The Faroe Islands had been on my bucket list ever since I spent a semester at the University of Reykjavik and one of my friends traveled there on her way home to Europe by ferry. I was intrigued – a place so remote you have to take an overnight ferry to reach it? Enough reason for me to put it on my bucket list. Years later, I would finally get to tick the remote islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off my list. When the invitation by Visit Faroe Islands to explore this wild paradise floated into my inbox, I said yes before I even checked my calendar.

Before the trip I had gathered loads of inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest, various photography blogs and of course the official websites of the tourism board. One thing I lacked though was an in-depth travel guide to flip through on my bedside table. Call me old-fashioned, but I simply love a good old paperback travel book to prepare for my trips. While you can find some travel guides in the bookstores, there was nothing that really caught my eye.

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

To make your trip easier – and believe me, you will want to see this epic place for yourself! – I thought I’d collect all the advice, experiences and insider tips I gathered during my one-week trip around the Faroe Islands. The Travelettes Guide to the Faroe Islands should make your holiday an unforgettable one!


How to get there

Much has changed in the recent years and the ferry certainly isn’t the only means of transport to reach the Faroe Islands anymore. The local airline, Atlantic Airways, has significantly extended their network in the last few years, which means you can catch a direct flight to the islands’ international airport Vagar from many places around Europe, including London, Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Barcelona. The ticket includes 20kg of hold luggage and a snack on board – note however that we were not given a vegetarian option, so if you fly around meal times and don’t eat meat, make your own arrangements!


Learning the Faroese Language

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

The Faroese language is part of the Scandinavian language family, but even among the others, it is very unusual. There are only about 80,000 people worldwide who speak Faroese. As you can imagine, with such a small language, it is quite tricky to find language resources outside the Faroe Islands. The language is not even in the Google Translate database!

That’s why the Faroe Islands have launched a free platform called Faroe Islands Translate. You can type in a phrase or word you would like to learn in Faroese, your text is sent to a random local on one of the islands, and you receive a little video message from them translating the word or phrase into Faroese for you! There is a database of common phrases on the website already and you can have the ones you’d like to practice sent to your email address! What better way to learn a few helpful phrases of Faroese than from the locals themselves?!


Getting Around

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

There are public buses around the islands and it is definitely possible to travel around on a budget, but the best way to explore the Faroe Islands is to get a rental car. It gives you the best possible flexibility to travel along the lesser trodden paths. Two other means of transport you should consider taking are the ferry boats to some of the more remote islands like Mykines or Kalsoy, and the helicopters. Say what?! Helicopters between the Faroe Islands are subsidized by the Danish government (Faroe Islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark), which means that they are super-cheap!

Top tips for driving

At the airport we picked up a little informative card summarizing the most important traffic rules and driving etiquette of the Faroe Islands – make sure you get one too! To be honest I was surprised by the excellent roads and infrastructure on the islands, and except for a few single-track roads we mostly drove on dual carriage ways. There are many tunnels cutting your travel time short by leading you through the mountains rather than over or around them, but keep in mind that the old roads are often the most scenic drives. There are also two undersea tunnels connecting the central islands Stremoy and Eysturoy with the northern islands and Vagar, the islands where the airport is located. The tunnels are toll-roads and require you to pay a fee, however we had these costs included in our rental car contract.

The most worrying experience was driving through some of the oldest tunnels of the islands – narrow, low and pitch-black single-track tunnels from the 1960s. If you think this sounds terrifying, let me reassure you that the Faroese people have a clever system for mastering these tunnels – so just play along and you’re fine! Most of the roads basically end in a dead end, leading to one village or another. The cars driving towards these have the right of way, and on the way back they give way at one of the many passing places inside the tunnels.

Finally, make sure you pick up a map and use your directional skills. Google Maps is not very reliable on the islands and there are various places where I couldn’t look up the route – specific addresses outside of Torshavn even less so! In general, people are happy to help out with directions.


Where to Stay

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

The Faroe Islands are a compact destination, meaning that it is really easy to find a home base and then do day trips from there. We stayed at the fairly new Hotel Havn in Torshavn. It is a three-star hotel, and the newest venture of the owners who also run a guesthouse and a hostel next door. The location is hard to beat with everything there is to see in Torshavn in walking distance, a free 8h car park around the corner and gorgeous views of the harbour from the rooms on the higher floors.

The hotel is so new, that guests still have to check in at the guesthouse reception, and breakfast is served there as well. However, this might change soon as the hotel is in the process of finalising its own breakfast room and reception.

Aside from the location the biggest advantage for us as veggies was that we could use the guest kitchen to prepare packed lunches and snacks for the days where we were not sure whether we’d find a restaurant or cafe to accommodate our diet.


The Faroe Islands for Vegetarians

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

The Faroe Islands are a harsh environment and have been isolated for so long, that the local people find it just natural to eat the things that are available rather than importing goods and produce from around the world. Naturally, that means a lot of sheep and fish on the menus – and not so many veggie friendly options. There are simply not many vegetables that grow here!

However, it is not impossible to visit the Faroe Islands and eat out as a vegetarian or vegan. Particularly in Torshavn we found plenty of restaurants with veggie choices, and some even had a vegan section on their menus. Here are some suggestions:

Sirkus Bar: Probably the coolest bar around town! They serve food every day until 11pm and have a vegan section on their menu, as well as vegan Indian specials.

Smakka: ‘When you want a vegetarian restaurant in Torshavn, you have to open one.’ – and that’s exactly what the founder of Smakka, a Dutch woman immigrating to the Faroe Islands, did. The cafe is a great lunch spot at the Nordic House, ideally located to combine a snack with a visit to this cultural institution.

Etika: The Faroe Islands supposedly serve the best sushi outside of Japan, because the fish is just so fresh. Etika however also has amazing veggie options, like veggie sushi sharing platters and delicious tofu pouches!

Pizza joints: When in doubt, find a pizza joint! There are several in Torshavn, but also in other bigger villages around the islands. We tried the veggie pizza at Nesta, a small takeaway & sit-in joint in Midvagar on our way to the Hanging Lake (Sørvagsvatn).

Heimablidni: Seeing that there are hardly any restaurants outside of Torshavn, but Faroese people still like to eat out, there is something called Heimablidni. You simply rock up at a local’s house and they have a traditional lunch or dinner ready for you! Some will be happy to cater to veggie diets and the tourism information can help you arrange this!

A final tip would be to book accommodation with access to a kitchen, so you can prepare your own meals and packed lunches. The supermarket chain FK Havn has lots of vegan frozen products, but Bónus (a discount supermarket you might know from Iceland) doesn’t!


 

Things to do & see

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

The Faroe Islands might be small, but don’t let this fool you – there is a lot to do, and a week is barely enough to scratch the surface! I have written a full list of my favourite things to do, including many off-the-beaten-track places and insider tips, but for now here are a few things you should look into:

Road trips along the ‘Buttercup routes’: Buttercup routes are particularly scenic roads, often single track or dead-end roads to remote villages, but sometimes also old roads that have been replaced by tunnels as the main connection between towns. We loved the old road leading out over the mountains behind Torshavn, the road to Saksun on Stremoy and the road to Múli on Bordoy.

Day trips to smaller islands: The Faroe Islands consist of 18 islands and many of them can only be reached by ferry or helicopter. Some of them make for great day trips – you arrive by heli or ferry, spend a few hours hiking and exploring the tiny villages, and then return back to your hotel. On Mykines, for example, you can visit a beautiful lighthouse and walk through an adorable puffin colony!

Faroe Islands Kathi Kamleitner-74

Shopping in Torshavn: Torshavn might not be a metropolis by definition, but it is the best place to shop for some awesome souvenirs and memories from the Faroe Islands. We spent an entire day roaming through the many design shops, knitwear outlets, book shops and so forth. Make sure to check out Öström for local design, Steinprint which is one of the few remaining lithographic workshops in the world, and Fíl for beautiful knitwear.

Getting active: The Faroe Islands are not a destination where you sit on a bus and see all the sights from the comfort of your seat. The best views of the Faroe Islands are to be had from the flat surface of a fjord or the top of a mountain – so getting active is the best thing you can do. Pick up a hiking guide from the tourist information and stay safe! Alternatively book a hiking guide, or tours with NAX (sea kayaking) and Berg Hestar (horseback riding).

Listen to the sounds: Not the sounds of sheep bleating across the hills, but the sounds of Faroese musicians. Most people in the Faroe Islands play at least one instrument and end up in bands. Their love of music is so great that the local music school has a waiting list with hundreds of names. The local record shop TUTL (which is also the local label) has a great selection of Faroese music and some listening stations, or if you are here in mid-July, head to G!Festival for some local tunes by the beach.


Essential Items to Pack

Packing for the Faroe Islands is pretty similar to packing for destinations like Iceland, Scotland or northern Norway. The penultimate rule to remember is that here you can experience up to four seasons in a day, or in an hour. During our one-week holiday we got sun-burnt and drenched, sometimes the one right after the other. Therefore it is important to bring enough clothes to be properly dressed for any weather. Here are a few essentials:

A functional, yet stylish rain coat – if there is one thing the Faroese people have figured out is how to look functional and stylish at the same time. My yellow rain coat is by Craghoppers and made me fit right in!

Bring plenty of thin, but warm layers to mix and match throughout the ‘seasons’. A good fleece and/or knitwear to keep you warm will come in handy!

Even if you come here in summer definitely bring a hat, scarf and gloves – the wind can be fierce!

Sturdy hiking boots are a no brainer, but I was super happy about the wellies I threw into my suitcase at the very last minute. They kept my feet much drier than my boots, which were soaked after hiking through the tall grass to the lighthouse of Kallur.

Don’t forget your moisturizer! The sea air of the Faroe Islands is super dry, so if you show a tendency of dry hair or skin, bring the right products. My skin is used to the rather humid Scottish summer climate, so I had to moisturize my hands and lips on a near hourly basis.


The Elephant in the Room

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

If you are a loyal reader of this blog, you might have already read the reasons I decided not to boycott the Faroe Islands based on the islands’ whaling tradition. The article was written before my trip and to be honest, little has changed about my opinion now that I’ve actually been there.

I spoke to several locals about their opinions of whaling, but was careful to give them the opportunity to bring it up in the first place. That way the conversation felt a lot more natural. Here are a few things I learnt from them.

– The Faroe Islands have a long history of isolation and people have always had to make ends meet with what they could find in their immediate surroundings. Eating whatever is around instead of importing stuff from abroad is deeply rooted in the cultural identity of the Faroese people. One woman told me she never eats fish abroad because she only trusts the fish her husband catches in the local waters.

Even if modernisation makes it possible to replace products like whale meat with other food sources, this part of the local identity is so deeply ingrained, it is hard to understand – or change. I’m not going to be converted back to meat-eating, but I certainly understand that you’d rather eat the meat of a wild (whale) or semi-wild (Faroese sheep) animal, than buying Danish pork or American chicken in the supermarket.

– People are incredibly loyal to the local wildlife. One young man said to me very straightforward how much he dislikes killing any animal for food – ‘It’s not fun to feel an animal dying at your hands.’ As much as I disagree with killing animals, a person who kills an animal for food is not a monster. They don’t do it because they are evil, or enjoy killing – they do it because they choose to eat meat.

– Finally, the same guy said another very interesting thing to me: ‘Local support for whaling has actually grown with the protest from abroad.’ According to him the Faroese people feel attacked as a people, whether they personally participate in grindadrap (whale hunting) or not. They feel obligated to defend their history and tradition, and can’t accept being portrayed as evil by the critics – show me a group of people that would react differently…

After everything, I can only hope that with the increasing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets, a growing awareness for the need of environmental sustainability, and a shift in the economy away from fishing and towards tourism, will bring about change in regards to whaling on the Faroe Islands. I don’t believe boycotting the place will contribute to this change.

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

I was absolutely blown away by the unfathomable beauty of the Faroe Islands. I came here with an open mind, interested to learn more about how people cope with the harsh environment, and how they deal with foreign criticism. I had a list of places I wanted to see to begin with and this list only grew throughout the week. With every corner I turned and every local I spoke to, I collected new names, places and inspiration.

The Faroe Islands are one of these natural beauties that draw you in and will never let you go! I can’t wait to tell you more about my highlights and the coolest music festival I’ve ever been to. Stay tuned!

Have you ever been to the Faroe Islands? What was your favourite place or experience there?

The Travlettes Guide is the only travel guide for the Faroe Islands you'll ever need - with info on accommodation, getting around, things to do & what to pack!

Disclaimer: The authos’s trip was sponsered by Visit Faroe Islands, but all opinions are her own. If you’d like to read more on why the author decided not to boycott the Faroe Islands, read her think piece here.

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.


This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!