In our dreams, we have the ability to see places that are unrealistic. Locations so unimaginable that they are impossible to visit in the reality of our everyday lives. This seemed to be true, until I traveled to the Faroe Islands. While I have explored many different destinations, hiked countless mountains, enjoyed sunrises/sunsets, experienced culture filled towns and photographed stunning landforms, I had never seen a place like this. Small on a general scale of area upon a map, but massive in visual perception, this country displays dramatic scenery that I once thought was only possible with the creativity of imagination.
It’s lush and sheer cliffs tower over the Northern Atlantic while violent waves pound away at its rocks. Alien like landforms protrude from the water as they sit in their lonesome. Water run off from mountain peaks spills into the ocean, while lakes seemingly float in the sky. Lighthouses sacrifice their well being by standing at the end points of cliffs, welcoming extremely high wind speeds. Moss covered houses protect their inhabitants by soaking up the substantial amount of precipitation whilst hiding away in small coves. Mountain tops offer views into surrounding fjords and valleys, covered in a spectacle of color and clouds. Adorable puffins fill the skies while majestic sheep graze the dense grasslands below. A phenomena of weather from sun, rain, snow, fog or wind can change from island to island in a matter of seconds. I had never felt so in touch with nature as I did when visiting this natural paradise.
What are The Faroe Islands?
For my top 16 list of places to visit in The Faroe Islands, keep on scrolling down, because this next segment is about some of the facts and culture of this amazing destination.
If you have not yet heard of The Faroe Islands, the time is now. This small archipelago, made up of 18 islands, is starting to boom in tourism and its inhabitants are prepared for it. So, what are The Faroe Islands? In better terms, the area makes up an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark. The land area is very small in size, only about 540 sq miles, which equates to half the size of the smallest state in the United States, Rhode Island. It may be tiny on a map, but it feels like the most overwhelming place on the planet.
While the small island chain is situated by itself in a harsh area in terms of weather, its population is limited. Around 50,000 people call themselves Faroese and run the land, while 20,000 of them live in the capital, Torshávn. Incredibly enough, there are more sheep than people through out the islands with a staggering number of 70,000.
Speaking of those sheep, The Faroe Islands are named after them. The name, Føroyar, in Faroese, translates to “Sheep Islands”. The Faroese love and respect their sheep. Sheep were here when the Vikings arrived after the Irish had settled here first, having brought sheep along with them. From this point on, the people have gathered around their beloved sheep, taking care of them more than you could ever imagine. However, they are good to eat, all 70,000 of them. Lamb is the most popular meat eaten through out the islands while none is exported. The meat is said to be so delicious that the Faroese only want it for themselves. Don’t expect the tiny population to start giving away their prized animal anytime soon.
The remote location is not the only factor that plays into the small population. The brutal and harsh weather conditions of the Faroe Islands may scare many away while it also creates the dramatic and stunning scenery. Located North of Scotland and in between Norway/Iceland, this specific area plays host to a style of weather that is only seen in a few places on Earth. The climate is specified as a “Subpolar Oceanic Climate” – meaning it is windy, wet, cold and cool. The temperatures average above freezing through out the year, so it is never truly hot nor freezing. This weather pattern allows the creation of a dramatic terrain of intense beauty, but could make it a difficult place to live long term. There are moments when the sun is shining and you don’t need an extra layer for warmth. However, you can’t get too carried away as this weather is constantly changing. It changes so much that it can differ among the islands on a 20 minute drive. You may see the sunlight, sparkling off the waters of one island while it there is extreme wind and fog on another. The Faroes see rain some 300 days of the year, so make sure to pack a rain coat.
It is not only the beautiful landscape that has garnered attention in recent years, but the fishing industry too. The industry is so important for this country that it makes up about 90% of their total exports. The most popular export from this area is the salmon. While The Faroes are also known to have great cod, herring, halibut and more, they are most strong in their ability to farm salmon in the surrounding fjords. The strong currents and temperate waters are ideal for producing some of the best tasting fish on the planet. They have mastered the farming and production of this world renown delicacy, so much so, that it is hard to go into a big supermarket in the US and not come across the coveted fish. The largest exports extend out to the United States, Russia, China and Japan. Famous chefs in Japan and New York are known to receive the fish, fresh from the waters in the morning, ready to prepare for the evening crowd. The meat of the fish is very pink in color while delicate in taste. It is different from other kinds of salmon as it is not nearly as fishy and seemingly melts in your mouth. I was told that only 6,000 of the 50,000 people in the country need to work in the industry to keep their lives more than sustainable. There is good reason for that as the fish is that damn, good. While the business is currently bringing in a huge quantity of money, it was not always successful.
Salmon farming began in the late 1980’s, when at first it was a great idea, but turned out to be disastrous as the salmon were infected by parasites such as sea lice. For some years, the industry was dead until a solution was found. The Faroese re-commenced farming in the late 1990’s, where they again lost half the stock from more parasites. They quickly realized that a solution had to be made to keep the fish fresh, and the large cages sustainable.
Currently, they do not overfill the cages due to a cause of pollution. Since 2017, they don’t use any antibiotics as a way to keep both the fish and the waters extra clean. Salmon are hatched inside a building, or “hatchery”, then put into a sea ring for 12-18 months. The sea rings contain different numbers of salmon based on size. After taking salmon out of the water, the rings then rest for a year. Each fish is cleaned up, then shipped out to different markets around the world. The numbers of salmon through out the waters are highly abundant as there are 1.6 million salmon swimming in the Vestmanna Bay alone. Faroe Island Salmon makes more money than any other fish in the world.
As the fishing industry is very popular around the world, there is another industry very important to Faroese Culture that is often seen as controversial, Whaling. Although the pilot whale hunt is very important to the Faroese culture, news outlets around the globe display it as a massacre which raises the eyes of many. However, the killing of anything is brutal, but this process has been around for hundreds of years. A lot of people point fingers through social media outlets, in belief that the Faroese are killing the whales for sport. What many people don’t know or understand is that the Faroese use these whales for every resource as possible. While it was once a bloody mess and a little bit barbaric, the country has responded and made the annual whale hunt more “humane” in recent years. It may not sound nice, but they kill the whales as quickly and as clean as possible. Using a special tool, the hunters insert the point into the back of the Pilot Whale skull, severing the spine from the brain, instantly killing the animal. Sorry to be so blunt.
It is the law that anyone whom sees a whale surface, must call and notify the police. They will then decide if there will be a hunt or not. This all depends on the type of whale or size of the pod. To kill the whales, the hunters follow a pod and usher them to a beach where the killing occurs. The outright killing will only happen when the whales are entirely beached. The meat and blubber has always been a very important source of food for the Faroese. I did not try any whale meat during my trip, but everyone raves about how much they enjoy it. The Faroese eat the meat in many different ways. The blubber can be eaten fresh or it can be frozen for months and years. Some may wet salt it, while others dry salt it. It is more often than not you will have the opportunity to see houses displaying a fresh catch on their front porch, hanging to air dry. Everyone involved in the hunt gets an equal share of the meat, while the hunters get a little bit extra. People hate this, and I don’t necessarily agree with it either, but it is a tradition that travelers should not question when visiting a different country. We can’t be so quick to judge others while each country has their own controversy in the eyes of others.
Tours and Visiting
As tourism and interest of the islands is steadily growing, there is no better time to embark on an adventure in this wonderland. One of the easiest and best ways to explore the islands is via a tour group. While there are more travel companies opening up their doors everyday in the Faroes, the best group is undoubtedly, MMTours. These guys do it right. While many tour companies throw you on a bus and rush you around without truly introducing a culture, MMTours does the opposite. Even with one of their daily excursions, you have the ability to get to know the guides on a more personal level. You will have comfort while enjoying the adventures in a relaxed atmosphere. They are always open to answer any questions as you have the freedom to ask. The fun, adventure-filled and cultural atmosphere created by this group of guys sets MMTours apart from the rest. The groups are small while you receive freedom and the amount of time needed to experience the culture or landscape you are visiting.
For a full look into MMTours and each of the daily excursions they offer, follow the link below to help plan your next adventure to The Faroe Islands.
How To Get There
There are only a few ways to get to the Faroe Islands, which makes it easy to choose. Two airlines fly daily into the country, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Atlantic Airlines. These flights take nonstop and direct routes out of European cities such as Edinburgh (Scotland), Copenhagen (Denmark), Reykjavik (Iceland), Paris (France) and Bergen (Norway). Sometimes, you may find a few seasonal flights out of places like Barcelona (Spain), but they are not common. The cheapest and most simple flight you will find is out of Copenhagen. There are a few flights through out the day to and from the Faroe Islands, which makes it the most common hub. It is very easy to take a flight from New York City out of JFK or Newark into Copenhagen. From there, you can spend a day or two exploring Copenhagen before taking your next flight over to The Faroe Islands. Flights from Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Reykjavik and Bergen are all less than 2 hours and painless. If you book your flight well ahead of time, they can be very cheap. I flew from Copenhagen with an 8 day round trip ticket for only $150, bag and seat included. If you plan ahead, it is not difficult to fly round trip out of New York, into Copenhagen for about $400, then to The Faroe Islands for another $150. Who said traveling to a remote location was difficult and expensive?
I use google flights to constantly check the changes in prices and dates before I travel anywhere. It is a very useful tour for flights around the world, especially into Europe.
For those whom are more adventurous, like to take your time or just scared of flying, the Smyril Line offers ferry service to The Faroe Islands from both Iceland and Denmark. The expedition takes about 2 days and is $500 or more, but it is a very unique experience. If you are interested in sailing to the Islands, follow this link below.
Where To Stay
Just like flights, the options are limited here as well. As the tourism industry grows, accommodation becomes harder to find. Make sure you plan in advance to find the best places as well as prices. The closer you are to the date of your trip, the less likely you will be able to find a good place for a good price. There are a few hotels through out the islands, specifically in the capital, Tórshavn, but the number of rooms is limited. Due to the increase in tourism, a few new hotels are being built in the capital as to open up space for new visitors. In the meantime, It is best to book your stay through Airbnb. The Faroese people are very welcoming and open to new visitors. Staying with a local will also allow you to learn a little bit more about the culture.
What To Eat
This is not a culinary paradise, but they are well on their way. The lamb is exquisite and the fish is incredibly fresh. I ate smoked or fresh salmon every single day and never got tired of it. Traditional Faroese cuisine is most famous for something called, ræstkjøt, which is the method of drying and fermenting foods. The Faroese love to dry and ferment their meats and fish as a way to keep them preserved and always prepared to eat. The tastes are very unique and different compared to what most people are used to. The odors of the meats are pungent and the taste is very strong. If you’re a foodie, its definitely worth trying. Some restaurants in Tórshavn offer dishes of this variety, especially at, Ræst, a restaurant that is popular for its tasting menu of dried and cured meats. It is hard to get a table, so make your reservation in advance.
For those foodies out there, The Faroe Islands is becoming more and more famous each day thanks to its Michelin Star restaurant, Koks. This small restaurant is hidden just outside of Tórshavn and is starting to garner the attention of all foodies. People book their reservation before they even book a flight just so they can experience this one of a kind meal. Chef, Poul Andrias Ziska, creates his daily menu each day based on what the earth provides him with. It is a bit expensive, but everyone raves about it. Reservations need to be made months in advance, so start planning now.
How To Get Around
Getting around the islands is very simple thanks to the advanced road system, which the Faroese are very proud of. Two sub sea tunnels have been built as a means of linking all the islands together. There are a few islands that are still not linked up by roads, but the plan is in the process. Renting a car is a very nice option as you could drive the entire road system in a day, but it is best to visit each island in segments as a way to truly experience them. Hiring a car may be a little bit more on the expensive end, but it allows you the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. For a more intense look into driving through out The Faroe Islands, follow this link.
For those that don’t want to spend the extra buck and are more into a backpacking experience, there are bus routes that run in-between the towns, through out the islands. The schedule can be limited at times, but buses run all day. When the roads come to a dead end, there is ferry service to smaller islands such as Mykines, where driving a car is not really possible. Follow the link below for the full schedule of the ferry and bus service.
Rental cars, buses and ferries are all great options, but exploring with a tour group is the best way to truly experience the islands. As I already stated, MMTours will make sure you see the entirety of the Faroe Islands with their tour package. You don’t have to worry about schedules, directions or bookings, just sit back, and enjoy the adventure.
Remember when I told you to scroll down for my top 16 places in The Faroe Islands? If you’re only interested in my opinion of the best spots, and don’t care about some facts about the culture or tour packages, the rest of this is for you.
Top 16 Places
I had never felt more in touch with nature as I did in Mykines. Also known to many as the bird or puffin island, Mykines is said to receive the least amount of rain and best weather compared to the rest of the islands. This particular island is home to a massive puffin colony as well as many other species of birds that you will have the opportunity to photograph. Hiking from the town of Mykines to the Hólmur Lighthouse is a jaw dropping adventure that everyone should experience. The tiny path will take you along sheer cliffs with incredible views of the ocean, rock formations and of course a wide array of different bird species. Check out this video to experience Mykines.
The tallest mountain in the Faroe Islands, Slættaratindur is well worth the hike. The walk is not too tough, more of a medium on the difficulty scale. It takes about an hour to walk up the small path to the flat platform at the top. Upon completion and arrival at the summit, you will be overwhelmed with some of the most pristine views in the Faroe Islands. Fjords, lush valleys, rivers, mountains, ocean, rocks, sheep and of course fog rolling over the rest of the area. From one point of the flat platform, you can look over the ocean and the town of Tjørnuvík. The other point looks over a gorgeous mountain ridge that makes a perfect subject for photos. Each inch of the platform delivers incredible views into the jaw dropping landscape, especially on a clear day
For more views of Slættaratindur and the rest of the “Golden Circle”, check out the video below.
3. Kallur Lighthouse
The Kallur Lighthouse is a bit out of the way, but the views are absolutely stunning. To get to the light house, you need to take a ferry from Klaksvik to Kalsoy. From here, you then take a bus or shuttle out to the very small village of Trøllanes. The village of only 13 people is your gateway for a hike to the beautiful lighthouse. The walk takes about 45 minutes, and is generally easy, but the intense and cold winds coming from the ocean can make it more difficult. The views from the top of this small light house to the surrounding ocean and islands are great, but the true masterpiece is situated behind the structure. To get to the viewpoint, walk past the light house, then down and up the skinny path. The natural peninsula offers one of the best views imaginable, looking back into the lighthouse with the mountains, cliffs and ocean that surround it. Be careful walking out to this spot. One big gust of wind or a mis step could have you tumbling down into the ocean below. Unless you don’t have a fear of heights and are athletic, I would not recommend taking this path. However, if you are an avid hiker and want to see one of the best views in the Faroes, follow the path.
It is a definite that when you type “Faroe Islands” into Google, this famous waterfall is one of the first pictures you will see. I expected it to be a little bit more touristy than it was, but I felt as if I was the only one there. That is the beauty of the Faroe Islands, they feel seemingly untouched. The best way to enjoy the incredible sight of the water falling into the ocean is to follow the path along the cliff, and then walk down the stairs. There is a sign there that says “Do Not Pass”, but it is unguarded. From these steps you will have a better view into the waterfall and the cliffs surrounding it. Enjoy your time here as Múlafossur is truly one of a kind.
This very unique landform can be seen protruding from the ocean, across the water from Múlafossur or on your way to Mykines. This wild mountain-cliff truly stole my attention from the first time I laid eyes on it. I can’t think of another place in the world where you can enjoy the view of a single lush mountain erupting out of the ocean on its own. The top of Tindhólmur is molded with some jagged rocks that look as if it has been crowned “King of the Sea”. While the front edge seen from our view point is covered with grass, the back side is a very steep cliff that has only one landing point, the freezing cold North Atlantic.
Another spot that you have probably seen on Google or Instagram is, Sørvágsvatn, or, “The Lake Above the Ocean”. To reach the lake, you will have to drive to a small farm. In the past, you were able to walk out along this path on your own, but in the last year or so, this farm has taken advantage of tourism. If you came this far, there is no way you should not pay the small extra fee of 350dkk to enjoy this hike. The hike is about 8km round trip, but is very easy while being topped off with one of the most incredible views you can find. Sørvágsvatn is the largest lake in The Faroe Islands and is situated next to the airport. Because of its location, a visit here is typically most traveler’s first or last adventure. The hike to the view point overlooking the lake and ocean is about 45 minutes. Once you have made it out to the top, turn around as the view is spectacular. It is not often you will have the opportunity to see something like this. At first glance, it is an optical allusion. It feels as if the lake is floating above the ocean, but it is actually only 30 meters higher than the ocean while the large cliff is about 100 meters high. This incredible sight is one to enjoy, but not fool around with. These cliffs are extremely high and your only stopping point is about 100 meters down into the freezing ocean. Stay back and enjoy the views with out jumping around.
To see some more views from the Island of Vagár, follow the link below for the video.
There is good reason this town is so often seen in photographs on brochures around the islands. It sits beautifully hidden in a cove, home to a gorgeous beach. There is not much to do in the town other than walk on the beach and through the few streets, but the views are awesome.
From behind the town, you have a great view into the ocean while from the road above, or a drone ;), you can truly appreciate how hidden this place is.
The church demands the scene here as it has a unique and different look compared to the rest of the churches among the islands. After sending photos home to family and friends, they described it as a lego look alike, and I couldn’t agree more. This small village is extremely quiet, but just like everywhere else in The Faroe Islands, has some very pretty views. The unique church itself is worth visiting.
One of the more popular villages in The Faroe Islands, Saksun is located in a very large valley beneath some gorgeous mountains. Like, Tjørnuvík, Saksun is often seen in brochures as it is famous for its turf covered houses and church. The most beauty in Saksun lies in the surrounding area as water trickles down the many cliffs.
Trøllkonufingur, or the “Troll Woman’s Finger”, is a unique, natural work of art that stands 313 meters tall, demanding the surrounding scene. To see it, you must take a short ferry ride from Vestmanna. On a clear day, the “Witches Finger” can be seen from many different places, but it is usually shrouded in fog and mist. The incredibly dangerous and sheer cliffs of the finger have been successfully climbed by a mere 11 people. Only the most daring can make it to the top here, and it must be weather permitting. Waves crash into Trøllkonufingur all day, making it more and more dangerous as time passes. Although it may be a unique and beautiful sight, it is one not to mess with. Everyone aboard the ferry is asked to wear a helmet just incase any debris falls from the sheer cliffs of Vestmanna and Trøllkonufingur.
The Northern most village in the Faroe Islands, Viðareiði, is gorgeous and full of those picturesque turf covered houses. It sits along the water and has a nice beach, but not a good place for swimming. The water is freezing cold and the town itself is a wind tunnel. The winds coming off the Atlantic in this town were at the highest speeds I had seen during my time in the Faroes. The Viðareiði Kirkja church stands beautifully along the water with a back drop of oceans and mountains. The town is very chilly, but an enjoyable and beautiful destination.
For more views of Viðareiði and the rest of the Northern Islands, check out the video below.
12. Risin & Kellingin
A very unique view looking into the distance from Tjørnuvík is the one into Risin & Kellingin. These famous sea stacks are a big part of Faroese culture and myth. They are said to have once been two ogres, a giant and his wife. An ogre can’t survive without sunlight, so when the sun rose they were turned into pillars of rock. Now, they sit frozen forever, showing off their beauty to all visitors.
How could I leave the capital and most populated town in The Faroe Islands off my list? This is of course the town you will most likely be staying in, during any trip to The Faroe Islands. Tórshavn itself is a great little capital city. Although small, it has everything you need. There are some incredible restaurants, serving up Faroese cuisine while its streets are photo worthy. It’s clean, quiet and easy to explore. The best part of town lies in the harbor, where you can take a morning stroll along the docks and enjoy the reflections of the colorful buildings upon the water.
Much more sheltered between mountains in a fjord than other villages like Viðareiði, this small town is very quiet and relaxing. In this specific spot, you are blessed with the sound of waterfalls trickling down the mountain sides from different angles as well as a view into the opposing island, Kalsoy. Tiny, but a perfect spot for a quick lunch break.
15. Sandoy Island
This small island is easily accessible from Tórshavn. It can be reached by taking a short 20 minute ride out to the Gamlarætt Ferry Port, then aboard a 30 minute ferry ride to Skopun. An excursion out to this island will put you face to face with some of The Faroe Islands’ best culture and history as well as its most famous architecture. When you see postcards of The Faroe Islands and its turf covered houses, these are the one you see. A few of the beaches on this island were used as a strategic point for the British during WWII. There are even a couple of sea mines that have washed ashore. On top of its modern history, this area was first found by Vikings hundreds of years ago. Walking paths and streets are full of viking ruins that you can get close to. The doors are made of wood while the structures are made using stones. If the tiny houses aren’t beautiful enough, the background should suffice. Some of the houses are built right up against the water and hold up strong against the violent winds and tides. Maybe not the best spot to live long term, but certainly an awesome one to explore.
For some more views of Sandoy, check out the video below
16. Driving the Roads
Just riding through out the incredible landscape is enough to blow your eyes out of your head with beauty. The views are endless and each is stunning in its own way. One of the best stops for photos is just outside of Tórshavn, at a spot named, Norðadalsskarð. From here, you are offered a view into the small and distant island of Koltur. Norðadalsskarð may be one of the best views in all of the islands on a clear day. You are surrounded by a lush mountain valley while looking onto the ocean. Never forget your cameras while driving through out the islands.
As the tourism expands and grows, time dwindles down on your opportunity to visit The Faroe Islands. Hopefully, a spark in tourism will not take away from this incredible, remote location. Take a look into your dreams, and think about what you see. Places so dramatically different, that they seem impossible in reality. That is of course certain, until you visit The Faroe Islands. This is nature at its best, and the best time to go is now.
For more photos of a trip to The Faroe Islands, check out my photo gallery!
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