The Faroe Islands are easily one of the most gorgeous and inaccessible places on earth. Though getting to the archipelago has become much simpler in recent years due to the expansion of the domestic airline Atlantic Airways, it still requires some funky stopovers or ferries. Then, exploring freely after you’re arrived is pretty complicated. Buses are expensive and limited… the only good way to get around and experience the real meat of the Faroes is by car. Luckily, the islands boast an advanced road infrastructure! But most tourists who opt to rent a car simply follow touristy maps.
The gems on these islands are well-hidden.
With a car comes greater Faroese freedom. Here are my top 5 absolutely breathtaking Faroese destinations that only locals know about:
Going to Vestmanna is a grand unveiling. The road sweeps around dramatic curves in a slow and picturesque descent — the entirety of the place is laid out from the get-go.
Vestmanna often spars with Klaksivík for the ‘second-most populated village’ superlative in the Faroe Islands, and it makes sense why: the place is a little community in a stunning valley. Most of its residents work at the local fishing factory, so there is a lot of wealth floating around in the community. The streets and homes are peaceful, colorful, and quiet.
While the majority of visitors follow the road immediately to the tourism center, some may notice a smaller winding path that shoots off upward to the right. At the end of this road is a big impressive dam owned by SEV that generates hydro-electric power for many homes and businesses on the islands. You can walk out on top of the dam and see the dichotomy between water and land — it is jawing. Then, turning toward the town, you’ll find the true best view of Vestmanna, through the frame of the craggy valley.
Note: Beware of the wind — on top of the dam, a natural wind tunnel forms with nothing obstructing it, and so prepare to be pummeled!
There is a half-bowl of land behind the charming town of Sandavágur called Trøllkonufingur. Well, just calling it land is a bit of an understatement — it is a proper half-mountain. Trøllkonufingur, which means “witch’s finger” in Faroese, is a jagged piece of rock that (up until recent years) had only been climbed once in folklore. Where the actual finger is in the Atlantic, to the left of it is a massive and beautiful hike.
Locals creatively call a cross-shaped rock formation at the top of the mountain “The Cross.” It is almost the highest point at the top of the Trøllkonufingur hike, and it takes about 2 hours to climb there. Prepare for a relentless wave of sheep poo along the way.
But once you’re there, the view is absolutely stunning. On a clear day, you can see across all of the islands all the way to the Mykines lighthouse. When I hiked, a rainbow, clear as day, appeared in the valley. It was zen on top of The Cross; a place where you can just about feel the presence of God. As if you’ve climbed someplace great.
From Vágar, there are two roads to get to the Faroese capital Tórshavn: either you go the new route, which is low in the valley and has multiple tunnels… or you take the less-traveled old route, called Oyggjarvegurin, which is now a designated scenic drive. Oyggjarvegurin takes you above the valley, past the Faroe Island’s only prison, and up and over the mountain separating Tórshavn from the rest of the Faroes.
At the highest point of this path, there is a collection of wind turbines that are often shrouded in mist. Small in the distance, they become imposing upon approach. On a foggy day, driving by the massive windmills carries a very Orwellian feeling. They turn in unison, generating electricity for the wealthy men, blind to the world around them.
Time for a non-nature spot! In Tórshavn is the only shopping mall in the Faroes called SMS. For such a small place (**by comparison to American malls), it’s quite hip and busy inside. My buddies and I made it a ritual to stop by the ice cream stand outside of Miklagarður, the grocery store inside of SMS, each time we went.
For just 15-20 kroner (about $3 US), you can get a vanilla or chocolate or vanilla-chocolate-swirl ice cream with sprinkles. But this is no normal soft serve… the employees at this stand seem to have been instructed to fit as much as they can into the little cone. You will be struggling to eat the goods before they drip down the side — I usually had to give up from sweetness overload. For a fun junk food break, this is the spot to go. And be sure to explore the cool mall afterward!
I won’t write about this one much in an effort to keep it unspoiled for those who complete the trek…but to get here, on the way to Vágar airport from Miðvágur, veer off on the road to the right. You’ll pass a window factory, a children’s summer camp, some houses…
…Keep driving until the road gets too poor to drive. Get out and walk in the same direction. Go along the right side of the lake. 3-4 hours of hiking later, you’ll see something like this:
It is called Fjallavatn.
Do you have any suggestions for beautiful spots in the Faroe Islands? Let me know in a comment!
Featured image by Guillaume Weber. Check his stuff out!