With a population of around 50,000, the people of Faroe Islands are probably outnumbered by chubby sheep and adorable puffins. The only traffic jam you’ll encounter here is one caused by languid lambs strolling across the roads. The locals are used to that and travellers seize this opportunity to click numerous Insta-worthy pictures.
An autonomous territory of Denmark for approximately 70 years, this destination is nestled between Iceland and the European mainland. It might be lesser known when compared to glitzy New York or tormented-by-overtourism Dubrovnik, but it still has its fair share of fans, who are bowled over by the fairytale landscape, and lately by the annual G! Festival, a music event that takes place in the town of Syðrugøta, that is inhabited by just 400 people. Plus, here are seven more reasons to why you should visit the fascinating Føroyar.
- Best time to visit: June to August is ideal for lush green views and fully operational ferries. If you want to photograph harsh weather, then September onwards towards winter is a good time.
- What to avoid: The Grind, which is a traditional hunt of pilot whales towards end July. The sight is rather gory.
- Getting around: The good thing about transport here is that each island is connected by a helicopter service and the chopper fares are subsidised for locals. Tourists can take it too, but only one way. You will have to take the ferry back. It is advisable to book your car rental or ferry rides in advance during peak season. There is a bus service that connects important stops, but a car gives you the freedom to explore.
- For Indian passport holders: Even though Faroe Islands (and Greenland) are part of Denmark, you need a separate visa to visit these territories. If you are applying for a Schengen visa to Denmark, you need to mention that you want to include the Faroe Islands (or Greenland). If you already have a Schengen visa, you can apply for a permit in Copenhagen, and if you plan to fly in from another country, you can apply for a visa at the Danish Embassy in that country. (For example, if you plan to fly in from Iceland, it takes two to three working days for the Danish Embassy to process your visa in Reykjavik.)
The beautiful turf houses with a wooden blend seem like they are straight out of Hobbiton. This is just one of the charming features of the towns here. What you might also see is a trademark chapel or the steeple of an interestingly-designed church. Navigating through tunnels is an adventure — especially if you need to pull over and give way.
A ‘flower’ icon marked on your map indicates a buttercup route — scenic and probably a single road with sheep crossings.
One of the best places to observe and photograph puffins up close is the island of Mykines. The Atlantic puffins are as funny and theatrical as they come — making you laugh with their antics. You can do a day trip to this wonderful island, which is reachable by ferry in the summer months.
Blue, green and all that’s in between Puffins
Waterfalls that wow
One of the things I learnt was that the Faroe Islands were formed by breaking away from Greenland. Nature has its way of creating wonderful landscapes, and a visit to the town of Gasadalur with its wavering cliffs and the lovely Mulafossur waterfall corroborates that.
Smaller in scale compared to Iceland, the terrain of the Faroes is more hikeable. Be prepared for wind and rain that is common to these parts of the world and you are set for some delightful sights.
Blue, green and all that’s in between Waterfalls
There’s no way you are missing out on the most important inhabitant — sheep. They are always welcoming, whether on the hillside or in the middle of the road. Watch out for ducks and geese, horses and even highland cattle.
There are boat rides and ribsafaris (sailing on speedboats) from Vestmannaeyjar to the bird cliffs where you can see gulls, gannets and kittiwakes.
A journey that is more of a discovery as the boats meander through nooks and caves, allowing you to look up the steep, rocky cliffs.
During the course of the week, we stayed at three different locations, including the capital Tórshavn. If you want to experience spending a night on a caravan, a boat or an igloo, this is the place to try them all out. You can book hostels, boutique hotels or traditional accommodations on various booking platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com among others.
Blue, green and all that’s in between Local houses
Seals with a past
Seals were believed to be former human beings that came to land once a year. One such tale — The legend of Kópakonan (the Seal Woman) is one of the best-known folktales in the Faroe Islands, and one of the most beautifully constructed sights as well. A sculpture of her stands majestically at the edge of the Mikladalur village on the island of Kalsoy. (Kalsoy can be visited by ferry from the town of Klaksvik as a day trip). An elderly woman at the curio shop in Mykines, stays there for four months of the year — during tourist season (from June to August). She says that in winter, there are only seven people on the island. She spends the winters with her family in Sandoy, and has been doing this for a few decades now.
Flavours, fresh and local
As you would expect with any island, fish is the primary choice on the menu. But don’t be surprised at the variety on offer. From vegetarian food and quirky Bollywood posters at the Sirkus café to a delightfully-plated meal at Koks, the Michelin-starred restaurant here, there’s a taste for all seasons.