The Faroe Islands, beautiful and isolated, where people are outnumbered by sheep and the weather changes everything around you in an instant. Where 15 degrees is hot and sunshine is a novelty. Where the edges are sheer and the lands are empty. There’s a magic to these overlooked islands that I’ve yet to experience anywhere else.
These islands are a dream come true for lovers of the great outdoors, particularly hikers. If you like rambling from one beautiful village to another through otherworldly landscapes, where scarcely anywhere is off limits, then you’ll be in your absolute element here. And with few set trails and no tourist droves this is off the beaten track at its best.
Faroe Islands Budget Travel Guide
Getting to The Faroe Islands
Planes from the Faroe’s tiny airport fly directly to Copenhagen, Edinburgh and Reykjavik quite regularly for a reasonable cost (from $120 each way from Edinburgh). You can also catch a boat from Copenhagen, which takes a couple of days and costs somewhat more, but gives you some awesome views of the islands. And that’s about it!
Travel Costs while backpacking Faroe Islands
Like its Scandinavian cousins, the Faroe Islands are not exactly a cheap place to go to. But there are ways to get around this, and ultimately it’s very backpacker friendly.
Accommodation in Faroe Islands
But don’t give up yet because there’s a saving grace; camping. If you bring a tents, almost the whole place becomes an amazing cost-free, tourist-free stomping ground.
There are no wilderness areas in the Faroes, so in theory you can’t just camp anywhere you choose. But I met a lot of people who do this all the time. Your best option is to befriend the locals in the area you intend to camp and ask them if it’s okay. The great thing about the Faroes being so small is that everybody knows everybody so you’ll be able to do this easily, especially in the small villages. Nine times out of ten there won’t be a problem. There are also some official campsites scattered around. You could even try CouchSurfing with the locals. AirBnB is a good option too, especially for couples or groups. Use this AirBnB coupon code for $35 off your first stay in some gorgeous properties in the Faroe Islands.
Most of the Faroe Islands are empty. Seriously – it’s just grass, waterfalls and sheep and it’s gorgeous. If you get caught out in the middle of nowhere at night very few people will have an issue with you setting up camp (not that you’ll see anyone anyway); the spirit of adventure runs high in these modest people!
Getting around Faroe Islands
There’s no doubt that hiring a car would make your time in the Faroe Islands a breeze, but at about $70 a day it comes at a price. For its size, public transport in the Faroes isn’t bad at all. With some extra effort and imagination (i.e. by adding in some hiking, camping and/or hitchhiking into the mix), it’s totally possible to get around everywhere without a car, and arguably more rewarding.
Buses aren’t frequent but they’re reliable and cover quite a lot of places. Individual journeys are quite expensive, so it’s worth buying a day pass or even a 4 or 7 day pass to cut costs somewhat (around $77 and $107 respectively). You can pick one up in the tiny airport as you arrive and they’re valid on a lot of the ferries too.
It’s totally possible to get around by hitchhiking. As a solo female traveller, the Faroe Islands are probably THE safest place I’ve ever been to, and people would offer me lifts without me asking. Just remember that some of these places are so tiny that there aren’t a lot of cars around in the first place, especially outside of working hours. But if you’re bringing a tent you’ll have ultimate flexibility.
Activities in Faroe Islands
Hiking is the best thing to do in the Faroes by a long shot and it’s all free. Hell, there aren’t even tracks or markers on most of them. There are hundreds of hikes of different lengths and difficulty and they’re all, without exception, stunning. This site is a good place to start.
There are also some epic climbing spots. Rock climbing is pretty new to the Faroes, so just be aware that it’s not set up for learners or beginners and there aren’t a lot of places to hire equipment either. Bring your own stuff and have this amazing outdoor playground to yourself. For more info visit here.
Other things the layman can get involved in are fishing, diving and kayaking. Most are based around the Torshavn area at typical Scandinavian prices. If you want to do something really kickass you can see the islands by helicopter. They’re actually meant to serve as a transport service for the locals, and thanks to government subsidies they’re some of the cheapest prices you’ll see in Europe (roughly $14-$56 each way, anybody?). But book ahead as far as you can as spaces are very limited, and be prepared for cancellations due to poor weather.
Travel Itinerary for Backpacking Faroe Islands
Tórshavn, the largest city sporting a huge 19,000 inhabitants and almost half of the total population, is a good starting point for exploring the Faroes. It’s located fairly centrally with the best transport links on the islands. As well as the source of a lot of accommodation there are also bars, restaurants, and a bit of nightlife. This might not seem so impressive but once you’ve spent some time in the Faroes you’ll realise that this is a rarity!
The best of Tórshavn itself can be explored in a day or so. The focal point of the city is Tinganes, a huddle of cute traditional buildings (including their parliamentary buildings, which you can just casually walk around). This is part of Tórshavn’s compact but pretty old town, which is a good place to relax and sample some Faroese food and culture.
But the best of the Faroes lies outside Tórshavn’s borders. The neighbouring areas of the capital are easy to reach with some cool sites – for example there’s Kirkjubøur, a medieval settlement with an old cathedral, and the island Nolsoy which has a good hike and an unbelievably old world village. Then go further out of Tórshavn to get to the really epic stuff…
Everything about this island is awesome. Firstly you’ve got to take a mad boat ride to get there, which typically involves getting thrown across the deck whilst tearing past jagged peaks. You’d get charged good money to do this in other parts of the world. Then jump out of the boat (literally) onto terra firma.
So what’s here? About 15 permanent inhabitants in a beautiful but tired village, thousands of seabirds, and one of the most epic lighthouses you’ll ever see.
Mykines is a great introduction to the Faroes and, for good reason, one of its most popular tourist destinations. By popular I mean that there is actually a trail to follow and there will be other groups around in the summer. Turn left out of the village and you can follow a trail that takes you to within touching distance of thousands of the most adorable bird you’ll ever meet – puffins! Then carry on further down some cliffs and across another island and you’ll get here:
Need I say any more? Most of the other tourists will be gone by 2pm in order to get to the boat in time, so if you’re a fast walker you can have it to yourself. Or better still, book yourself into the tiny hostel on the island and stay there for the night. Epic.
To get to Mykines you need to take a boat from Sørvágur, which goes there and back twice a day. A helicopter takes the journey once a day too. But be warned; the journeys get cancelled quite regularly due to notoriously rough waters and bad weather. Try doing it early on during your time in the Faroes – that way if it does get cancelled you can have a shot at it another day. It really is worth it.
Gásadalur is that village in the Faroes with the mountains and the waterfall. It’s such an iconic spot that it’s likely that you’ve seen it without realising it was here. And seeing it in person is no disappointment; the village, along with the journey to get there, is just awesome.
To get the best out this area you simply need to (if weather permits) hike to Gásadalur via the ‘old postal route’. This is the path the postman would take to the village twice a week until about 10 years ago when a tunnel was built.
Again, there’s a trail to follow. There might even be a handful of people doing it, too. The track is steep but quite short, taking you suicidally close to the edge of the cliff face. Be wary of doing it in bad weather. However, once you make it to the top, the view is amazing!
The rocky descent to Gásadalur looks worse than it is, but it will take some time and concentration. Take in the views as you reach one of the most beautiful villages in the world.
There is no public transport to get to Gásadalur or the hike. Your best options are to hike or hitchhike from Sørvágur (where there’s a bus stop and some amenities). It’s roughly a 6-mile journey with gorgeous views, passing through another quaint village called Bøur.
Kalsoy Island might just be one of my favourite places in the world. It’s just so damn special.
It’s a long narrow spike-y island, home to 150 people. Between each of the peaks is a tiny gorgeous village. As you can tell by now, the Faroese have a habit of building beautiful settlements in the most stunning and remote areas. A few decades ago the Faroese got trigger-happy with tunnels and built a network of them from the first village right up to the last – called Trøllanes. This tiny village of 35 people is surrounded on three sides by steep jagged peaks and the roaring Atlantic on the other and is one of the most dramatic.
After taking it all in, head up the peaks roughly on the right (when your back is to the village) and dangle yourself over their edge for a 500-metre high view of the ocean. Then, trace your steps back a little and walk around them to reach one of my favourite spots in the world: Kallur Lighthouse.
In this magical place you’ll be able to see many of the other islands of the Faroes and the vast North Atlantic Ocean. And what’s best is that you’ll have it all to yourself! Sure, a handful of people might come and go, but stay a little longer, or come a little later in the evening, and it’ll only be you. Does it get any better?
It’s a bit of a mission to get to Trøllanes. First get yourself to Klaksvik. As the Faroe’s second largest settlement, it’s not the most inspiring place around but it’s the gateway to a lot of the northern islands. Then hop on the 20-minute car ferry to Syðradalur at the base of Kalsoy. Then there’s a little bus waiting that drives through the many tunnels to Trøllanes 9 miles north. If you’re not staying in Klaksvik or don’t have a car it won’t be really be possible to get the most out of Kalsoy in a day due to journey times. In this case bring a tent and camp there.
This is the area to get your fill of longer hikes, empty landscapes and, you’ve guessed it, more unbelievably beautiful villages. Tjornuvik, a gem of a village, is a good starting point for some exploration. It’s virtually untouched by tourists and stunning, with a black sand beach that gets some pretty good surf.
Once you’ve got your fill of this, head up to the mountains behind the village: from Tjornuvik there is a stunning trek to the neighbouring village Saksun. This isn’t an easy hike; there’s no path, no people, and it involves some short climbs and scrambling. But if I can do it carrying nothing specialised but camera equipment then most people won’t have a problem. Just promise me that you’ll bring a map and compass; it’s very easy to get lost up there.
All going well, it’ll take you about 3 hours to get to Saksun. And wow is this village beautiful. It’s got some traditional houses with grass roofs, a tiny museum, and another gorgeous black sand beach. It’s a popular place for locals to visit in the summer.
Sadly, no public transport runs to Saksun (Tjornuvik is luckier and is connected by a little infrequent bus). But there is a bus stop in Hvalvik 7 miles down the only road leading out of the village. It’s a pretty route, if a little tiring by the end. Hitchhike if you’ve had enough of walking.
The route to Gjógv is so beautiful it should be an attraction in itself too. Cars and the little public bus will wind past the Faroe’s highest mountain – Slaettaratindur (882m). It’s not a hard hike to get to the summit and it’s totally flat on top. It’s common for locals to go up there during the summer solstice when the nights are never dark and last only a few hours. The route then takes you past Funningur, another unknown village with world-class scenery, before heading into the valley where Gjógv is.
General Tips for Backpacking Faroe Islands
The most dangerous thing in the Faroe Islands is nature; invisible cliff edges, the weather and tides will give you the most problems. Crime, etc., is pretty much non-existent and the whole place is amazingly safe and carefree.
It’s very easy to move from island to island; the main ones are linked by underground tunnels and for the others there are good and reasonably priced ferry networks.
Stock up with supplies in Torshavn; a lot of villages are tiny with a toilet as their only amenity. Fortunately you can drink from the waterfalls and they’re everywhere. A lot of things, including buses, are closed or don’t run on Sundays.
The younger generations of Faroese speak very good English and the older generations generally know enough to get you by. They’re passionate about their country and very helpful.
I strongly recommend picking up a tent – it will help you save some money and let you crash out in some truly gorgeous places, check out this post on how to pick the perfect backpacking tent.
The weather in the Faroes is typically cool and wet, but not as bad as most people think. Make sure you’ve got lots of layers and waterproofs with you. However, be prepared for your plans to change; the weather has the habit of affecting even the hardiest of plans.
Travel Insurance Before Travelling to the Faroe Islands
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on a backpacking adventure! Travelling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get insurance with World Nomads, Please do get some sort of insurance from somewhere, there are lots of decent options online.
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Justine Kibler is a writer and photographer from the UK, in love with the outdoors, crazy adventures, islands, and offbeat places. Her formal background is in writing, she has a degree in English and has worked at a university for five years writing and editing. During this time she taught herself photography and her passion soon evolved. In 2015 she quit her job to pursue a life of travel and now her time is split between freelancing, travelling, and blogging at Lost in the Midlands.