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Found right in the middle of the triangle Norway - Scotland - Iceland, the Danish territory of the Faroe Islands encompasses 18 main islands (17 of which are inhabited) as picturesque as they can become. Countless waterfalls, fjords and lush, green mountains are set against the stormy weather, making the Faroe Islands a place to be enjoyed by the stout-hearted. Their rewards are many, however. Because of their remoteness, the Faroe Islands have had very little to do with major wars, ensuring that historical sites can be found all over the islands. Remnants of churches, cathedrals, monasteries and farmhouses dating back centuries highlight the long past of the Faroes. An unbelievably huge bird population, including the clownesk puffin, make the islands a popular place for nature lovers, who will also be attracted to the various species of whales and dolphins patrolling the islands' waters.
The Faroe Islands were associated with Norway and remained so even after the more southerly Shetlands and Orkneys were firmly established as part of Scotland. When Norway fell under Denmark, the Faroe Islands did as well. During the Napoleonic wars, Great Britain occupied Denmark to keep out the French. Denmark entered the war on Napoleon’s side and their Nordic rival, Sweden, then joined the anti-French coalition. Losers do lose and Denmark had to cede Norway to Sweden. The Faroe Islands were left behind with Denmark, as were Greenland and Iceland.
In the second world war the United Kingdom occupied the Faroe Islands the day after the Germans invaded Denmark and held them until the end of the war. They were then returned to Denmark but by this time there was a major movement for independence. After one election they declared independence but the Danish king dissolved the Faroe Islands Parliament and the new one revoked the declaration. So the Faroe Islands remain subject to Denmark but they enjoy a high degree of self-government, they are an associate member of the Nordic Council, with their own representatives and they are seeking full membership. With Greenland and Iceland they form the West Nordic Council and they have a very wide-ranging free trade agreement with Iceland. Unlike Denmark, the Faroe Islands are not part of the EU; entry would be pretty dodgy for a fish dependent economy.
The Faroe Islands are located about 250-300 kilometres north of Scotland and together form around 1,400 square kilometres of landmass, located in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The islands consist of steep cliffs, rocky towering mountains up to almost 900 metres above sea level and apart from the last 200 metres or so they form a green carpet layed out over the islands. Lakes, rivers and trees are almost non-existent. Only Lítla Dímun is an uninhabited island, the other 17 are inhabited, albeit some only by a few dozen people or even just one single family (Stóra Dímun). There are more smaller rocks and seastacks located offshore though and all the islands together have well over 1,100 kilometres of seashore, mostly rising steeply out of the ocean.
From north to south the Faroe Islands are made up of these 6 main regions;
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If you just have several days on the islands (for example when taking the boat to Iceland and having a short stopover here), it is best to base yourself in Tórshavn and visit the capital and surrounding area. You can even do a long daytrip to some of the northern islands if you like, though for that it would ideally be better to base yourself in Klaksvik. With a week you can visit the main islands Eysturoy and Streymoy with sidetrips to the northern or southern islands (but not both!), and maybe a trip to Mykines, Nolsoy and/or the Vestmanna Birdcliffs.
Two weeks will give you the opportunatity to visit all but the most remote or least interesting areas, but for a first time visitor about a week or a little more is perfect to start with.
Eysturoy is located north of the main island Streymoy (where Tórshavn is) and is the second largest island. It also has has the highest mountain of the Faroe Islands (Slættaratindur, 882 metres high) and a great mountain road can be taken between Eiði, in the northwest of the island and Gjógv, a village with a sheltered harbour. Other fantastic roads include roads in the northeast leading to Elduvik and Oyndarfjordur. The villages are picture perfect as well, with it's dramatic backdrops. The south of the island is less dramatic but has a lake near Nes great for birdwatching: the Lake of Toftavatn.
The Faroe Islands, aside from nature, have some culture to offer as well and the excellent Føroya Fornminnissavn (Historical Museum) is probably the highlight regarding culture and history. The museum is actually split between two sites in the Hoyvík suburb, north of Tórshavn. There are displays of Faroese artefacts from the Viking Age to the 19th century and the illustrations with photos and text are in English. Downstairs is a treasure room. A second site contains a well preserved 1920's farmstead complete with bell telephone and a full set of turf-roofed outhouses. The setting is marvelous as well.
Kalsoy is one of the northern islands, and although not as remote as Fugloy or Svinoy, the island can not be reached by road, so it is much quieter here. A short 20-minute boatride from Klaksvik will bring you into the southern town of Sydradalur, from where a road leads straight northwards via Husar, Mykladalur and 4 (!) tunnels towards Trollanes, the small northern settlement. This is the start of one of the best hikes in the country, the steep hike up to the Kallur lighthouse. The views on top are one of the best you'll find anywhere on the islands (or the world as a matter of fact!), with the northern tips of Eysturoy, Streymoy, Kunoy and Vidoy easily visible under normal circumstances. Dress warm as the wind can be tough once at the lighthouse.
Mykines is the westernmost island of the Faroe Islands and can be reached by boat (May-August) or helicopter (year-round). It is famous for great birdlife, including the clownesk puffin (main season to see them also May to August). There is a small rocky island near Mykines main island which can be reached by a ladder-bridge across the sea (35 metres). Outside of the main season (May-August) it is best to visit Mykines on a Friday as there are two helicopter flights that day from Vagar (main airport), as opposed to only one on Sunday and Wednesday, in which case you need to spend at least 2 nights there (and the main hotel is closed after August as well!).
Although most of the islands can easily be reached by car or a quick ferry or helicopter trip, there are still a few off the beaten track islands, which require some more planning. For this you can choose to visit either one or two of the southern islands, or the northern islands of Svinoy and Fugloy. The latter requires you to take a ferry from Hvannasund to Svinoy and onwards to Fugloy if you like. In both cases, you take the 8.45am boat (the Ratin, the old wooden mailboat Masin was replaced in 2010) that leaves Hvannasund and normally travels to the west of Svinoy first, or to Svinoy town in the east if the waterpassage is too rough (travel time is about 50 minutes to 1.45h depending on the route). You can then hike on one of the islands and take the afternoon boat back (outside summer season, call 2 hours ahead to let them know you want to take the boat), or take the helicopter back (only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday year-round, adding a Monday trip in summer). The helicopter usually leaves around 13:00-14:00pm back to Klaksvik and takes around 15 minutes. Try to go to Fugloy for the most remote experience and arrive in either Kirkkja or Hattarvik, hike between the two towns and leave from the other village.
In the south, Koltur, Stóra Dímun and Lítla Dímun are the ones which are hard to get to. You need permission to stay and/or spend some time on the first two islands, and both islands can only be reached by helicopter (same days as mentioned above). Lítla Dímun can only be visited from Suðuroy during a daytrip. There are only a few trips a year (summer) which take a whole day and cost around 1,500 kroner (€200!).
You'll find more information about the capital in the Torshavn article, but there are a few noteworthy options regarding daytrips from the capital. Just 15 minutes away is Kirkjubøur, but for nicer and longer daytrips, a short ferry ride takes you to either Sandoy (south) or Nolsoy (east). On Sandoy a car can take you anywhere and there are great hikes, especially in the southeastern corner of the island. You don't need a car on Nolsoy, just your legs and 5 hours of time to reach the lighthouse at the southern tip of the island and hike back to the ferry again.
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The Vestmanna Bird Cliffs are one thing you shouldn't miss when visiting the Faroe Islands. There are fantastic boat tours to the these wild bird cliffs which are located in the northwest of Streymoy. If there is only one thing you can see, make it this place. You should keep your fingers crossed for good weather, because like most of the islands it all depends on whether you have miserable rainy weather or clear days, but it still makes for a great trip anyhow. When the weather is fine though you will sail from Vestmanna along the west coast of Streymoy to towering cliffs teeming with fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and you might even see puffins, but not year round.
The Faroe Islands isn't the first place that comes to mind for its nice weather. Actually, you should consider yourself very lucky if you don't have any rain, even if you just visit for a few days. Even the somewhat drier months of June to August still have 20 to 22 rainy days a month! From October to March it rains on all but a few days a month. Temperatures are never hot but it rarely gets really cold as well. Winter (December to March) night time temperatures average around 2 °C while average summer (July-August) temperatures hoover around a chilly 12 °C. Temperatures below zero during the day are pretty rare, as are days approaching the 20 °C mark. In winter, snow is common at higher altitudes but mostly melts away at sea level within a day or so.
Atlantic Airways is the national airline of the Faroe Islands with its base at Vágar Airport. It has connections to major European cities, such as Aberdeen, London, Aalborg, Billund, Copenhagen, Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo, Reykjavik and Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland. Flights and schedules tend to change between cities though and also tend to variate throughout the year. Mostly Copenhagen, Billund and Reykjavik have year-round connections, while a few others only have flights between May and September.
Although obviously you can't drive to the Faroe Islands directly, the ferry described below offers you to bring your own car. This gives you maximum freedom on the islands and you don't need to rent a car. Usually you can spend 2-3 days on the island on your way to Iceland, or much longer of course if you take the boat onwards or back a week later.
By boat your options are limited, time consuming and it's not a good deal at all unless you really want to bring your own car to visit the Faroe Islands. Smyril Line ferries leave from Denmark, Norway and Scotland to Iceland, stopping en-route at the Faroe Islands. It takes around 36-40 hours from Denmark.
The Icelandic cargo ship Eimskip has two vessels, the Dettifoss and Goðafoss which travel the route Rotterdam-Hamburg-Göteborg-Århus-Fredrikstad-Tórshavn-Reykjavík. It takes 8 days in total and the return trip goes via eastern Iceland and Tórshavn only. The vessel can take a maximum of 3 passengers but only between mid-April and mid-October.
For such a small place, there are numerous ways to get around. To get started, check this website, which has information on travelling by bus, ferry, helicopter, taxi and bicycle.
Getting around the islands can be done by air, but your main transport will be helicopters, not planes. It actually makes for an affordable and enjoyable way of getting around and is great way to finally travel by helicopter. Flights are by Atlantic Airways, the national airline and you can find the schedule and more information at their website. Destinations include Stóra Dímun, Froðba, Hattarvík, Kirkja, Klaksvík, Koltur, Mykines, Skúvoy, Svínoy, Tórshavn and Vagar International Airport. Prices start at 85kr. (€11) and the most expensive flights are 360kr (€48). Flights are usually on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with extra flights in summer (May to August) on Mondays. Note that some places are visited only once (like Fugloy) while other places see the helicopter twice on those days.
Travelling around by car is a very pleasant way and gives you all the freedom to visit even the more remote corners of the islands. But it is only economical when you are with 2 or 3 people at least, as rental prices start at around €35-40 a day with a smaller local company when you are booking the car for a week. If you just want it for a day or several days, prices are more around €55-60 a day. Most of the international agencies like Avis have offices at the airport or in Torshavn. 62N represents Hertz, Europcar and Sixt on the Faroe Islands. For the best prices check smaller companies like BVK, Rentacar, Bilútleigan and Uni-Cars.
Prices of petrol are around 9 kroner (€1.20) for regular gas and around 7 kroner (€0.90) for diesel, which is much cheaper than in Denmark, as there is less or no tax on it. Prices of the two undersea tunnels (see below) are 130 kroner (€17) for a return trip. You pay in one direction, the other one is free. For most ferries (like the ones to Sandoy and Kalsoy) are around 160 kroner (€21) for car and driver. Additional passengers pay 45 kroner (€6). The ferry to Suðuroy is more expensive. The summer ferries to Mykines don't take cars but are much more expensive for passengers (120 kroner, around €16).
Tunnels and Bridges
The two largest islands, Streymoy and Eysturoy, are connected by a bridge, Sundabrúgvin, or the Channel Bridge. Smaller bridges (dams) connect Borðoy with Kunoy and Viðoy.
Only the undersea tunnels are subject to toll. Currently there are only two as yet. Since 2002, one links the island of Vágar, where the island's airport is situated, to the largest island of Streymoy, where the capital, Tórshavn, is located. Since 2006, the other links Eysturoy with Borðoy, connecting to Klaksvik, the largest settlement in the north. The toll is payable at any petrol station on the islands up to three days after the journey, when the records from the petrol stations are compared with computerised records of cars photographed using the tunnel. Furthermore the toll is only payable in one direction (from Vágar to Streymoy and from Borðoy to Eysturoy). If you are renting a car, the toll is directly payed to the car rental company when you deliver the car, sometimes at a slightly reduced costs (100 instead of 130 kroner).
In most cases of underland tunnels there was no previous land passage, except by walking. There is one each on Streymoy and Eysturoy but they are most abundant in the Norðoyar region, where there are two on Borðoy, one on Kunoy and four (within just about 8 kilometres!) on Kalsoy. Most recently there is one on Vágar.
The ones on Streymoy and Eysturoy allow vehicles to meet anywhere. The others give right of way to vehicles going in one direction (north has right of way). There are frequent passing places marked with a large M (usually every 100-150 metres), large enough to accommodate a bus if necessary. As you would expect, the local inhabitants are expert at estimating meeting times and distances between M's, which are on the right-hand side of the road.
As more tunnels are planned, the information found here could become dated and it would be a good idea to check the latest situation.
Parts of the Faroe Islands are excellent to discover by bike, though try not to cover large distances in one day and if possible also try to avoid using tunnels, especially the narrow and/or badly lit ones. 62N near Torshaven offers bikes for rent, and so does Súkkluhandilin (N. Páls gøta 26, 700 Klaksvík, Phone: +298 455858) in Klaksvik. Especially the latter one is a great option to visit the more remote parts in the north.
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Buses go to most places on many of the islands and the Bygdaleiðir long-distance bus service is a great way to get around. Most buses can be combined with ferries and there are 4-day or 7-day bus passes with can be great value if you want to cover a lot of the islands. For adults, a 7-day pass is 700kr, a 4-day pass is 500kr. Although fast and comfortable, the frequency of buses can be a bit of a nuisance. Even the most frequent one (Klaksvik to/from Tórshavn vv) goes less than once an hour. Outside of the summer season, frequencies are even lower and on some more remote routes you have to call a bus at least 2 hours ahead to let them know you need public transport.
There are numerous ferries to and from the different islands of the Faroe Archipelago and you can take your car on most of them or just take the bus. Here is a complete list of all the ferries. Or check the timetable at the Strandfaraskip timetable, the operator for the ferries between the islands. For costs, check above under 'car' or the website.
In general, the same requirements as for Denmark apply, although remember that the Faroe Islands are not a EU member state. Schengen rules thus do not apply!
See also: Money Matters
The official currency is the Faroese króna. Issued by the Danish National Bank, it is a version of the Danish Krone, and is pegged to the it at par. One króna is divided into 100 oyrur (singular oyra). Banknotes come in denominations of 50 kr, 100 kr, 200 kr, 500 kr and 1,000 kr. The same Danish coins are used and they come in denominations of 25 øre, 50 øre, 1 kr, 2 kr, 5 kr, 10 kr and 20 kr.
You can pay with Danish Krones on the islands, but although officially you can pay with Faroese Kroner in Denmark, most people in Denmark are not aware of that. It is best to change your Kroner into Danish ones before leaving if you are visiting Denmark afterwards.
Most people at the islands have pieces of land and/or animals (mostly sheep) and others live in the fishing industry. Tourism is on the rise though, but mostly concentrates in and around the capital Tórshavn. It's highly unlikely travellers who just visit the islands briefly want to have work on the islands. Most people don't stay for longer than a week or so.
Basically, as most students go to Denmark or even other countries, the only reason to study in the Faroe Islands is when you are very keen on learning the Faroese language. Otherwise, you are better off elsewhere.
The Faroese language is descended from old Norse and, apparently, is akin to Icelandic more than the other Scandinavian languages.
English is spoken in shops, restaurants and travel operators all over the islands but it helps to know just a bit to read the road signs and attempt place names - (probably unsatisfactorily!) The letter eth (capital Ð, lower-case ð) is not noticeably sounded at all. Try pronouncing Viðareiði!
Although one would expect that getting good fresh fish is easy, this is certainly not the case everywhere everytime. Tórshavn probably has the widest collection of restaurants with a wide range of options regarding meat, fish, chicken and foregin cuisine. One of the best sushi restaurants in Europe can be found there as well: Etika. Otherwise, the main dishes include lots of potatoes and of course lamb as the main meat. The opening of Burger King in Tórshavn was big news some years ago and there are quite a few take-away places offering pizza, pasta and burgers, mainly in Tórshavn but also in smaller towns like Klaksvík.
Breakfast is mostly included at places and like many places in Scandinavia it includes a wide choice of bread, cheese, meat, jam, juice, coffee and sometimes eggs or herring.
Tórshavn by far has the widest collection of accommodations, ranging from a campsite and hostels to B&B's, guesthouses and a few upmarket hotels. Usually, the mid-range places like guesthouses offer the best value for money with relatively small but efficient rooms, usually including breakfast (see above under 'eat'). Outside of Tórshavn, there are fewer options, though in summer season (usually May to August) you can find a place to sleep in some smaller places as well. Quite a few places shut down completely in winter (October to March or even longer), but daytrips from Tórshavn are possible if you want. Klaksvík is a good base for exploring the 6 northern islands, with B&B's, a campsite and a few hotels available. One of the nicest places to stay anywhere in the country is the Gjaargarður guesthouse in Gjógv, with good rooms, good food and great views in one of the most pittoresque and most beautifully located villages anywhere on the Faroe Islands. In Tórshavn, the Skansin and Bládýpi guesthouses/hostels offer excellent value.
For Klaksvík and the northern islands, try and contact the Central Tourism Office to check the options. They have a few options of B&B's in Klaksvík which are excellent value (€35-40 per person), and they also offer houses for rent on the more remote islands like Kalsoy, Svinoy and Fugloy to in summer reserve well ahead! These houses are especially good value if you are with more people.
The Faroe Islands have their own brewery, making the Føroya Bjór (Faroe Beer) in quite a few different tastes. Note that outside restaurants and bars, you can only buy the regular beer and anything stronger in one of the 6 Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins (Government Monopoly Stores), located in Tórshavn, Klaksvík, Saltangará, Skálavik, Tvøroyri and Miðvágur. Lighter 2.8% beer can be bought in supermarkets and a few other shops, but are much less tasteful.
Alcohol is expensive, even cans of Tuborg are €1.50 at the government stores. In bars a glass of 0.3L beer goes for around 30 kroner (around €4), while 0.5L is usually around 50 kroner (€6.50). Wine and hard liquor adds up even quicker, so fill up with a few beers from the government stores first.
See also: Travel Health
There are no legal requirements regarding vaccinations to travel to the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands have few, if any, hazzards to travellers and diseases are non-existent. The public health system is extremely good like other northern European countries. There are 3 hospitals with all modern facilities, located in Tórshavn, Klaksvík and Tvøroyri.
See also: Travel Safety
The Faroe Islands are probably ranked among the safest countries in the world. It is highly unlikely that you will encounter any problems, like theft, let alone robbery. The greatest risk probably are the badly lit one-way tunnels, both in case you are driving or cycling. Avoid the last option if you can though. Also try and slow down when you see sheep in on near the roads. If you hit one, you should call the police and probably compensate the loss of an animal for the owner.
There are no internet cafés on the islands. Options include tourism offices (usually free, though at a cost in Tórshavn), and, even better, libraries. Also, a growing number of places offer free wi-fi.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international code to dial to the Faroe Islands is +298. The emergency and fire number is 112.
Postverk Føroya is the postal service of the Faroe Islands. There are 34 postal offices throughout the country and if you want to send a postcard or letter, go either to one of them or just put them in one of the abudant blue postal boxes you will find throughout the islands.
Faroe Islands stamps are very popular with collectors. For more information, check the Stamps.fo website.
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Ask Utrecht a question about Faroe Islands
Travelled to the Faroe Islands in september 2010 and visited about 10 of the 18 islands, mostly by car, also using ferries and a helicopter once. Can help you out with getting around, main towns, accommodation etc. Much of the info can be found in the travelguide article, but need you know more, please ask..:)
Ask Wonderspring a question about Faroe Islands
From the Faroe Islands, currently living abroad. I see my country from a different perspective since I am living abroad. Been on all the islands and lived there for more than 30 years, I am happy to assist and give advice.
Ask davidx a question about Faroe Islands
I am offering because there are no helpers down for the Faroe Islands. I do not know al the answers but I have been about much of the islands and think I could help those planning a first visit.
Ask Tjahzi a question about Faroe Islands
I've been to Faroe Islands...so can give a bit of advice :)
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