Follow me to the Faroe Islands!
To celebrate my 30th birthday, my…fiancé…(that still sounds strange! Read more on that here!) Nick and I took to the Faroe Islands for a long weekend. Here is everything we got up to.
We flew direct from Copenhagen to the Faroe Islands on the Faroese airline Atlantic Airways and arrived at 13:30. The airport is absolutely tiny and easy to navigate through. We then went to the parking lot to find our rental car. We rented through Come North and I can really recommend them. It was so easy to find our car, there were no lines to deal with or paperwork to show, and they were flexible with our pick-up and drop-off times. Definitely would rent with them again.
Once we had our KIA Picanto, I did a few laps around the parking lot because this was my first time driving in three years! Eeek! One of my favorite things about living in Sweden is not owning a car and I was feeling a little nervous about driving again. Luckily, it came back quickly and the roads in the Faroe Islands are incredibly well maintained. It is also not a very populous place, so it was easy to drive long stretches without coming across another car. However, there are many single-lane roads and some specific laws you must follow (like using headlights at all times), so be sure to read up before you get behind the wheel.
Without wanting to waste any time, we departed for a waterfall. We went to Múlafossur on Vágar island, the same island the airport is on. You can easily park your car on the side of the road and walk to the falls – and be sure to check out the cute little houses with grass roofs along the way. It was beautiful with so much water just gushing down the cliff. It was like we stepped into Jurassic Park. It was a great welcome to the Faroe Islands!
We then checked into our hotel, the Havgrím Seaside. It is a beautiful boutique hotel with a fantastic breakfast buffet, a nice outdoor area (including a hot tub!) and a central location to town (just a 10-minute walk or 2-minute drive).
We ended the night by walking into town for a dinner at ROKS with our good friends John and Louise, who just happened to be in the Faroe Islands the exact same days as us. We all share a fun and adventurous seafood dinner and many laughs!
After a fantastic hotel breakfast, we went to grab some supplies. We stopped at a bakery called Breyðvirkið (say that three times fast) and picked up some fresh buns for the days ahead. We also hit the grocery store Mylnan and grabbed about two bags full of chips, string cheese, salami, bars, candy, nuts, and bananas. We also stopped at Brell Cafe and ordered some fresh coffee to put into our Hydro Flask, which was a fantastic treat on the cold mountains later in the day.
With our car loaded up with food, fresh coffee, and any extra clothing we could need, we sought out our first adventure. We drove to Gjógv, which is a village most known for its fantastic gorge and 1929 church. We were immediately greeted by a friendly dog, who walked with us along the path to the gorge. There are a few areas at Gjógv which are free to roam, but the main hike is sectioned off and requires a hiking fee (as does much of the hikes in the Faroe Islands). This fee helps the land owners to preserve and maintain the nature and is paid by cash (DKK), card, or bank transfer at the entrance. Nick and I decided to just enjoy the free views and instead found a bench to have a Swedish fika on during a surprisingly sunny moment….which lasted for about 15 minutes before rain started pouring down! We explored the church and village some more before making our way back to the car and continuing our drive.
On our way to Tjørnuvík, a spot known for its black sand beaches and surfing, we stopped by Fossá waterfall, the largest waterfall in the Faroe Islands. It is right off the side of the highway and there is plenty of space to pull over for a quick picture or a short hike to the base of the falls. Along the way to Tjørnuvík we pulled over multiple times to enjoy a quick leg stretch, a view of a beautiful village, or a chocolate chip cookie!
After a drive that included one of the handful of stoplights in all of the Faroe Islands, we made it to Tjørnuvík. Nick, an avid surfer during his decade living in Los Angeles, was disappointed to find that surfing had to be pre-booked with the Faroe Islands Surf Guide. We enjoyed the black sand and views of two freestanding rocks Risin og Kellingin (the Giant and the Witch) which, legend says, tried to drag the Faroe Islands to Iceland.
We then made our way to nearby Saksun, where there is a popular hike into the lagoon. There is a fee of 75 DKK (paid by credit card at the gate) and takes about an hour round trip along the black sand path. Nick and I arrive after 17:00 and it was sooo windy (rock on!), so we decided to pass on this hike and head back to Tórshavn for some dinner. It is especially important to note that you need to go during low tide, otherwise the trail will be submerged.
We didn’t have a reservation for dinner back in Tórshavn and soon realized that everything was booked! We settled for some Danish open-faced sandwiches called smørrebrød at Bitin and then a beer at Mikkeller. After dinner, we walked around town – exploring the 1580 fortress Skansin and joking that even the statues are cold.
With a forecast for sun, we decided to save the activity we were most excited for for Saturday — hiking Kalsoy. Kalsoy is one of the 18 islands that make up the Faroe Islands and also happens to be known as James Bond’s death site.
Kalsoy is one of the few islands that is not connected by undersea tunnel (the Eysturoyartunnilin in the Faroe Islands has the world’s first underwater roundabout!) and requires a ferry to get to. The ferry departs from Klaksvík and arrives in Syðradalur on Kalsoy 20 minutes later. The ferry cannot be pre-booked and I would highly recommend not bringing your car on. The ferry can hold about 15 cars and locals have priority, so if you want to bring a car to the island, you will need to get to the ferry about 1.5 hours in advance to secure your spot. The ferry has a few departure times in the morning and a few in the afternoon, but there is a gap mid-day where the ferry does not run, so be sure to look up the schedule in advance. There are bathrooms and wifi on the ferry and a public bus waiting when you depart in Syðradalur. Take the bus to the last stop (about 30 minutes, and a good tip is to ask the driver to see the bus schedule for the day when you board and pay!) and arrive in Trøllanes. From here, you can easily begin the hike to the Kallur lighthouse.
The hike itself if about 45 minutes each way. We brought trekking poles, which I highly recommend as it can be steep and muddy, and there are some points where you need to cross streams. Someone even broke their leg during the hike (thankfully it was right near the start, but an ambulance was still called and the person was carried away in a stretcher and then had to drive the 30 minutes back to Syðradalur, wait for the ferry, take the 20-minute ferry ride, and then go to a hospital. So be careful!). The hike is beautiful, with sheep roaming everywhere. You know you’ve reached the top when you see the Kallur lighthouse and from there you can walk out to two different view points, if it is safe. You can see a tiny red spec in one of the pictures and that is Nick on the little peak! Be sure to pack a lunch and be prepared to spend 3-4 hours on Kalsoy!
After the ferry ride back, we stopped for a hot chocolate and a coffee at Fríða Kaffihús before taking another hike to Klakkur. This was probably the best thing we did the entire trip! You drive up a road called Astarbravt and end at a little dirt parking lot. From there, you hike for about 30 minutes until you reach the radio towers. Along the way, there is a little lake and so many sheep! The views at the top were insane. You are surrounded by different islands and overlook a little village. It was the best view we had the whole trip and we were so lucky it was a clear day!
We made our way back into Tórshavn in time for dinner at Ræst, a restaurant that specializes in fermented foods. To cut to the chase: the meal was incredible. We walked inside the coziest house-turned-restaurant which was actually owned by Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb, the man who created the Faroese language in 1846!
Now, just like with the Faroe Islands, if you aren’t a little adventurous, you won’t like it here. Nick and I love to ferment. We have tried our hand at sourdough, kombucha, beer, tepache, sauerkraut, and kimchi, so we enjoy fermented flavors. Overall though, the dishes were incredibly balanced, often with the sourness or…funk…of the fermented ingredient softened with honey or such. Every bite was an experience. We had fermented shark, whale blubber, monkfish liver, lambtallow, pine needles, and fermented rhubarb. We even had lamb’s wool that was mixed into batter and then fried. It tasted exactly like the way smooshing your face into a lamb’s coat would smell (not that I’ve ever tried that). Like I said, not for a non-adventurous eater! But it was the most interesting, delicious, and transportive meal I’ve ever had. Plus, the head chef trained a Noma, among other restaurants, so if I was going to trust anyone to feed me fermented shark and lamb’s wool, it would be someone who worked at the best restaurant in the world five times over.
The staff was incredibly warm and welcoming and they actually invited Nick and I to stay long past closing and chat with them. They brought out a shot of aquavit for me and champagne for Nick and I and wished me a happy birthday exactly as the clock struck midnight. It was the best way to round out my 20s and kick-off my third decade, and one of best experiences I’ve ever had.
It was a completely fantastic day!
We woke up to a pretty overcast day, but that wouldn’t stop us from enjoying my 30th birthday! We had the delicious-as-ever hotel breakfast and then set out to hike Trælanípan Trail, also known as Slave Cliff or The Lake Above the Ocean. It was pouring down rain and when we reached the top, we could barely see the cliffs or the lake in the distance. But we did run into our friends John and Louise!
We had no real option but to cut our losses, so we went back to the hotel for some lunch and a change of clothes. We spent some time relaxing at the hotel, took a nap (is this 30??), and then FaceTimed with my family back in the States. We walked into town for a birthday dinner with John and Louise and had a fantastic meal at etika sushi.
Our final day in the Faroe Islands! Or so we thought…
We then checked out of our hotel…only to find five minutes after departing that our flight was delayed 1.5 hours. So we turned around and hung out in the hotel’s breakfast area. We then left for the airport, dropped off our rental car, and found John and Louise, who were meant to fly out an hour before us but also had a delayed flight. There was fog everywhere and we could barely see the runway…never a good sign.
Ultimately, and after many hours at the airport, both of our flights were canceled and rescheduled for the next day. Nick and I waited two hours in line at the airport to found out what hotel the airline would put us in for the night, and then we took a bus back with everyone else to Tórshavn. We arrived at Hotel Hafnia and waited some more, only to find that they didn’t have enough rooms for us and about five other couples. They were lovely at the hotel and it wasn’t at all their fault, but it was about 21:00 at this point and we were ready for some dinner and to know if we would have a bed to sleep in. To address one of the issues at hand, Nick ran across the street and got some take-away sushi from etika for us (still delicious). The hotel also gave us all some wine as we waited.
Nick and I decided to adapt a rock-n-roll attitude about the whole thing. This is was happens when you travel to remote areas that aren’t known for their welcoming weather. We met with someone who was born in the Faroe Islands, but was visiting from her current home of Denmark, and she said that canceled flights are more common than not. So, know that there is a good chance you, too, could get stranded in the Faroe Islands for a night – so have a back-up plan in plan for any responsibilities back home, such as someone on standby to care for a pet!
Around 22:00 we were transported to Hotel Brandan, where a room was available for us for the night. The big win here was that they had a lovely sauna that we were able to use before heading to bed. Life is an adventure!
After a yummy breakfast at the hotel, we hung out in our room listening to the 74km / 46 miles per hour wind outside feeling pretty despondent about our chances of getting a flight back to Copenhagen that day. But the people at the hotel were optimistic and a taxi van came to take all of us from the hotel to the airport. We found John and Louise again and passed a few hours together watching our flight times move steadily back.
Amazingly, the weather cleared a little and three plans were finally able to land. We were going home! As each airplane touched down, the whole airport cheered! We all quickly boarded and took off one after another. It was the bumpiest take off I have ever experienced, but we were thrilled to be going home!
Overall, it was a really unique trip. The landscapes were incredibly beautiful, the weather humbling, and, in its entirety, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
Tess’ top tips:
- Start planning early. The Islands are not that large and aren’t set up for a huge influx of tourists. Be sure to book your hotel, car, dinners and ferries in advance! Oh, and be ready to pre-pay everything. The car, hotel, even some dinners required payment at the time of booking. But, this does help spread the cost of the vacation out over a few months (depending how early you begin to book things).
- Bring clothing for every type of weather. It was a high of 12C/53F while we were there July 7-12, with pouring rain and gusty winds. If you are going hiking, be sure to bring a backpack with a rain cover and some trekking poles to help you navigate the mud, streams, and steep patches.
- Hit the grocery store when you first arrive and load up on snacks and pack lunches. Unless you are close to a town, there might not be a single place to grab food after a long hike. And many things were closed on Sunday, even in Tórshavn.
- There are public restrooms all over, so don’t fret about that.
- Download some podcasts, audio books, or playlists in advance of your travels. They will add a layer of cozy fun to your long drives around the islands.
- Download Google Maps of the islands, because you will definitely need to reference where the parking area for that hike you are dying to go on – and it will help you avoid roaming charges.
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you are adventurous and will brave being wet and cold for out-of-this-world views, then the Faroe Islands are the place for you!
Are the Faroe Islands on your to-see list? Let me know in the comments below!