The self-governing nation within the Danish kingdom has a population of under 50,000 – and 70,000 sheep. Whether such an isolated archipelago of volcanic rock in the North Atlantic Ocean – centred between Scotland, Norway and Iceland, in a spot where it rains 300 days a year and is generally windy for longer – can handle many more visitors remains to be seen. But if you do fancy a visit, here’s how to make the most of it.
Atlantic Airways will fly from London Gatwick to the capital Vagar starting on 1 June 2024. Flights are just over two hours.
Here Ben West reveals what you need to know about holidays on the Faroe Islands.
Best things to do on The Faroe Islands
Bird’s eye view
Your aeroplane landing at little Vágar Airport gives a striking introduction to what’s in store on this dramatic archipelago: a descent over spectacular Sørvágsvatn Lake, towering knife-sharp mountains jutting from gloriously lush green grass, with no trees or buildings anywhere.
Conquer the capital
The compact and cosy capital, Tórshavn, on the largest island, Streymoy, is a lovely contrast to the rugged landscapes. Just a bit bigger than it was 150 years ago, it has dinky little grass-roofed wooden houses, a colourful, pretty harbour, and you can dip into the National Gallery.
The wild mountains, deep valleys and dramatic cliffs mean that hiking, biking, fishing, surfing, diving and horse riding are all popular. They’re especially a magnet for bird-watchers, and a boat trip to Vestmanna on northern Streymoy, or the secluded island of Mykines, to spot seabirds such as puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars and Arctic terns nesting in high cliffs, swooping down and gliding past you, is exhilarating.
Two Michelin-star Koks, situated in the unprepossessing village of Kirkjubøur, serves outrageously innovative seasonal dishes. Though the food is distinctly contemporary, every effort is put into exploring traditional techniques in the making of it: drying, fermenting, salting and smoking.
Head chef Poul Andrias Ziska distils the tastes and smells of the Faroese landscape, with dishes such as poached basket crab on an elderflower buckweed bed, or grass granite with angelica mousse and sorrel ice cream; you can actually taste and smell the grass.
Curiously this groundbreaking restaurant is situated within a village consisting of just a handful of houses, a church and a farm. Koks looks like any ordinary Faroese house, but the interior has large windows looking out to a huge expanse of sea, where seals and whales can often be seen.
There’s an excellent infrastructure, making it easy to get around. Ferries, buses, causeways and pristine, delightfully empty roads with bridges and tunnels connect the islands. There’s even a regular helicopter service, subsidised by the government because it represents a lifeline for inhabitants of the smaller islands.
Where to stay
A glass-walled, turf-topped Hilton Garden Inn is a mile from Tórshavn. Other accommodation options include inexpensive Airbnbs, comfortable Hotel Hafnia in central Tórshavn, and Klaksvik’s Hotel Klaksvik. Gásadalsgarður Guesthouse, on the western side of Vágar Island, is close to the Mulafossur waterfall, which descends directly into the ocean, and made famous by Instagrammers.
Where to eat
Restaurants were rare in the Faroes until about 15 years ago, in part because it was illegal to serve alcohol in restaurants until 1992. Now there are places for all budgets, and a sign that things are changing in the Faroes (though perhaps not always for the better) is the arrival of Burger King. Cosy, candle-lit, turf-roofed Áarstova Restaurant is famous for its slow-cooked Faroese lamb. For outstanding fish, try Barbara Fish House.
The Faroese diet developed from the meagre choice of ingredients available – hence items such as puffin, guillemot and gannet appear on menus, alongside precious few vegetables.
Where to drink
For such a small community, it’s surprising how heaving the bars in Tórshavn are each night. During summer, days are very long, and it’s not unusual for them to still be in full flow well into the small hours. Try craft brewery Mikkeller’s tap room in a little low-beamed old fishing house by the harbour, lively Sirkus, and atmospheric Essabarr.
Where to shop
Tórshavn has a smattering of boutique shops with Faroese foodstuffs and clothes: fans of The Killing will no doubt head for Gudrun & Gudrun on the harbourfront, which sells handmade knitwear including Sarah Lund’s famous jumper.
Modernist cultural centre The Nordic House blends numerous Scandinavian influences to stunning effect.
Walking near Klaksvik rewards visitors with panoramic views of fierce seas, towering vertical cliffs and dramatic mountains clad in green.
Be sure to base yourself in Tórshavn the majority of the time as the biggest choice of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and excursions are here.
What you need to know before going
What currency do I need?
What language do they speak?
Faroese; Danish is the official second language and English is also widely spoken.
Should I tip?
Service charges are included in prices and tipping is not expected.
What’s the time difference?
Average flight time?
Around two hours from London.
Ferries, buses and relatively inexpensive helicopters offer regular services.
Faroe Islands tourist board (visitfaroeislands.com)