Whether you are just visiting the islands for an extended weekend or in extension with your Iceland adventure, there is lots to see and do in the Faroe Islands. This is my personal experience and lessons learned during my four day visit in this beautiful country.
In this post you can read about:
- What is it like to visit the Faroe Islands in June?
- A four days itinerary for short stopovers in the Faroe Islands
- Getting around using public transport in the Faroe Islands
- Budget traveling and places to stay for the night
- Easy hikes and most commonly sighted wildlife
- Do’s and don’ts (lessons learned!)
- Activities in and around Tórshavn for short visits
After the most spectacularly beautiful landing in Vagár airport, where the clouds had cleared for a moment to reveal the emerald green mountains of the Faroe Islands, I was already stunned by the beauty of this country.
As you drive through the country you will pass countless streams, waterfalls, and depending on the season, which for me was summer; lush green and moist meadows with lots of sheep in different colors and patterns.
My oh-so busy itinerary was as following:
Arrive Thursday afternoon and catch the 14:20 bus from the airport to Miðvágur, where I had booked one night at the backpacker-friendly hostel called “Á Giljanes Hostel & Campsite“. From here I would hike to the cliff “Trælanípa”, and then Friday a full day trip to the puffin island of Mykines west off the Vagar island. Saturday and Sunday would be spent on the small island called Nolsóy just a 20 minute ferry connection from Tórshavn and my Monday, where I had my return flight home, was open for options. I was also really keen on kayaking on Leitisvatn!
My Atlantic Airways flight from Copenhagen was already delayed prior to departure, which resulted in missing my budget-friendly connection from the airport… The public bus! The thought of a two-hour wait at this mini airport on a day where the forecast looked decent in terms of no or only little rain, seemed like a waste of time considering the flight itself was only two hours short.
So I looked into the transportation options, and since all the remaining passengers from the flight were already gone with their probably pre-booked shuttle-service, the option of car-pooling was already gone. A taxi for a 10-minute drive would cost me 200 kroner which seemed unfair since a bus ticket to Tórshavn was only 90 kroner (and a much longer drive!). But I took the taxi anyway. Just the price of the taxi cost the same as just 1 night at the hostel!
Two nights of bunkbeds at Á Giljanes Hostel
At Giljanes’ there are normally several options where you can: book a bed in mixed dorms (or if you request it: Women only, which I did); book the old bus which has been transformed into a cosy place; you can pitch up your tent; or simply park your caravan/autocamper. Since there is no check-in counter at the hostel you can simply arrive at any time during the day, and you can use the wired phone to call the Faroese owner, Christian. The owner is extremely friendly, easy-going, gives advice about activities, weather and he speaks perfect English so communication is easy even for non-dane tourists.
He told me that “you are so lucky to arrive today, since there had been a thick fog for five entire days, and today the skies were clear with sprinkles of sunshine, so I should simply drop my bags and go out exploring!”
So I did – and my first hike went to Trælanípa and Bøsdalafossur – a beautiful hike along the largest lake in the entire country: Sørvagsvatten (also known as ‘Leitisvatn’, why not confuse us more!) that leads into the waterfall Bøsdalafossur at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Day 1 (arrival): Hike from Miðvágur/Sandavagur -> Trælanípa and return
I used the app Maps.me to guide me from the hostel towards Miðvágur and then continue up the entrance of the falls (see the map at the bottom of this post). Here you buy a ticket (250 kr) which lasts a week to enter the area, as the land is (at least to my understanding) privately owned, and entry otherwise would be seen as illegal trespassing. At the entrance you can use the restroom, and buy coffee, snacks, water etc. You may also be greeted by the sheep-herding dogs and the wannabe-dog dressed in sheep’s fur (a hilarious and yet confusing scene to behold!)
The hike to Trælanípa is fairly easy and straightforward, and you can’t get lost as you stay on the designated path. For me as a birder I took my time along the way to stop and look at all the birds that were breeding there in June – oystercatcher, whimbrel, stonechat, golden plover, ravens and arctic skuas chasing each other and causing a spectacle in the other birds lives. I hiked in boots, but I saw other people in sneakers who somehow made it all the way and back without much mud on their shoes – something I didn’t mind.
When I reached Trælanípa, a spectacular cliff was revealed with the view of the Atlantic Ocean. Northern fulmars were soaring in the coastal winds and Faroese sheep were grazing in what seemed dangerously close to the edge.
I sat down overlooking the waterfall Bøsdalafossur with my fish & chips takeaway from Miðvágur, while I soaked in the fresh air and the breathtaking view. Definitely a hike worthwhile!
Day 2: Failed trip to puffin paradise on Mykines island
On my second day I had booked the public ferry from Sørvágur to Mykines island which cost me 300 kroner (150 each way). The price but could have been even cheaper as normal price is 60 kroner/one trip until it sells out and the more expensive extra trip is available (see more on their website, where you may buy your ticket). I also looked into the possibility of taking the public transport helicopter – something that is quite unique to the Faroe Islands. A one-way fare is only around 100-300 kroner, which is made possible by government subsidized payment! You cannot book a return helicopter ride, but you can book a separate helicopter sightseeing tour for 1500 kroner (choose the sightseeing option).
Since the only helicopter ride available that day arrived on Mykines around midday, and the returning ferry from Mykines to Sørvágur was already at 16’o clock it was too little time for me to spend in puffin paradise.
So, this was what happened before my well scheduled trip to Mykines to see all the puffins:
On the evening before my trip to Mykines, Christian (the owner of Giljanes hostel) was skeptical about the possibility of a successful trip: The weather forecast promised mean wind speeds of 15-17 m/s and gusts up to 25 m/s!! Even the Faroese said it was unusual for a summer storm – and on the same night, the ferry company cancelled my tickets the following day due to the circumstantial weather situation.
I was obviously quite sad about this, as this was supposed to be the highlight of my trip, and Mykines was a must-see place to go especially for a birder as myself.
I was adviced that “on rainy days you should visit the big towns such as Klaksvik or Tórshavn“.– Roomie from Giljanes Hostel
The wind would increase throughout the day, so I got on the bus to Tórshavn and camped inside the coziest café in town called Paname café. In this lovely café, which is situated next to a bookstore, I had a good cup of coffee and a tapas for lunch.
After nearly two hours in the café I went sightseeing around town and saw the old houses with grass-covered roofs, the old King’s monument (see ‘Kongaminnid’ in the Maps.me app) and then the plantation, a small park up hill (all marked in the map at the bottom of this post). The plantation is worth a visit, especially if you only have short time in Tórshavn. If I had not severely strained my right foot the previous day during my first hike, I would have gone up to the waterfall ‘Svartafossur’, even further up the hill!
Day 3: First time on Nolsóy and visiting two sea bird colonies
The following day the wind had calmed down tremendously and I set course towards the small island Nolsóy, just a short 20 minute sail from the harbor in Tórshavn. I was sure to be on time, as in my experience the Faroese public transport is fairly punctual.
I was greeted on Nolsóy by my new Faroese acquaintance, Jógvan, who has lived most of his life on the island. Jógvan is one of the coordinators of the Faroese storm petrel ringing and has recently published a book of his and other researchers incredible studies of this, to most people, unknown creature.
We went for a hike to the northern part of Nolsóy and was faced with the decent wind still (10-11 m/s). Here we also met several individuals of the national bird of the Faroe Islands – the oystercatcher! (locally known as ‘Tjaldur’). They are the noisiest birds you can find here :). On the way we also passed by a breeding colony of arctic terns. They are behind a fence, please don’t approach them but you can see them well from the path.
I was told that the inhabitants may own a share of the grasslands for their sheep to graze, just like owning a stock/share in a company. If you see people crossing the fence, this may be the owners, but strangers are not allowed to do the same unless you have an agreement.
The evening I spent having dinner with my new acquaintances eating a delicious home cooked meal prepared by Joan, Jógvans wife. We drank coffee and waited until 10 pm before we departed towards the bird colony of puffins and storm petrels.
The Faroese storm petrel [European storm petrel]
To those who don’t know what a storm petrel is, it’s a small bird which people told me resembles a pigeon. But it’s not a pigeon, it’s a tiny seabird which spends almost its entire life at sea, and only comes to stay on land when they are mature enough to breed. In June the adult breeding individuals arrive to find their partner, which for most birds is the same partner, year after year, and they return to the same rock crevice to nest in the darkness. Oh, and did I mention that they only come out at night?
The rest of the year storm petrels roam the open seas where they feed on small crustaceans. According to ringing data the oldest storm petrel was 34 years old! This is incredible to know as they live out at the seas, which can be quite rough. [In comparison – the oldest known bird in the world is the Laysan albatross named Wisdom, who’s more than 70 years old – must be all that Omega-3!].
It has long been known that Nolsóy had a large concentration of storm petrels, but the high ringing effort has eluded that in fact Nolsóy holds the largest population of the species in the World!
I had two very unique nights going to the bird colonies of ringing storm petrels, that I would like to write about in a dedicated post hopefully soon.
If YOU would like a tour to see the wildlife (bird life) of Nolsóy (typical of what you may find in the Faroe Islands!), you can book a tour with Jens-Kjeld (see the map below).
Day 4 – the hike down south on Nolsóy on a summer day
The following day the hint of winter had perished; it was a warm summer day with only little wind and a full on shining sun. Perfect for my next hike!
From the small town I hiked towards south and followed the blue wooden poles close to the ground, and then I followed it up a steep slope for the first 20 minutes of the hike. Once I had passed the steepest and most challenging path, where you sort of climb up the rocks, this gorgeous view met me!
Walking slowly and safely, meanwhile exploring the local plant- and birdlife, I hiked in the midday ‘heat’ for about 1.5-2 hours along a plane path along the ridge and with a constant sight of the ocean, the green meadows and the island of Streymoy.
I was supposed to hike all the way to a lighthouse in the south end of Nolsóy, and discover pairs of red-throated divers (loons) in the little freshwater lakes along the way, but I was tired from the night of ringing and decided to have my lunch and enjoyed the fresh breeze.
Just a day trip or looking to stay overnight? Here’s some practical info about Nolsóy:
If you plan to visit Nolsóy on a weekday you will have no problem going back to Tórshavn, as there are many scheduled fares to this little island. Many local residents of Nolsóy work or go to school on the other islands, and it is well connected. Find the ferry schedule here. In my experience it takes a lot for the ferry to be cancelled due to weather, especially during summer.
It is possible to rent a room or an apartment, you can contact the tourism office and browse the different options here. There is a small grocery store in Nolsóy and one restaurant/sports bar: Maggie’s, where I had a crispy fish and chips for dinner.
To sum up, here are some of the lessons learned from my trip to the Faroe Islands:
Mykines: Never go the same day as your flight. If you end up stranded on Mykines due to cancelled ferries you will miss your flight!
The best weather app: Use Windy. The weather changes quite locally around the islands. You can use Windy to quite precisely predict and find suitable weather for your adventures. The most accurate weather model you can select in the app is the Icon-EU. You can choose between weather models in the bottom right corner, and compare the different forecasts between the models.
How to get online and roaming: I was surprised that my EU roaming data could not be used on the Faroe islands. Upon arrival I got an SMS from my provider offering me a bundle of internet for a fixed price. This is because the Faroe Islands are quite remote!
Public transport: The bus is easy to take, and if you use Maps.me the app will show you the bus stops. At the bus stop there is a little sheltered space where you can stand in the prevailing wind or rain while you wait for the bus. You may find an overview of the public transportation on the Faroe Islands here.
Public busses are free of charge in the city of Tórshavn! Pretty awesome – which comes in handy when visiting the National Museum outside of the city centre.
Whatever you read online on blogs or Google maps regarding hotels, Air BnB’s, Bed and Breakfasts etc., a lot has changed in the Faroe Islands during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Make sure you do your homework and make a few calls/emails to find out which places are still open for rent.
You made it to the bottom of this post – I hope you enjoyed reading it, feel free to comment, share or like it here or elsewhere. I hope I can inspire more people to follow their dreams and make valuable time for themselves, for personal growth and experiences for a lifetime.
Rie // Traveling Female Ornithologist
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