10 April 2019.
Rugged cliff lines, sweeping fjords, tiny gingerbread villages, spectacular coastal drives and pristine wilderness that unfolds beyond your window makes the Faroe Islands a perfect place for a road trip.
After two trips to the Faroe Islands, one in late summer when the landscapes were washed in brilliant greens and again in spring when the saffron-coloured grasslands were offset by thick snow, I’ve driven across much of the archipelago, explored on foot, returned to some places over and over again and only managing to squint at others through a thick layer of fog.
Whether you’ve got just 3 days to spare or 10, this is how I’d suggest planning your Faroe Islands itinerary to make the most of your time.
Before diving in though, it’s important to know that it pays to be a little flexible when exploring this remote cluster of islands. Frequently wild weather means plans have a habit of getting thrown out the window, ferries cancelled, hikes shelved for another day and epic viewpoints obliterated before your eyes. So, while I’d recommend using these itineraries as a guide, try to make use of good weather for the adventures that really need it and know when to throw in the towel and save an activity for another time rather than push on senselessly.
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Visiting for a long weekend or perhaps enjoying a stopover on the Smyril Lines cruise ship? With 3 days in the Faroe Islands you’ll get a fantastic introduction to the archipelago and be able to tick off some of its most famous sites that will undoubtedly whet your appetite for a longer return journey.
Day 1 | Vágar
Hit the ground running with the Faroe Island’s most iconic sight – the majestic waterfall of Múlafossur tumbling from a vivid green cliff into the churning sea. Backed by towering cliff walls and the enchanting grass-roofed village of Gasadalur, it’s impossible to imagine a more magical sight or one more quintessentially Faroese to kick off your adventure.
Gasadalur sits less than half an hour from the airport along a stunning coastal drive that hugs the cliffs extending beyond Sørvágur and Bøur before disappearing into the eerie mountain tunnel that funnels you toward the once isolated village. If you’re arriving in the Faroes by ferry, you may wish to drop your luggage at your hotel in Tórshavn before setting off for the hour long drive.
The incredible waterfall scene is best experienced from the viewing platform opposite, but be sure to take the time to wander around the village itself and climb a short way up the hill beyond the falls.
Slowly make your way back toward Sørvágsvatn, or Leitisvatn as it’s also known, drinking in the views across the bay of the jagged spires of Tindhólmur, the perfect arch of Drangarnir and, on a clear day, the silhouette of Mykines twisting into the distance.
A short way beyond the airport, pull into the parking area to begin the hike along Sørvágsvatn to the soaring sea cliffs of Trælanípan.
Nestled in a lush basin, this lake was made famous by the optical illusion created when viewed from the cliffs that surround it where it appears to float precariously above the crashing sea. From here you can peer down the vertigo-inducing rockface that drops straight into the churning water, watch Bøsdalafossur spill into the ocean and clamber up the sweeping and rather steep hillsides to enjoy the views from every angle.
From the parking lot, it’s just 3 kilometres to the farthest point, an easy 1 hour each way, but you’ll most likely be persuaded to spend a whole lot more time here. This area is notoriously foggy and, though it should go without saying, remember to always be exceptionally careful when wandering about near the cliffs.
UPDATE: As of April 2019 the trail along Sørvágsvatn to Trælanípan is restricted and visitors are required to pay a hiking fee and be accompanied by a guide. The cost is 450 DKK (€60) for adults, 150 DKK (€20) for children aged 7 to 14, and free for kids 6 and under. Guided hiking groups depart at 9 a.m., 12 and 3 p.m. daily. For more information and to book, see here and here.
Sørvágsvatn is one of the most visited areas in the Faroe Islands and these measures have been put in place to help preserve the fragile natural environment and curb the strain from increasing foot traffic.
If this hike is slightly out of your budget, I’d highly recommend the nearby Fjallavatn as a stunning alternative. For the full guide, read this post or scroll down to Day 7 of this itinerary.
From here, avid birdwatchers and those unable to visit Mykines should head straight to Vestmanna to catch the final departure of the day for the famous bird cliff boat tour. On this two-hour trip, you’ll weave between the towering sea stacks and along the dramatic cliff line to bring you up close to the many species of seabirds that nest and forage in this rugged untouched setting.
Vestmanna Bird Cliff Tours run from May to September and cost 295 DKK per adult (€39.50) with just five daily departures during peak season. These trips are operated by the Vestmanna Tourist Centre and can sell out months in advance during busy periods so be sure to book your trip well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Not much of a twitcher or saving yourself for Mykines? You might prefer to skip Vestmanna altogether and push onto Torshavn instead. As you peel away from Sorvagsvatn, keep an eye out for the vibrant red-roofed church of Sandavágur and if you still feel the need to stretch your legs, follow the small road out the back of the village to begin the short walk to the gnarled spike of Trøllkonufingur, the Witch’s Finger, a key player in one of the Faroe’s most told legends.
Day 2 | Mykines or Kalsoy
Mykines is an essential stop on any Faroe Islands itinerary, but getting there isn’t always so easy.
This remote western isle is home to some of the archipelago’s most striking landscapes, but without a doubt its biggest draw are the thousands of puffins that nest here during the summer months.
From May through August, there are two daily ferries departing from Sørvágur at 10:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m, returning from Mykines at 11:05 a.m. and 5:05 p.m. Tickets are 60 DKK (€8) each way and should be purchased in advance as crossings regularly fill up. You can buy your tickets here.
The alternative is to arrive by helicopter which makes the trip just four days a week, however, as this is used as a form of public transport for locals, tourists are only able to book tickets one way meaning you will still need to either arrive or depart by ferry and this often requires you to stay overnight on the island.
As a protected wetland area, all visitors to Mykines intending to explore beyond the village are required to pay a hiking fee of 100 DKK (€13) that contributes to maintenance of the island. Though not essential, it is also recommended that visitors be accompanied by a guide. The hiking fee must be paid here, or you can book a guided tour here. Note that many of the organised tours to Mykines include the ferry ticket and/or hiking fee so be sure to check what is covered before booking.
Now, while all this might sound rather straightforward, trips to Mykines are frequently cancelled at short notice due to wild weather, while persistently poor conditions may force hiking through sensitive areas (such as the puffin colonies) to be temporarily suspended.
For this reason, whether you’re visiting the Faroe Islands for 3 days or 10, I’d highly recommend trying to visit Mykines as soon as possible so that if your trip is cancelled you’ve still got enough time to reschedule.
If you’re visiting during summer and the weather behaves, a trip to Mykines is an absolute must! But if you’re not or it’s not, then I’d suggest heading to the northern isle of to Kalsoy instead (skip ahead to Day 4 of this Faroe Islands itinerary for details).
Difficulties aside, those lucky enough to actually get to Mykines can expect an incredible day beginning with a journey past rocky archways fending off bursts of ocean spray and the impressive ridgeline of Tindhólmur before sticking close by the towering cliffs of the island.
The ferry trip is only around an hour but seas can be choppy so those prone to seasickness might consider taking something to avoid feeling queasy for the rest of the day.
Arriving on the final days of August, I’d been apprehensive that the puffins may have already begun to move south, but I really needn’t have worried. I was greeted by a mind-boggling display of the clumsy birds circling overhead en masse and it only got better from there.
Don’t miss the hike to the distant islet of Mykineshólmur and the lighthouse that marks the Faroe Island’s westernmost point. From the harbour, it’s about a 3-hour return hike up steep hills, across open meadows and tiny bridges and, best of all, between the frenetic hillsides where you’ll find the puffin’s burrows.
This area is a fascinating hum of activity with birds constantly coming and going, flouncing through the air and returning with beaks full of glassy-eyed fish for their pufflings hidden safely within their nests.
It’s easy to lose hours here, sitting, watching and photographing these beautiful creatures, but please, please be sure to stay on the path and do not disturb the birds or their burrows. Lingering too long or too close to their nests will also make them more reluctant to return so try to be mindful of your surroundings at all times and don’t be a nuisance for the sake of a photo.
As you make your way back to Torshavn, take a detour along Oyggjarvegur, a scenic mountain pass, and venture up the hair-raising Mjørkadalur road for sunset, or stop in at the viewpoint above Norðradalur.
These high points along the pass are blasted with incredibly strong winds and are often the first to recieve snow and the last to lose it so be extra careful when driving along these narrow roads and opening your car doors.
Day 3 | Streymoy and Eysturoy
After two fairly active days in the Faroe Islands, it’s time to spend some time behind the wheel meandering from one beautiful village to the next.
Leaving Torshavn, take the coastal road through the fjords, gazing up at the verdant green walls that cast a perfect watery reflection on a calm day, before turning onto the narrow buttercup road toward the ridiculously picturesque village of Saksun.
On my first Faroe Islands trip, this was a place I returned to over and over again, to wander across the hillsides, to watch the etherial bay fill with water and to wait for the entire valley to be bathed in soft golden light. It’s also possible to walk around the bay to the beach beyond at low tide, just be sure to keep an eye on the tides.
Next up, head to the northernmost village of Streymoy, Tjørnuvík. Caught between a patchwork of iridescent green and a horseshoe bay of black shores and turquoise water, it’s an impossibly pretty setting and if you’re lucky, you may even be greeted by the comforting scent of freshly toasted waffles in the centre of town.
If you’re in need of some adventure and have some extra time on your hands, there’s a steep trail which leads over the mountains all the way back to Saksun, but it’s also possible to just hike to the ridgeline which affords spectacular views over the village and the dramatic folds of the peninsula. It’s a challenging hike, especially in the knee-deep snow that I encountered, and takes about 2 hours to the top following a combination of post markers and rocky cairns.
Also keep an eye out for Risin and Kellingin, two jagged sea stacks perched off the coast of Eysturoy.
Continue onwards to Gjogv, taking it slow along the spectacular mountain pass that swings around Slættaratindur and stopping at the viewpoints to explore a little further on foot.
At the village, it’s time to don those hiking boots again and hopefully catch another glimpse of some puffins. Though they’re nowhere near as abundant here as you’ll find on Mykines, if your trip to the western isle is cancelled or the ferries have finished running for the year, Gjogv is the next best option to view these wonderfully clumsy, pot-bellied birds.
Stop in at the pretty marina to marvel at the impressive rippled mounds of the northern isles before clambering up the grassy path toward the cliffs above the village.
Gjogv is also a rare place in the Faroe Islands outside of Torshavn where you’ll find a cafe so if you’re in need of some warmth before or after your walk, stop in at Gjaargardur Guesthouse.
Since my first visit to the Faroe Islands when tourists were few and far between and the tiny village parking lots were virtually always empty, the situation these days is quite different. Many of these villages have very small populations, some numbering in the single digits, and the presence of even a few dozen tourists can certainly be felt and has been a source tension for some locals.
I’ll admit that on this first visit I did a fair bit of aimless wandering across the landscapes, unsure of where the properties began and wilderness ended. But with the increasing number of visitors, it’s important to be respectful of the property boundaries that exist (i.e. don’t deliberately climb over fences) and particularly considerate of the residents’ privacy in these tiny villages.
This also goes for driving along the narrow single-track roads that lead in and out of these villages. Don’t just stop in the middle of the road for the sake of a photo, use the pull in bays appropriately and try not to drive at a snail’s pace to enjoy the view while some poor local sits patiently behind you attempting to make it home in a timely manner.
By this point in the day, time is probably seriously getting away from you. The long Arctic summer days can make it all too easy to forget the clock and try to use up every moment of daylight, especially when the weather is good. If the skies are clear don’t hesitate to drive a little longer as the evening light that gets cast across these islands is nothing short of spectacular.
If this is the final day of your Faroe Islands holiday, take your time making your way back to Torshavn via the rather exciting zigzag roads down to Funningur and Oyndarfjørður before cutting back across the island.
On a longer Faroe Islands trip, you’ll have time to explore the stunning northern isles and dedicate a day or two to setting out on foot. If you’ve followed the 3-day itinerary, I’d also recommend relocating to a new base in the north of the archipelago for a few days to cut down on driving time. Head there directly from Gjogv rather than returning to Torshavn.
Day 4 | Kalsoy
Kalsoy, the long thin island shaped like a witch’s bony finger, is perhaps the most famous of the northern isles and is home to the iconic Kallur Lighthouse that sits perched on the very tip of the peninsula offset by a wildly impressive backdrop.
Catch one of the morning ferries across from Klaksvik to Syðradalur to begin the drive to the northern village of Trøllanes. Prepare for plenty of spooky tunnels that cut through the island’s peaks and epic views as you zoom along the narrow fjord.
In the village, set off through the little red gate and follow the rambling sheep trails north into the countryside for the 45-minute walk to the lighthouse. This area is known for its violent winds and torrents of mist that roll across the escarpment so be sure to bring warm clothing and keep a close eye on the trails if the fog descends. Trust me, it’s far too easy to get funnelled off on the wrong tiny trail.
After your hike, backtrack to Mikladalur and stroll down to the wave soaked rock platform to visit Kópakonan, the selkie woman who pays homage to perhaps my favourite Faroese folktale and the curse that she put upon the island. You can read all about it here.
Day 5 | Kunoy + Viðareiði
Make your way north to Kunoy, a tranquil tangle of tiny laneways, white-washed homes and rolling countryside that is best explored on foot.
After wandering about the town and taking in the views across of the chiselled face of Kalsoy, follow the dirt track uphill to discover a rare feature of the archipelago, the forest of Kunoy. A well laid path snakes through the lush grove leading to the wilderness beyond.
Next, cross over to Bordoy where you’ll find the tiny village of Muli located on the far northern tip of the island. It’s supposedly abandoned, though was certainly in use when I visited, and you’ll find a small cascade, a number of old stone ruins and plenty of birdlife on the grassy path that extends out past the village. The desolate potholed drive to get here is also beautiful.
On both visits to the Faroe Islands I found myself in the late afternoon winding my way to the beautifully situated village of Viðareiði in the hopes of climbing the enormous Villingardalsfjall. But after mornings filling with lazy strolls, soaking up the views and stopping every few minutes by the roadside for yet another photo, on both occasions I arrived far too late in the day to actually attempt the hike.
This tiny community has one of the most dramatic settings in the archipelago with a striking white church perched on the cliff’s edge backed by a craggy pyramid of rock. The best views, however, are found from above, gazing down on the scene.
The 4-hour hike up Villingardalsfjall is steep and requires a good deal of rocky scrambling, but if you’re short on time like I was, even an hour’s climb up the uneven slope will offer up a spectacular vantage point.
Day 6 | Torshavn and …
By this point in your trip, chances are that things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Perhaps a spell of wild weather stole away the views, a cancelled ferry put an end to your day trip or the epic hike you wanted to take was shelved for another day. So, I’d suggest reserving this penultimate day in your Faroe Islands itinerary as a contingency day.
Slowly make your way back to Torshavn, returning to the places you may have missed along the way, the villages you just need to take a second glance at or the hikes you were forced to put on hold.
Spend the afternoon exploring the charming Faroese capital. Stroll around the harbour where colourful boats bob two and fro and fishermen sell their catch of the day, get lost in the tiny knot of old town where grass-roofed homes and white window frames are in full supply and take refuge in the galleries and cosy cafes hidden between the city streets.
If you’ve somehow been lucky enough to experience a rare week of good Faroese weather and have no need or desire to slowly amble your way back to the city, consider taking a day trip to Nolsoy instead. Set just 20-minutes from Torshavn, this brightly coloured village provides a warm welcome and that ‘country’ feeling without actually having to go all that far. The 6-hour return hike to the lighthouse on the island’s southern tip is a beautiful way to spend a sunny day, though bear in mind that thick fog has a habit of sweeping across the peninsula at a moments notice. Check the ferry timetable for Nolsoy here.
Day 7 | Hike Fjallavatn and the Seastacks
With the famous hike along Sørvágsvatn already behind you, you may be surprised to learn that just a few short kilometres away lies the far less visited Fjallavatn, another Faroese lake that is perhaps even more impressive.
Rolling meadows, a hidden black sand beach, a thunderous waterfall and the quintessential Faroese cliff line rising from the ocean set the scene for an epic day of hiking.
The 13 km return hike to Fjallavatn begins beyond Vatnsoyrar and hugs the shore of the lake before emerging at an impressive panorama of angular peaks, wild ocean and a relentless stream of waves crashing against the black beach below. It’s rugged and remote and certainly one of the most beautiful views in the Faroe Islands. For the full guide to hiking Fjallavatn, see here.
Next, travel the short distance to the outskirts of Sørvágur to begin the hike to the sea stacks along the south coast of Vagar. It’s a relatively short walk, just 2 km each way, but as it passes through private property it’s best done with a guide. I did the hike with Jóhannus from Reika Adventures who is a wealth of information about the islands and its many hilarious quirks.
With three extra days carved out in your Faroe Islands itinerary, you’ll have time to explore the often overlooked but incredibly beautiful southern isles of Suðuroy and Sandoy.
Day 8 + 9 | Suðuroy
The Faroe’s southernmost isle gets far few visitors than its much more famous northern neighbours but I’m here to let you in on a little secret, it’s absolutely spectacular and the perfect place to wrap up your Faroe Islands trip.
Truth be told, I was greeted by some truly awful weather down here. The perpetually gloomy skies and hideous combination of wild winds, sleet and heavy snow meant that hiking was all but out of the question and many of the most scenic drives simply became impassable.
In the brief moments of calm sunshine though, the landscapes dressed in glistening white and bound by the jet-black cliffs was something quite special.
Catch the morning ferry across from Torshavn which should get you to Suduroy around midday.
Over the next two days, if the weather is on your side, hit the trails with a hike to Hvannhagi, a protected lake cradled beneath an impressive wall of rock that is rumoured to be one the islands most impressive natural features, and follow the road north for a glimpse of Hvalba and Sandvik from where you can set off on foot to explore the rugged sea cliffs of the west coast.
If you’re more confined to your car, take the scenic coastal drive down the east coast to Vágur and wind your way up the pass that climbs high over the hills between Sumba and Lopra toward the weather station and the base of the near vertical incline of Beinisvørð. Wander along the cliffs here for some excellent bird watching opportunities – the winged creatures put on quite a show swooping and sailing between the rocky cracks – and, if you dare, attempt the ridiculously steep climb to the islands highest point which offers up unparalleled views over the majestic folds of Suduroy.
Push onwards to Akraberg Lighthouse, the isolated southernmost point of the Faroe Islands that gazes across the windswept ocean, before backtracking through the charming village of Sumba and onwards to Tvøroyri to catch the ferry.
Read this post for a more in-depth guide of what to do on Suduroy.
Day 10 | Sandoy
Set a short ferry ride from Streymoy, Sandoy’s compact size, charming villages and sprawling beaches make it a wonderfully easy day trip from Torshavn, and because it seems to be left off so many people’s itineraries, it’s also an excellent place to explore without the crowds.
Get an early start on one of the first ferries of the day from Gamlarætt to Skopun. Weaving out of the tiny village you’re immediately thrust into the rolling countryside peppered by glassy lakes and before long you’ll be yearning to pull over to take a few snaps. Wind your way to the beautifully situated Dalur on Sandoy’s southern tip before slowly making your way back to catch the ferry, stopping at each village and pretty view as you go.
If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, it’s also worthwhile setting off to explore on foot. The trails climbing above Dalur and beyond Skopun offer up excellent views.
For more details on how to spend your time on Sandoy, check out this guide.
Back on Streymoy, Kirkjubøur is just a 5-minute drive from the ferry terminal and home to a traditional Faroese village of red window frames and grass-roofed houses as well as a collection of historical sights – the ruins of Magnus Cathedral, St Olaf’s Church and Kirkjubøargarður, one of the oldest inhabited wooden houses in the world.
You’ll find plenty more information about how to get around the Faroe Islands in this post, but for this itinerary, it’s definitely best to rent a car. If you’re not a driver, you could also theoretically use a combination of public transport and tours.
Vehicles can be picked up from the Vagar Airport or Torshavn. As always, be sure to read the insurance policy carefully before setting off as it might be a little different than what you’re used to. Generally in the Faroe Islands, there’s no option for zero excess and each piece of damage is charged individually, whether it’s a tiny ding or a more serious collision.
Unsurprisingly, this remote collection of islands wedged in the North Atlantic is not the most budget-friendly destination, but there you will find a range of accommodation options to suit most budgets.
For a 3-day visit, I’d recommend staying in Torshavn where you’ll have access to plenty of restaurants and won’t have to bother with packing up and moving every day. For longer stays I’d suggest picking a handful of bases from which to explore – Vagar, Torshavn and somewhere in the northern isles make the most sense depending on your chosen itinerary.
For those on a tight budget, hostels and Airbnbs present the best value, especially those with guest kitchens, while hotels offer up modern facilities often paired with stunning views of the Faroese landscapes.
These are all places I’ve used during my visits.
Vagar | Giljanes Hostel | Facilities are fairly basic here, but it’s one of the few budget-friendly options on the islands where you’ll find a large guest kitchen and lounge area along with a beautiful view across the bay. Check rates and availability here.
Torshavn | Kerjalon Hostel | A clean spacious hostel with comfy beds and a fully equipped kitchen. Run by Hotel Føroyar and located just next door. Last I heard this was under renovation but should be up and running soon.
Torshavn | Hotel Føroyar | An excellent mid-range choice boasting spectacular views from its perch above town. The sumptuous buffet breakfast is exceptional and rooms are modern and spacious. Check rates and availability here.
Nolsoy | Airbnb | This beautiful, bright house provides a wonderful refuge on Nolsoy and though it isn’t strictly locally run, the friendly owners can give you plenty of interesting insights into life on the islands.
Norðragøta | Airbnb | This big house with fully equipped kitchen and comfy lounge area was a perfect base to explore the northern isles. Hosts are friendly and full of stories about their homeland.
Suðuroy | Hotel Bakkin | Located in Vágur, this simple but comfortable hotel includes breakfast. Check the latest reviews on TripAdvisor, or for rates and availability enquire here. Suduroy also has plenty of great options listed on Airbnb.
Considering visitors don’t get a great deal of opportunity to interact with locals on the islands, using Airbnbs actually provides a rare chance to get a local perspective on life on the islands, on tourism, on amusing cultural quirks and advice on how to actually pronounce the places you’re visiting because, trust me, between the accents and intonations you’re probably not saying anything right.
They often tend to be far more economical and offer up the chance to stay somewhere truly atmospheric, like a charming countryside cabin or grass-roofed home in the wilderness.
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