What to Do When You're in the Faroe Islands
If you need to get off the grid and escape reality for a bit, it's time to explore the next under-the-radar Nordic destination: the Faroe Islands. An archipelago of 18 tiny islands tucked between Iceland and Scotland, the Faroes are a quick flight from most of mainland Europe. Your Instagram feed is probably oversaturated with Iceland pictures, but the Faroe Islands are an even more stunningly beautiful option with plenty of mountains to hike, views to take in and fresh seafood to feast on. Keep reading to see how to make the most of your trip.
How to Get to the Faroe Islands
Tourist season in the Faroe Islands runs from May through September. Even if you go during the height of summer, though, the temperatures will still be cool (if not cold), and you should be prepared for rainy, windy weather.
The Faroe Islands have one airport, and it's found on Vágar, the westernmost island. Only two airlines service the Faroes: Atlantic Airways (the national airline) and SAS. Atlantic offers weekly flights from various European cities including Edinburgh and Barcelona, but your best bet is to depart from Copenhagen, where multiple flights take off each day. Atlantic is a no-frills airline, so plan on packing your own snacks or buying them on the plane. Should you get hungry, though, its salmon salad with potatoes and feta is a step up from your usual airplane fare and a great taste of what's to come on your trip.
The terrain is rugged with soaring mountains that crash into the sea, thanks to the islands' volcanic makeup. No matter where you look, your eyes are treated to a landscape filled with waterfalls, jagged cliffs, rolling hills and the swelling North Atlantic. Drink it all in by renting a car as opposed to taking a bus tour. With several one-lane highways, even a task as routine as driving around is a thrilling experience. But it's also a chance to pull off the seemingly deserted roads and explore the mountainsides and say hello to the sheep that dot the countryside.
You can drive around most of the islands in one day, but you'll want to allow plenty of time for photo opportunities and detours. Tórshavn, the capital city, is a good jumping-off point and where most of the hotels are located, but to really get that off-the-grid feeling, stay in an Airbnb in one of the more remote areas, like the quaint village of Sandavágur on Vágar. Must-see sights include Lake Sørvágsvatn, the Faroe Islands' largest lake best known for creating an illusion of hovering above the ocean, and the Mulafossur Waterfall, the stunner on the side of an enclave that flows into the sea—both are on Vágar.
Where to Eat
All that exploration can work up quite the appetite, and fortunately, there are plenty of restaurants specializing in Faroese cuisine. The country with more sheep than people is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, Koks, and your trip to the Faroes wouldn't be complete without a stop in. Each evening chef Poul Andrias Ziska serves a 17-course meal focusing on local ingredients and seafood caught that day to a limited number of guests. He also infuses historic Faroese techniques into his meals, like lamb fermented through outdoor exposure to the sea air. The dishes change frequently, but the sea urchin freshly plucked from the water is a recurring star. It's simply served with lemon juice and pickled parsley stems.
Farther out is the village Gjógv on the northeast tip of the island Eysturoy. Norse for "gorge," Gjógv has a population of 50 and is a fishing town with a stunning harbor. Explore the walking trails around and leading into the gorge, and then treat yourself to lunch at Gjaargardur, the charming guesthouse at the top of town. The restaurant is rustic with simple yet satisfying meals like the lunch platter (lamb meatballs, smoked salmon and lamb charcuterie) and soup.
In Tórshavn, Áarstova offers diners a high-end but cozy setting in a former house that dates back to the 1600s. Take a buddy, go hungry and chow down on the lamb shoulder braised for 12 hours in Faroese beer. The meat, made rich and tender from the booze, falls from the bone and gives you a delightfully warm feeling in your belly.
Lia Picard is an Atlanta-based freelance writer who seeks out local gems wherever she goes. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @liapicard.
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