Four days were never going to be enough. Lying adrift in the North Atlantic, the far-flung Faroes were once reserved for only the hardiest travellers. However, much has changed and today the 18 wild and windswept isles are drawing more and more visitors each year.
Despite an increase in popularity, the Faroes remain well off the typical traveller’s radar. Just a short flight from the UK, the islands are a paradise for hikers, birdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts. We spent four days in the Faroes and thanks to extraordinarily long days (sunset was around 11pm), we managed to pack in an awful lot.
Still, we could have easily spent twice as long in these wild and timeless lands. Below, we share the best things to do in the Faroe Islands.
Puffins in Mykines
A total of 305 bird species have been recorded in the Faroe Islands, but it is one little bird in particular that draws the crowds. The island of Mykines is the westernmost island of the Faroes and home to a large colony of Faroese or Atlantic puffins.
The puffins of Mykines were by far the highlight of our trip. If you only do one excursion, make it a trip to this island.
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in the Faroe Islands with an excellent array of navigable trails to suit all levels of fitness and ability. Choose from plunging gorges, vast lakes, scenic villages and picturesque fjords.
Many of the trails are free and easy to access while others require a bit more planning, a fee or a guide.
Where to start? It would be easy – and completely acceptable – to spend all your time in the Faroes simply driving from viewpoint to viewpoint. The Faroe Islands are a photographer’s dream and dripping with stunning vistas.We were a little overwhelmed by the number of sights to see, so we drew up a list, then a shortlist and marked them on a Google Map. We didn’t manage to get round all of the sights on the northern islands but we still ticked off a fair few.Below, we list some of what we consider to be the must-see viewpoints across the main islands, many of which can be seen during the above hikes.
- Gásadalur and Múlafossur waterfall
- Fossá waterfall
- Trælanípan and Bøsdalafossur waterfall, Sørvágsvatn Lake
- Kallur Lighthouse
- Tinganes, Reyni and Skansin, Tórshavn
Tinganes and Tórshavn Old Town
The turf-roof ‘parliament jetty’ of Tinganes is thought to be one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places in the world, dating back to 825AD. This, along with the charming ‘Old Town’ streets of Reyni and Skansin (Old Fort), are the best things to see in Tórshavn.
Tórshavn, which translates as ‘Thor’s harbour’, is the capital and largest city of the Faroe Islands. It is small enough to see all the sights on foot, which means you will have plenty of time to pause at Paname Café for some of the best coffee in town.
The traditional Viking-age village of Kirkjubøur is regarded the most significant historical site in the Faroe Islands. Located on the island of Streymoy, just a short drive from Tórshavn, Kirkjubøur is home to a number of historic buildings.
Dating from the 12th century, Saint Olav’s Church (Olavskirkjan) is the Faroe Islands’ oldest church still in use today. Additionally, Kirkjubøur is home to the ruins of the 14th century St. Magnus Cathedral (Magnuskatedralen) and the 11th century Kirkjubøargarður, said to be the world’s oldest still inhabited wooden house.
Vestmanna bird cliffs
The Vestmanna Bird Cliffs (Vestmannabjørgini) are well known for an abundance of birdlife including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes and gannets. Unlike Mykines, the birds can only be seen from a boat tour that visits the narrow sounds and deep grottos nature has carved into the 700m-high cliffs.
In the Faroe Islands you are never more than 5km from the sea so it’s no surprise that the ocean has a big influence on this remote clutch of islands.
As such, there are plenty of kayaking options available, from exploring the myriad saltwater waterways and fjords to something a little calmer on the Faroes’ largest freshwater lake, Sørvágsvatn.
With excellent infrastructure, quiet roads in good condition and unrelenting views to be found along the roads and trails, exploring the islands by bicycle is an excellent option. Although, be warned: the roads and trails may be quiet, but they are rarely flat!
For the first time in a while we managed to visit a destination and keep Kia off a horse! Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go horse riding in the Faroe Islands, but if we ever return it will be top of our to-do list.
Faroese horses (føroyska rossið in Faroese) have roamed the rugged slopes of the islands for over a thousand years. They are unique to the Faroe Islands with DNA analysis demonstrating that the Faroese breed is not found anywhere else in the world.
With soaring sea stacks and seawalls, the Faroe Islands are a rock climber’s dream. Their remote location meant the islands saw very few rock climbers until the sport’s introduction around 2005. Before then, the only climbing on the island was mainly in the name of hunting as huntsmen would rappel down steep sea cliffs to access the birds.
One does not immediately associate the cold North Atlantic with diving and snorkelling, but the activity is becoming increasingly popular with visitors to the region.
Don’t expect calm currents, warm waters or coral reefs though. Instead, dive sites include seaweed forests, deep-water drop-offs and hidden grottos with alternative, but no-less curious, animal life.
It should be little surprise that a far-flung archipelago such as the Faroe Islands fully embraces life on the water.
It’s possible to charter modern sailing boats with or without a skipper and join boat tours on anything from classic schooners to bouncing speedboats. It’s even possible to rent a traditional Faroese rowing boat. Many of the excursions can combine an angling option.