I am using the Faroe Islands’ official tagline as this post’s title because unlike other cheesy taglines, it’s accurate.
We arrived in Torshavn (aka “the world’s smallest capital) on Monday afternoon after a short one hour flight. I thought Iceland’s domestic airport was small (6 gates) until I saw the Faroe Islands airport (2 gates). We took a shuttle from the airport to Torshavn, which was perfect because the driver had no idea where he was going (and no GPS) and it served as a great scenic introduction to the islands. Our host, Tora, was a lovely woman who spent a great deal of time chatting with us and marking off spots on a map. We also spent some time chatting with a nice Danish couple staying in the guesthouse. Since the Faroe Islands are a territory of Denmark, many Danish tourists visit the country. Faroese is the main language of the Faroes, but almost everyone speaks Danish and many speak English as well.
On the plane ride, we read a bit about the Faroe Islands in a magazine. The writer described an island near Torshavn (the capital) as a great retreat from the “hustle and bustle of the capital.” Now keep in mind, the capital has 20,000 residents. We probably saw about ten other people out on our first night when we explored the harbor (the main area). I wonder what the Faroese would think of New York.
On Tuesday, we visited two remote, picturesque villages on the island of Streymoy, the largest of the 18 isles. The islands are very small, but it took us a very long time to drive a short distance due to the phenomenon of “the Buttercup trail.” There are special, extra scenic (I say this because every route is scenic) roads marked on maps for visitors, called Buttercup Trails. Usually, these are one lane roads that allow two-way traffic. They wind through mountains, by the ocean and through other gorgeous landscapes, with sheep surrounding them on both sides.
We drove very slowly on these roads for a few reasons: 1) we stopped frequently to take pictures 2) occasionally sheep crossed the road and 3) we couldn’t drive very fast since there were many hairpin turns and we would have flown off a cliff. There are also several tunnels through the Faroe Islands. The two largest ones are about 2km each and go under the sea. The smallest ones are one lane tunnels through mountains in the pitch black (and they allow 2 way traffic).
That evening, we enjoyed a wonderful Faroese meal (braised lamb for two) at Aarstova, a quaint restaurant in an old fashioned house in Torshavn. We had delicious Rhubarb cake for dessert.
On Wednesday, we took a boat ride near the bird cliffs of Vestmanna. Unfortunately, the Puffins migrated at the end of August, so we weren’t able to see them. We did see a bunch of other birds though, and the cliffs were incredible.
Other notable parts of the tour were:
- Seeing an abandoned village on a cliff
- Learning about “meat cliffs” where the Faroese used to hide meat from pirates
- Getting soaked and holding on for dear life when the boat ride got a bit choppier than expected (we were on the top deck)
- Wearing helmets when we sailed between the cliffs to avoid injury from falling rocks
We spent Wednesday and Thursday based in Gjogv, a beautiful village off the beaten path on Eysturoy. One of the best parts about the Faroe Islands was that it didn’t matter where we went; everything was magical and beautiful. A 10 minute walk outside the Gjogv guesthouse resulted in a fantastic view of the cliffs, the ocean, and village below.
On Thursday, we drove to Klaksvik, the second biggest city in the Faroes (population: 4,000) and decided to take the ferry to a small island (Kalsoy) from there. We were able to take the car on the ferry, but it was tiny (about five cars fit on it). The island had one straight road, which we drove along through various villages. One village had a famous “seal-woman” statue near the sea, based on a Faroese folk tale. In another village, we hiked up a small mountain in search of a lighthouse (which we never found). The path was extremely narrow and winding, and the views all the way up the trail were magnificent. We were also walking within feet of tons of sheep.
Throughout the islands, we had a great experience with tourist information centers. They provided free maps, and the employees provided a ton of useful information and answered all the questions we had. It was very impressive how open and accessible such a small country was for tourists. I’d highly recommend visiting the Faroe Islands to anyone, but especially to people visiting Iceland, Denmark, or Norway, as there are direct flights from these countries.