On a recent trip to the sub-arctic circle, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the Faroe Islands. Recently named as the #1 Best Trip To Take In 2015 by National Geographic, the Faroe Islands have long been admired for their unspoiled natural beauty. This year especially will be epic for the Faroe Islands, with a full solar eclipse happening on March 20th.
Even when there aren’t eclipses, the Faroe Islands are impressively beautiful, especially in July and August when temperatures average 55oF and there are 19 hours of daylight.
After spending a week in the Faroe Islands, I’m certain of one thing: I’m going back as soon as I can!
The best part about the Faroe Islands is its dreamlike scenery and stunning natural wonders. For those of you thinking about heading to these North Atlantic islands, or have tickets booked, here are the Top Things to See and Do in the Faroe Islands:
Enjoy Nature’s Bounty
Mother Earth has favored the Faroe Islands, as evidenced by its emerald hills, dramatic cliffs, and plentiful waterfalls. Faroese people share their home with several migratory birds.
Puffins, Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Storm Petrels are just a few species that come to the Faroes to breed each year. Puffins are predominantly summer visitors, which is why May 1 through September 1 is the ideal season for bird watching.
Check out our article: Faroe Islands: The Bird and Nature Lover’s Escape
There is perhaps no better place to see several bird species in one spot than Mykines. This is the westernmost island of the archipelago with steep cliffs that are perfect for nesting sea birds. Spend a day hiking from the village to the lighthouse (approximately 6 hours round-trip) for the ultimate bird watching and ocean views. Remember to pack a lunch for an epic al fresco picnic overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We spent an incredible day in Mykines and although my feet hurt by the end of it, the photos of the puffins remind me it was all worth it.
Another way to appreciate the islands’ bird life is by boat tour of the Vestmanna bird cliffs on the island of Streymoy. For about $40 you can hop a boat for a two-hour tour of the narrow sounds and grottos where seabirds nest.
The Faroe Islands are also ideal for hikes and long walks. The fresh air and sprawling landscapes make it a feast for the eyes. Turf-roof houses, verdant hills, and dozens of grazing sheep create a unique and serene atmosphere. Aside from Mykines, good (and relatively easy) walking opportunities include a hike around Sørvágsvatn Lake on Vagar, a stroll around Saksun village on Streymoy, a tour of Tórshavn, and the historic postal road hike to Gásadalur.
For ultimate relaxation and scenic walking paths, the village of Gjogv on Eysturoy is a must! Spend a night at the Gjaargardur Guesthouse – the perfect home base from which to explore the picturesque village of turf-roof homes and the stunning natural gorge. The guesthouse has a restaurant and cozy guestrooms, but the real beauty lies right outside your doorstep. Gjogv is just an hour drive from Tórshavn, which makes it a great day trip option even if you don’t spend the night.
The Faroes boast numerous waterfalls, of which many are visible from the main road as you drive. Some of the most impressive waterfalls include Fossá in northern Streymoy and the Gásadalur waterfall in Vágar. Another way to see the Faroes is by sea. Take a schooner ride aboard the Norðlýsið to appreciate the diverse landscape from a different point of view. The schooner cruise departs from Tórshavn harbor and lasts for three hours.
The truth is that everywhere you go in the Faroes there will be magnificent scenery. I highly recommend driving so you can stop and take photos wherever you like. Every town in the Faroes has its charm, but some our favorite stops include:
Kirkjubøur: The southernmost town on the island of Streymoy. Has the ruins of a 14th century church, as well as an 11th century traditional wooden house that you can enter for a small fee. It is believed to be the oldest inhabited wooden house in the world.
Gjogv: I known it’s already been mentioned, but Gjogv really is one of the most idyllic places I’ve ever visited. Walk around the town and take in the magnificent ocean views and the impressive natural harbor AKA the Gjogv Gorge. Having the guesthouse there is quite convenient if you’d like to stay the night.
Tjørnuvík: This is the southernmost village on the island of Streymoy. There are a handful of homes here, and there isn’t much going on in the village, but the views of the black sand beach is absolutely breath-taking so do not forget your camera!
Saksun: This village on the northwest coast of Streymoy was the perfect setting for a picnic lunch that we picked up at a supermarket on the way. The turf roof houses and black sand lagoon give Saksun its other-worldy feel. During low tide it is possible to walk across the lagoon. We headed up to the top of the town to get panoramic shots of the houses, then found a grassy spot to take in the view while we feasted on salmon spread and fresh bread.
Eat Like a Viking
With ample supply of seafood and an abundance of fresh lamb, visitors will enjoy an endless array of delicious food. Faroese gastronomy has gotten a lot of media attention lately, and for good reason. The islands are home to a variety of unique herbs that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. They also boast world-renown chefs who are turning traditional Faroese dishes into haute cuisine that rivals Europe’s Michelin Star tasting menus. Langoustine, salmon, lamb, and Faroese cod are just some of the local delicacies.
Here are a few noteworthy restaurants serving up epic meals:
KOKS: Located in the chic four-star Hotel Foroyar overlooking Tórshavn is this innovative restaurant pioneered by Chef Poul Andrias Ziska. Using sustainable and local products, KOKS has revolutionized Nordic cuisine. What you’ll experience is a mix of ancient and modern cooking techniques (smoking, fermenting, curing, and smoking) in an industrial, minimalist setting. Seasonal ingredients and stunning presentation make KOKS a must-try! Don’t pass up the opportunity to have a multi-course tasting menu paired with wines. At $200 per person, this epic meal won’t come cheap, but it is well worth it! Reservations are a must.
Aarstova: My wife is Greek, so I don’t say this lightly: Aarstova makes the best leg of lamb I’ve had in my life! It is no wonder why it is so fresh: sheep outnumber people here two to one so there is plenty in supply. Aarstova has mastered the art of slow cooking its lamb so the meat literally falls off the bone when you cut into it. Set in a quaint turf-roof house in Tórshavn, Aarstova is reminiscent of a hobbit dwelling. Five-course tasting menus run about $100 per person, but the hearty meal will have you yearning for more. Highlights include langoustine bisque and the epic leg of lamb served with potatoes and vegetables. Reservations are a must.
Østrøm: Steps from the Tórshavn Harbor is this multi-purpose space featuring a café, boutique, and art gallery. Østrøm is a casual place to have an assortment of delicious Danish-style Smørbrød (open face sandwiches). Great place for a fuss-free lunch and coffee break while sightseeing in Tórshavn.
Etika: The only sushi restaurant in the Faroe Islands is located in Tórshavn. Brightly colored furniture, large chalkboard menus, and floor-to-ceiling windows make Etika the perfect setting for a casual meal. What you’ll find here is a mouthwatering selection of sushi made with Faroese seafood. If you prefer raw, the salmon roll is to-die-for, but Etika has just as many cooked options: gyoza, salmon skewers, salads, soups, and spring rolls. If you’d rather take-away and eat your sushi by the harbor, Etika has plenty of pre-made take-away boxes.
Check out our Video: Where to Eat in Torshavn, Faroe Islands
Bakaríið Hjá Jórun (Jorun Bakery): Situated on the island of Borðoy in Klaksvík (second largest town in the Faroes) is this unassuming café/ bakery. Jorun Bakery is a family-friendly place serving up coffee, breakfast, sandwiches, pizza, fresh breads, and sweets. There is a dining area inside, but you can also take-away to enjoy your Smørbrød and desserts al fresco. In the warmer months there are picnic tables set up outside overlooking the marina. We loved the fried fish open face sandwiches and chocolate tarts.
If you’re visiting the Faroe Islands in the summer, take advantage of the daily music events taking place, especially the ones for St Olav’s Day celebrations at the end of July. Faroese folk music is making a comeback, and contemporary artists are integrating the sounds of the past into their music, creating unique sounds.
“The Faroese tradition for unaccompanied singing began back in the Middle Ages with the chain dance, still a prominent part of the Faroese cultural and musical life today, just as it was then. The chain dance ballads are rhythmic tales that have their origins in the songs about heroes and legends.”
For an intimate and unusual musical experience, book a ticket to attend a concerto grotto, or grotto concert. You’ll take the Norðlýsið schooner from Tórshavn to a sea cave on the island of Nólsoy for an evening of acoustic amusement in a completely nature-made auditorium. Grotto concerts take place from early June through the end of August.
As you know, the Faroe Islands can get quite chilly, so you should pack several layers of clothing for your trip. If you can manage to leave some space in your suitcase (and not mind dishing out quite a bit of money) you can be the proud owner of some beautiful Faroese knit pieces. Guðrun & Guðrun is the fashion forward knitwear store that has the media raving ever since detective Sarah Lund wore a Guðrun & Guðrun design on the hit Danish television series “The Killing.” These chunky sweaters aren’t just a fashion trend, they have a long history in Faroese culture. Designs are based on old fishermen’s sweaters, which were meant to keep sailors dry and warm even during the worst chills at sea. A good Faroese knit sweater can set you back $300 – $400, but the quality is exceptional.
Faroe Islands Facts
Government: Self-governing nation of the Kingdom of Denmark (not a member of the European Union)
Population: Approximately 49,000
Industries: Fishing and Tourism
Languages spoken: Faroese and English
Currency: Faroese króna (version of the Danish krone)
Tipping: Tipping is not customary in the Faroe Islands, but it is becoming more widespread in restaurants, cafes, bars, and taxis
Getting here: By air or by sea. Atlantic Airways is the national airline with several flights daily to the Faroe Islands. The Faroese company Smyrill Line operates year-round with cruises from Denmark and Iceland.
Did You Know?
- The Faroe Islands were first settled by Irish Monks in the year 625
- Faroese people originate from Norwegian vikings who first settled here in the year 850
- The Faroese language is a type of Old Norse Language (North Germanic language) dating back to the viking era
- About 70,000 sheep call the islands home!
And there you have it: a synopsis of our top things to see and do in the Faroe Islands. The truth is that we didn’t even skim the surface of what the Faroes have to offer. This unique island cluster is truly a destination that appeals to all types of travelers, unless you prefer loud, bustling cities. You won’t find any of that in the Faroes, but you will discover a sense of wonder you haven’t felt since you were a child.
Let us know your about your favorite places and things to do in the Faroes! Leave us a comment below.