I could have easily written an entire blog post about each of my seven days in the Faroe Islands. Every day was filled with unique experiences and spectacular scenery. But this poor blog is so far behind, I am never going to get caught up at this rate, so I am going to hit the highlights of those experiences I most want to remember. So please forgive me as I cram what should be about four or five different blog posts into one!
Driving through the Faroe Islands was an experience unlike I have had before. Once you head out to the smaller villages, the roads become one lane, often times with a sheer drop-off on either side. There are turnouts, but you must constantly be watching for oncoming traffic like a game of “chicken” to anticipate who is going to yield right of way, or in worst case, back up! And the sheep always have the right of way!
While the Faroe Islands roads are narrow, winding, often one lane and sometimes steep, they are in good shape for a location with such extreme weather conditions. But by far, the most impressive aspect of their road system is their three sub-sea tunnels, the most expensive investment in the Faroe Islands to date. The longest of these tunnels at 6.8 miles (11 km) in length, Eysturoyartunnil, contains the world’s first under sea roundabout, fondly referred to as the “jellyfish.” A Faroese artist decorated the roundabout, as well as the colorful lighting designs in the other two sub-sea tunnels.
Three different tunnels drop down at a 5% grade to 189 meters (620 ft) below the water’s surface, then converge at the under-sea roundabout. Driving through Eysturoyartunnil is a bit stressful with no navigator. It costs a toll fee of 175 Danish krona (around $26USD) each way (less with a yearly subscription.) It’s billed automatically as a camera scans your license plate. So you don’t want to make a mistake and exit the wrong tunnel!
After meeting Lisa and Lynn on the ferry back from Mykines, then running into them again on a hike the next day, we compared notes of our respective trip plans to coordinate another meet-up. We realized we would be overlapping at one of the more remote guesthouses in the village of Gjógv (pronounced like Jake only instead of an “e” on the end, it’s an “f.” Like “Jakf.” It takes some practice.)
As is typical for most small villages in the Faroe Islands, there are no local restaurants, or even food markets for that matter. But the rare exception is the top rated Gjaargardur Guesthouse, which organizes breakfast and dinner for its guests. So the three of us make a plan to meet up for dinner.
The Village of Saksun, Streymoy Island
But I took the long way around to get to Gjógv, traveling to the far northwestern villages of Saksun and Tjørnuvík along the way. I would visit the two remote villages on the island of Streymoy before crossing over to the island of Eysturoy on one of the only bridges linking islands in the Faroes.
The first of these villages, Saksun is formed where steep hills form an amphitheater flanking the bay below, one time a natural harbor. Sand filled up the bay, making a lagoon accessible by small boats at high tide. At low tide, you can walk on the sand out to the seashore. Unfortunately, my timing was not good, as not only was it high tide, but a rainstorm blew in just as I arrived.
In addition, the walk along the lagoon to the beach is unfortunately on private property. The land owners now impose a 75DKK fee (about $11 USD) just to walk to the shore. So this would be as far as I would go…
The Village of Tjørnuvík, Streymoy Island
Just over the mountain from Saksun is Tjørnuvík, one of the oldest villages in the Faroe Islands. Viking graves have been found in this valley, proving it has been inhabited since the first Vikings settled in the Faroes. A 4 mile hiking trail connects the two, up over the mountain pass. However, one would need a ride back, or hike up and over, round trip.
The Village of Gjógv, Eysturoy Island
I can only describe the drive to Gjógv as being like finding my way toward the Lost Horizon to the idyllic hideaway of Shangri La. Traveling up the hairpin curved, single lane roads cresting the emerald green hills, dropping down into deep valleys, passing waterfalls alongside shimmering bays was an evocative indicator that I was headed some place special. Couple that with a visit to the unique Gjaargardur Guesthouse where I was meeting Lisa and Lynn for dinner, and it felt like the start of one of those mystery novels where people meet up in one of those remote destinations that seem “too good to be true,” and so the plot thickens. After eating peanut butter sandwiches for a couple of nights in a row, I was equally excited about having a legit restaurant meal for a change!
Kallur Lighthouse, Kalsoy Island
By now, Lisa, Lynn, and I had formed a kinship, and decided to embark on a couple more adventures together. The most ambitious of these involved getting up at 6:00am to be first in line for the ferry to Kalsoy, which only holds 17 cars. We carpooled for this trip across this long, narrow island to do the popular hike to the lighthouse.
Kalsoy is nicknamed the “flute island,” because it is long and slender with only one road running through four very narrow, one-lane tunnels. You don’t exactly need a map when there is only one road!
At the northernmost point of the road through Kalsoy Island is the tiny village of Trøllanes, start of the hike to Kallur Lighthouse. From this lighthouse, built in 1927, some of the most iconic views of the Faroe Islands can be seen. Theoretically.
A bit of movie trivia, the northernmost point of Kalsoy is also where the ending scenes of the most recent James Bond movie, No Time to Die were filmed. While I won’t be the spoiler here, suffice it to say that as a life-long 007 fan, I was none too happy about the ending, especially after having waited 18 months to enter a movie theater!
The most notable caution heard repeatedly about the Faroe Islands is the rapidly changing weather, which we experienced firsthand on our hike to the lighthouse. We started out on a beautiful, blue sky day. By the time we reached the top of lighthouse, a one hour hike, gale force winds, pelting rain, and pea soup fog had rolled in just as we neared the top. Sadly, this prevented us from getting some of the typical iconic shots from the ridge-line hike, as the high winds made the knife’s edge trail out onto the promontory just too dangerous. It was in fact, “no time to die.”
Vestmanna Sea Cliffs, Streymor Island
Lisa, Lynn, and I manage to cram one more adventure in before my 8:00pm departure on the Smyril Line Ferry. We book a last minute boat trip to the Vestmanna Sea Cliffs. These cliffs are known for their sea bird nesting grounds, but by now, it’s September and most of the birds have flown the cliff. Still, the dramatic shoreline made for some spectacular scenery from the boat as we entered caves, grottoes, arches, and cruised along shoreline only seen by boat…or by sheep.
After one last dinner of spicy miso soup, I said my goodbyes to Lynn and Lisa, with the promise to meet up for more adventures again one day. The two of them are headed in the opposite direction to Iceland, while I am back on the Smyril Line ferry bound for….Denmark!