A slow and sustainable trip to the Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are an unseen picture. An arrival by boat makes it all a little more impressive. Out of the blue, the massive green landscape rises from the blue ocean. The islands are dramatically beautiful, we can hardly find words to describe this beauty. Several times we are left speechless at the sight of this stunning play of colours, there is no other place like it. In this blog we share our short travel experience in the Faroe Islands and share a lot of tips and tricks. You can decide in the end if it is a destination that should be put on your bucket-list.
How to get there
During our world trip by bicycle, we have chosen to travel slowly and sustainably. A canceled flight to Alaska causes us to change our plans. A previous boat trip from Italy to Spain planted an idea to maybe do it again someday. That's how we came up with the idea of taking the boat to Iceland. When exploring our options, we quickly found a nice possibility with Smyril Line. This shipping company operates a regular ferry service between the islands in the North Atlantic and mainland Europe.
M/S Norröna has weekly sailings from Denmark (Hirtshals) to the Faroe Islands (Tórshavn) and Iceland (Seydisfjordur) . In low and mid season there is a sailing to the Faroe Islands once a week and in high season twice a week. Be aware though, spots get booked out quite quickly.
Making the crossing to Iceland in one go seemed like too much of a good thing, so we made a stop on the Faroe Islands. In order not to disturb our cycling plans in Iceland, we decided to make a stop of three nights. A stop that in the end, was way too short. We recommend spending at least a week or even 2 weeks on the Faroe Islands.
The boat trip of 32 hours is a unique experience in itself. A fairly modern boat offers sufficient facilities on board to keep you busy, but in the end we ourselves did not do much more than sleep and hope that the seasickness would soon disappear. Medication against motion sickness can come in handy for this! If you can handle all that rocking, you will be treated to unique views of the ocean throughout the trip. The first real highlight is when you pass the Shetlands. This trip will make every slow traveller's heart beat faster. On board you can enjoy a small cinema, a swimming pool, a cozy cafe, two restaurants and you can even rent a hot tub for an hour.
Where to stay?
After more than 10 weeks of cycling through Europe, we said goodbye to our tent and treated ourselves to a hotel. We opted for hotel Brandan (which we booked as a package together with the boat), a hotel that focuses on sustainability and therefore received the Green Key Label. In our opinion they have definitely earned this label: the key cards are made of wood, in the bathroom they use dispensers for soap, at the breakfast buffet you will not find small plastic containers. We really enjoyed our stay thanks to the extremely friendly staff and very clean room with great bed. Meanwhile, our bikes got a safe place in a storage room. So even though they did not really have many cyclists before, they went out of there way for us and we definitely consider them to be a bicycle friendly hotel.
How to get around on the Faroe Islands?
There we were, with our bikes on these mysterious islands. Trips by bicycle on the Faroe Islands are certainly a possibility and you see few people undertaking this now and then. However, the combination of the bad weather and the fact that we had just spent ten weeks in the saddle made us prefer to focus on hiking. Another reason for not cycling there were the many tunnels. In some places there is a lot of traffic and cycling through the narrow tunnels did not seem pleasant to us. When we passed the first tunnel by bus, we looked at each other affirmatively.
In our opinion, there are six options for getting around on the Faroe Islands, except for the some necessary bits by ferry:
By bike: Can be fun on the main island of Streymoy in combination with Eysturoy, but don't plan your routes through the tunnels.
With an organised tour: For some people it can be very nice to "see" a lot in a short time. However, paying a lot of money to sit on a bus for a whole day to drive from one viewpoint to another to see something briefly... That is not for us. If you have only one day at the spot, we can recommend 'Guide to Faroe Islands' based on hearsay.
With your own car: It is possible to take your own vehicle with you on Smyril Line. We saw many people from the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark... driving around Faroe Islands in their own campervan. Campsites are supposed to be not too expensive, but basic.
With a rental car: There is a surplus of rental cars, but the prices are extremely high. We looked on the spot (much too late of course) to hire a car for one day, but for a simple car we had to pay about € 400 for 24 hours. A no-go!
By public transport: There are possibilities, but planning is key. You can get anywhere by public transport, but some buses only run 2 or 3 times a day. Also, many connections are anything but optimal and you often have to wait longer than 1 to 2 hours when changing buses. More info about the buses and timetables can be found here. If you spend more days on the Faroe Islands, it can be worth it to buy a multiple day pass.
With your thumb: Hitchhike!
We decided to combine options 5 and 6. The bus usually took us to a first spot to do some hiking, a little later we stuck our thumbs up to continue our way. Plenty of cars on the islands that have some extra room for these 2 sustainable travellers, right? Carpooling is cool! We succeeded and got everywhere we wanted to go. Along the way we met people from all over the world who gave us a lot of great tips. So thumbs up we would say!
When we told people we were going to the Faroe Islands we were advised by everyone to visit Mykines. Mykines is the westernmost island of the archipelago. From Sørvágur (Vagar) you can reach Mykines via a 45 minute boat trip. It is a must do to see the iconic puffins on this island, who come to breed on the steep cliffs during the summer months. We too took the advice we were given and booked a boat ticket (a month before departure). Seats on the boat are limited so book early. Unfortunately we were unlucky and the crossing was cancelled due to bad weather, something that can happen about three out of four times. There is also a risk involved, as there is a chance that your outward journey will go and the return journey will not. You will not get a preference on a next date and must find a new availability or helicopter. You are then stuck on the island and must rely on the only hotel (or the campground) in the hope that they still have space for you.
You can book a boat trip to Mykines here, we paid €33 for two people. Our boat was cancelled only 1.5h before departure, but the communication was very smooth. This is the cheapest way to get there if you do not want to visit the island via a guided day tour. Please note that you still need a separate hiking fee of €35 per person to walk on the island. It's a lot of money but with this supplement you are supporting the local nature conservation.
Hiking on the Faroe Islands
Every hiker feels like a true explorer on this archipelago. The possibilities are endless and there is something for every level. First of all, we would recommend reading the Hiking Guidelines via this link, because hiking here is slightly different because of the weather. The level of difficulty can be found via this website.
We only had three days on these islands. Every day we chose a different island to go hiking. To see everything in three days is impossible. We really recommend to choose a few places and visit them well and hike a bit, so you really see a lot more compared to going from viewpoint to viewpoint. No rush, live like an islander. The islands we visited in the Faroe Islands were as follows.
The island of Vágar
From Tórshavn we took the bus to Sørvagur. From there we hitchhiked a short distance with a Spanish family that would normally have been on the boat with us to Mykines, they dropped us at the start of a hike in Bøur, from where we continued hiking to Gásadalur. This hike is described as difficult (3/4). Through misty mountainsides you walk to the top after which a steep descent with loose stones leads you to the village of Gásadalur. Before you arrive in the village you can walk to the waterfall, even when everything is in the fog, this place is wonderful. The magic really came alive when we walked further to the viewpoint of Gásadalur and saw the first puffins sitting on the edge of the cliff. It was as if we were live in an episode of Planet Earth and we could perfectly imagine how Sir David Attenborough would give more info about these cute little creatures when we saw them flying down the steep cliffs. We saw a few dozens of them. It remains a lucky shot, as not many other people saw puffins that day.
The island of Eysturoy
The island of Eysturoy is connected to the main island of Streymoy and you can reach it by a bridge across the ocean. The only bridge that connects the two islands. We took the bus to Oyrarbakki and hitchhiked from there. A Polish family who works in a local fish factory took us as far as Gjógv. The drive is phenomenal and once we arrived in Gjógv it seemed as if time stood still there for a while. An impressive sea gorge makes this charming village a must-see for every visitor. Along the gorge you can walk a path that takes you steeply up and soon treats you to breathtaking views of the village. For 50 Danish Kroner, you can possibly hike further up a wooden staircase, but we decided to turn around and hike towards the next village, Funningur.
The start of this hike is not very spectacular, you initially follow the main road before you turn to a magnificent viewpoint. To our surprise, we are completely alone here, at the top of Gongutúrur. The views are amazing and when a ray of sunshine appeared after two days of heavy rain, it felt like we had landed in another world. Be sure to hike towards the lovely little church in Funningur, as well, with its grass rooftop. From Funningur we got a lift back from one of the 14 inhabitants of the village.
The island of Streymoy
Streymoy is the largest and most populated island on the Faroe Islands, where the capital Tórshavn is located. We walked to Kirkjubøur where a visit to the ruins of the Magnus Cathedral should not be missed. You can easily return to Tórshavn by bus, just pay attention to the timetable of the buses. The old part of Tórshavn is definitely worth wandering around and is also full of cozy cafes and restaurants. In the old part of town you can see red timbered houses with grass roofs where the government of the Faroe Islands is now based.
On a budget to the Faroe Islands
Food, accommodation, public transportation.... it all costs money. Planning a trip to the Faroe Islands in a totally budget-friendly way is, we fear at least, not possible. The transport (the boat to Iceland) and the hotel on the Faroe Islands (including breakfast) cost € 1153 for the two of us together. On bus tickets we spent another € 52. That's a month of travelling and living on a bicycle for us and a big chunk out of the budget. Tips on restaurants you will not find here unfortunately, because we saved on food and drinks. We brought food from Denmark and shopped in the local supermarket. The average price of a coffee is €5 to 6, which gives you an idea of what to expect ;-).
Food on the boat is also expensive, so maybe plan accordingly. We decided to add a one-time breakfast buffet of €17 pp and a dinner of €17 pp. Also, you can purchase wifi on the boat but it is expensive and slow, so save yourself these pennies and disconnect from the outside world for a while.
Our tips and tricks for the Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands consist of a total of 18 islands.
The inhabitants are incredibly warm and friendly.
The Faroe Islands officially belong to Denmark, yet they have their own flag, parliament and language. It can be quite sensitive among the locals to label Denmark as the main country.
Faroe means sheep, and for good reason, because you see these animals popping up everywhere. Be careful if you travel by car, the lambs are often not used to the traffic and walk on the road.
The weather takes on extreme forms on these islands. Always be careful and go out prepared. Good rain gear and decent walking shoes are an absolute must.
Don't expect to see all the pretty pictures you see in the brochures. If you travel to Faroe Islands for this, you will be disappointed. Visit these islands to experience the pure climate and because you love adventure. You will never be able to tick off all the viewpoints.
Unti some time ago, Google Streetview did not come to the Faroe Islands. The locals were not set up with this and as a marketing stunt released Google Sheepview. Cameras were attached to the sheep to capture as many images as possible. Google succumbed and eventually arrived on the scene anyway.
When it gets really foggy during a hike, wait for a few minutes/hours! Steep cliffs loom out of nowhere and can be very dangerous.
Locals take safety very seriously, and rightly so. Always inform someone, even if it is the staff at reception of your hotel or a resident of a village, of your plans.
Get pampered in people's homes. Through the Heimablídni concept you can experience a very local experience in people's homes (farmers or fishermen).