Going to the Faroe Islands
Catherine Surkova lives and works in Munich, and in her spare time explores Europe from Spitsbergen to Gibraltar. Another travel recipe includes the Faroe Islands with their dizzying landscapes, cliffs, waterfalls and grass-roofed houses.
Why the Faroe Islands?
About 60 million years ago, extensive volcanic eruptions created 18 rocky islands that floated peacefully in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Scotland and Iceland. All of the islands except Little Dimuna are now inhabited by people. They are also called “sheep islands” because it is much easier to meet sheep here than people. This is reflected in the statistics: the population is almost 50 thousand people against 80 thousand cattle.
Since most of the islands are covered with mountains, grassy hills and steep cliffs, hiking has long been the only way to get around here. For a time, the islands served as a staging post for Viking sea expeditions. Also at one time Faroes was divided between Norway and Denmark, but at the beginning of XIX century, the Danes took over entirely. During World War II the islands were occupied by Britain in response to the German takeover of Denmark. The year after the war, the Faroe Islands were about to secede from the Danish kingdom, but all they achieved was partial sovereignty. They have their own language, money, parliament and government. And there are a lot of salmon farms in the Faroe Islands, which is now the main source of income.
Faroe Islands are still less tourist destination as compared to Iceland itself. This is primarily due to a fairly short season and a small number of regular flights. Faroe Islands are not about comfortable holidays and five-star hotels, this is a place where you can truly feel the unity of untouched wildlife. Steep cliffs, delightful mountains leaning over the ocean, fjords and picturesque grass-roofed villages make up the spectacular landscape of the faraway Faroe Islands.
“Steep cliffs, delightful mountains sloping over the ocean, fjords and picturesque grass-roofed villages.”
How to get there and where to live?
The easiest way to get to the Faroe Islands from Europe is to fly into Copenhagen. Then there are two options: SAS (tickets from €148 round trip) or Atlantic Airways (from €400 round trip). Keep in mind that demand for the destination is high and flights can be crowded, especially during the season.
Acceptable accommodation options in the Faroe Islands are small guesthouses as well as apartments and rooms rented through Airbnb or Booking. The most popular among hotels is considered to be Føroyar. We stayed there for a couple of days. Designed by the famous Danish architectural firm Friis & Moltke, the hotel is located a couple of kilometers from the capital of the Faroe Islands. All rooms have a beautiful view of Nolsoy Fjord and Torshavn.
Start with the capital, Tórshavn, on the island of Streymoy. In the center of the city you can see two notable monuments of medieval architecture – the monastery Munkastovan and the royal warehouse Leygubun. The buildings date back to the 15th century and miraculously survived a major fire in 1693. The tiny peninsula of Tinganes, where Løgtingið, the Parliament of the Faroe Islands, and the old part of Rhine, with its narrow streets and wooden grass-roofed houses, are mentioned in 825.
If you want to eat somewhere cozy, go to Barbara Fish Restaurant (2 Gongin, Tórshavn 100) . It’s a stylized traditional Faroese house with a thatched roof. The food here is fresh as it is prepared with fish caught on the same day. It is located in the historic part of Torshavn and is part of a network of five restaurants and bars in close proximity to each other.
Taste local beer at Essabarr (7 Áarvegur, Tórshavn 100) and Danish craft beer at Mikkeller Tórshavn (2 Gongin, Tórshavn 100). But we found the best place in the capital by chance – the Steikin buffet restaurant (11 Tórsgøta Tórshavn 100) . Here you can order brisket, ribeye, fried chicken and more for a reasonable price.
Next, go to historic Kirkjubøur . Here you’ll find the oldest wooden house in the Faroe Islands, which is 900 years old. Other attractions in the city are Magnus Cathedral, St. Olav’s Church, the ruins of St. Brendan’s Church and Roikstovan Farm. By the way, in Kirkyubar you can also meet the current owner and caretaker of these buildings, who is a direct descendant of the caretaker of the King’s Yard in the 17th generation. His name is Johannes Patursson, and he and his family live in one part of this oldest house.
If your budget allows, don’t forget to check out the famous Koks restaurant (Frammi við Gjónna Leynavatn), which won a Michelin star in 2017 and still retains its high status. Koks is a Faroese word with various interpretations, including a type of coal, as well as the notion of “being associated with the preparation of something significant. The restaurant with this name specializes in local cuisine, giving traditional dishes a modern twist.
Streimoi Island is also home to the small but very picturesque village of Saksun . In its vicinity there are lakes Pollur and Saksunarvatn, a snow-white church and an old farm Duuvuvariur, which are now part of the museum. Ancient stone buildings with traditional turf roofs give the place a special entourage. The village itself has a natural harbor, a small black sand beach, and is surrounded by high mountains.
On the west coast of the island of Streymoy is a pretty port town Vestmanna (Vestmanna) . To the north is the coastline of Vestmannabjørgini, which consists of rocky cliffs and cliffs rising up to 500 meters high out of the water. The coast is known for its numerous colonies of birds and seals, hence the name “the Vestmann bird cliffs”. It is definitely worth taking a tour by boat and see with their own eyes stunning beauty of gorges and grottoes under the overhanging harsh cliffs. All this is sure to make your heart beat much faster.
Continuing the theme of rocks, it is worth mentioning the small village of Cednuvík (Tjørnuvík) . It is located in a beautiful harbor, which is surrounded on all sides by mountain peaks. Here you can see another attraction of the Faroe archipelago – two sea cliffs, whose name in Russian sounds like “the Giant and the Witch”.
The Faroe Islands, or simply the Faroe Islands – an archipelago located in the North Atlantic Ocean, almost halfway between Iceland and Britain. It belonged to Denmark until 1948, when an agreement was concluded granting the Faroe Islands limited sovereignty.
The Faroes have the status of an autonomous region of the Danish Kingdom with autonomous administration in all matters except for foreign policy and defense. The distance from the metropolis in a straight line is approximately 1,000 kilometers.
The nearest areas are the sparsely populated northern Scotland (the Shetland Islands – 260 km) and Iceland (450 km).
Of the 18 islands that make up the archipelago, only one is uninhabited – Litla-Dimun (about 0.8 km2). And it is worthy of surprise – with, in general, not the most hospitable weather conditions.
The population of the other 17 islands (Bordoi, Esturoi, Fugloi, Hestur, Kalsoi, Koltur, Kunoi, Mikines, Nolsoi, Sandoi, Skuvoy, Stora-Dimun, Streimoi, Suduroi, Svinoy, Vagar, Vidoi) ranges from 2 (Koltur) to 21 thousand people (Streimoi).
To see all the diversity is a must – in its own way it is a unique attraction. Hardly the most sparsely populated and uncluttered corner in Europe! The roads in the Faroe archipelago are of excellent quality and the scenery is stunning! The romantic will find even something unearthly.
Castles and other palaces will not be distracted – they have never been here. All the attention on the green hills, cliffs growing out of the icy sea, sunrises and sunsets, mists and other natural delights.
There’s plenty to see and do here, and believe me, a trip to the Faroe Islands is no worse than a trip to Norwegian fjords (quite an expensive treat), or discovering the distant Geyser Country.
- Total area of Faroe Islands: 1,399 km
- Permanent population: about 49 thousand people
- Capital: Torshavn
- Official language: Faroese, Danish
- Official currency: Faroese krone
- Phone Code: +298
Torshavn was founded in the 10th century in the southeast of Streimoi and was named after Thor, god of thunder and lightning. Literally the name means “Thor’s harbor.”
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy. The head of the country is the Queen of Denmark.
As an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark, in accordance with the Local Government Act, the archipelago has its own supreme legislative power – the Parliament (Løgting) and Government (Landsstuyri). The parliament necessarily has a royal auditor (ombudsman).
He has, however, only an observer function. Also two representatives of the islands are permanent members of the Danish parliament, the Folketing.
The local economy is based on fishing and fish processing, refitting small boats and folk crafts. GDP of this sparsely populated country is over $2 billion, which makes Faroese quite well-off people (annual income per capita exceeds $ 45 thousand. The unemployment rate is about 5.5%, which is explained not so much by the bright state of the economy as by the migration of young people to Denmark.
Streimoi (374 km2) is the largest and most populated (about 21.5 thousand inhabitants). The “island of currents” is home to almost half of the country’s population. Here is also the capital of the Faroe Islands, the city of Torshvan. Characterized by hilly terrain, the highest point – peak Kopsenny (789 m).
Esturay (286 sq km) is the second largest island in size and population (about 10.5 thousand people), literally translated as “east island”. Between Streimoi and Esturay is a road bridge. Here is the highest point of the country – peak Slattaratindur (882 m).
Vagar (177 km2) is the third largest island with a population of about 2,785 people. The only international airport in the archipelago, Vagar, is located here.
Suduroi (163 km2), literally translated as “southern island”, has a population of about 5,000 inhabitants.
Geography and weather
The Faroe Islands have an uneven, rocky topography with several low mountain peaks and a steep, rugged coastline replete with long fjords.
There are no particularly high mountains on the archipelago, and there are no major rivers or lakes. Although if you look at the photos, it seems that the entire archipelago is a series of mountains and valleys. The highest point of the Faroe Islands is on the island of Esturay, Slattaratindur peak (882 m above sea level).
A pronounced maritime subarctic climate reigns. The overall character is determined by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, and in particular, of the North Atlantic Current. Although the warm Gulf Stream considerably softens the local climate, summers here, as a rule, are cold: the average air temperature in July is +11-+17°C.
Winter is very mild for these latitudes. In January the thermometers show 0 to + 4 ° C.
The weather is cloudy all the year round with rain, strong winds and fog. The sun is a gift.
When to go
The best time to visit the Faroe Islands is from May to October. In July and August is the peak tourist season, and since you can’t swim anyway, get here in late May and early June. The prices are lower and there are less people curious.
You’ll ask: why not go in winter, if the Gulf Stream keeps the islands warm and the weather is generally very mild (a perfect Christmas and New Year’s Eve quiet)? And we answer: very short days and high probability of inclement weather. In summer on the contrary, the daylight hours are as long as 19 hours and… you can go for a walk!
Where to stay
Torshavn and its surroundings have the widest selection of hotels and apartments. Even for New Year’s Eve you can find options from 80-100 € per night. Most hotels range from 100-120€ for a double room.
How to get there
Fly to the Faroe Islands is easiest from Copenhagen – after all, Denmark remains a metropolis and is obliged to provide good transport accessibility for (partially) its own citizens.
Vagar airport is the only one in the archipelago, located on the island of the same name. The latter is connected to Streymoy and Torshavn by road, including an underwater tunnel. The distance is 45 km.
During the day there is a regular bus line №300 (schedule: www.ssl.fo/en/timetable/bus/300-torshavn-airport-soervagur/). You can also take a cab. But the most reasonable way is to rent a car in order to fully enjoy the local scenery. The choice is small – there are only a few cars in the archipelago – and therefore we book 1.5-2 months before the visit.
Schengen visa is not applicable in the Faroe Islands – you need a national Danish visa with a special stamp that gives the right to visit the islands. This is if you run into passport control, which used to be rarely spoiled on domestic flights.
Stories of travel to “Schengen”, however, on the Internet walks a lot. Recall that you are likely to fly here from Copenhagen. And in Denmark will be allowed on a multivisa to any country within the agreement.
There are only two ways to get here, and both are quite obvious.
- By plane from Denmark, Britain, Norway, or Iceland. Local Faroese carrier Atlantic Airways flies to airports in Copenhagen and Aalborg, Oslo and Bergen, even London. From Kastrup, for example, flights depart up to five times a week. This in the summer – less frequent in winter.
- Also ferries go to the Faroe Islands from Denmark. They leave from the port of Hirthals in the north of the Jutland peninsula twice a week in summer and once in winter. The operator is Smyril Line and there is only one ferry, Norröna. Alas, the pleasure is not cheap: a round trip with a car will cost from 236 euros out of season!
Note that to visit the Faroe Islands theoretically may not be enough ordinary Schengen. Since Denmark requires not only a national visa, but also a separate stamp to visit the archipelago.
Passport control used to be a rare phenomenon, and therefore ordinary Schengen multivisa was enough. But now, due to the influx of refugees, it is better not to risk and get the cherished mark in advance.
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