Faroe Islands day 4: shopping in Tórshavn…and goodbye

Tórshavn harbour
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!)

Statue in The Tórshavn.
The Tórshavn Cathedral.

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.)

Laetitia in her new sweater with the village of Velbastaður in the background.

A curious sheep in Norðradalur.
And then, just like that, we refueled, drove through the undersea tunnel one last time, dropped off the rental car, and said goodbye!

Read about our first three days here:

Faroe Islands day 3: breathtaking Sørvágsvatn and Gásadalur

Lake Sørvágsvatn

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 start of the hike.
The sheep in the Faroe Islands are literally everywhere.

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…

A group of sheep walk with a view of Sørvágsvatn lake behind them.

Lake Sørvágsvatn does actually fall into the ocean, although not from a very tall height.

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.

Gásadalur and the waterfall.

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.

Ólavskirkja Chruch in Kirkjubøur.

The Visit Faroe Islands website describes the significance of Kirkjubøur better than I can:

 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.

Inside Roykstovan.
Inside Roykstovan.

On to day 4…

Faroe Islands day 2: experiencing the beauty of Kalsoy

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.

View of Klaksvik harbour from the ferry.
A view of Kalsoy from the ferry.

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.

On to Day 3…

Four days in the Faroe Islands

A group of sheep walk with a view of Sørvágsvatn lake behind them.
Sørvágsvatn lake on Vágar island, Faroe Islands, March 2017.
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).

All the spots we visited in the Faroe Islands.
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.

View from outside Tjørnuvík, Streymoy island, Faroe Islands.

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.

Vestmanna
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).

Fossa waterfall on Streymoy island.
Fossa waterfall on Streymoy island.

View from the beach in Tjørnuvík.
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.

Saksun village from above…I climbed along the waterfall to capture this view. That’s the inlet from the ocean that you can see.

The Church in Saksun.

The two small rocks you can see in front of the big cliff-face are the witch and the giant (Risin og Kellingin). You can read the legend about these here.
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. 

Faroese sheep on Eysturoy island.
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.

Gjógv village, our final stop on day 1.

Gjógv

Sheep walk down by the water in Gjógv.
On to Day 2…

Practical tips for visitng the Faroe Islands

A village on the island of Streymoy.

Getting there
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.

Accommodation
We stayed at Hotel Hafnia, located in the historic part of the capital Tórshavn, about 45 mins drive from the airport.

Connectivity
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).

The entrance to one of the single lane two-way tunnels.

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.

On the ferry leaving Klaksvik for Kalsoy island.

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.

Boats in Torshavn harbour.

Food
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.

View from a high point on Streymoy island.

Language
Everyone we met on the island spoke great English (the official languages are Faroese and Danish).

Clothing
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: