If you haven’t heard of the Faroe Islands you’re probably not alone. I didn’t know about them until I came across a photo of an incredible landscape online and investigated where it was taken. The Faroe Islands are an archipelago made up of 18 islands in the North Atlantic…and after seeing more photos I became preoccupied with going there. Thankfully I found a friend willing to go on an adventure and from there we set about planning how to get there and how to spend our time. We read a couple of blogs (Near the Lighthouse, Inusualia) and spent a lot of time of the Visit Faroe Islands tourism site (which is fantastic).
We arrived in the Faroe Islands on a Friday evening, and departed in the afternoon on Tuesday. Here’s how we spent our four days:
And if you’re looking for our practical tips and info, you can read them here.
Day 1: Rain, rainbows, sheep and a waterfall on the islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy
On our first day, which was rainy and cloudy, we set out from Tórshavn to visit a couple of villages and towns during the day. Since we knew this would be the worst weather day of our stay we didn’t plan any hikes or outside activities. We first drove to Vestmanna, which was very quiet but had a very nice little harbour…during the summer season you can take a boat trip from here to see the bird cliffs nearby.
After we left Vestmanna we headed for Tjørnuvík, which is the northern-most village on Streymoy known for its black sand beach. Along the way we saw the Fossá waterfall. There is some confusing information online about the exact location of Fossá but you can’t really miss it. Once you turn off on the road to Tjørnuvík, it is very narrow (single-lane but two-way traffic) and you have drive slowly so you won’t miss the waterfall cascading on your left. The road gets more narrow as you head down a very steep hill to Tjørnuvík but the views are beautiful. It was incredibly windy in Tjørnuvík so we didn’t stay long, but we did get a glimpse of the rainbow from the beach and played fetch with a local dog before we left for Saksun (also on Streymoy).
To see the full beauty of Saksun, make sure you drive in further. At first Saksun appears to be nestled in the mountains; however this is just a trick. While it is a located a little higher it is right by a inlet of the ocean on the west side of the island. If you want to walk to the inlet do so from the first part of the village (you turn left from the road) and not from the Chruch side (you keep straight on the road). The little Church in Saksun is very rugged and beautiful and it was one of my highlights from the trip. Near the parking by the Church is the start of some more serious hiking routes, as well as great bathroom facilities.
After a energizing few hours in Saksun we left the island of Streymoy for the island of Eysturoy (connected by a bridge) and headed for the town of Gjógv. On the way there we stopped to take some photos of the views and found our car surrounded by sheep. Up until that point all the sheep had run away as soon as I wanted to take a photo – but we soon figured out what was up…it was feeding time and when they saw an SUV pull-up they assumed it was their dinner.
After our photo session with the sheep was over we continued on the way to Gjógv. The drive takes you through some incredible mountainscapes but everything was covered in clouds so we couldn’t get the full experience. However, based on what we read and the route we took I believe we drove close to Slættaratindur, the highest peak in the Faroes.
Our last day was not a full day, with our flight leaving from Vagar airport at 2.35 pm. After sleeping in we hit the streets of Tórshavn with one mission: to purchase a real Faroese wool sweater. As we waited for one particular store to open – Guðrun & Guðrun – whose sweaters we had seen through the window each time we went to the grocery store. The trip was a success and Laetitia bought a beautiful cream sweater (which then proceeded to shed all over the car and her coat!)
As we left Tórshavn for the airport we decided to drive to/through the last of the villages we hadn’t been to/driven through on Streymoy: Velbastaður, Syðradalur, and Norðradalur (this place is so tiny it is just a few houses.)
And then, just like that, we refueled, drove through the undersea tunnel one last time, dropped off the rental car, and said goodbye!
Our main plan for Day 3 was to hike around Lake Sørvágsvatn, located on Vagar just before the airport (you’ll probably fly over the lake when you arrive/leave). From Tórshavn we drove as though we were headed to the airport, through the undersea tunnel and to the town of Miðvágur, where we parked the car in the parking lot of what looked like a hardware store You can also park a bit closer to the lake if you like: just after the town the road veers right and many people park around there for the hike.
The Sørvágsvatn hike is pretty relaxed (although muddy) but it does get pretty steep at the end; however you’ll be rewarded with incredible views, with the lake looking like a cup of tea above the ocean…
After Lake Sørvágsvatn we drove as far west as you can go by car on Vagar to Gásadalur to see the waterfall that falls into the ocean. On the way there the road narrows and you pass through another one lane tunnel. The tunnel was in fact only built in the 2000’s to make the town more accessible.
There is a convenient viewing spot located near the waterfall with a little bench you can sit on and enjoy the view. But I also suggest walking down a little further until you hit the ‘no entry’ sign because you can get a better view from there (the photo above was taken in the that spot while the tiny person in the top right is at the official view spot).
Our final stop for the day was Kirkjubøur, back on Streymoy island, just a 20 min drive south past Torshavn.
In medieval times, this small village was the cultural and episcopal centre of the Faroe Islands. Today, it effectively consists of three main elements; firstly, the 900 year-old farmhouse/museum Roykstovan, which is thought to be the oldest wooden house still in use today (the Patursson family have lived there for 17 generations); secondly, the present Parish church, Ólavskirkja, built in 1111 and used as the main church in the Faroe Islands for centuries; and thirdly, the medieval Magnus Cathedral, built in the 1300s and the effective seat of power over several centuries.
For Day 2 in the Faroe Islands our main plan was to visit the small island of Klasoy, accessible only by ferry from Klksvik, on the island of Borðoy. This also meant driving through our second undersea tunnel (the longer of the two)!
We left Tórshavn around 8:15 to give ourselves enough time to get to Klaksvik . To take 10 am ferry we arrived a bit earlier to get in the queue…it wasn’t long (there was only one other car) but the ferry only has room for around 8 cars so in the busier season it is probably good to arrive earlier. We purchased the tickets on the ferry (200 DKK for the car + the two occupants), and we left promptly at 10 am, arriving in Kalsoy by 10.20. You can check the ferry schedule here.
Kalsoy is very small, and there is only one road that goes along the east island, with three single-lane two-way tunnels to cross (I have written more about these in the practical tips section).
Our first stop on Kalsoy was in Mikladalur to see Selkie the Sealwife, a small statue of a ‘seal woman’. Legend has it that one night a year magical sealmen and women would leave the ocean, shed their sealskins and dance the night away at the edge of the water. One night a young man who wanted to see if this was true, snuck down to the waters edge. Upon seeing a beautiful sealwoman climbing out of the ocean he decided to hide her sealskin so she would not be able to go back at dawn…long story short he basically abducted her and forced her to be his wife.
From Mikladalur we drove to the end of the island to Trøllanes from where we hiked up to the nearby lighthouse. The hiking route is not an official one but it is a fairly simple route. I downloaded an app called Wikiloc to use as a guide especially on the first part where there is a very steep hill and you’re not really sure where you are going yet. The hike begins at the north end of the town – walk up the road that looks like it leads to nowhere and then go through the little red gate. From there proceed up at a diagonal towards the right. Once you’ve cleared the first steep part you keep going up but at a more forgiving angle, around the base of the mountain. After a while you’ll be able to see the tiny lighthouse in the distance. I think we gave ourselves around 2 hours for the whole hike which included spending some time at the top…I would highly advise this since the view is breathtaking.
Once we were done hiking we drove back to the ferry stop and took the 2.30 pm ferry back to Borðoy. Since we had not been sure how much time we’d need in Kalsoy, and on Sundays there are fewer ferries, we hadn’t planned anything else for the day. However, since we had some time we decided to drive as far as we could and headed to Viðareiði on Viðoy island – the northernmost settlement in the Faroes . We didn’t ended up stopping in the town since there wasn’t really time, but you can apparently enjoy a traditional Faroese meal in the town. One thing to note is that when driving from Klaksvik to Viðareiði there are two single-lane tunnels you will pass through and there is a fair amount more traffic than on Kalsoy. Read my tips for driving through these tunnels here.
From New York we flew Norwegian Air to Copenhagen (487 USD return), and from Copenhagen to the Faroes we flew Atlantic Airways (204 USD return). The airport in the Faroe Islands is located on Vagar island.
We stayed at Hotel Hafnia, located in the historic part of the capital Tórshavn, about 45 mins drive from the airport.
On Saturday morning, we purchased local sim cards from the mobile phone store located close to our hotel. Sim cards cannot be purchased at grocery stores or gas stations like in some countries. The cost: Sim card with some talk time + 5GB of data = 200 DKK (apx. 28 USD).
Car Hire and Driving
We rented a car from Avis at Vagar airport. We rented an SUV but there is no off-road driving in the Faroes so a sedan would have been just fine.
In the Faroes you drive on the right-hand side and the roads are generally in excellent condition. On some of the smaller islands or to reach more remote villages/towns the roads are often single-lane two-way so you need to be careful and ensure you make use of the small passing spots effectively. There are also single-lane two-way tunnels around the islands…these require caution if you’ve never driven through them, but there are plenty of spaces to pass inside. It can be tricky to judge how far away a car is that has right of way, so my advice is rather be safe than sorry and use the nearest passing spot to you. Also try not to get caught in a large group of cars because the passing spots only fit 3 or 4 cars and I witnessed people having to reverse to make it to the previous spot (not fun!).
In terms of navigation, I relied on Google Maps but after 24 hrs you have a pretty good sense of where you’re going and you’ll probably find yourself driving the same roads. One thing I like to do is to download an offline map in my Google Maps so I don’t have to worry about whether or not I have internet.
To get to Tórshavn on the island of Streymoy, from Vagar airport you will drive through an undersea tunnel…there are two undersea tunnels in the Faroes (the other is on the way to Klaksvik) and the cost is 100 DKK. You only pay the tunnel fee one way and you can pay at the local petrol/gas stations: Etto and Magn. When you pay you’ll get special toll slip (we didn’t have to show this to anyone!).
Over the 4 days we drove apx. 800 kilometers and we paid around 400 DKK for Petrol/Gas (apx. 57 USD).
Read more about driving in the Faroe Islands here.
Ferry to Kalsoy
If you take the ferry from Klaksvik to Kalsoy, for the car + 2 passengers the cost was 200 DKK (apx. 28 USD). We took the 10 am ferry but cars are advised to arrive at least 15 min early to get in line as the ferry only fits about 8 cars. On our way there we were only 2 cars but on the way back there were 5. You buy the ferry ticket on the ferry and the ferry schedule is available here.
on our first night (Friday) we arrived in Torshavn a little too late to grab a meal at a restaurant, but no fear the Pizza King down the road was open and we wolfed down a pizza for 85 DKK. The rest of our dinners on the Faroe islands were not takeout and quite a bit more pricey at around 390-500 DKK per person. On Saturday night we ended up eating at our hotel restaurant because we hadn’t made a reservation, so remember to book restaurants for Fri/Sat and even Sunday well ahead of time.
On Sunday we dined at Áarstova, and on Monday, our last night, at Barbara Fish House (which was probably my favourite). Also, something to note is that the menus are not very extensive, there are usually three or maybe four options for mains and I don’t recall any being vegetarian or vegan.
For lunches, based on my experience in Iceland last year we figured it would be best to take some simple snacks and ingredients for sandwiches in the car. In the small villages on the Faroes there didn’t appear to be any stores or food places, although maybe this is a bit different in the summer. Thankfully, the grocery store near the Hafnia hotel opens early and stay open pretty late (and it is even open on Sundays) and you’ll be able to get snacks, bread (yummy), ham, cheese, fruit, etc.
Everyone we met on the island spoke great English (the official languages are Faroese and Danish).
If you look at the weather forecast for the Faroe Islands you’ll see that there isn’t a drastic difference between summer and winter temperatures. It does rain a lot so it is really important to have waterproof outer layers. It is also a good idea to wear multiple layers that you can add/remove as necessary – I often went from short sleeves to a sweater and snowboarding jacket in the space of 30 mins. Also, don’t be freaked out if you wake up and it is raining outside your window, chances are the weather will change five times during the day, especially if you drive somewhere else.
Read about what we did during our four day stay here:
I had the day off from work today so I took a nice long walk through Central Park, which I’m lucky to live so close to. Although the sun disappeared behind the clouds just as I was setting off for the park, it was, as always, teeming with activity.
Earlier this month I took my first trip to the West Coast to visit three of my close friends who have moved/moved back. It was a much-needed break from work and I was blessed with ‘San Francisco summer’ – the two or three weeks of heat and sunshine in September/October. I spent the first few nights in Oakland (the rest in Outer Sunset) and had great fun during First Fridays. It was also fleet week so loads of noisy airshows and festivities around the city. I enjoyed the wine and trip out to wine country. I absolutely fell in love with the ‘painted lady’ houses; ate a burrito the size of my arm; racked up so many flights of ‘stairs’ on my iPhone activity counter; marveled at the Redwood trees; and discovered Dutch Crunch bread.
Last year, for Memorial Day weekend my friend and I decided we were in need of a mini holiday. We wanted to somewhere that was a relatively quick and direct flight from New York, somewhere warm, and somewhere that wouldn’t be too touristy. We pulled open Google Maps and assessed our options, finally deciding on Trinidad!
This post is very late in the making but since we had a lot of challenges finding good info online, I thought it would be useful to do a write-up about our experiences. So if you want to spend 4 days in Trinidad, here’s what you can do…
Day 1: Arriving in Port of Spain and «Liming» on The Avenue
After settling in at our guesthouse we were starving (Jetblue’s free snacks only take you so far). We had plans to meet up with a friend of a friend to go «liming» (partying) later on the Avenue, but we need to grab a bite beforehand. The lady working at the guesthouse recommend we go to the cinema/mall (MovieTowne) in town but this was ultimately not the right move for us. The mall is full of US fast food chains, none of which appealed to us. Eventually, we settled on a seafood restaurant inside but the food was pricey and ultimately the least interesting meal we ate on the trip. After that we met up with Andrew, a college friend of a friend of mine and we headed to the Avenue, which is lined with bars, ranging from more upscale lounges to chilled-out and casual dives. We hopped around drinking g&ts but didn’t stay out too late.
Day 2: A day trip to Maracas beach
Our mission for our first full day in Trinidad was to hit the beach. Some internet research prior to the trip revealed Maracas beach as the place to go. We spoke with the guesthouse when they arrived and they arranged for a driver who would arrive in the morning and take us there for the day. Victor, our driver, was really fantastic and a huge help for the remainder of our time in Trinidad.
Maracas beach seems like it is really close to Port of Spain, but it actually takes maybe 45 mins to an hour to get there, because there is only one road and it is very windey (on the day we were there, there was a huge festival/party happening not too far from the beach and the road was absolutely packed on the way back into town. The beach is not very big but it is really lovely and we had a great day there. There are toilet facilities that were very clean and well looked after, but bring change because there is a small fee.
Food wise there are tons of food stalls selling «Shark and Bake» (and other food options) but there is one that has a very long, and that’s the one you must go to – Richard’s. «Bake» is a type of fried flatbread on which you can have your choice or shark or fish. Once you get that you get into a line to choose toppings and condiments: there are so many that it can be stressful, so observe (as we did) what others are choosing before you. Honestly, this one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and I dream about having it again all the time.
After we had recovered a little from stuffing our faces we spotted an ice cream truck selling homemade ice cream – and they had coconut flavor which is one of my favorites…or should I say it was until I had this – the ice cream was so good that it is pointless to eat other coconut ice cream again.
On our way back to the guesthouse, Victor spotted a roti stand on the side of the road in the city center and we picked up dinner. The rotis were really cheap (about 3 USD) and absolutely delicious and we ate them with champagne purchased at the airport, before passing out, exhausted from a whole day at the beach.
Day 3: A secluded beach and flight of the scarlet Ibis
for day three we had booked afternoon trip to go see the scarlet Ibis coming in to roost at sunset in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. We were really keen to go to the beach again but Maracas would have been too far. So Victor recommended we go to a tiny little beach called Macqueripe, which was much closer. When he dropped off we were the only people there aside from a small beach clean-up crew. The beach is really really tiny but the water is amazing, and really calm and basically your own ocean swimming pool. Once it reached a little later a lot more people showed up, but at no point did it feel crowded.
In the afternoon a driver arranged as part of the Ibis tour (booked through Island Experiences) picked us up and took us to Caroni. When you arrive, it doesn’t look like much – just a few boats docked in the water.
Once you head into the mangroves it is quite a different experience: narrow waterway tunnels enveloped by mangrove trees, followed by wider open areas dotted with other boats. Seeing the brilliant red-orange birds among the dark green was really incredible but taking photos is tough so don’t expect Nat Geo shots with your iPhone. It is also a little annoying with everyone on the boat clamoring to take photos so make sure you pick a seat on the edge or front/back of the boat.
After the trip our driver dropped us at nice Indian restaurant (name long forgotten but it is inside a new condo development).
Day 4: the Temple in the Sea, one of the world’s tallest Hanuman statues and more food!
This was our last day, with our flight booked for 4:48 pm. We woke up early and decided to go for a walk around Queen’s Park Savanah, which was just a short walk from the guesthouse. There were loads of people jogging or power walking around the park.
We had no specific plans for this day before we arrived but based on some blogs I came across and advice from Victor we set out to see The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo, followed by a visit to the Dattatreya Temple to see the 85 ft. Hanuman statue. On the way out of town we stopped by Victor’s restaurant to get food for the trip. It was outrageously hot this day and the sun was merciless. The route to these sights (which are relatively close to one another) is not that scenic but the temples are really beautiful and have really interesting histories.
Although we were pretty full from our 2 breakfasts (at the guesthouse and at Victor’s restaurant) but we also had to try a local specialty – doubles – which are small flatbreads with curried chickpeas. Like all the local dishes we tried, they were delicious but very messy to eat in our unskilled hands.
From there we headed back to Victor’s restaurant to pick up rotis for the road and then it was off to the airport. We arrived a little early – and our flight ended up being delayed – but full of food and very sunburnt we returned to NYC!
A few basics:
Getting there: Jet Blue flies direct to Port of Spain from JFK New York, for around 500 USD. The flight time is apx. 5 hours. We took a flight that left in the morning on Saturday and arrived late afternoon in Trinidad. You can buy a SIM card at the airport. We took a cab from the airport to the hotel (there is an official cab booth right near arrivals).
Where to stay: after much searching online we decided to stay at L’Orchidée Boutique Hotel. Port of Spain gets quite a lot of business travelers so there are also a lot of bigger global chain hotels but the guesthouse was really lovely and a much better choice for us. We also spent time deliberating whether to stay all three nights in Port of Spain or whether to stay near the beach or perhaps even to go to Tobago for a day, but in the end the Trip Advisor reviews for some of the accommodations outside of the city were not very positive and a trip to Tobago would have been a little bit hard to fit in.
Prices: I’m struggling to remember the prices of everything…however I think the whole day trip to the beach to Maracas was around 60 or 70 USD (shared between two of us). For the trip we did on day 4 and the airport drop-off Victor gave us one amount for the whole day. The Caroni sanctuary visit was 55 USD pp and our stay at L’Orchidée was 345 USD for the entire 3-night stay, which included breakfast, but keep in mind this was over a year ago.
Tip: if you’re a coffee addict make sure to bring your own!