No matter which of the 18 islands you visit, there is always a remarkable sight to behold – even the islands’ only jail, located in Mjørkadalur (Fog Valley), looks down the length of a fjord! Here are some recommended places for sightseeing.
Gjógv is the most northern village on the island of Eysturoy, named after a 200-metre long sea-filled gorge that runs from the village into the ocean. Nominated by the Nordic Council for the Nature & Environmental Award in 2014, this beautiful, quiet and well-preserved village is idyllically located, closed in by mountains to all sides.
With less than 50 inhabitants, all living in old timber-walled and turf-roofed cottages, Gjógv has an abundance of charm and appeal. Add to this some great hiking and walking trails that offer spectacular views of the North Atlantic and the surrounding islands and you won’t want to miss out on this special location.
The village includes a charming teashop, a guesthouse (Gjáargarður) and a campsite, and is located approximately a one-hour drive from Tórshavn.
Spectacular beauty. It is as simple as that.
The hike from the old solitary Mykines village with turf-roofed houses to the lighthouse at the end of the the islet of Mykineshólmur is truly something special – an otherworldly experience at the edge of this world. This secluded island, with its rolling hills and precipitous cliffs, has deservedly become a traveller’s favourite.
Enjoy tremendous views of the ocean to the west and other islands to the east as you walk across the island dubbed the “paradise of birds” because of its magnificent and rich bird life, including hundreds of cute puffins nestled in burrows in the clifftops during the summer months.
Mykines, with approximately 10 year-long inhabitants, is geographically the Faroe’s most westerly outpost, and one must either travel by ferry or helicopter to get there.
Splendidly set in a natural circular amphitheatre high above a tidal lagoon, Saksun is a wonderfully remote hillside village and is one of the most worthwhile destinations in the country. Known for its tranquil atmosphere, the tiny village of 14 inhabitants offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
In the fjord, at the foot of the village, is a lagoon. At low tide, it is possible to walk along the sandy shore of the lagoon around the headland.
The village includes a church, built in 1858, and Dúvugarðar, an active sheep farm which also functions as a museum.
Tinganes is the historical core of the country’s capital. Dividing two harbours, this flat rocky outcrop is dominated by delightfully muddled turf-roofed structures that, quite unassumingly, are home to the Faroese Home Rule government (Føroya Landssýri).
Tinganes is said to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, parliamentary meeting places in the world, along with Tynwald Hill in the Isle of Man and Þingvellir in Iceland. It was here, in around year 900, that the Viking parliament first began meeting every summer to discuss matters of national importance.
No armed security guards here, visitors are free to wander at will – who knows, you might even catch the Prime Minister on his way to lunch! Guides can explain the history of each structure, but random strolling is enough for most visitors.
Tórshavn’s old town, consisting of Reyn and Undir Ryggi, is home to two dozen or so small, black-tarred wooden houses with white-framed windows and grass roofs. People still call these 14th century houses their homes today. Stroll along charming narrow winding lanes and passageways and experience a wonderful mixture of old and new.
In 1580, the great Faroese adventurer Magnus Heinason ordered the construction of a fort to protect the trading centre of Tórshavn from a steadily increasing number of seaborne attacks across the North Atlantic – in many cases from pirate raids. The original fortification only lasted until 1677, when French pirates destroyed the fort after their final demand for 100 oxen, 200 sheep, 500 pairs of gloves, 1,200 pairs of stockings and 60 nightshirts wasn’t met by the people of Tórshavn within the 12-hour deadline.
The fort served as a British Royal Navy headquarters during the Second World War. The two guns which face out to sea from behind the fort were used to defend the islands against German attack. Skansin also includes four older brass cannons from the time of the Danish Trade Monopoly and a lighthouse.
Although not much remains of the fort today, Skansin still offers quite exceptional views out over the sea to neighbouring island Nólsoy. The grass lawn is a great spot for a packed picnic.
Christianskirkja (Christian’s church) is Klaksvík’s main site and is one of the first major modern churches in Scandnavia that is inspired by the old Nordic style. It was named after King Christian X of Denmark and consecrated in 1963. The font used in the church is thought to be up to 4,000 years old and was once in use in a heathen temple. Designed by Danish architect Peter Koch, the church is considered one of the islands’ aesthetically most notable modern buildings.
Vestmanna Bird Cliffs
The magnificent boat trips to the Vestmannabjørgini (Vestmanna bird cliffs) and grottoes are one of the best excursions to be experienced in the Faroe Islands. Sail into deep grottos, through narrow straits to 700-metre high cliffs, soaring up from the ocean. These cliffs and caves provide safe nesting places during the summer months for thousands upon thousands of sea birds such as puffins, razorbills, guillemots and fulmars. In old times – and to some degree still today – locals would climb down the cliffs to collect bird eggs, which are considered a delicacy on the islands.
The boat tour last approximately two hours.
Located only half an hour from the capital is Kirkjubøur, the islands’ most significant historical site. In medieval times, this small village was the cultural and episcopal centre of the Faroe Islands. Today, it effectively consists of three main elements; firstly, the 900 year-old farmhouse/museum Roykstovan, which is thought to be the oldest wooden house still in use today (the Patursson family have lived there for 17 generations); secondly, the present Parish church, Ólavskirkja, built in 1111 and used as the main church in the Faroe Islands for centuries; and thirdly, the medieval Magnus Cathedral, built in the 1300s and the effective seat of power over several centuries.
At 3.4 square kilometres, Lake Sørvágsvatn/Leitisvatn (name is debatable, depending on who you ask) is the largest lake in the Faroe Islands. It overlooks the ocean, with the Bøsdalafossur waterfall at the end of the lake offering an impressive view. The hike out to Bøsdalafossur is easy and takes about 45 minutes one way.
Slættaratindur, translated as “flat summit”, is the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands, towering at 880 metres. On a clear day, all 18 islands of the Faroe Islands can be viewed from the top (some claim that Iceland’s Vatnajökull mountain can also be seen!). On June 21, the longest day of the year, it is tradition to climb Slættaratindur and watch the sun set and rise again.
There are two points from which to start climbing to reach the summit; the first, from Gjógv, takes about four hours of hiking; the second, from Eiðisskarð, takes under an hour.
Risin & Kellingin
Once upon a time, an Icelandic chief witch sent a giant and his wife, a witch, to the Faroe Islands to steal the islands and bring them back to Iceland. Off they went in the dusk and arrived in the north-westernmost part of the Faroe Islands. They decided to tie a rope around a mountain called Eiðiskollur, and pull the Faroe Islands towards Iceland.
They struggled and worked hard to get the rope in place. Their first attempt was unsuccessful because part of the mountain split. However, they were determined and worked all night to make it work.
Like all creatures of the night, the giant and the witch knew they had to hide before the sun came up, for fear of being turned into stone. This particular night, they were so pre-occupied with their task that they failed to notice the first beams of sunlight appearing on the dark horizon. Inevitably, they were turned into stone. Ever since, the giant and the witch have stood, staring westward, longing for their home country.
These stone stacks are located close to Eiði. Another good place to view them is from Tjørnuvík on the island of Streymoy.
Home to the beautiful waterfall Múlafossur, the village of Gásadalur sits tucked away between lush green fields and soaring mountains to all sides. It is one of those locations that you only imagine you will experience through photographs.
Prior to 2004, there were only three ways of reaching the tiny community; none of them included travel by car. One way was to hike over the 700-metre mountains, and the other two options were by boat or helicopter. The inaccessibility of the remote location meant the village’s population fell dramatically.
In 2004, a tunnel was blasted through one of the mountains, allowing automobile travel to the isolated settlement. Today, the population totals approximately a dozen people.
Located between the villages of Lopra and Sumba on the island of Suðuroy, this striking 470m sea cliff is the highest of its kind on the southernmost island and a popular destination for tourists. Beinisvørð is also a popular subject in Faroese literature, with two of the most well renowned Faroese poets citing the sea cliff in their work.
Dubbed “the flute” because of it’s thin shape and many road-tunnels, the island of Kalsoy offers truly astonishing views. With 13 peaks, 11 valleys, and four villages with a combined population of less than 150, this island is the perfect place to go exploring. The hike to the lighthouse at Kallur, the northern tip of Kalsoy, is particularly impressive. Kalsoy also has a rich bird life, including puffins, storm petrels and black guillemots.
Kalsoy (Syðradalur) can be reached by ferry from Klaksvík.
The legend of Kópakonan, literally meaning “the Seal Woman”, is one of the best-known folktales in the Faroe Islands. A statue of the Seal Woman was raised in Mikladalur on the island of Kalsoy on August 1, 2014. The statue is 2.6 metres long, weighs 450 kilograms, and is made of bronze and stainless steel. A fantastic piece of art located in an outstanding location.
See a map of the Faroe Islands to locate these various sightseeing spots.