The Faroe Islands: A Complete Guide

Waterfall on cliff
Jrn Skeide / 500px / Getty Images

Few places in the world are as naturally beautiful and unspoiled as the Faroe Islands. The lush rolling hills, green-roofed cottages, and pastures dotted with sheep are like something out of a storybook. This idyllic remote nation is made up of 18 small islands connected by bridges, tunnels, helicopters, and ferries.

Located between Iceland and Norway, the country is a self-governing nation belonging to the Kingdom of Denmark. An ideal destination for hikers, photographers, and nature-lovers, it won’t take long for you to fall in love with this tiny country of fewer than 50,000 people.

Best Time to Visit

Known as “The Land of the Weather Gods,” let’s just say the climate can be unpredictable. Most people visit during May, June, July, and August when the days are long, all the roads are accessible, and the temperatures are in the 40s F and 50s F. But if you do visit during the chilly winters, you may be able to see the Northern Lights.

Travel Tip: Visitors may experience four seasons in one hour, yes one hour, so be sure to pack layers and wet weather gear.

How to Get There

There are multiple flights to the Faroe Islands from European capitals including Paris, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Bergen, Edinburgh, Barcelona, and Billund on Atlantic Airways and Scandinavian Airlines. While there are no direct flights from the U.S. yet, talks are currently underway for a non-stop flight from New York to begin by the end of 2019.

Atlantic puffins on cliffs, Faroe Islands
Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld / Getty Images

Things to Do

Hike The Trails: Take in the island’s otherworldly views on one of the dozens of breathtaking trails across the country. The vast majority of trails are free for tourists, but remember to respect the land, stay on the path, and be careful around any wildlife or bird colonies. Also, remember to tell your hotel where you’re hiking and when they can expect you back. It’s not uncommon for visitors to get lost in the mountains.

Explore Tórshavn: Although buses in the small city capital are free, you’ll want to spend your time walking. The most famous part of the capital is Tiganes. This old area has cobblestone streets and centuries-old turf houses that are begging for a photo shoot. This historic point is where one of the world’s first parliaments met, and today it still houses government buildings. If the weather turns, head into any one of the cute cafés for some Copenhagen coffee.

See puffins on Mykines: This is arguably the Faroe Islands’ most popular destination from May to August. You’ll be sure to see dozens of puffins along the cliff sides, as well as the country’s only gannett colony. Book a stay with GoLocal and stay in the owner Oda’s traditional renovated turf house overnight. She’ll take you on the local hiking trail at the far end of the village, past puffins and rams, down to a beautiful lookout to watch the sunset with a hot chocolate in hand. Avoid the touristy hike to the lighthouse. You’re actually stepping on puffin colonies, irreparably harming the local environment.

Visit the beach in Tjørnuvík: One of the most stunningly enchanting towns in the entire country is also home to the best surf beach. When you round the corner of the one-way cliff-side road, the colorful houses of Tjørnuvík will make you gasp. Wander the village and stop by a local turf house for some coffee and waffles before heading to the black stone beach to watch surfers from around the world take on the icy waves.

Examine history in Kirkjubøur: The most historic village in the Faroe Islands is a 20-minute drive from the capital. It’s home to St. Olav’s Church from the 12th century, the ruins of Magnus Cathedral dating all the way back to 1300, and the world’s oldest inhabited wood house built in the 11th century. The village is teeny, tiny, and quaint as can be, so be sure to respect residents’ privacy.

Take Pictures of Gasadalur: A 15-minute ride past the airport on the island of Vágar is the country’s most Instagrammable spot. A flowing waterfall cascades into the Atlantic Ocean with a small, colorful village in the background eclipsed by a giant green clifftop. It is nothing short of breathtaking.

How to Get Around

When it comes to exploring the Faroe Islands, you can either rent a car or utilize their public transportation system.

The bus system, a more sustainable and much cheaper way to get around the islands, is well planned out and easy to navigate. Adults can book a four-day pass for 500 Danish krone ($74.50) or a seven-day pass for 700 Danish krone ($104), which includes ferry rides. Kids travel even cheaper. The buses are efficient and visit the smaller villages like Kirkjubøur and Tjørnuvík. Find more about the buses and ferries at the official site.

If you’re looking for more freedom during your trip, a car may be the way to go. But keep in mind, it takes a confident and experienced driver to traverse the narrow one-way roads and dimly lit subterranean tunnels that connect the Faroe Islands. (However, they do drive on the right side of the road.)

When renting a car, go with companies like 62°N, but be sure to rent a GPS as most cars don’t come with one. There are many tunnels in the Faroe Islands. so it’s a good idea to buy the unlimited tunnel pass for 300 Danish krone ($42). There are also very few speed limit signs but remember it’s 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 mph) on the main roads and 50 kilometers per hour (about 30 mph) in populated areas unless otherwise noted. Find more important information about driving safety in the Faroe Islands at the tourism site.

There are numerous parking restrictions, especially in the capital of Tórshavn. There is signage displaying how many hours you can park in a spot before you need to move your car. Set the clock on the bottom right corner of your windshield to the time you parked your car; otherwise you may get a 200 Danish krone ($30) fine. There are no parking restrictions on Sundays.

For a special treat, take one of the world’s cheapest helicopter rides subsidized by the government. Usually reserved for locals, lucky tourists can snag a seat for as little as 125 Danish krone ($19) one way. Just be sure to book a week in advance.

Torshavn Islas Faeroe
Noelia Magnusson Photography / Getty Images

Where to Stay 

Basing yourself in the capital city of Tórshavn is a good idea. From here you can take day trips out to the smaller villages and islands scattered around the country. 

There are multiple comfortable hotels and quaint Airbnbs to choose from in the capital with 600 more four-star beds being added in 2020. The turf-roofed Hotel Føroyar is perched up on the hill with sweeping views of the city, and the historic Hotel Hafnia is in the center of the city, so it's within walking distance to all the best restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and parking spots.

Where to Eat

For such a small country, the Faroe Islands has a unique dining culture. Most famously, they have a two Michelin-star restaurant called Koks. From the moment you arrive lakeside to their small hjaller (fermentation cabin), the journey begins. You’re whisked away via four-wheel drive to a turf house dating back to the 1700s. There you’ll eat 18 impeccably-plated courses with the Faroe Islands' freshest ingredients.

In the capital, a local favorite is Raest, the world’s only fermentation-only restaurant outside of Japan. Located in Tiganes, the historic center of the capital, you can try fermented salted cod and fermented dried whale. If you’re looking to warm up, try ramen at Suppugarðurin, or head to Paname Café for an impressive charcuterie board and dessert. For fresh fish, order sushi at Etika or anything off the menu at Barbara Fishouse.

Travel Tip: Don’t worry about cash; credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere, and tipping is not expected but appreciated.

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