Faroe Islands Travel Tips: Nature, Culture, and Local Insights


Welcome to the edge of the world as One Planet Journey guest writer Ashley Loh-Smith takes you on an incredible adventure to the Faroe Islands. Feel the draw of the raw and exquisite nature that has shaped the culture, people, and animals who inhabit these remote islands. Get local insights and travel tips on when to go, how to get around, and what to pack, see and eat at this other-worldly place.

“Would you join me for a drink?” asks a noticeably weathered but spirited man sitting beside us, holding up a miniature liquor bottle as our aircraft prepares for a 10:15 am departure from Copenhagen. One of my travel companions accepts his offer on the sound advice that this herbal liqueur is vitamin-rich and excellent for digestion. Given that he’d consumed seven by the time we landed at Vagar Airport, I can only assume our airborne booze peddler – a Faroese fisherman hauling nets in foreign lands, we soon discovered – was of astonishingly robust health.

My initial fascination with the Faroe Islands originated with a single photograph I found online: the fishing town of Klaksvik, forming an elongated U-shape around its harbour, with the monolithic southern ridge of Kunoy island dominating the background like a snow-capped pyramid. All it took was a brief image search of the country’s landscapes to convince me to visit this starkly captivating outcrop in the Atlantic. As it turns out, two friends from my university exchange days had been considering a trip to the Faroes, and the ball began rolling very quickly from there. 

Collection of houses near a cliff with green mountains and the sea in the background.
The village of Trøllanes on the island of Kalsoy



The Faroe Islands lie at something of a midpoint between Scotland, Iceland and Norway, yet remain (not without contention!) within the Kingdom of Denmark as an autonomous country. At first appearing as a barren speck of an archipelago, a closer look reveals fortress-like sea cliffs, some of the tallest in Europe, emerging from the Atlantic. Visible bands of basalt, a geological record of the islands’ now-dormant volcanic origins, are intersected by small streams and channels of water that have cut deep ridges into the rock over millennia. Grassland and heath blanket much of the terrain.

Lake with mountains in the background, sitting atop the sea.
The astonishing Sørvágsvatn, the largest lake in the Faroe Islands, sitting above the Atlantic Ocean


The stunning allure of the Faroe Islands lies in a most paradoxical charm; the islands cover a mere 1,400 square kilometres – not much larger than Los Angeles – but its sparse and imposing landscapes have the remarkable ability to remind you of your trivially diminutive place in nature. Scale is everything. 

An 880-metre summit would be little more than a speed bump in mountaineering circles, but from the peak of Slættaratindur, the highest point in the Faroes, the entire archipelago is visible. With the ocean stretching in all directions to the horizon, the world feels laid before you, and you are at the mercy of it. As one of my friends pointed out, it effortlessly evokes the atmosphere of Caspar David Friedrich’s masterpiece Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.

Man on top of mountain peak
At the peak of Slættaratindur


Fog, as it turns out, is meant to be one of the defining characteristics of Faroese weather. Yet a stretch of four sunny days in a row was distinctly un-Faroese, the locals assured us. Thermal underwear remained unworn, and sunscreen was unexpectedly required. Surely it was time to hit the beach? The crystalline Atlantic waters, averaging a stinging eight degrees in May, provided for some exhilarating moments of swimming following a plunge from the docks in Funningur village. A preparatory swig of rum was a poor substitute for a wetsuit, but nonetheless applied liberally. 

Village at base of mountain by a lake.
Funningur in the distance, as seen from Elduvík



Sheep are ubiquitous in the Faroe Islands, some even finding a home on remote islands uninhabited by other land mammals. An estimated population of 70,000 to 80,000 outnumbers humans (a mere 54,000) and has been an essential source of food and fabric for centuries. Given their tireless roaming across far-flung areas of the islands, and through some stroke of local genius, it made them the perfect candidates for lugging around Google’s Street View cameras. 

Flock of sheep standing by a lake.
Sheep, sheep everywhere


As for the Faroese people themselves, though, one is reluctant to draw sweeping conclusions on their traits from spending barely a week in the country. However, our fisherman friend had enquired mid-flight if we’d be interested in painting his house in Suðuroy for a bit of paid work. “You can stay there as long as you want and eat all my fish!” 

Whilst it would be easy to dismiss this as the banter of a brunch-time drinking session, it exemplified what we soon understood to be a frank approach to hospitality, lending a hand, and life in general. Village residents stopped to say hello in the street. Guesthouse hosts often spoke of front doors remaining unlocked. A young man in a bar, too inebriated to drive, told us of how he’d asked for an hour-long ride into town from a complete stranger that day, who readily obliged. 

Fog and mountains with people walking on a ridge.
A ridge walk in Kalsoy



Prior to this trip, I decided to read The Old Man and His Sons by Heðin Brú, nominated by the Faroese as their “novel of the twentieth century”. It’s a bleak tale of misfortune and debt in a poor family struggling to adapt to a world changing around them and vividly portrays the brutality and adversity of existence in a small Faroese village in the earlier half of the 1900s. The story may be fictional, but its depictions are true to life for the era. 

It was from this novel that I first gleaned this Faroese inclination to hospitality and help; the eponymous old man would be welcomed on to the boats and into the homes of strangers while out journeying. Villagers would be woken in the middle of the night to repair a turf roof ripped off in a storm. In a sparsely populated fleck of islands at such a latitude, particularly in more arduous times, this sort of aid and sanctuary was a lifesaver in the most literal sense. 

Mountain ridge rising with a sea backdrop, a small lighthouse along the trail.
The Trøllanes lighthouse at the northern end of Kalsoy


However, when the disposition of your people is shaped by some of nature’s most unforgiving conditions for hundreds of years, it’s also inevitable that hardship and death are handled in a very matter-of-fact way. I asked one of our guesthouse owners about a painting on his wall, depicting a Faroese longboat crew rowing a Danish official through an ominous storm; “slave work”, as our host bluntly described it. Not only was this artwork by his own hand, but its inspiration was his own grandfather and grand-uncle, who both drowned in the midst of this very undertaking. 

The development of modern seafaring equipment, combined with the diminishing need to scale cliffs for hunting and foraging, has likely contributed to an increased life expectancy for Faroese men, yet the extraordinary might of nature and its perils are a constant presence. But resilience still thrives; on the island of Kalsoy, a statue of a seal-woman in Mikladalur pays tribute to both a tale and a curse on the village, condemning its male inhabitants to fall from the cliffs and die at sea. An older man strolling past us appeared to have beaten the odds, though. 

Statue of a woman with mountains and sea in the background.
The Kópakonan (seal-woman) statue in Mikladalur, standing nine feet tall



Living in a city of over 3 million people, I can barely imagine the pace of life in a remote area of a country that already feels like the edge of the world. When dangling from a cliff or sitting at the top of a mountain here, time appears to dramatically slow down – and if anything, the only thing that seems to be in a hurry in the Faroe Islands is the weather. But with no trees for the wind to sway, the landscape appears unmoved and indifferent to the unrelenting squalls that have been lashing these islands since their formation. As a result, the islands foster hardy, tenacious and good-natured folks who are similarly undeterred by any of nature’s fury. 

Owing to onward travel plans, we unfortunately declined our acquaintance’s offer to paint his house and eat his fish stockpile, but I’d be lying if I said my inner hermit wasn’t tempted to say yes on a future visit. 

Waterfall dropping into the sea from a village perched atop a cliff among the mountains.
Múlafossur waterfall and the town of Gasadalur


Faroe Islands Travel Tips

Most travellers to the Faroe Islands fly in from Reykjavík, Oslo, Bergen, or – as we did – from Copenhagen. The national carrier, Atlantic Airways, also operates seasonal routes to other locations in Western Europe and the UK. 

We stayed for one week, which felt like a perfect length of time for a mix of gentle strolls, challenging hikes, cultural activities, and occasional relaxation. Our accommodations across the duration of our stay were based in Sandavágur, Funningur, Tórshavn, Mykines, and again in Sandavágur.

Based on our pre-trip research, there appears to be a consensus that summer (June – August) is the “best” time to visit due to the more agreeable temperatures and long daylight hours, but shoulder seasons would work just as well, and with arguably fewer tourists around. Don’t be fooled by these photos, though, regardless of when you come, always be prepared for unpredictable weather. Pack clothing in the expectation of rain falling sideways! A sturdy rain shell and waterproof hiking boots are essential. 

I strongly believe it’s worth budgeting for a rental car in your travel plans, as this will allow you to see some of the more remote locations at your own pace. Public buses do exist, but can be a time-consuming way to get around. As for islands that aren’t reachable by bridge or tunnel, your options are either a ferry or a helicopter service. It’s possible to take rental cars on some ferry services as well. 

Costumed entertainer with troll face at a festival
Some unusual forms of children’s entertainment during the seafood festival


If you’re a voracious fan of seafood, you’ll be in heaven, and should visit during á grynnuni, the annual Tórshavn seafood festival in early May, where you can sample a wide array of fresh and delicious fish and shellfish for free. Koks, the renowned Michelin star restaurant serving unique Faroese cuisine, is closed for 2024. However, I particularly enjoyed dinner at Barbara Fish House, located in a charming turf-roof wooden Faroese house in Tórshavn. 

If I ever return, I’d love the opportunity to try heimablídni, a supper club concept held at a Faroese home, with the meal prepared by the family who live there using local produce. I’m willing to wager that you’ll likely be served fish.  


Have you been to the Faroe Islands? What do you recommend most? Let us know in the comment section! Subscribe to our newsletter and benefit from travel guides, sustainable tourism and luxury travel tips, insightful interviews, and inspirational places to visit. One Planet Journey – The World’s First Deep Travel Magazine.


1 thought on “Faroe Islands Travel Tips: Nature, Culture, and Local Insights”

  1. Great read, immersive and well written. This article gave me a real sense of being there.

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