Visit to the Faroe Islands: Rugged Cliffs, Endless Waterfalls, & Modern Refinement

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I crossed off a huge bucket list item. Last week, I spent 4 days in the wild and rugged Faroe Islands.

The country is made of 18 islands. Of those, I got to visit 3. What I saw reminded me of the ruggedness of Iceland and the brilliant green cliffs of Ireland.

But the Faroe Islands are a unique place in the world. And, it’s challenging to get there.

Based on my short time, I can already say it’s one of my favorite places on earth. And can’t wait to go back.

visit faroe islands

The Faroe Islands were unlike any place I’ve been, and crazy gorgeous

Here’s more about my visit to the Faroe Islands. And photos of the stunning landscapes that make this place so deeply special.

Visit Faroe Islands – My experience

I went to the Faroe Islands on Summer Solstice this year (June 22nd) – and it was beyond magical. The Faroe Islands are in the North Atlantic ocean, equidistant to Scotland and Norway, and a ~1-hour flight from Iceland.

The Vagar airport is tiny, with only 2 gates. And right away, you get the sense the Faroes are a very special place in the world.

Even the terrain surrounding the airport is gorgeous.

We picked up our Hertz rental car and drove to Torshavn – the biggest city in the Faroes on the neighboring island of Streymoy.

Torshavn

Our base. The city proper has only 13,000 residents.

It’s an old shipping town, settled in the 9th century by Irish monks and occupied by Vikings in 825. The islands are currently under Danish rule. So when you’re here, you’re technically in Denmark.

It’s a charming fishing village with twisty roads, a large harbor, tons of cute shops, and excellent restaurants. From the airport, it’s only ~30 minutes in a car. And because it’s the biggest town, it’s easy to get back here from nearly all the other islands, either by tunnel or ferry.

Despite its size, there’s plenty to do.

The Faroese love their bronze statues – old harbor in Toshavn

Loved seeing the old buildings and ships around the harbor

Turf houses are a part of the Faroese culture still in use today

Torshavn is a mash-up of ancient sites and modern buildings

For one, there are several world-class restaurants right downtown, like Raest (with traditional fermented food) and Barbara (which was voted best seafood restaurant in Denmark!). I tried both and was blown away by how sophisticated and cosmopolitan they were.

Loved the ambience in the restaurants downtown and around the harbor (at The Tarv)

I also dined at The Tarv along the harbor and had a fantastic – wait for it – Argentinian steak.

*Goes to Faroes, orders steak* (nah but for real I had so much fish you wouldn’t believe it)

There are lots of parks and green spaces – and ancient churches. Also plenty of shops where you can buy hand-knit wool creations, jewelry, and Faroese souvenirs.

View of Torshavn from downtown

The shops in Torshavn have unique Nordic designs

I picked up a few gifts at Ostrom, near the harbor.

I also spent long moments wandering the serpentine streets, old government buildings, and looking at ships and vessels in the water.

The Faroe Islands have the cleanest air on earth, so I made sure to fill my lungs with so much fresh air – and my tummy with some of the freshest wild salmon you can find. Being in Torshavn was a real treat. And I wasn’t expecting to be as charmed as I was by this old fishing settlement.

Streymoy and Saksun

All the islands in the Faroes are stunning. You should definitely visit Saksun, about 45 minutes from Torshavn, when you’re there.

How to describe it?

There’s an old church that was reassembled at the site in 1858. It stands next to a 17th century farming village, still preserved with turf roofs and tar-coated buildings. In the background, you’ll see an absolutely gorgeous bridal veil waterfall. And all around are steep mountains that form a deep bay and long inlet to the sea, into which the waterfalls empty.

When I was there, it was foggy and misty, which added mystery and depth of color to the green in the mountains. The steep drops of the cliffs, waterfalls, and mountains are incredible. And you’ll have to drive a narrow one-lane road 9 kilometers to reach the old site.

There are also sheep and horses near the beautiful old church and gravestones. An amazing stop on its own or as part of a day trip around Streymoy – we went to Vestmanna afterward for a little dinner and more waterfall chasing.

18th century turf houses at Saksun

Amazing cascading waterfalls

The old church, reassembled in 1858, and the graveyard

Panoramic views of the bay, waterfalls, church, and mountains

The 17th century farm village, surrounded by waterfalls

Sheep are everywhere

Gorgeous views of cliffs and fjords all around Streymoy

The whole island is beautiful top to bottom. Many times, we’d round a corner or switchback and I’d gasp all over again at how stunning the views were, even from the car. This land is wild and rugged.

View of a dozen waterfalls from the road in Streymoy

I was glad the Faroese people have delicately preserved the land and their customs as much as possible. And surprised at how modern the towns are. A wonderful marriage of the ancient practices and current comforts.

Through the church window in Kirkjubour, Faroe Islands

Vagar

The airport is on Vagar island, on the west side of the Faroes.

The town of Sadavagur (Sandy Bay) is so cute, and only 9 kilometers from the airport. Or you can turn the other way and head to the tiny – and I mean tiny with a population of only 18! – town of Gasadalur.

There, you’ll find a jaw-dropping view of a waterfall emptying into the sea, a grotto, a mountain range, and the entire tiny town:

The breathtaking view of Gasadalur’s waterfall

Alt view of the entire town and mountain behind it

This vista is only 20 minutes from the airport. And the town has a small cafe and a souvenir shop. We enjoyed a salmon bite for lunch at the cafe.

Salmon, coffee, and a beer in a town of 18 people

My $2 agate treasure

In the souvenir shop, I found a smooth piece of Faroese agate for only 10 Danish kronur – about ~$2! I was happy to pay a small amount for a stone from this beautiful place.

If you’re looking for some time to kill before returning to the airport, or just want to snap some photos of beautiful vistas, a drive to Gasadalur is worth it.

Sandoy

Most of the islands are connected with a series of through-mountain and sub-sea tunnels. But in certain cases, you have to go the old-fashioned way: by boat. Er, ferry. The island of Sandoy is currently only connected via ferry – although that’s supposed to change with a new tunnel planned by 2022.

We took a ferry from Streymoy to Sandoy – a small island with only 6 villages and 1,200 people.

Though small, the stories and culture here are rich. We visited every village and learned their stories. It’s a collection of tales woven through with witches, salmon, visits from the Queen of Denmark, and a stronghold from the Lutheran church. Pretty wild when you think about it.

The old church and graveyard in Sandoy. They ring the bell 200 times at 11am each Sunday

Gorgeous painting in the church

Sandoy’s low cliffs are evidence of erosion caused by some of the worst winter storms in the Faroes

The legend of the witch and troll baby from Sandoy are insane and immortalized in – what else in the Faroes? – knitting on a giant rock

My stay at Havgrim

During my time in the Faroes, I based out at Havgrim Hotel, in Torshavn.

Outside Havgrim

The hotel and views were incredible.

View from the restaurant at Havgrim

Panoramic views outside the hotel

The hard-won Faroese flag. They are very proud of it

I’ll have a full review of this hotel up soon. It’s only ~1 minute to drive to the main drag in Torshavn. I loved the location with its own little parking lot (parking is actually kind of tough in Torshavn).

The hotel was only 2 months old as of June 2018, so I was lucky to be one of the first people to stay there. We even met the head chef and owner. The breakfast has fresh Faroese salmon, fresh juices, and local produce and herbs – one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve had. I found it easy to get into – and out of – town from here.

If you wanna go

They don’t make it easy to visit the Faroes – you have to really want it.

I flew Dallas to Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF). And then from Reykjavik’s domestic airport (RKV) to the Faroe Islands (FAE) on Atlantic Airways, their national airline. The flights are limited. Only 3 times per week. And the flight times don’t really match any flights into Iceland.

Atlantic Airways is the Faroese national airline

Even if they did, you’d have to switch airports and hope all the flights are on time. To play it safe, you’d need to overnight in Reykjavik, which adds time and cost to an already long trip. I was in Iceland for a few days and wrapped the visit to the Faroes inside a trip to Iceland – which ended up being perfect.

Flights to the Faroe Islands are limited to say the least

A few gateway cities to the Faroe Islands include:

  • Barcelona (seasonal)
  • Copenhagen – your best bet
  • Edinburgh (seasonal)
  • Lisbon
  • Reykjavik

This time around, I made up my mind I wanted to visit and made it happen via Reykjavik. The easiest way, if you can find agreeable flight times, would be to connect in Copenhagen (flying on SAS), then fly to the Faroes.

Another interesting option would be to fly to Lisbon on TAP, then onward to the Faroes – now that would be an awesome trip!

You’re definitely gonna wanna visit between April and October. Winter is fierce in the Faroes. Not because it’s cold, but because winter storms bring howling winds that prevent most aircraft from landing safely.

June through September is ideal for a first-time visit. The weather is great, sunshine is plentiful (nearly 24 full hours of daylight in June!), and storms aren’t as powerful. Though is still has a maritime climate with wind, fog, mist, and cool air year-round.

Bottom line

Within 24 hours of visiting the Faroe Islands for the first time, I decided it was one of my favorite places on earth and already wanted to visit again.

The island chain in the North Atlantic has elements of Iceland and Ireland – but are very much their own thing. The entire population is only ~50,000 people. And only 13,000 live in the biggest town of Torshavn. But the islands have modern comforts among the stunning and rugged wilderness just beyond the villages.

Admittedly, it ain’t easy to get here. But it was a bucket list destination for me, and I really wanted to visit. As someone who loves Iceland, I can easily see adding another side trip to the Faroes in the future. It would also be (relatively) easy to get here from Copenhagen or Lisbon, which could also be super fun.

If you’re interested or on the fence about a visit, I really can’t recommend it enough. Especially if you’re drawn to it like I was.

My new Nordic tatty back home in Dallas

The trip touched me so deeply, I got a tattoo of Norse runes in Torshavn to commemorate and remember it by.

Hopefully this is a good primer on the Faroe Islands – there is so much more to uncover and explore. I already can’t wait to go back again to this special and beautiful place on earth.

I look forward to posting more about this trip, so stay tuned!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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  1. I went to the Faroe Islands for spring break this year and loved it. The weather was a little rough and cold at the end of March, but we enjoyed roughing it out on the hikes. I would love to go back and see the greenery and be able to take the ferries to the smaller islands (a lot of the tourist rides are seasonal and the ferries are intended for commuters so the time tables don’t match up very well for sight seeing). What a place!

    • That’s so cool. I’ll try to keep it between April and October (at the very latest) for future visits and can’t wait to see more of those gorgeous islands. So glad you had a good trip there! How’d you get there? Via Iceland or some other way?

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for such a wonderful trip report. I felt immediately that the Faroe Islands is a place I must visit in the nearby future, maybe combining with a visit to Iceland as well. Flying from Brazil, TAP could be a good option. My husband wants to go too! Really great pictures taken and many thanks for the enthusiastic recommendation!

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