After a few months of travelling along the typical Euro-trip route, nothing sounded better than escaping the masses. I longed to ‘go bush’ as we would say in New Zealand. In other words, I was seeking a track less beaten. One with fewer tourists, less concrete, and more prevailing culture and nature. I found what I was looking for in the Faroe Islands - except for one minor detail.
On arrival I discovered that there was no bush, nor trees for that matter. This is due to the harsh North Atlantic winds. So I guess I wasn’t going to ‘go bush’ after all.
But what the Faroe Islands may lack in trees, it overwhelmingly exceeds in untouched natural beauty. It’s the kind of unspoiled nature that you would question still exists, until you see it for yourself.
I’m talking about waterfalls that drop straight down into fjords, jagged snow-capped hills rising dramatically up out of the sea, and the little Faroese (goat-like) sheep freely roaming the rugged coastline. And with a small population of 50,000 Faroese people and 70,000 sheep, I think it is safe to say that the pure beauty of these islands should remain well into the future.
Sunset on the island of Suðuroy. In order to reach Suðuroy, you will take a 2 hour ferry from Tórshavn.
So how did I set my mind to go to the Faroe Islands you may be wondering? I wish I could tell you that I spun the globe in search for a small ‘cast-away’ island like a true adventurer but no. In one word..... Instagram.
Images of the Faroe Islands in those small square boxes quickly became topical on my Instagram news feed. The views soon became imprinted in my mind, and I knew I had to see it for myself.
I got in contact with a lady called Harriet who hosts Workawayers. This is when you work for 4 to 5 hours each day in exchange for food and accommodation. I had arranged to stay and help her family out for one month.
The weather is unpredictable in the Faroe Islands. On a windy day make sure to go out to the shoreline to see sights like this.
Harriet and her husband John live on the island of Eysturoy in the village of Æðuvík. Harriet is a full-time photographer/blogger/farmer. She also sells amazing prints of her beautiful pet sheep from her farm, which make great Faroese souvenirs. Harriet and John also run Hanusarstova where they host traditional dinners for tourists. Here you can experience real Faroese hospitality.
It didn’t take long before I started to get to know the extended family. And I will be forever grateful for how welcoming and kind they all were to me. Harriet’s mother hand knitted me a beautiful jersey, her brother drove me around the countryside and filled me in on Faroese culture, her grandmother dressed me up in a beautiful faroese costume, and her Aunt Beinta and Uncle Tommy offered for me to stay with them and help out for an additional three weeks in Torshavn (the Capital of Faroe Islands).
This got me wondering, why are these people so kind and willing to go out of their way for me? I came to realise that this is just simply what I like to call ‘the Faroese way’.
View from Harriet and John’s house. Æðuvík is a lovely little village on the island Eysturoy.
‘The Faroese way’ from my experience is all about community and collectiveness. It is about stopping whatever you are doing when a neighbor unexpectedly knocks on the door, and inviting them in for coffee and cake. It is also about returning the favour and being the door knocker to an unsuspecting neighbor - just so you can say ‘Hey, hvussu gongur’ (Hey, How are you?).
From my time in the Faroe Islands, I discovered a whole new perspective. Coming from a culture now heavily influenced by a ‘do more, acquire more, be more’ mentality, the priority that the Faroese culture puts on investing in people and community became apparent. And I found this very refreshing.
Slow food. This is fermented cod - a delicacy in the Faroe Islands.
Another thing that is refreshing is to listen to Faroese stories and folktales. From a land where daylight hours are limited through the winter, and the Atlantic winds from the north can howl, the people are known to get creative to help endure the harsher months. My two favourite folk stories are Kópakonan the story of the Seal Woman, and the Little Hidden people.
The story of Kópakonan is about seals that came on to shore once a year, took off their seal skins and would dance on the shore as people for the night. One particular seal woman had her seal skin stolen by a man, so she was forced to live on shore with him until one day she stole her skin back and escaped into the sea.
She is now said to haunt the rugged coast of Kalsoy where her statue stands today out in Mikladalur among the rocks. You can also read the full story of Kópakonan.
The statue of the Seal Women in Mikladalur, Kalsoy stands next to the rugged sea and can withstand 13m waves. I only stood out here for a few seconds, on serious lookout for any incoming waves.
As we were driving along the countryside filled with dispersed rocks, my Faroese friend pointed out that some Faroese believe elves live within the rocks. The old Faroese folklore tells about ‘Hidden People’ called Huldufólk.
The elves are described as having black hair and wearing grey clothes. They are believed to be opposed to sunlight, churches and electricity.
No elves were harmed in this photo – hopefully. There are lot of stories about elves in the Faroe Islands.
I believe a little roadtrip is always a catalyst for good conversation, and that’s why I love the idea of a Biltúr. A Biltur is a common practice among younger Faroese people. To experience this, all you need to do is hire a car with friends and go for a drive for the sake of it – even if there is no specific purpose or destination in mind.
It’s about the journey, and most of all - the good company. For me, I like nothing more than being out on the road. And with all the sights to take in along the way, it can only be a win all round.
If you are motivated for an extensive Biltúr, you may be surprised about how many islands you can drive between. The road infrastructure is excellent with underwater tunnels and bridges that connect these islands by road.
You can drive between the islands Vagar, Streymoy, Eysturoy, Kunoy, Borðoy, and Viðoy. I would definitely recommend a Biltúr. Check out this map to see all the tunnels and bridge links in the Faroe Islands.
Speaking of the sights, I guess I should mention a few. But the thing is, it doesn’t really matter where you are in the Faroe Islands because every view is a good one! So I will tell you two that come with a story.
On a lovely autumn day, a Faroese friend and I decided to go out to Kalsoy. Check the ferry timetable to Kalsoy. We spent half the day on the island, and in that time visited the Seal Women and the Kallur lighthouse.
To get to the lighthouse from the car park, it is about a 40 minute hike over hilly paddocks, so I urge you to choose sensible footwear. I am only speaking from my personal misadventure.
So after sliding over in the mud three times in my chosen footwear of the day, I was left with no choice other than to go it barefoot. This resulted in a fellow tourist peering down at my muddy knees and squidgy brown toes in pure disgust. He then proceeded to ask me where I came from. When I sheepishly answered ‘New Zealand’ he said ‘ahh that explains it’ and walked off.
For those wondering what to wear during a hike in the Faroe Islands, make sure to be well prepared for your adventure in the mountains. Read more about how to go hiking in the Faroe Islands.
Actual footage of my barefooted adventure in Kalsoy. The island is a great day tour to do while in the Faroe Islands.
One morning Tommy and I headed out to Sandoy. Check the ferry timetable to Sandoy. Tommy who I stayed with for 3 weeks in Torshavn owns a furniture store called Eikin. Tommy had a delivery to do, so we took the furniture truck across on the ferry. I can’t believe the places we managed to get in that furniture truck - manoeuvring narrow roads along the sea cliff edge.
We turned down a dead-end road and ended up in a village that no-one probably ever visits, with a population of 1. I should expect that the lone ranger living there hadn’t seen outside life for a few good months, as he ran out of the house upon seeing the furniture truck near.
We stopped to say hi, and as I was hopping out of the truck, he picked me up, chucked me over his shoulder and started walking off with me, asking me if I wanted to marry his son! Don’t worry it wasn’t a real kidnap. It turns out Tommy and this character happened to know each other and had a good old laugh.
You will find small churches in most villages in the Faroe Islands. Most churches are located near the dramatic North Atlantic Ocean.
It didn’t take me long to realise I had found what I was looking for by coming to the Faroe Islands. This was what I experienced in the Faroe Islands.
But it now goes so much further than that. I left the islands with new friends, new perspectives and memories that far exceeded my initial quest.
If you are thinking about visiting the Faroe Islands, I hope this blog post inspires you to really immerse yourself in the Faroese culture. Maybe to meet some of the locals, or stay and wander for a little longer than you originally planned.
If you are interested in following me on more adventures, you can find my instagram. Now, start your preparation for your Faroe Islands holiday by finding your preferred activities in the Faroe Islands.
One of the most iconic sights in the Faroe Islands. Múlafossur Waterfall is a truly unbelievable experience.