While Iceland was absolutely spectacular, once you see the Faroe Islands, it might start to seem like the ugly step sister. I have never seen anywhere so so green. Whether you are clinging to the twisting hillside roads in your rental car, gazing up at the towering sheer cliff faces from a boat on the water, or standing up at the top of a mountain, everywhere you look there are epic views of craggy verdant islands jutting out of the water. And they’re all dotted with countless waterfalls, fluffy little sheep and baby lambs, and colorful houses with grass roofs (with daisies growing on them! daisies! growing on roofs!). It’s truly such a magically beautiful fairytale land, it seems as though it shouldn’t even be real.
When we were planning our trip, I found that it was difficult to find all the necessary information in one place, so in putting together this itinerary it was really important to me to make the planning process and simple and streamlined as possible for you. With that in mind, please follow along with us as we share our definitive guide, where you will learn from our mistakes and successes along the way. Don’t forget to pack warm clothes, good shoes, and your sense of wonder.
5 Days In The Faroe Islands
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
As we learned the hard way (the only things we booked in advance were our accommodation and rental car, and we only figured out our itinerary after we landed), if you really want to take full advantage of your time in the Faroe Islands, book as much as possible as far in advance as possible, especially in July. Selection of everything is limited, and the Faroes are getting very popular. We booked our rental car over a month before, and I’m pretty sure we might have gotten the very last rental car available on the island and paid dearly for it too (there also happened to be a music festival the same weekend we were there, to be fair). There is a pretty good bus service, but a rental car is going to make your life much easier.
Beyond the obviously amazing camping, there is really not a lot to chose from for hotels, and while there are a few dotted all over the island, you will probably want to base yourself in the main town of Torshavn, about a 45 minute drive from the airport. The reason for this is that there are also very few restaurants in the Faroes, and almost all of them are in downtown Torshavn, so stay anywhere else and you are looking at very limited dining options. Try Marknagil Guesthouse for a budget option (outside of summer it is a student dorm), or Hotel Foroyar and Hotel Hafnia are good options for nicer accommodation, with Hafnia having the most central location.
You should also consider booking your restaurant reservations in advance as well, because if you show up at the better restaurants without one (almost anywhere that’s not a bar or takeaway), they will likely tell you that they are completely booked for the evening. They won’t even give you a wait time. However, after encountering this the first night there, we were able to get all of our reservations online with only a day or two of notice, but at times like 6 or 9pm.
As there are limited restaurant options on the islands, consider booking a “heimablídni” and get the opportunity to meet some of the locals. The Faroese phrase “heimablídni” translates directly as “home hospitality,” where you are invited into a local home and cooked for, booking options available here.
Also, if you’re looking to do special excursions like Rib Boating, or specific guided tours, try and be in the Faroes on a Wednesday. A lot of the different excursions, even during the high season, only leave on certain days and Wednesday seems to be the most popular day for this.
Our breakfast was included at our guest house, and all lunches were picked up from gas stations unless otherwise specified (bland but edible healthy options available at the larger Magn stations).
Arrive in the evening and pick up your rental car. Drive 45 minutes to check into your hotel in Torshavn.
Keeping it casual for your first night of dinner, we recommend Sirkus Bar, no reservation needed or taken. Along with burgers etc, they also have a decent nightly Indian selection including a vegetarian option, and there might even be a live concert on the 2nd floor.
If you want to go traditional Faroese style food and fancier for your first night on the island, try Aarstova, online reservations available here.
SORVAGSVATN LAKE & GASADULAR WATERFALL
View From Sorvagsvatn Lake
As both these sites are on the same island as the airport, if you happen to arrive on an early morning flight, and especially if its a clear day (more on that later), consider hitting these before you even head to Torshavn to check into your guest house. Sorvagsvatn Lake is about about a 40 minute drive from Torshavn.
In this magical fairy tale land, there is a lake that looks as though it is suspended in the very sky. That’s because it is cradled in a valley that ends just at the edge of the island of Vagar, like a god made infinity pool. To find the trailhead, drive along the lake by the main road near the airport, look for the old stone houses with grass roofs (yes, that’s all the direction you need), and there will be a parking area there.
The trail head begins at a small sheep farm, and you will walk through two sheep gates, then just start walking south along the eastern edge of the lake until you reach the Atlantic. Keep in mind that while it’s hard to get lost, it’s easy to lose the trail, and expect to get wet and muddy feet along the way (it’s flat but obstacle laden with swampy muddy bits). It will take about an hour each way if you consider yourself a fast walker, over an hour if you like to take your time, and give yourself at least an hour once you’re there to explore and perhaps eat lunch. So allow for at least 3 hours roundtrip.
Once you reach the edge of the island, enjoy carefully exploring the cliffside. Also, make sure to climb up to the top of the tall bluff on the left hand side if you’re facing the ocean. This is the reason you’re hoping for a clear day. Because if it’s clear, at the top you will get an amazing view of how the lake looks suspended in air (several examples here, some of which were obviously taken by drone, but some angles I do believe are possible without). I don’t have my own example to show you because sadly (it really kills me just a little bit) the morning we went it was very misty. It was still beautiful and worthwhile, but it was impossible to see this part of the view through the mist.
Mulafossur Waterfall (on a clear day you can also see the town of Gasadular behind)
After your walk to the lake, drive about 45 minutes further along the the same island to the village of Gasadular. If you’re not hiked out yet, there is also the option of a 5 hour roundtrip hike from the village of Bour. At Gasadular you will get to see the Mulafossur Waterfall plunging off the side of the island into the sea.
Head back to your hotel and consider trying Etika for dinner, a highly rated sushi restaurant that serves all the fresh local catches, reservations available here.
KALSOY ISLAND & KALLUR LIGHTHOUSE
View From Kallur Lighthouse
This day was my favorite day of the whole trip. Today you will drive to Klaksvik to catch the ferry to the island of Kalsoy, where you will hike to the spectacular Kallur Lighthouse. You cannot book tickets for this car ferry in advance, so arrive an hour beforehand to ensure your spot on the boat. The online ferry schedule is available here, but keep in mind that when we got there in turned out there was no 14:10 ferry, so it might not be totally accurate. The ferry ride itself is about 20 minutes long. We didn’t make time to go here, but if you’re looking for lunch, or a snack, or coffee before or after this excursion, consider the Frida Klaksvik Cafe which is well rated. We also saw signs for, but did not check out, a cafe in the main town where the ferry ports on the Kalsoy side, which is probably the only food option on the whole island.
Once you get to Kalsoy, there are two main stops on the island. Since everyone will be proceeding directly to the first stop, the Selkie woman statue at Mikladalur, we suggest you beat the crowd and leave it for the end and proceed straight to the last town of Trollanes where you will begin your hike to the Kallur Lighthouse.
The Hike to Kallur Lighthouse
Pictures of this lighthouse are the images of the Faroe Islands that have probably most captured your imagination. Despite all that, it’s been notoriously hard to find, and most people don’t seem to bother going. Therefore you will likely only be sharing the mountain with a few people. This is an unmarked off the beaten track kind of trek, with vague directions like “go through the red gate.” The Organized Wanderer has all the directions you need in handy picture form towards the bottom of her post here, with which you should have no issue finding it. Also, it has become widely visited enough that now there is a fairly well worn path to follow. Expect the hike to take about 45 minutes to an hour each way plus time for enjoying the view and taking photos.
The Selkie Woman of Mikladular
Once you’ve completed your trek you can checkout the statue of the Selkie woman at Mikladular on your way back to the ferry. The mythology of the Selkies is shared between the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Scotland, and Ireland. These mythical creatures were believed to live as seals in the sea, but able to shed their skin and become humans on land. The legend of the Selkie Woman has it that a local farmer fell in love with her in human form and stole her sealskin in order to marry her, only for her to find her sealskin years later and return to the sea.
For dinner we recommend grabbing a shawarma takeaway from Sentrum, absolutely delicious and satisfying after a long day out and about.
VESTMANNA BIRD CLIFF TOUR + BUTTERCUP ROADS
View From the Vestmanna Bird Cliff Tour
VESTMANNA BIRD CLIFF TOUR
Drive 45 min from Gasadalur to Vestmanna for the bird cliff tour. This tour is worth it not only for the abundance of puffins and other birds, but also for the incredible views of the Faroes from the water, the best boat driving you’ve ever seen. The boat weaves in and out of grottos and stone arches with the smallest amount of clearance. You reserve your spot online here, then pay for the tickets at the Vestmanna tourist center where the boat leaves from. There’s also a cafe inside that serves delicious fish stew as a great lunch option after the boat tour. Expect the tour to take about 2 hours.
Buttercup Road to Saksun
After the boat tour and lunch, the afternoon is all about exploring the Faroe Islands famous Buttercup Roads en route to traditional Faroese villages. These are routes that are known for being particularly scenic, which also translates to narrow and winding so driver beware.
Drive from Vestmanna to the first village of Gjogv (about an hour), then from Gjogv to Tjornuvik (about 45 minutes), then finally from Tjornuvik to Saksun (about 30 minutes). All of these roads and villages have something unique to offer, although my favorites were Saksun and Gjogv. Out of the three, you may want to spend the most time at Saksun as there is a secret beach that is only accessible at low tide.
If you are looking to stay in a hotel or guesthouse somewhere more off the beaten path than Torshavn, consider Gjogv as we spotted a sweet looking guesthouse and restaurant when we drove through there. Bookings available here.
For tonight we suggest dinner at Barbara’s Fish House, online reservations available here. The interior is super charming, and feels like a 200 year old fishing cabin. They’re famous for their fish stew, and also their fried perch which comes out whole on it’s belly as though it’s still swimming!
Mykines Island is widely considered to be a must do stop for the Faroe Islands. Unfortunately because we didn’t realize the need to book in advance, we missed out on this excursion. You can only reach this island by ferry or helicopter and both were sold out for the entire length of our stay. It did free up time for us to go to the Kallur Lighthouse, however, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. This is why I have created a 5 day itinerary instead of 4 days we had, because to really see everything I think you need that much time.
This is an all day excursion which includes what I understand to be a 4 hour hike to the local lighthouse, and a visit to the traditional Faroese town where no cars are allowed. Going by helicopter to Mykines is not as expensive as it sounds (the price is comparable to the ferry), as the government heavily subsidizes these flights as part of their search and rescue training programs. However you are only able to take the helicopter one way, so you will also have the opportunity to experience the ferry in the other direction. If you’ve parked at the airport, the ferry terminal on Vagar is about a 20 minute walk away.
Today is the day you sadly fly home, or onto your next destination. Depending on your flight time, there may be time in the morning for you to hit anything you might have missed or to try and return to another site under possibly better weather conditions. (We were going to give Sorvagsvatn another try on our last morning, but unfortunately the weather was even worse than the first attempt.)
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Carina Covella is a writer and currently working on her forthcoming memoir, Love Dogs, detailing her six month transformational journey from Hollywood through India. Carina graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University cum laude with a degree in Art History. She also attended the Sorbonne in Paris and studied opera at the Manhattan School of Music through the university exchange programs. Until recently she lived in Mill Valley, California with her wonderful Welsh boyfriend Anthony in a house nestled in the trees, but now they’re off on a two year adventure around the world. When she’s not writing or traveling, she loves to cook for her friends and family.