We flew into the Faroe Islands through puffy golden clouds, our cameras at the ready to capture the sheer cliff lines from above, only to find ourselves in a thick blanket of fog and, chances are, you will too.
Once you’ve accepted that your feet may be a little soggy and the sun isn’t always around to warm your back, you can embrace the fact that you are in one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous places in the world, moody skies and all.
The stunning fjords, whimsical seaside villages, soaring sea cliffs, spooky mountain passages, fairytale-esque waterfalls, clusters of puffins and warm Faroese hospitality make this tiny island group as enchanting as ever. The sheep are pretty entertaining too.
We spent two weeks driving nearly every road we could find, hiking to remote lighthouses, chasing golden light and waiting for the elusive aurora to appear. Here are our top Faroe Island travel tips to help you prepare for your trip into this ancient Viking country.
Unpredictable is probably a grave understatement.
Faroese weather is like a drunk kid trying to play the weather god while having a tantrum – it has no bloody clue what is going on. In the space of an hour, you could move from sun and calm seas to a complete whiteout with fog, a blizzard, back to clear skies only to then be belted by torrential rain and blistering winds. A place just ten minutes away could be enjoying a completely different climate to where you are. Oh, and the weather forecast is completely useless at trying to predict any of this, well, unpredictability.
Generally, it’s best to accept that the sky will be a perpetual shade of grey, though the beauty of the fjords and dramatic sea cliffs are not dampened by the moody skies, in fact, they only add to the atmosphere.
When the grey fades away though, the golden light between the islands is truly magnificent and come sunset, the sky is tickled every shade of crimson and the clouds melt into a deep violet.
Once you have mentally prepared for what will most likely not be your sunniest of trips, make sure to pack for all eventualities. Bring plenty of wet weather gear and if you are camping, be sure your tent (and cooking equipment) can withstand the wind and water.
If you are planning to do a lot of hiking on your trip, which is an excellent way of getting to know the islands, know that many trails are more like vague lines in the long grass and while they may be easy to follow in daylight, they can quickly be lost in thick fog. Come prepared or don’t venture out if the weather is set to turn.
Having scoured the Faroe Island’s bus network map we were pretty confident that it would allow us to cover most of the islands. It was only later that we realised most of the locations we actually wanted to go to weren’t part of that.
For getting between end-of-the-road villages and larger towns, the bus system is great, but for visiting some of our favourite sights, like the falls at Gásadalur or the cottage in Saksun that made us want to drop everything and move right in, the buses fell a little short.
Plan where you want to go in advance and see if the buses will get you there, otherwise you are probably better off hiring a car, at least for part of your trip.
Also know that buses on some routes are pretty scant and you could be left waiting for a few hours before the next scheduled pick-up. Off season it is recommended that you call the bus company to confirm they will be passing by, or they may skip the stop altogether. Ferry routes may also be cut down dramatically in the off season.
Check this website for ferry and bus timetables.
Hitch-hiking is a viable option for some parts of the island if you are comfortable with the risks it presents. The Faroese people are very friendly and hospitable, though some roads receive very little traffic.
On one of our last days we visited the island of Kalsoy and climbed through damp grass up to the Kallur Lighthouse. There was a constant drizzle and when we reached the top we managed to enjoy the view for all of five minutes before the strong wind belted us across the face, bringing a thick fog with it. When we got back to the bottom all we wanted was to sit in a cosy café and nurse a hot drink between our numb fingers.
Unfortunately, that isn’t really a thing in the Faroes. At least, not yet.
Outside of Tórshavn or Klaksvík, cafés or really anywhere to sit and bask in the toastiness of the indoors is a rarity and if you do find somewhere serving a bite to eat or warm drinks, they are often of the bad machine variety priced as an artisanal brew.
However, more and more cafes are springing up around the islands to capitalise on the growing tourist trade so this could all change very quickly.
In the meantime, bring drinks and snacks on the road with you because you will most likely find yourself at the end of the road with no services at your disposal. A thermos is also an excellent idea to melt those cold hands or get you through that all-night northern lights steak out session.
Accommodation options are also growing rapidly, as is signage for popular hikes and noteworthy attraction within the villages.
Sheep are free to wander where they like in the Faroe Islands, even if that means congregating in the middle of the main road in a cloud of fog with a few cows and geese invited as special guests.
For us the sheep were a constant source of entertainment – from giving them voices to match their inquisitive expressions and constant state of lostness to that time they cosied up a little too close to our car and nearly sent us rolling down the hill, we often stopped just to watch them in their weirdness.
Also know that even though they may look completely enamoured in finding that perfect scratching post for their butt on the road side, the sound of an oncoming car may make them forget that satisfying feeling and run into the road unexpectedly.
Go slow and watch out for any sheep on the edge of the road. If your car does collide with a sheep you must contact the police.
The main group of islands can be crossed in less than two hours which means nothing is really that far away. It’s a small place that packs a big punch which means you can fit a lot into a short amount of time, or like us, visit your favourite places over and over again.
From Tórshavn it seems like most things are really close by but the trick is to stop and enjoy each one rather than rush around ticking them off your list. Especially when the weather is so temperamental, waiting a little while can be the difference between seeing a place in a halo of golden sunlight or possibly not seeing it at all when you are ambushed by haze of pesky fog.
With two sub-sea tunnels, a convenient network of ferries, dozens of bridges and many mountain tunnels, getting between the islands is super easy.
The sub-sea tunnels run between Vágar and Streymoy, and Eysturoy and the Northern Isles and charge a toll of 100 kroner only when travelling in the direction of Tórshavn which can be paid at a later date from any service station. Book your accommodation wisely to avoid paying the tolls more than you need to.
Cars can be taken on most inter-island ferry routes and are also only charged one way.
Without a doubt, the coolest way to get around the islands though is by helicopter.
Atlantic Airways offers this as a public transport service for locals who are given priority for travel, but if there are spaces available they are open to tourists. It’s probably the cheapest helicopter flight you will ever get so don’t miss out.
The flight to Mykines is one of the most scenic and the only route that is standalone. All other flights are part of a three-hour round trip from Vágar with 15 stops along the way. Wait for good weather and chopper on outta there! Call or email to make a reservation.
Toward the end of our trip we were craving an evening of pub life with a side of live music.
Little did we know that the start of September signified the end of all that.
Some ferries stopped running, what little cafés there were closed up completely, even the famous little establishment we had been looking forward to grooving the night away at was shut down from one day to the next.
Many things, especially anything tourism related, just come to a screaming halt.
The high season generally runs from May through August and any reliable services will run during this period.
Most notably for visitors, this affects the ferry to spectacular Mykines. There are two daily crossings from May through August and, weather permitting, a daily service between 12 and 20 October. Outside of these periods, you will be reliant on air transport and may need to stay overnight on the island. You can check the current ferry timetable here.
For other services, it’s best to check on the situation before arriving.
Many people we met in the Faroe Islands were on a stopover with the cruise ship between Denmark and Iceland with 3 days to ‘see it all’.
The Faroes are small, but they’re not that small.
With three days you’ll be running from island to island like a headless chicken without really having time to enjoy any of it. While this may give you a good taste of the islands and allow you to tick off a few of the major attractions, we’d suggest sticking to just a few islands and covering them really well.
Some islands, like Mykines, really deserve an entire day to explore (and photograph the thousands of puffins), while others have so many beautiful viewpoints, hiking trails and tiny villages that they could easily take up a few days of your time. Plus, as the weather has a habit of dampening even the brightest of days, you might want a few extras up your sleeve so you can actually do the hikes or see the places you want without the grey haze or incessant drizzle.
In two weeks we managed to comfortably drive down every single road in the Faroe Islands except for those on Suðuroy and Sandoy and the only reason we didn’t make it there was because the weather on our final days was particularly terrible. This extra time allowed us to go back to some of our favourite spots several times over, spend all the hours we wanted sitting amongst the puffins and stay up till 5 am searching for the northern lights without worrying about having to survive a jam-packed schedule the following day.
In ten days you should have enough time to see the best sights and do a few hikes which really gives the best perspective of the islands’ stunning landscapes.
After being a little loose with our spending in delightfully cheap Eastern Europe, the Faroe Islands were a bit of a shock to the system (and our bank accounts).
Accommodation starts at around €30 for a dorm bed in a hostel and heads upwards to luxury 4-star hotels.
As a couple on a budget, we found private rooms on Airbnb gave the best value, were available in more locations and allowed much more interaction with the locals which, given the lack of cafés and restaurants, isn’t the easiest to come by.
Camping is the cheapest option for accommodation (around €10) but with the combination of rain and wind, you’ll want to be of the hardiest breed of traveller.
Bus travel is around €5 per trip or weekly passes are available. The best way to get around though is on your own four wheels. All roads are paved so, unlike somewhere like Iceland where you are forever craving a bigger 4WD, the smallest of cars will be all you need.
We went with Unicar (located on Vágar) who provided super friendly service and some of the best prices in the islands, including special deals for walk-ins.
If you are travelling from continental Europe, bringing your own car or campervan across on the Smyril Lines cruise ship, M/S Norröna, is also a possible option to cut down costs, especially when combining the Faroe Islands with a trip to Iceland.
When we researched this before our trip, the price of the crossing from Denmark (not including the car) was almost identical to the airfares, plus prices drop dramatically out of season.
We love a tourist board with a great sense of humour and the Faroe Islands take the cake – complete with sheepish puns to ensure that you wool LOVE it (sorry, we had to).
If you haven’t seen this campaign to get Google Street View to visit the Faroe Islands, you should, and keep an eye out for the sheepview cameramen (camera sheep?).
UPDATE: The campaign was so successful that Google finally arrived and the Faroe Islands now have Street View.
Their most recent campaign, Faroe Islands Translate, has been incredibly successful. In the hopes of adding the Faroese language to the Google Translate platform, Faroe Islands Translate was launched whereby dozens of local volunteers worked in shifts to translate and video live translation queries from around the world.
Want to Learn how to say your favourite saying in Faroese? You can get the translation here!