Maps have always fascinated me.
As a kid, I would trace the outlines of countries and memorize capital cities for fun, rolling the place names around on my tongue like they were delicacies. Imagining myself crossing some remote border. Disembarking from a lonely ship. Wading ashore upon some wild island to disappear through the door of travel and find myself waiting there on the other side.
The obscure places were the best. Places no one had heard of, let alone visited. Magical names like Zanzibar, Borneo, and Aland. I sought those places out on my maps, studying their contours and measuring the impossible distances from my home in rural Tennessee.
And yet, I had never heard of the Faroe Islands.
Somehow, this secluded Danish territory had eluded me until I read an article about the islands in Afar while doing research for this trip. The pictures were stunning. A rugged, broken archipelago with snow-capped green mountains and black cliffs falling off sharply into a boiling sea.
Even the name, Faroe, called to me, and I knew that I must go. Whatever else we would see on this journey, I would have to see that crazy landscape.
Tourism is still a relatively new concept in the Faroe Islands, with the first real government effort to encourage visitors occurring as recently as 2015 and with Google Street View mapping the islands in 2017. So, as you might expect, the infrastructure is struggling a bit to keep up with the newfound popularity. But Airbnb has found purchase, restaurants are starting to pop up in several of the smaller towns, and some excellent dining establishments now grace the capital of Tórshavn.
We spent four nights and five full days at a wonderful Airbnb that served as our launchpad for exploring the territory. Our host, Bjorg (pronounced B’erg in Faroese), greeted us at the door and toured us around the modern renovation that is her home. There were other guests in the house during our stay, and they had come from all over Europe, mostly for the hiking.
Since we were visiting during June, there were only three hours of semi-darkness each night. So we found ourselves wide awake and hungry at odd hours. Like 2 a.m. Unfortunately, the island schedule still hasn’t adjusted to the all-hours dining needs of newly-arrived tourists, and restaurants often close by 10 p.m. So we would recommend stocking up on hearty snacks during the actual daylight hours to get you through those midnight-sun cravings.
And invest in a good sleep mask like those Angela bought us for this trip. Most places don’t have blackout curtains or air conditioning, so you will have to open the windows to get some air circulation. But, since mosquitos are virtually non-existent in the Faroe Islands, windows can be left open all night. With the sleep masks making everything blissfully dark, it was really quite pleasant.
You should also consider renting a car for your time on the islands. Although there is extensive bus service providing transportation between towns, you will want to enjoy the freedom a rental car provides. Sometimes, the scenery is just so beautiful you have to stop and take a picture.
While driving in the Faroe Islands is not necessarily difficult, there are enough cautions worth mentioning that I will be detailing them in a separate post.
We explored the length and breadth of our base island, Streymoy, taking in the scenery found on both the high roads through the mountains and the low roads hugging the coastlines. Perhaps our favorite day was spent in and above the tiny town of Saksun where we hiked for eight miles, contributed to Google’s coverage of the island by posting this photosphere, and captured these amazing photos.
There is only a single-lane road into Saksun, and it runs for nearly seven miles. We were famished after the hike, so we stopped in Hvalvik to enjoy an early dinner at Joe Pizza (and Shawarma). Joe himself was behind the counter. Originally from Nigeria, we got the opportunity to learn about him and his fascinating journey to this little village on the other side of the world. The hike was spectacular, Joe’s food was delicious, and the memory of this day would last a lifetime.
We took a day trip to the island of Borðoy, passing through a couple of one-lane tunnels and gaining views of the saw-toothed island of Kalsoy. Although I had wanted to hike Kalsoy during this visit, the island is only accessible via a short ferry ride, and we simply didn’t have the time to spare.
We did get to meet some charming residents on our way back through Klaksvik, however. The local high school teams were busy at rowing practice but didn’t mind posing for a few photos and chatting about life in Faroe.
Our last full day was spent hiking to the island of Vagur. At Café Fjørðoy, a quaint little seaside sandwich shop in Sørvágur, we inquired about best routes to the iconic waterfall of Mulafossur and the southern edge of Lake Leitisvatn, where the lake spills into the sea over a 100 foot cliff.
As with the entirety of our trip to these amazing islands, the last day of hiking certainly didn’t disappoint.
Could we live in the Faroe Islands? Probably not. The isolation would prohibit the kind of travel we still want to do in the years to come.
But, I would certainly consider a return visit to this rugged slice of heaven someday. And spend every single day hiking to a new, wild, wind-swept peak.
Disclaimer: Let me say that I realize the Faroe Islands are a hot-button topic for many people out there. Our experience in the islands was overwhelmingly positive, and that is what I have shared here. If you are looking for a place to argue your stance on the Grind, this is not it. Instead, I am writing another blog post that addresses this issue directly and welcomes debate. But let’s keep it contained there.