Europe’s best-kept secret: the Faroe Islands
Hi!! I am wrapping up a solo week in the Faroe Islands courtesy of Visit Faroe Islands.
Experiencing this place has been nothing short of incredible, and even though I’ve
been here alone it has been an amazing memory that I’ll never forget. It is one of the
most unique places I’ve been – especially in Europe. I had some time today to write a
description of what to expect here. I’ll have some more photos and stories from the
trip tomorrow! Meanwhile, I’ll be flying back across the Atlantic to the mainland :)
One of Europe’s last undiscovered destinations, the Faroe Islands
live up to their slogan: untouched, unexplored, unbelievable.
Flying into Vagar airport is possible on the Faroese airline Atlantic Airways
from certain Scandinavian cities (I flew from Copenhagen). The experience is
unique and old fashioned from the second the flight begins. I knew right away
that this was unlike any other place in Europe. Expect a free (yes, free!) meal
on the short two-hour flight with the likes of fresh salmon, frittatas, warm
homemade bread, and chocolate. The pilot happily opens the cockpit door
to allow Faroese children to stare in wonder and sit on his lap. This is just the
start of the feeling of stepping back in time to a place you won’t believe exists.
Be sure to snag a window seat as the plane begins to descend on the
remote set of islands. You won’t quite believe where you are landing.
Rugged landscape and mountains surround the landing strip and
there is almost no trace of humanity in sight surrounding the airport.
Luckily, you’ll spy human life soon as the Faroese locals wave from
inside the glass windows of the small airport as passengers disembark
the flight. The flight from Copenhagen to Vágar can set you back close
to €500, but if booked far in advance that fare can be cut in half.The small airport takes a few minutes to walk through, and before you know it you’re
in a rental car driving roads through green (or in my case, snow-streaked) hills that
don’t seem real. It already feels otherworldly. Every few kilometers you’ll come upon
a tiny town (populations: about 25-50) and want to pull over and move right in. Each
curve of the road is enough to make you swerve right off while taking in the sweeping
views – so make use of the many pull off sections for lookouts. Also keep an eye out
for the plentiful sheep crossing the roads at any given moment. If you see one, there
will definitely be more following. It’s a fun type of traffic jam to come across.As you drive toward the capital city of Tórshavn you’ll suddenly find yourself
in a sub-sea tunnel lasting for a little bit longer than is comfortable, but emerging
out of the other side is like coming back to Earth again. The tunnel will set you
back DKK 100 (about €14) and it will make you feel like you’re in an even more
remote place. You’ve now covered two of the five main islands – and 18 total islands.
These islands are inhabited by 50,000 total Faroese people, but
locals will tell you that this number doesn’t include the “hidden people.”
They are referring to creatures such as gnomes, trolls, & fairies
living in stones, hills, and grottos. Don’t be surprised to hear a
lot of stories about the hidden people, and take them seriously.
The locals like to stay in good graces with them! :)As you pull into the harbor town of the Tórshavn capital city, it may
feel more like a town…but a charming one straight out of the past.
Explore the old part of town first, where every house has a name
and not one front door is locked – ever. A local told me, “I never
lock my door. I could even go abroad and not lock my front door!”
On a scenic drive you can see the one prison which has about
20 beds and has never been full. It looks out on a gorgeous canyon
but still doesn’t tempt the local people to commit crimes. As a guide
explained, “They couldn’t get away with it here!” Smile and enjoy
the fact that a place like this really still exists on earth.
In the days of your visit, nature should be the main focus. At bare
minimum explore the villages of Gásadalur, Saksun and Gjógv.
Don’t miss walking the waterfall at Gásadalur… The wind spraying
the waterfall over the cliffs is one of the most memorable sights I’ve
seen in Europe…or anywhere. In the summer, you can book hiking
excursions from town to town guided by cairns stacked as tall
as people. Information on the guide service for that is coming!
Hotel Føroyar (Hotel Faroe Islands) is the most established hotel in
the capital city. Bonuses include the view over the harbor, the friendly
service, and the proximity to Icelandic horse rentals. Drawbacks
include being a bit hard to find up on the hill the first time, and
being a touch outdated. A few smaller boutique hotels & guesthouses
can be found down in town as well. Another suggestion is to stay at
the very remote Gjáargarður Guesthouse. Perched at the top of the
island in Gjógv, it’s about an hour drive away from Tórshavn. I know
that this is where I would go straight back to first, given the chance!
Faroese food has its own take on a combination of Scandinavian traditions.
Don’t miss Restaurant Áarstova, the best on the island. Sister restaurant
Barbara Fish House is another special place, as is Café Smakka in the iconic
Nordic House. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fish, lamb, potatoes, and rhubarb
to keep up with the locals. The food I had was delicious, unique, and fresh.
This magical cross between Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Scotland,
Greenland and the North Pole will leave you refreshed and dreaming
of this faraway fairy land for years to come. I know it did for me.
Thank you to Visit Faroe Islands for inviting me up to experience the wonder of this land!