Are you planning to travel Faroe Islands? Here’s my complete Faroe Islands guide and itinerary with details on the best places to explore, eat and sleep in 4 days.
Travel Faroe Islands: A Complete Guide & Itinerary
In the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, tiny islands with jagged peaks and vertiginous cliff faces jut out from the sea, piercing into the sky like giant daggers. Sea stacks, craggy bird cliffs and black sandy beaches dot the coast, while steep snowcapped mountains stretch across the length of the islands.
This archipelago of 18 islands lies in the intersection point of three popular destinations: Iceland, Scotland and Norway. Just like its neighbors, the Faroe Islands has it all. The Northern Lights, world-class hiking trails, an abundance of nature, wildlife and Scandinavian traditions. But few people know about them, and the Faroese prefer to keep it that way.
What makes the Faroe Islands so special to me is that it’s so rugged, wild and small. It truly feels like you’re in the middle of the ocean here. No matter where you go on the Faroe Islands, you are never more than 5 km from the coast. The country is largely covered by wilderness and even the largest towns on the island have populations in their hundreds.
History of the Faroe Islands
The first people to settle here were Irish monks, who arrived in the 6th century. Norsemen then settled the Faroe Islands in the 9th century and the islands became a part of the Kingdom of Norway in 1035. Norwegian rule on the islands continued until 1380, when the islands became part of the dual Denmark–Norway kingdom.
The Faroe Islands came under the administration of Denmark following the 1814 Treaty of Kiel that ended the dual Denmark–Norway kingdom. After an independence referendum in 1946 (unrecognized by Denmark), the Faroe Islands were given extended self-governance with the Danish Realm in 1948.
The Faroes may be a part of the Kingdom of Denmark (just like Greenland is), but they have a cultural identity of their own and they are extremely proud of it. They have been self-governing since 1948, they have their own language (that is closer to Icelandic than Danish), traditions and customs. Ask any Faroese how they feel and they would reply, “We are not Danes — we are Faroese.”
When to Travel Faroe Islands
Summer is also the best time to see puffins on Mykines island as that is their nesting season. Each summer, they gather on the slopes of the island, burrowing holes to build their nests. I saw hundreds of them on Mykines even in May during my visit – so try to time your trip to this time of the year if you want to see them.
In my opinion, you can also visit during the shoulder season (May-June and September-October) if you’re looking to travel on a budget and have the place to yourself. Whenever you choose to visit, be aware that weather in the Faroe Islands is a fickle beast at any time of year so come prepared for all eventualities.
How to Get to the Faroe Islands
As wild and remote as the Faroe Islands are, they aren’t really that difficult or expensive to get to from mainland Europe. Don’t expect to pay prices that you would for a standard flight in mainland Europe, but they are actually affordable considering what a special place the Faroe Islands is. The most common way is of course on a plane but it is also possible to get there by boat from Denmark and Iceland. Here’s a detailed look at how to get to Faroe Islands.
Flying is an easy and convenient way to get to the Faroe Islands, PLUS the views of the Faroe Islands from the air are just mindblowing. I flew there from Copenhagen and got some great aerial shots when we were about to land in Sorvagur. There are currently 2 airlines that fly to the Faroe Islands:
Atlantic Airways: the national carrier, has 2 flights per day from Copenhagen, Billund, Aalborg, Bergen and Reykjavik. A return flight from Copenhagen to Sorvagur in summer costs around US$300.
Scandinavian Airlines: this well-known carrier now runs daily flights to the Faroe Islands from Copenhagen. It also has direct flights from London, Reykjavik and Copenhagen to Sorvagur.
Smyril Line’s ferry, M/S Norröna, sails to the Faroe Islands from Hirtshals in the north of Denmark and from Seyðisfjørður in Iceland. It doesn’t sail frequently though, so make sure to check by its website for the scheduled departures. The best thing is that the ferry acts as a car ferry so you are allowed to transport your vehicle on it (at an extra cost).
This can make it quite a good deal if you rented a car in Iceland or Denmark and want to drive it here to save money on accommodation. The only thing to be aware of is that under rough seas the ferry may not be able to dock.
How to Get Around the Faroe Islands
Seeing that the Faroe Islands are so wild and rugged, they are surprisingly accessible by various modes of transport: car, ferry, helicopter and bus. Of all them, car and ferry are the best way to get around the Faroe Islands. Much of the Faroe Islands are covered by wilderness and many of the most beautiful and interesting sights are only accessible by small roads that zigzag through steep mountains.
There is a good public bus network that runs all over the islands, but buses don’t go to many of these remote but essential sights. Helicopters are surprisingly cheap, as they are subsidised by the government, so consider booking a helicopter flight if you are short on time.
By Car Rental
I would highly recommend renting a car even if you are on a budget. I got mine from 62 degrees N and the total cost of a 4-day rental was around 3,500 DKK (USD550). Get a friend to come along or find a travel partner online to split the car rental cost. I didn’t get a 4WD, but it might be useful if you intend to drive off road. That said, a small vehicle like mine is enough to bring you all over the islands.
When driving around the Faroe Islands, pay attention to the driving conditions and rules. For instance, there are one-way tunnels in the islands and you have to make way for incoming vehicles. Most roads are single lane, and it’s not allowed to overtake other vehicles on most highways. As the Faroe Islands are relatively mountainous, you’ll find yourself going up and down slopes and winding along fjords. Don’t be too distracted by the scenic landscapes when driving and only pull up when there is a road shoulder or parking space!
To cross from one island to another, the ferry is the easiest, cheapest and most convenient choice. You can go to the island’s municipal website to check the ferry schedule. Most of them don’t need an advanced booking, except for the Mykines ferry that gets booked up easily (go here to book it in advance). You won’t make any payment when booking in advance — make sure you have cash to pay when you’re boarding the ferry.
Some towns (e.g. Sorgavur where you pick up the ferry to Mykines) do not have ATMs. Many islands are also served by car ferries — such as Kalsoy — and they usually don’t take advanced booking. So be sure to get there 30 minutes early to get in line.
If you’re looking to go to Skuvoy or another lesser-visited island during the low-season, you are best off giving a call to order that ferry. The fare isn’t extra, but they simply don’t run it otherwise. Be sure to check the ferry schedule always ahead of time.
For more information, including ferry schedules, head to Strandfaraskip Landsins website.
Atlantic Airways, the national carrier, also has a network of helicopter services to connect the islands. The service is subsidized by the government so it’s quite cheap and almost the same price as the ferry. For instance, you can fly from the main airport at Vagar to Mykines and the capital Torshavn. As you’d expect they save you time and offer some spectacular aerial views of the islands. I was going to book a helicopter ride to Mykines but it was fully booked at the time, so be sure to reserve a seat in advance.
The main inter-town bus that they have is called Bygdaleiðir, which are easy to spot as they are dark blue. Check here for the complete timetable of the buses. It helps to note, however, that public transportation is expensive in the Faroe Islands, so it’s best to buy a travel (multiple-ride) card beforehand with Strandfaraskip Landsins at the airport or at the main bus terminal in Torshavn. This travel card covers busses and ferries around the islands (except to Mykines Island) and can cost 500 DKK (USD78) for 4-days.
Within the Torshavn municipality, the bus lines are free and there are six lines that operate in the area. In addition, these buses also will transport passengers out to the historic city of Kirkjubøur, a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about the history of the Faroe Islands and the people that inhabit them.
Where to Stay on the Faroe Islands
There’s a good variety of accommodation providers on the Faroe Islands, with at least one guest house in every town (not village though). I found that even remote areas like Gjogv and Mykines had very good accommodation standards. Every single guest house and hotel I stayed at was comfortable and excellent.
Camping in the Faroe Islands, sadly, is only permitted at designated campsites. It is not permitted to stay overnight in your campervans along the road, at rest stops, lay-bys or view areas. Because of the unpredictable weather even in summer, it is advisable to have sturdy, waterproof and windproof camping equipment.
Here are the best places to stay on the Faroe Islands:
Hotel Føroyar –This is easily the best hotel in the Faroe Islands. The stylish four-star hotel is perched on the hilltop of Torshavn, overlooking the city from above. It’s very modern and elegant, perfect for the last stretch of your trip. The setting is dramatic and the atmosphere here even more so. Plus there’s a spectacular view of the capital city and bay right from your room window (pictured below).
Hotel Vagar — Located right next to the airport, this simple hotel makes you feel like you’re in the countryside surrounded by sheeps and plains. Love the black exterior and Scandinavian design. Great base to explore the Bøur, Gasadalur and Sorgasvatn areas. It’s also perfect for those who land late or have an early morning flight the next day as it’s within walking distance from the airport. The breakfast spread is really good, with lots of variety.
Hotel Gjáargarður in Gjogv — Possibly my favorite hotel in the Faroe Islands, this quaint guesthouse has an old-world charm and stunning views of Gjogv. The main building is a typical Nordic wooden cottage (pictured below) painted in black with turf grass on its A-frame roof. It also has several new rooms which are separate from the main building. They are very tastefully designed and spacious. Highly recommend staying here to kick back and decompress.
Where to Eat on the Faroe Islands
This is one aspect of the Faroe Islands that I sadly failed to experience. Since I mostly bought food at the supermarket (to save money), I didn’t try much of Faroese food. A meal on the Faroe Islands can set you back at least 20-35 euros, even for a simple guesthouse meal.
My guide in Torshavn explained that the most popular local food in the Faroes is fermented lamb meat which is made in everyone’s home. After slaughtering the sheep in their own homes, their meat – still warm – will be hung in a special drying hut and left to dry with the natural saltiness of the air.
That said, dining choices on the Faroe Islands are actually quite limited. You won’t find any restaurants or cafes in villages (and there are only around three towns in the Faroes besides the capital). If you’re lucky, you might find a guesthouse that serves coffee and some simple snacks in the more visited areas.
The best restaurants on Faroe Islands are all located in the capital city of Torshavn. The habit of dining out only started 25 years ago in the Faroes. As a result the dining scene is still in its infant years. However, there are quite a few of upscale restaurants in Torshavn that are highly recommended by my guide. Check out the top restaurants in Torshavn on Tripadvisor.
- Barbara Fish House: a traditional seafood restaurant in the historical quarter of Torshavn, best known for its Barbara fish soup and set menu. Read the Triapdvisor review.
- Aarstova: another long-time fixture in the local dining scene, serves up the best roast lamb in town. Read the Tripadvisor review.
- Etika: a modern and stylish bistro that offers interesting takes on Japanese-Faroese fusion cuisine. Read the Tripadvisor review here.
How Much Does It Cost to Travel Faroe Islands
In my opinion, the Faroe Islands only has one big flaw: it’s expensive. Anyone who’s been to Nordic countries will know how pricey things can be in this part of the world. Prices in the Faroe Islands are comparable to that in Norway. Accommodation prices start from 35 euros per person for a hostel bed and 100 euros for a three-star hotel. Restaurant prices are around 20 euros for a meal and ferries cost around 15 euros return.
However, there are ways to keep your budget down. I bought food from the supermarket and made my own sandwiches for lunch and soups for dinner. I also met a few American travelers who had rented a jeep with a tent on the top-bunk to save money on accommodation. Another traveler I met saved money on car rental and instead traveled around the islands by public transport.
What to Pack for Faroe Islands
If you’re traveling Faroe Islands between May and September to the the Faroe Islands, you should pack for chilly weather. 2-3 layers should do: a wool bottom, a fleece, and a thin water and windproof outer layer. For those traveling in fall and winter (September to December), you’ll need 4-5 layers: the above mentioned, plus a thermal layer at the bottom and a down jacket or thick winter parka.
I’m a strong believer in ‘less is more’. The less you travel with, the more convenient it will be to move around. If you can’t see yourself using something daily, you probably don’t need it.
Here are some of the essentials to pack for a trip to Faroe Islands:
1. Long Sleeve Moisture Wicking Tees: The key to staying warm on the Faroe Islands is layering. Bring some long sleeve t-shirts that are great for hiking, that you can easily remove throughout the day and night.
2. Fleece-lined Long Sleeve Thermal Underwear: Pack thermals even if you’re traveling in summer. Mine turned out to be very useful and I wore it several days in a row. Temperatures can dip below zero – and they’ll be particularly useful if you’re camping.
3. Fleece Base: This is my favorite gear for cold climates. It’s thick but lightweight, and keeps me warm even in sub-zero temperatures. Plus most fleece are cheap and easy to find everywhere. I usually get one that can be zipped all the way down, so I can easily remove layers when I’m warm.
4. Soft Shell Jacket: Pack a thin waterproof, soft shell jacket regardless of the weather you’re traveling. It’s particularly useful for the rain. This also acts as an extra layer between your shirt and down jacket or parka. I used this almost everyday on my trip.
5. Quick-Dry Pants: These are something I wear on almost every trip. They’re lightweight, thin, comfortable and waterproof. I can wear them in winter and summer, without feeling too warm or cold.
6. Fleece-lined Leggings: For ladies, these are brilliant to keep warm and comfortable, being looking too shabby. I usually wore them without any pants over them.
7. Hiking Boots: A pair of sturdy hiking boots that are waterproof and protective for hiking in mud, streams or snow. I’ve used mine for around 2 years now and they’ve been to many countries and different types of terrain with me. Instead of getting those high boots that are ridiculously heavy and thick, I think it’s better to travel with hiking boots like these. Mine were perfect for Iceland.
Travel Faroe Islands: 4-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Explore Gásadalur and Sørvágsvatn
14.05 Arrival with Atlantic Airways from Copenhagen. Pick up keys for rental car at the 62N desk in the arrival hall of the airport. Drive straight to Hotel Vagar, just a 5-minute drive from the airport. Check in and take a quick rest.
15:30 Drive to the villages of Bøur and Gásadalur, just 5 mins from the hotel. Both villages are absolutely stunning, but the Múlafossur waterfall in particular is the icon of the Faroe Islands. The whole assembly of the cascade tumbling down the cliff’s edge, backdropped by the imposing mountains behind the tiny village is a truly dramatic one.
This iconic picture has been featured in many publications including National Geographic. It’s one of the things that have put the country on the tourist map and appear in every Faroe Islands travel guide. When you emerge from the car tunnel (that was built recently, previously the village could only be accessed by foot), you’ll see this exact view.
18:00 Go on a leisurely 2-hour hike around the Sørvágsvatn lake right near the hotel.
You may not have heard of it — but I’m sure you’ve seen a photo of it. The biggest lake on Faroe Islands is famous for the optical illusion that appears where the lake flows into the Atlantic Ocean. In reality, it doesn’t look like an optical illusion at all; it only appears so in photos. But it’s still a scenic place for a hike. Walking along the water’s edge to the hilly top where the lake flows into the ocean is simple and easy and takes just two hours.
Day 2: Visit Mykines and Gjógv
10.00 Drive to Sørvágur ferry terminal and take the boat to Mykines. Spend the day on the island, hike to the lighthouse and the puffin and gannet colonies. Remember again to book your ferry tickets or helicopter flight in advance.
As the westernmost of the 18 main islands on the Faroes, Mykines is wild and rugged, with no roads and just hiking trails crisscrossing the isle. It’s famous for large numbers of puffins that inhabit the Mykineshólmur area. The Mykineshólmur hike takes around three hours return and well worth the effort as it takes you up ridges and down the vertiginous walls of the island to the northernmost tip of the island.
Before the trip, I was worried that a day on Mykines wouldn’t be enough to see the famous islands. But seven hours are actually more than enough to hike all over the island and even have a drink at a local cafe. Remember to bring a packed lunch so you can enjoy the hike as much as possible, but there are also small restaurants in town.
17.05 Catch the boat back to Sørvágur and drive towards Gjógv. Check into the guesthouse Gjaargarður.
Located on the northeast tip of the island of Eysturoy, this remote village is only accessible by one road. You do kinda have to go out of your way to get there, but trust me, it’s worth every minute of the drive. The journey there is an experience on its own, weaving through mountains and in between fjords. The village itself has an extremely dramatic setting: with imposing snow-peaked mountains forming the backdrop and the rocky outcrops forming the foreground, being tormented by massive waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
You’ll probably get there pretty late, but daylight hours are very long in summer so you’ll still be driving when it’s light out.
Day 3: Drive to Kalsoy, Tjørnuvík and Saksun
09:00 Drive to Klaksvik and catch a car ferry to the island of Kalsoy.
This island between Eysturoy and Kunoy is wild and remote, only accessible by car ferry. The narrow islet has just one road linking north to south. The road meanders along the coast at first, revealing clear views of the striated rock faces of the neighbouring island. I recommend driving all the way to Trollanes in the northernmost tip of Kalsoy, where the road ends and hiking trail begins.
The steep hike leads you to the Kallurin lighthouse that’s perched on a vertiginous slope. It takes around two hours to reach the lighthouse but it involves steep climbing in the initial part of the hike. From the lighthouse, you get a view of the back face of the mountain and the hollow cave on the underside. It’s home to huge kittiwake colonies.
13:00 On the way back visit the village of Mikladalur and see the new statute of the Seal woman. This 9 ft bronze and stainless steel statue of Kópakonan (The Seal Wife) was created by Hans Pauli Olsen and was installed in the Mikladalur Harbor on August 1st, 2014. The statue commemorates myths about selkies (seal women) and in particular two well known myths about the Seal Wife on the Faroe Islands.
One well known story is about a beautiful Selkie trapped by a fisherman on the island of Kalsoy, who hides her seal skin while she is on land one night. One day however, he goes fishing and she finds her seal skin hidden in a chest in their home. She escapes and leaves behind a message to not follow her and to not harm her Selkie family. The fishermen however ignore the warning and end up killing both her Selkie husband and Selkie children. In revenge she curses the men of the island to die in frequent accidents until as many have perished as can link arms around the whole island.
15.30 Catch the car ferry back to Klaksvík. From there, drive to the village of Tjørnuvík with view to the seastacks Risin and Kellingin, the Troll and the Witch. You’ll be driving along the large waterfall Fossá.
Tjørnuvík is known for its special hymn singing, the Kingo-songs, which is an ancient hymn tradition that originates from the Danish hymn writer Thomas Kingo. The village has a choir that performs Kingo hymns. Tjørnuvík also has a nice sandy beach and striking waves that attract many surfers.
18:00 Visit the village of Saksun where you can walk along the beach towards the ocean. Saksun has a beautiful lagoon surrounded by sand in the fjord. The tall mountains give the area an air of mystery, but not least unimaginable beauty. The fjord used to be a good natural harbour, but after a heavy storm in the 1600s, the fjord was blocked with sand.
20:00 Drive to Torshavn and check in at Hotel Føroyar, the best hotel on the Faroe Islands.
Day 4: Get to Know Torshavn
10.00 Go on a walk in the old part of Torshavn the capital city, Reyni,and Tinganes, where the Government sits. Its historic harbour area actually has one of the earliest governing meeting points in the world! The quaint town is an excellent place to just wander and get lost. Learn about the Faroese history and try some of its local food in the restaurants I recommended above.
Paintings, drawings, sculptures, and graphic design are on display at the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, on the edge of a small park close to Nordic House. The permanent collections of individual historic and modern artists, such as the 20th century painters Sámal Joensen-Mikines and Ruth Smith, have been assigned their own rooms.
Don’t miss the fish market that’s located right by the harbor next to downtown Torshavn. It’s a busy area with lots of people bidding for fish that have been just caught from the sea.
12:00 Drive to the nearby Kirkjubøur village. This is the site of the country’s most important historical site with the ruins of the Magnus Cathedral from around 1300 and a runestone found near it. The stone which is referred to as the Kirkjubøur stone dates back to the Viking Age.
13:00 Drive to the village of Vestmanna and join a boat tour along the Vestmanna Seacliffs. Book your tours here.
There are many tours to choose from, the most popular however being the boat-tour to the renowned Birdcliffs and Grottos north of Vestmanna, the Vestmannabjørgini. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Faroe Islands.
They’ll take you through narrow sounds, into deep grottoes, carved by the surf through ages, and close to the over 1500 feet high-rise cliffs where thousands of seabirds are nesting. I thought it was extremely impressive – just cruising under the sheer cliffs and seeing sheeps cling on to the edges was an experience on its own.
Day 5: Leaving Faroe Islands
08:00 Departure from Vágar Airport with Atlantic Airways. Drop your car keys off at 62N/Information desk. Be at the airport by about 7:00 (drive from Tórshavn takes about 1 hour).
Bid farewell to the Faroe Islands!
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Disclaimer: Thanks to Visit Faroe Islands for assisting me with this trip! As always, my opinions expressed above are my own.
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