5 Days in the Faroe Islands
An autonomous portion of Denmark located in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland, the Faroe Islands present a stark adventure location offering innumerable hiking trails, bird watching opportunities, horseback riding, helicopter tours and unbelievably scenic vistas to fly a drone over, as well as chances to experience the total silent and clean embrace of untouched landscapes.
The Faroe Islands are sparsely populated with only 50,000 residents spread throughout the entirety of the archipelago. Despite this, the islands are linked by fantastic subsea tunnels, car ferries, and — for almost the entire island chain — smooth highway. Still, despite the fantastic infrastructure, the Faroe Islands lack many of the more traditional touristic amenities.
But, for those who want to travel to a location without being shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists while taking in massive fjords and jaw-dropping cliff faces, the Faroe Islands are for you.
Buses run between the major cities in the Faroe Islands with regularity, while ferries provide access to the islands not accessible by bridges or sub-sea tunnels. Much like Iceland, the best way to travel around the islands is via rental car, allowing you to have full control of planning your own schedule.
Where to Stay
As the Faroe Islands are still a fairly off-the-beaten path destination, traditional accommodation can be difficult to find. However, the capital Torshavn has a number of hotels and Gjogv has a charming guest house; the best way to stay around the rest of the Faroe Islands, though, are Airbnbs (Sign up and get $40 off your first Airbnb stay).
Outside of Torshavn (the capital) and Klaksvik (the second largest town on the Faroe Islands), restaurants are difficult to come across; even when you find them, nothing comes cheap in the Faroe Islands. Aside from meals while on the road, the best bet to travel cheaply is to try to cook in an Airbnb.
Having said that, there are a few absolute must visit restaurants that will be outlined below.
Day 1 - Vágar island
Huzzah! You made it to the Faroe Islands; pretty wild descent between the two cliffs, huh?
Now that you're here, pick up your car (if you're renting), grab your bags, and get ready for adventure! After leaving the airport, head fifteen minutes over to the town of Miðvágur. On the way, stop off at the FK Super Market to pick up some snacks and drinks for your upcoming hike.
Miðvágur to Bøsdalafossur Hike
This hike starts right outside the FK Super Market in Miðvágur and runs alongside Lake Sørvágsvatn (Lake Leitisvatn), the single longest lake in the Faroe Islands. Fairly easy and a nearly complete loop, this hike is a perfect introduction to the Faroe Islands.
At the end of the path along the lake is amazing views of the North Atlantic ocean and Bøsdalafossur waterfall. Once you reach the ocean, it is time to follow the trail back inland and start climbing up! And by up, I mean as high as you can go. Although the path only leads a third of the way up the mountain slope, be sure to head as close as you can to the cliff edge to the spot marked Trælanípan on Google Maps. The location offers the magically simultaneous view of both the lake above and the ocean far below, making the lake appear to levitate.
Story Time — Magical Beings
The lake is inhabiated by the legendary Nykur, a creature resembling a beautiful horse that lures victim's to the edge of the lake before grabbing hold of them and dragging them to the lake's depths. When confronted by the beast, call it out by name, as it will cause it to lose all its powers.
When the Faroe Islands were inhabited by Vikings, the the sheer cliffs of Trælanípan were apparently the spot of mass executions. When slaves became too tired to work, the Vikings would march the exhausted workers off of the edge of the cliffs to fall to their deaths in the ocean below.
Once you've finished the hike, hop back in the car for a quick ride to the next destination!
Now that you've seen the most iconic lake in the Faroe Islands, it is time to see one of the island's most iconic waterfalls! Busy day for sure.
Drive from towards the village of Bøur to take the "Buttercup" scenic road towards the town of Gasadalur. On the way, you will reach a tunnel bored through the side of the mountain that separates these two villages — here you have two choices, either drive through the tunnel or hike over the mountain. The hike is rated moderate to difficult due to steep drops and takes at least two and a half hours at a relatively fast clip (all of this means that we chickened out and decided to drive through the tunnel).
In Gasadalur, during the on-season, Cafe Fjorooy & Guesthouse Hugo provides an ideal spot to stop, grab a meal, and rest weary feet.
Just south of the village and off the road is a path leading to the observation point for Mulafossur, an epic waterfall spilling into the ocean below.
Day 2 - Eastern Vagár and Northern Streymoy
Hiking Saksun to Tjørnuvík
The village of Saksun is reachable by a Buttercup route in the north of Streymoy island. While the drive itself was beautiful, it still didn't prepare us for just how breathtaking Saksun was, which ended up being one of our favorite stops in the Faroe Islands.
A tiny farming village nestled in a mountain valley, Saksun overlooks what was once one of the largest natural harbors in the islands; one of the largest, that is, until an epic storm in the 1600s deposited so much sand that the channel leading from the harbor to the ocean became too clogged to sail through.
Today, the black sand beach provides a remarkable contrast against the towering verdant cliffs overhead. And, should you be daring enough, you can climb up and over these cliffs to reach the next village of Tjørnuvík.
The entire hike to Tjørnuvík and back is listed as taking three hours, but can (and easily will) take longer if you're stopping every few feet to take photos and soak in the scenery (it's hard not to). Additionally, as opposed to doing the entirety of the hike, you can travel towards the first cairn at the top of the cliff before turning around — this gives you a panoramic view of the Saksun area, while allowing you time to continue the whirlwind exploration of the rest of northern Streymoy.
The Fossá Waterfall, located close to Saksun, is the tallest waterfall in the Faroe Islands and is accessible directly off the highway towards Tjørnuvík. Double tiered, the waterfall is a sight to behold, especially as you can walk right up to its base.
For the more adventurous, a barely visible path leads switchback alongside the waterfall to the top of the first tier, lending a view of the waterfall's second story.
A small village at the northern tip of Streymoy, Tjørnuvík's main attraction is its black sand beach that is split asunder by runoff from a waterfall behind the village. Across the ocean from Tjørnuvík is the northwestern tip of the neighboring island of Eysturoy. On a clear day you can make out two giant sea stacks — Risin og Kellingin — rising from the ocean just off of Eysturoy's coast.
Story Time — Risin og Kellingin
Long ago, the giants who lived in Iceland were jealous of the Faroe Islands. Coveting the archipelago, Risin (the Giant) and Kellingin (the Witch) came to the Faroe Islands under cover of darkness to capture the islands and tow them back towards Iceland.
Working all through the night, the Giant and the Witch struggled to tie a rope around the Faroe Islands. Tired and all consumed with the effort, the two failed to notice the rising of the sun, whose rays would turn the two to stone. So, as morning broke, the Giant and the Witch attempted to turn to flee back to Iceland, but they were too slow; they are now frozen forever as stone sea stacks, gazing longingly towards their home.
All this hiking and exploring must have worked up a mighty hunger in you. Fortunately, Joe Pizza, located twenty minutes south of Tjørnuvík on the way back towards Vagár, is open from 4pm till late night. One of the cheaper dining options in the islands, it serves up some scrumptious pizzas, in addition to shawarma and burgers.
Trøllkonufingur and Sandavágur
Back in Vagár, head over to the town of Sandavágur — consistently rated the most pleasant town in both the Faroe Islands and all of Scandinavia. The town is extremely pleasant looking, though there is not much to see beyond its idyllic red-roofed church.
Visiting Sandavágur also happens to be the best way to see Trøllkonufingur (Troll Finger), a sea stack nearly directly outside of the town that was once the finger of a giant troll. A lookout providing the best view of the finger — as well as an epic view of the island of Koltur — is accessible as either a twenty minute hike or a five minute drive along gravel roads leading out from the village.
Alternate Day 2 — Make Your Own Trail
Note: We did not do this as we are not strong enough hikers — this route is potentially extremely dangerous and is not for those afraid of heights. Various estimates for this hike, which does not have a true path, range from four to six hours, depending on how far out you venture and your way-finding successes.
If you attempt this hike, please bring food, water, and supplies, check the weather, and let someone know where you will be going.
Trailblazing to Drangarnir
To the west of Vagár is the sea stack Drangarnir, instantly recognizable by its natural arc, behind which rises the dragonspine of Tindhólmer. While both are visible on clear days from Bøur, those truly brave can blaze their own trail west from the town of Sørvágur.
As chance would have it, a friend of Jen's stayed in the exact same Airbnb as us literally right before we arrived. While he did not make it all the way to Drangarnir — instead reaching about two-thirds of the way to the destination — his blog post lays out what he believes is the best route to reach views of the sea stacks.
If you attempt this hike, good luck, be careful, and let us know how it goes!
Day 3 — Mid-Streymoy and Northern Eysturoy
Hiking Kollafjørður to Leynar
After the more strenuous hikes of yesterday, you've earned a pleasant saunter. This fairly easy hike leads up less steep hills to give views of imposing cliffs and beautiful lakes around the Faroe Islands. Estimates for the length of the hike vary from one to 2.5 hours in one direction.
If you are short of time, you could also drive directly to the village of Leynar, which is a popular summer destination for its pleasant black sand beaches and turf-roofed cottages. From here, or from Kollafjørður, you can do a shorter portion of the hike to gain the experience of the hike and take in the beautiful scenery.
Bird Watching Ferry in Vestmana
Let me start this by saying that neither Jen nor I care all that much about birds; they can be cool, but unless I'm seeing a penguin or an ostrich, I don't really care.
Even with that attitude, the bird watching ferry ride from Vestmana may have been one of our favorite experiences in the Faroe Islands. While the tour does indeed show you the bird cliffs north of Vestmana, it also sails alongside numerous sea stacks, including in some cases passing through and underneath them.
As the tour is guided, it also presents a perfect opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the Faroe Islands; for example, historically, the Faroese would use metal chains hammered into the sea stacks to climb them in order to harvest bird eggs. Which might be one of the most metal things I've heard.
Feast at Disvoy Cafe
Being on the open ocean must have made you hungry; grab a late lunch/early dinner at Disvoy Cafe in downtown Vestmana. While it was unfortunately closed when we visited, it looked beautiful from the outside and the food is meant to be fantastic.
From Vestmana, make the drive to the village of Gjogv in the north of Eysturoy. While doing the portion of the drive towards the village of Eiði, keep your eyes across the fjord to see an amazing view of Fossá from the second day. The final part of the drive to Gjogv from Eiði is along mind-blowing hairpin mountain bends on yet another Buttercup road.
Take your time to pull off at some of the scenic vista pullovers, take pictures, or go on your own mini-hikes in the area. This area struck me as some of the most peaceful in the Faroe Islands, and the views from the mountains outside of Gjogv are stunning.
Once you arrive in Gjogv, the main site is the gorge, which the village is literally named after, gjogv meaning gorge in Faroese. Paths lead both into the gorge itself and to a lookout above and behind it. Massive and cut directly into the surrounding black stone, which now has living walls of plants nurtured by constant mountain spring runoff, there is something truly magical about this area.
Sleep and Eat
After a long day exploring, go ahead and splurge on staying in the Gjáargarður Guesthouse Gjogv. While slightly pricey, the guesthouse offers a truly familial feel with friendly staff and hearty (but again, expensive) home cooking.
But, after multiple days of hiking, the meal at the guesthouse was very welcome and warming. The guesthouse also provides a free morning breakfast, the option of packed lunches for hikers (which we did not try), cultural events, a tea hour with delicious looking cakes, and local Faroese beers.
Day 4 - Northern Eysturoy and Bordoy
If you stayed in the guesthouse, grab the complimentary breakfast in their dining room while you enjoy the views overlooking the town and the ocean beyond. Once you've had your fill, get ready to hit the hills!
A Not-So-Private Hike
One of our favorite hikes in the Faroe Islands turned out to be, upon research for this post, a hike through privately owned sheep pastures. Even so, apparently all the tourists in Gjogv do this hike, and it is awe-inducing.
Above the gorge, a small path leads up into a sheep fold on the cliffs overlooking the village. The going is extremely steep, and at time the path is extremely narrow — as is fitting, as the path is intended for local farmers and sheep, not tourists.
Jen and I set out on the hike intending to find out where it ended; however, pressed for time, we only made it to an overlook in which Gjogv appeared as but a small set below, the islands of Kalsoy and Kunoy spread out before us on the horizon, and the glaciated valley behind the village looking like a green screen for the most perfect view you could imagine.
After you've had your fill of trespassing, head over to Klaksvik, the second largest town in the Faroe Islands. Our biggest regret coming back from the islands was not spending more time in Klaksvik and the northern islands — especially as the town has a lot going on. Depending on your mood and how you want to spend your time (as well as how much money you want to spend), there is plenty to do in this northern port town.
The bar/restaurant Jacqson offers great burgers and fries. Jen and I split one and we were both full ... which is great news, since it alone cost $20. But, alas, those are Faroese prices.
The cafe Fríða also offers delicious sandwiches and desserts, as well as a great selection of teas and coffees. In warmer weather, the cafe also has a back deck that offers a view of the port and a panorama of Klaksvik.
For the drunkard, Klaksvik is also home to the Føroya Bjór brewery. The brewery does not sell single drinks or offer tastings, but it does have a wide selection of the local brews from the island.
Now, here is where things get tricky for the indecisive:
Afternoon Path #1 — Visit Kalsoy
Klaksvik offers ferry service to the village of Syðradalur on the northern island of Kalsoy, which you saw from Gjogv. Ferries do not run frequently, so any trip to Kalsoy will likely take up the remainder of your day. So, why should you go to Kalsoy?
Well, we ultimately skipped it, but that does not necessarily mean you should. The village of Trøllanes at the far tip of Kalsoy is the most northern village in the Faroe Islands; it is also the starting point for a hike to the iconic Kallur Lighthouse.
Additionally, the village of Mikladalur on Kalsoy is home to the epic-looking statue of a selkie, a woman who can transform into a seal (or is it a seal that can transform into a woman?). Not seeing the statue is one of my biggest regrets from this trip, mainly because I'm a huge nerd and it looks like something taken straight from an Elder Scrolls game.
Oh well, it's always good to have a reason to go back to a destination.
Afternoon Path #2 — Go Horseback Riding
While everything about the northern islands sounds amazing, Jen and I ultimately opted for (finally) going to Tórshavn — the capital of the Faroe Islands — to go horseback riding. Berg Hestar, located just outside of Tórshavn, offers riding excursions for all levels — something dearly needed, as neither Jen nor I have ridden before.
But, again, Faroese people are hardcore and don't fuck around. The all-level riding excursion included us going from learning how to ride to casual trotting to galloping on Icelandic horses up and down mountain valleys and fording rivers.
Simply put, the experience felt borderline mythical. When you're on horseback with only seven other people in the middle of rocky mountain valleys and moors, as a fog slowly descends to blanket the landscape, you end up expecting a Viking or a dragon or a troll to appear and start giving chase.
No wonder Faroese people are so metal.
A Traditional Faroese Dinner
If you chose to come back to Tórshavn, or will visit the capital at any point during your trip, stop by Ræst. Located in a historic building right by Tórshavn's harbor, Ræst is a perfect final dinner in the Faroe Islands — especially for those willing to be adventurous and splurge, as the restaurant is not cheap.
Serving up traditional Faroese cuisine, Ræst is a truly unique dining experience — especially as traditional food on the islands is heavily fermented. This means that the multi-course meal involves everything from month old cod served with fermented lamb belly fat to fermented perch with mango ceviche and three-month-aged lamb neck.
And you know what? It was indescribably delicious (or a "unique but worthwhile experience", according to Jen, whose taste buds were not as partial to fermented cuisine). If you really splurge and get the alcohol pairings for each course, you will be treated to a full sensory spectacle that will also send you stumbling home (or crying out of happiness in the middle of each dish, per Jen's experience).
Without a doubt, our dinner at Ræst was the single nicest and most memorable dining experience Jen and I have ever had. Between the fact that the restaurant's interior is a cozy historic Faroese home, the personal attention and serving by the chef and sous-chef, and the indescribable warmth of the atmosphere, you'll love Ræst, even if you swear, going in, that it sounds revolting.
Day 5 — Explore Tórshavn
For the final day in the Faroe Islands, we truly enjoyed getting to finally explore and discover Tórshavn. The world's smallest capital, it has a very hip and welcoming vibe that makes you eager to stroll around and soak in the small-town big-city atmosphere.
Within quick walking distance of the harbor is the beautifully monochrome Dómkirkjan cathedral. Just in front of the cathedral is Trappan, a series of massive pedestrianized terraced steps where you can sit and appreciate a near-waterfront view of the harbor.
From Trappan, head towards Tinganes, the political and historical center of the city. The original center of Tórshavn, Tinganes hosted the first Viking political meetings and parliaments in the 9th century. Today, the area still contains Faroese government buildings which all have quaint turf roofs.
Near to Tinganes is Skansin, a historic fort dating from the 1500s to defend against, of all things, Ottoman pirates. The fort's ideal location led to it being expanded and outfitted with then-modern guns by the British during World War II. Today, Skansin hosts an iconic lighthouse and a breathtaking panorama of the harbor and neighboring Nólsoy island.
Eat and Relax
Having almost one-third of the entire Faroese population in the capital's metropolitan area, Tórshavn hosts a number of charming cafes and dining options.
etika Sushi offers a wide selection of noms. While, to be honest, the rolls were not amazing, the salmon nigiri was mind-blowing. The salmon was thick cut, fresh, and was perhaps some of the best tasting fish I've ever had.
If you want to relax and really decompress after the busy previous few days, Panama Café is the ideal location. Offering a wide selection of teas and coffees, as well as sandwiches and baked goods, the cafe serves up everything your stomach is craving in a setting that feels so homey you'll wish it was your house. Attached to the cafe is also a souvenir shop, for any last minute gifts you need to splurge on.
If your flight is late in the day and you have time (we didn't, sadly), being in Tórshavn is an ideal time to take a ferry ride over to Nólsoy. A moderately lengthy but easy hike takes you along the entire length of the island to a lighthouse at the southern tip. Along the way, you can enjoy panoramic views of the southern islands.
The ferry schedule from Tórshavn to Nólsoy can be found here.
If you're more pressed for time, you can drive back to airport from Tórshavn along highway 10, which provides ideal views of the valleys and mountains in southern Streymoy; frequent pull-offs along this route also allow for some last minute mini-hikes (or drone flying) on the way back to the airport.
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