The Mystical Faroe Islands
In late May 2018, I was wondering on the grassy cliffs of Kalsoy Island, located in the Faroe Islands. It was cold, windy, and fog was rolling in from the cold arctic (basically) ocean waters. Aside from myself, there was only a younger German couple exploring the cliff sides next to the Kalsoy island lighthouse. They asked me to a take a picture for them, and I did. While speaking with them we both asked where each other was from. When I told them I was an American, their response was priceless. Upon hearing that I was an American, the man asked, "How the hell does an American know about the Faroe Islands", I laughed at this blunt response.
Flashback just over four years ago, and my determination to venture to the Faroe Islands began. It was a cold, rainy, windy night in the small port town of Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland. I was enjoying a beer with some fellow travelers after spending several days on the Ring Road together (though our trips were all separate and we were strangers). Suddenly, the bar doors opened with a rambunctious group of inebriated fools. They had just arrived by ferry from the Faroe Islands on vacation or holiday. Their goal? To get messed up and party in Iceland! They sure were off to a good start. (Hell, part of this trip was meant to experience the famed Icelandic nightlife myself). This is the night I first discovered where and what the Faroe Islands were. A future adventure was born. I was going to travel to the Faroe Islands, one way or another.
If you have any interest in reading about my Icelandic adventure on the Ring Road, click here to learn more!
The Faroe Islands
So what exactly are the Faroe Islands, and where are they? The Faroe Islands are a territory of Denmark, but it is essentially governed by the Faroese. Despite being self governed, they still have connections to Denmark which provides mutual benefits to each party. As far as location, the Faroe Islands are a small archipelago that rests between Iceland and Norway, smack dab in the middle of nowhere essentially. See the map below for a better idea of where to find the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe Islands consist of 18 main islands and a population of roughly 50,000. The capital, and largest city is Torshavn, and from my experiences, sort of the hub of everything Faroese. A little over a 1/5 of the Faroe Islands population calls Torshavn home. The map below will break down the actual individual islands that make up the Faroe Islands archipelago. Use this for reference for any mentions of specific islands in this article.
So you're probably wondering like I wondered how the Faroe Islands themselves came to be? Well, the answer to that is volcanic origination and plate tectonics . The islands are very old, estimated around 54-56 million years old. In fact, the same volcanic region that created the Faroe Islands, is the volcanic range that is currently still creating Iceland! So both were created at one point around the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The volcanic originations, and the harsh environment that these islands reside in have contributed to the unearthly and dramatic landscapes seen in the Faroe Islands.
So what makes the Faroe Islands so special?
A simple Google search, or even just reading this article and looking at pictures I have taken will hopefully explain the reasoning behind the beauty of the Faroe Islands. The landscapes are breathtaking and there are not many places in the world you will find some of the landscape anomalies that exist in the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe island landscapes are the landscapes that fairy tales are made of. Well sort of anyways. Each island has its own special sights and distinguishing traits. How many places in the world can you find a waterfall that pours into the ocean? The answer, not many.
Another aspect that makes the Faroe Islands so special is that they are difficult to reach, and they are relatively unknown, or at least the number of people traveling to them every year is still relatively small. This is actually probably a good thing as the infrastructure for the Faroe Islands is not strong enough yet to withstand the masses that have recently been traveling there. I noticed it when I visited. Many things are not marked, and many of the sights often require crossing private property. Some trails and destinations are not marked very well, so finding them can be difficult.
This is bad because travelers will wander off on someone's land and not realize it, and possibly cause damage if this happens frequently. I noticed one destination I wanted to see was recently closed off to the public unless you pay an absurd amount to do the hike. On one side, I see the land owner's frustration with people crossing over his property and he has a right to deny this, but at the same time, maybe the government can purchase land from him to create a public path there that doesn't need a 'guide' or cost essentially $100 USD to do. I'm not opposed to paying some sort of fee (reasonable) for hikes, especially if it goes towards trail maintenance, but I do not necessarily want to be constricted by the time frames of a guide, nor in most situations do I think I need one. Though enough on this, I'm not trying to stir controversy.
I just hope that the government of the Faroe Islands in the future develops more of a sound tourist infrastructure to readily handle the growing number of people that visit here. I hope that everything still remains in tact and accessible for anyone and everyone to see, as long as they respect the people and wonderful landscapes provided by this destination.
When is the best time to go to the Faroe Islands?
While the answer to this question is an opinion, if you are looking for the best chance of good weather, June/July/August are the best months to explore the Faroe Islands, though with good weather comes the flocks of travelers that can make a destination not so enjoyable. If you are trying to avoid this, try mid to late May (when I went) or September. The shoulder season will likely result in less tourists & cheaper prices. Though you risk poor weather conditions, but this can sometimes increase the beauty of these dramatic landscapes as well.
As I have mentioned in my previous travels, I am all for budget travel and less people so the shoulder season would be the season for me! I was quite lucky with 5 days of sun for most of my trip duration. There was just a few patchy storms that rolled through every so often.
As an added bonus, during the months of May, June, July, and August, the daylight is much longer. It does not quite reach midnight sun levels, but there are periods during the summer where its generally pretty light out most of the time. The picture above was actually taken at about 2300hrs. If you want to enjoy all day and possibly all night hikes, make sure to plan your visit in the Faroe Islands summer season!
What is there to do in the Faroe Islands?
The possibilities are endless! If you are more of the city type, there are lots of cool shops, museums, restaurants and art galleries to be seen in Torshavn. I was very impressed by how sophisticated and modern Torshavn felt. The downtown area is worth exploring if you are given the opportunity.
One thing I was pleasantly surprised by was the abundance of fine dining restaurants and bars. I was even happier to find out that the prices for these were much more reasonable too, especially after completing a 10 day road trip through Norway! There is a good variety of restaurants, including some that specialize in Faroese cuisine.
I do know one thing, I do not think I will ever try fermented lamb again ever in my life. It now joins shark as another fermented meat that I will no longer eat! You're not missing out on much, trust me!
I wish I would have had the opportunity to check out the world famous, KOKS restaurant. Click here to read more about this restaurant that people are raving about. If you plan to eat here, plan to make reservations well in advance, plus it is very expensive!
If you are like me though, the main reason I went to the Faroe Islands are the landscapes, hikes, and Puffins!
If you are going for the Puffins, you will need to go during Mid April to September. All other times of the year, these goofy looking seabirds are at sea. If you are looking to do photography, or just see thousands of these birds, you should consider a venture out to Mykines Island, the furthest west island in the Faroe Islands. Click here to learn more about Mykines Island. This was one of the most memorable experiences I had while visiting the Faroe Islands, and I would highly recommend visiting Mykines Island if you have an opportunity. The Island can only be reached by ferry or helicopter, and arrangements must be made ahead of time.
Another popular destination is Sørvágsvatn. It is the famous picture of a lake that seems to defy nature. A lake that rests just above the Atlantic Ocean. It's also the largest lake in the Faroe Islands. Getting to the famous photo spot takes roughly 1-1.5 hours. It is a pretty easy hike to get to the scenic spot.
One other famous spot is the Múlafossur Waterfall which relatively nearby to the airport when you first arrive in the Faroe Islands. No trip to the Faroes is complete until you see this waterfall, at least in my opinion. Try to make an effort to see this upon arriving at the Faroes as you might not be out on the island(Vagar) that contains Múlafossur Waterfall again until you leave.
Another unique island experience I had was on the island I first mentioned at the beginning of this article, Kalsoy. Kalsoy Island was a fun, but short experience. The only way to access this island is by helicopter or ferry.
The ferry schedule is limited, which also limited my adventure time to this island. Make sure to look ahead for the ferry schedule so you don't waste time waiting on the ferry. I waited for about 5 hours for a ferry to reach Kalsoy. I would actually recommend this for any island in the Faroes that can be reached by ferry. On Kalsoy, you can find several small villages,
a seal woman, a neat light house, and not surprisingly, more dramatic landscapes.
There is plenty more to be explored in the Faroes. If you are interested in learning more about more things what to do in the Faroe Islands, please visit their official webpage by clicking here!
The Faroe Islands are a place on earth, unlike anywhere else. Each island contains its own beauty and natural wonders. I don't think anyone could visit these islands and be disappointed. I truly hope that in the future, the infrastructure improves for tourism as I would hate to see this small self governed Danish territory become ruined by being drowned in tourists.
The Faroese people were very friendly and welcoming during my stay here, and I was pleasantly surprised despite some things I had heard about the local populations view on tourists visiting their majestic islands. Please be respectful of their culture, and be friendly to the people of these islands so that their image of travelers isn't tarnished by poor behavior.
One other interesting thing I noticed about the Faroese people is that due to the relatively small population of about 50,000 people living in the Faroe Islands, everyone knew everyone for the most part, or knew of them, despite whatever island they lived on.
I would highly recommend going to the Faroe Islands to anyone who appreciates outdoor adventure and amazing landscapes. The islands are out of this world as far as sights to see go. The difficulty in reaching these islands is definitely worth it. Despite these islands gaining in popularity over the last few years, they are still an off the beaten path, relatively unknown destination, especially to the American traveler population.
Additional travel tips for the Faroe Islands:
As mentioned above, the best times of year to travel to the Faroe Islands for best weather are June through August. Try May (later if possible) or September (earlier) if you are trying to beat the crowds!
While hiking in the Faroe Islands, make sure to dress for the weather. The weather here changes rapidly and frequently. To be best prepared, prepare for windy conditions, rainy, cold weather, and fog! A good pair of hiking shoes can go a long ways here.
Speaking of fog, if you are to come across it, or it comes across you. It is best just to stay put until it passes unless there is a sure path in front of you. The fog here can get dangerous and could lead you to steep drop offs that could send you off into the ocean, especially when the grass is wet!
There were quite a few rental car agencies to choose from, and some were quite expensive. I ended up going with Uni Car. I have heard some bad experiences from Uni Car, but mine went quite well. If I return to the Faroe Islands, I would return as a Uni Car customer.
Use Couchsurfing while in the Faroe Islands, there are many great hosts and people waiting to meet tourists like you! I had a great experience while traveling in the Faroes with Couchsurfing!
For a more thorough run through of the Faroe Islands and all of the wonderful things to do there, I recommend checking out the following website, Guide to the Faroe Islands. It is a website by a local, so it will have more in depth information, especially if anything has changed since my last visit.
The gallery below includes more photos from this adventure!