Where should I start?
I’ve just returned from the literal definition of ‘the trip of a lifetime’. I feel like I left planet earth, visited another planet and have returned with my Faroe Islands stories. What does ‘the trip of a lifetime’ mean for you? For some, it may conjure up images of turquoise water and luxury accommodation with unforgettable service to boot. However, we had none of that. What we did have was landscape so impressive that we were made to feel small, like insignificant humans without a worry in the world. For reference, this is the place you need to visit if you a) need some good air b) want to escape ‘reality’ for a period of time and c) need a place to spend time while pondering the meaning of life and what you were placed on this earth to do.
Faroe Islands Travel Guide
Firstly, I’m going to answer some basic questions about getting around during your trip. Then I’ll move on to Gjogv, the town where these photos were taken. I will be writing a longer and more in-depth post later next week – like a sort of Faroe Islands travel guide. Stay tuned!
Tears: but happy tears.
For me, this was my 34th country. For my cousin, it was her 4th. Considering this, our reaction to the scenery and general vibe of the place was identical. If I had to choose, I’d say parts of the scenery reminded me a little bit of the west of Ireland, the Scottish highlands, Iceland with a mixture of Kauai thrown in. In saying that, it’s also like none of the above. Unique in its own way. I’m proud to admit that on three separate occasions, both of us cried simultaneously. It was as if we both knew we were so lucky to be there. I’m aware that travel is a major privilege and even more aware that a place like the Faroe Islands is indeed remote: meaning it’s hard to reach and expensive too. It was an honour to be able to see it with my own eyeballs.
Those who follow me on Instagram & Facebook will know that we decided to embark on a huge adventure. Instead of flying Frankfurt –> Copenhagen –> Torshavn, we opted for DRIVING our car from Frankfurt. This turned out to be such a great idea. It meant we could avoid the expensive cost of alcohol & instead import 10 bottles of red, white and rose wine from Germany. It also meant we could do a one week trip through Denmark before getting onto the 45 hour ferry. (More about the Denmark trip later in some other posts, stay tuned!) There were a few ferry and toll costs along the way but I think road trips always trump any other kind of trip because you can stop anytime & do your thang.
The bottom line is, you need a car in the Faroes. Government and tourist agencies will tell you it’s quite easy to get around using foot ferries and buses and I’m sure that’s quite true. However, I cannot imagine having missed all the beautiful little spots we saw with the car. Either way, if you can, take the ferry and drive your own car. If that’s not possible, at least rent a car there.
Tunnels: Under Water and Payment
Easiest system ever. If you take the Streymoy to Vagar underwater tunnel, you need to pay around 15 euros on your return trip back at the first petrol station after leaving that tunnel. The exact same applies for the under water tunnel connecting the island of Eysturoy to Bordoy. That’s another tunnel with payment. In total, there are two. You have up to 3 days to pay that at the petrol station. Amazingly, you fill out a form each time and the processing is done by hand in some government office. Talk about old fashioned! Can’t imagine what will happen when the tourists start flooding in. (And believe me, they will be in the next few years.)
Infrastructure & Signage:
This brings me to my next point. The Faroe Islands is an autonomous country under the Kingdom of Denmark. (For reference, Greenland is also in the Kingdom.) This means the Danes built all of their bridges, roads and tunnels in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and naughties. For this reason, the roads were of fantastic quality. Any car you drive will make driving here pleasant. A couple of times we went ‘off the beaten track’, driving on unpaved roads and out of those times, only one caused us trouble. (What happened was a small stone got lodged between two metal parts above the tyre and the car was driving with a scary screech for quite a while. We took it to a mechanic, he found the stone and charged me 50 bucks for the ‘service’. I had disrupted his dinner though, so fair enough.)
Signage wise, there really aren’t a lot to follow. When we first arrived, we made a remark to ourselves that while the roads were very good quality, there wasn’t enough signage for tourists. We were working off the Visit Faroe Islands free map with the main and scenic roads. I’ll admit that both my cousin and I were not used to using a big, old fashioned paper map but as we both didn’t have internet connections and as the navigator in our car wasn’t recognising the Faroe Islands as a country, we didn’t have another option.
Luckily, I’m proud to say that we both managed to become a bit better acquainted with old-school ‘map reading’ (Dad would be proud) and in the end, I will confirm that the lack of signage isn’t actually a problem. There are quite a few typical tourist spots in the country which will have a lot of rental cars nearby so we often used that as a kind of reference point. That aside, good old fashioned research and knowing where you want to go will be the trick. We were quite fine ‘winging-it’ for a few days and delightfully, we came across lots of other beautiful spots. I’d recommend doing a mixture of planning/winging it if you can.
Tourism: A Future Projection
After having spent eight days in the Faroes, I can confidently say that it’s virtually untouched. (Except for ALL the trees which were removed back in Viking times…. they never grew back either.) I didn’t encounter very many tourists at all and we all know the population of the country is under 50 000. However, (much to the pleasure of Visit Faroe Islands I’m sure) the country is probably about to go through a huge boom in tourism. Maybe akin to what happened in Iceland?
At the moment, the Faroes is a haven – if you’re going to visit it and want the same conditions as I had, I’d start planning a trip as soon as possible. Regarding the infrastructure and its capacity to hold more visitors – I’d say it could manage having a lot more tourists, sure. I mean most of our roads were empty. What it probably *couldn’t* handle would be Iceland’s tourism. Iceland has a population of 330 thousand but last year they got nearly 1.5 million tourists. Eek! The Faroe Islands has some roads which are wide enough only for one car and many similar tunnels too – this means with heavy congestion it could easily become a nightmare. But as I said, it can still handle more visitors than it has now, so don’t worry.
Tourists: How Many Will You See?
Honestly, I’ve never encountered fewer tourists in my life. I think for that reason, the Faroe Islands met all my needs. Putting aside the irony of me also being a tourist, I generally like to feel like a place is all mine – as if *I’m* discovering it, not others. For that reason, this was a great time of year to come. I know for sure that July and August should be the busier periods. But ‘how busy’, I have no idea. We were there June 3-June 11 and I think the most tourists we saw were roughly 5 people on top of Sørvágsvatn – the lake above the ocean. Again, another reason to come and just ‘be’.
Many people contacted me either privately or on Kaptain Kenny’s social media channels saying things like, “It just looks like you are the ONLY one there.” I can honestly say it felt like that. The only downside to not seeing many people meant that we didn’t have a lot of contact with locals either – mainly just in shops & supermarkets. I had hoped to meet a local or two and to ask questions about life there but sadly it never ended up happening. If I have any Faroese readers here, be sure to get in touch – I’ve got a few questions for you.
Gjogv: How Do I Pronounce That?
Nothing will allude to your pronunciation inadequacies more than attempting to pronounce a Faroese town to a local person. For a good week, we were walking around telling people we had stayed in “Gee-Jov” and ‘loved it’. Perplexed expressions confirmed that we weren’t on the correct pronunciation path. Ha! After some private sessions with our Airbnb host Bjoerg, I think I’ve nailed it. “Jay-gh-v”.
Pronunciation aside, what a brilliant spot to spend twenty four hours. Gjogv is a tiny little village in amongst a valley, directly next to the ocean and underneath an amazing 90 degree angle hike. When I say ‘amazing’ I mean I was quite literally on the verge of death while hiking it. I think an ice pick could have helped at the point where I was crawling up with my fingernails in the grass.
The hike is about 10KM long – yes I know, not exactly difficult for some of you who are sporty spices. It was really just the incline which knocked us out. The view at the top of the mountain was undeniably worth it though. During the hike, we encountered (you guessed it) two people. We had packed some sandwiches and decided to eat them on the very top of the mountain. What a view.
We stayed at the one and only hotel in town called the Gjogv Guesthouse. It was our ‘splurge’ stay but honestly after a couple of travel days and all the hikes, I was more than happy to sink into their bed. I’ll never forget how it felt like I was falling into a bed of clouds.
There wasn’t too much happening in Gjogv but you’ll soon get used to this once you arrive in the Faroe Islands. I think in total the country must have 15-20 restaurants and pubs. At first I found it quite unusual, wondering why more people didn’t want to have businesses and make money, but I quickly learned that we just had to be prepared food-wise. We had to plan a day in advance what we were going to eat the following day, how we could cook it and which supermarket we could get to. Be organised with your food and all will be fine. (To save money, we had also brought lots of groceries from Germany and Denmark.)
Scroll through the next few photos to see what the hike looked like as we kept going further up the mountain. I’d absolutely love to hear from you to know what you think of these photos and the Faroese scenery. Is it how you’d imagined it?
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I should make clear that this post was in no way sponsored by Visit Faroe Islands. These are all my own opinions. The only sponsored piece of clothing featured in this post is the beautiful Helly Hansen Kara Parka. I reached out to Helly Hansen shortly before this trip and explained that I was having big problems finding cool hiking gear. I asked them to support me so they sent me some lovely gear to try out.
If you like my jacket, you can purchase it here (and no I will not be receiving any commission from this link 🙂 https://www.hellyhansen.com/en_de/women/jackets/rainwear/w-kara-parka-54425
Interested in staying where we stayed? The pictures below are of the best Airbnb I’ve ever stayed in!