stay
The two main towns are Torshavn and Klaksvik.
Other options: Some guide books include listings for local vacation rentals, which can be booked through the Faroe Islands tourist office.
- Local people speak Faroese (not Danish!) and the currency is the Danish Krone, although they have their own Faroese banknotes (which may not always be accepted in Denmark)
- Do check the weather forecast before you go on a hike, or even a short walk. The weather can change quickly and can be very localised across the islands. One minute it can be bright sunshine, and the next minute the rain can come in. I found that the most accurate weather forecast was from yr.no, the national weather service of Norway, which covers the Faroe Islands.
- Get the Faroe Islands Tourist Board’s smartphone app, which includes an offline map, details of local attractions and more. (LINK HERE)
- There’s not much to do or many places to eat in Klaksvik itself so if you do stay there then bring a book :)
Atlantic Airways, the main carrier of the Faroes, only offers direct flights to the Faroe Islands from Edinburgh, and only on certain days of the week. So, to maximise our time on the islands, we chose to fly first from London Gatwick to Copenhagen with Easyjet, and then pick up another flight with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) to the Faroes.
This meant getting up very early for a 7am flight to Copenhagen from London Gatwick. Trains run through the night to Gatwick, which is helpful.
Our bookings gave us only 2 hours connection time in Copenhagen. I probably wouldn’t do that again. It has to be booked as two separate journeys, which is risky, given Easyjet’s punctuality record. In 2016, only 59% of easyJet flights at London Gatwick operated with 15 minutes of their scheduled time.
Copenhagen Airport is really rather a nice place to wait for a flight. There are many cafes and bars, and the food options are good. I hung out for a bit at Joe & The Juice.
Fortunately, although we were flying from different terminals in Copenhagen - arriving with easyJet in Terminal 2, and then departing with SAS from Terminal 3 - the terminals are actually linked together, airside. This means there’s no need to pass through security.
Flying with SAS: I thought the SAS flight was pretty good. The flight was on time, we had a nice plane with comfy seats, with free tea & coffee, even in standard class (listen to that, BA!). I bought the cutest pack of biscuits to go with my cup of tea.
We hired a car with Unicar.
Vagar is where the airport is located, and is one of the flatter islands. Our first stop was at Gasadalur.
To get there, you have to go through a tunnel. The tunnel was only constructed in 2004, which means that before then, it wasn’t very easy to get here.
Now it’s much easier, and when you leave the tunnel, you’re greeted with the view of an isolated valley with the village of Gasadalur perched on the hillside.
Gasadalur view: To see this magnificent view, park your car in Gasadalur village car park. Take a walk back down the main road, in the direction of the tunnel, and then take the small track on the right, towards the coastline. The sight of the waterfall gushing into the sea, with the houses clinging to the side of the hill, is quite breathtaking.
Streymoy: Torshavn, Saksun
We stayed in Torshavn in a cute little Airbnb by the harbour, with a great view of the boats coming and going.
Torshavn is the capital of the islands. I found a great fish & chip takeaway (called Fisk & Chips), where the chips come flavoured with salt, vinegar and soy. So good.
We took a drive along the old mountain road, Oyggjarvegurin.
- Almost everything in the Faroe Islands is closed on Sundays!