Why You Should Visit the Faroe Islands, Europe’s Secret Island Paradise

Feb 4, 2017

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If you haven’t heard of the Faroe Islands, there are probably two reasons why — they’re tiny and remote. But there’s a mighty good reason why you should acquaint yourself with this remote archipelago composed of 18 islands in the North Atlantic, located roughly halfway between Iceland and Norway, just to the north of Scotland. While these Danish isles are known to some only because of its traditional and controversial whaling practices, those who have ventured here quickly realize the islands and its inhabitants have a much more interesting narrative to tell. Here’s why you should visit Europe’s hidden island paradise.

Learn Some Wooly Wisdom

The Faroe Islands offer vast expanses of gorgeous landscapes, dramatic cliffs and furrowed valleys, all covered with more sheep than you can possibly imagine — with just over 50,000 citizens, humans are, undoubtedly, outnumbered by sheep, which can be found on the mountainsides, cliffs, on grassy rooftops in the city centers and unhurriedly moseying across main roads. Baaaad animal behavior aside, the sum of its 18 parts make you realize that the Faroe Islands are an otherworldly place. Journeying across these wild landscapes on foot often means hiking without a clear path to follow — it’s a place without the expected signage stating “Stop Here,” “Wrong Way,” “Do Not Enter” or “Photo Opportunity.” Trust me, you won’t need the latter. Whether you traverse the islands on foot or by car, you’ll be stopping every five minutes to capture the sights and scenes that no guidebook could have prepared you for. Most of the land here is open to explore — just remember to shut the gates behind you.

Come baaaack to the Faroes! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Come baaaack to the Faroes! Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

It’s Farm-To-Foodie Heaven

Though the islands’ whaling practices are constantly under international scrutiny, a visit here reveals other aspects of the fishing industry and the necessity of harvesting what the land and sea naturally provide. If you’re a fan of the farm-to-table trend, the Faroe Islands offer some of the freshest locally-sourced fish you can find. Since 97 percent of the islands’ economy relies on the seafood export industry, it should come as no surprise that the quality of fish, especially salmon, is hard to beat. Shellfish, like mussels and langoustines, are also commonly found on the menus of local restaurants in the city of Tórshavn. Lamb, of course, is also a commonly-found fresh menu item, typically served with local vegetables, mainly potatoes and turnips among others of the root variety. A visit to popular restaurants like Koks or Aastova will run you anywhere from 330 Danish Krone (~$47) to 500 Danish Krone (~$72) for a two-course meal. There are a number of smaller, more casual restaurants in Tórshavn as well, offering cuisines for every palate, including Faroese/Japanese sushi and Irish pub grub.

Even the houses grow their own wool, of a sort. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Even the houses here grow their own wool, of a sort. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

There’s No Shortage of Great Hikes and Amazing Views

Whether you’re the photographer type and like to capture every moment and angle on film, or you’re one to forgo the devices and live in the moment, the Faroe Islands offer plenty of sumptuous scenery to satisfy your outdoor cravings. For those who enjoy hiking, Slættaratindur is the highest peak in the islands, reaching just above 2,880 feet. Depending on where you embark on your ascent, the climb could take anywhere from one hour (starting at the base parking lot in Eiðisskarð) to five (starting from the picturesque town of Gjógv). The summit of the mountain is flat and in fact is how the peak received its name, which translates to “Flat Summit,” making it an enjoyable climb for experienced and novice hikers alike. It’s highly recommended that you hike on a clear day as the weather in the Faroe Islands can change rapidly and thick fog or rainstorms are known to roll in quickly, so plan ahead and pay close to attention to the forecast. For photography lovers, the summit of Slættaratindur offers unparalleled views of the islands. Other noteworthy captures can be made at Gásadalur waterfall, an increasingly iconic representation of the islands just minutes from Vágar Airport in Sørvágur (FAE). The island of Mykines is best known for its winged inhabitants, especially the colorful puffins. For more photo inspiration, check out @visitfaroeislands or its rolodex of frequently contributing photographers on Instagram: @zobolondon, @iamlofstrom, @sarafoxphoto or @wesinthewild, to name a few.

You can't beat the romantic views. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
You can’t beat the romantic views. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Getting There Is Easier Than You Think

You can reach the islands directly via its national airline, Atlantic Airways, or by flying into the international Vágar Airport in Sørvágur (FAE) — travelers can also access the Faroe Islands year-round from a variety of airports across Denmark, the UK, Iceland and Norway. The most direct route departs from Copenhagen, Denmark (CPH), where Atlantic Airways offers several departures daily — the national airline also has departures from Billund, Denmark (BLL), two to five times a week and from Reykjavík, Iceland (KEF), two to three times a week, while additional routes open up during the summer months. Nonstop flights from Edinburgh, Scotland (EDI), are available twice per week, while flights departing from Bergen, Norway (BGO), run three times a week. For travelers originating in the US, airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta and Air France all offer nonstop and connecting flights to the above Europe-based airports, so aiming for a major hub and connecting via Atlantic Airways is a good way to go.

Have you been to the Faroe Islands? Tell us about your experience, below.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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