Peeping out from the North Atlantic halfway between Norway and Iceland, the remote Faroe Islands form a dramatic archipelago of jagged mountains, glistening fjords and quaint villages dotted with multi-coloured cottages. The rugged, unspoiled terrain is a paradise for walkers, who can lose themselves in the windswept, wildflower-carpeted mountains and valleys. And while the human population on the islands is fairly low, the Faroes more than make up for it with vast colonies of seabirds clinging to the towering cliffs and clusters of local sheep roaming freely. Despite the islands’ northernly location, winters are surprisingly mild here, and summers cool, with more than 19 hours of sunlight per day at some points in the year, in which to explore. The islands’ Nordic culture has remained delightfully uninfluenced by the rest of Europe and modern life itself, holding fast to its traditional architecture, handicrafts and food.
Why cruise Faroe Islands
Surrounded by sea, the Faroe Islands have more than 1,117 km of impressive coastline, spread over 18 major islands, as well as hundreds of intriguing little islets and skerries. Cruise ships can get up close and personal with many of these smaller isles as they sail by, making for a fascinating approach and incredible views from on deck. Orcas are regular visitors to these waters, so cruisers may well spot whales breaching the waves, as well as silky grey seals slipping and sliding off the rocks and splashing into the blue water.
Fred Olsen Cruises, Viking Ocean, Cunard, P&O UK, Silversea, NCL Norwegian, Crystal, Noble Caledonia, Saga and Oceania Cruises all include The Faroes on itineraries, which may also stop off at Scotland’s Orkney islands and Shetland islands, as well as Nordic city hotspots including Reykjavik and Oslo.
Best Places to visit on the Faroe Islands
The Faroe’s capital, found on Estreymoy Island, is known for its pretty harbour and atmospheric Old Town, complete with flagstone streets, turf-roofed houses and traditional wooden churches. The historic parliament building is one of the oldest in the world, and the town’s Skansin Fortress, built in 1580 to protect the town from pirates back when the port was a major trading centre, watches proudly over it all. Cruise ships dock right here in the bay, which means you can be nosying around the jewel of the Faroes just moments after disembarking. Elegant boutiques, many squeezed into small, old wooden houses, dot the main shopping strip, selling Faroese wool jumpers, books, glassware and pottery. Worked up an appetite? Slip into one of the rustic looking restaurants to feast on fabulous Faroese lamb, then walk it off with an easy 3km stroll from the centre of town to check out the impressive Svartifoss waterfall for a taste of the island’s spectacular natural wonders.
Nestled at the foot of two lofty mountain ridges, Klaksvik is the second-largest city in the Faroe Islands and an important fishing harbour. Located on the island of Borðoy, in a well sheltered bay surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Faroes, the magnificent pyramid mountain forms a protective barrier from the ocean waves. Thanks to its rolling hills, craggy cliffs and traditional farms, Klaksvik is also one of the Faroes’ most beautiful spots to visit. Stroll around the harbour watching the fishermen at work, take a ride on the picturesque mail boat, a real favourite with visitors, or explore the trickling streams and fragrant flora of Úti í Grøv, an ideal spot for a peaceful stroll. While Borðoy used to be rather isolated, an underground tunnel now connects Klaksvik to the island of Eysturoy in just 16minutes, making hopping between the two islands as easy as pie.
You’ll know you’ve arrived at this most western outpost of the Faroes when you sail past the great columns of balsalt looming some 60m above the ocean’s surface. Rather magically, there are no roads or streets anywhere on this island, only meandering footpaths, well used by the island’s 14 permanent residents. Take one such path to walk from Mykines village to the lighthouse at the end of the islet of Mykineshólmur, via a footbridge. It’s a truly special experience, like discovering the edge of the world. You’ll enjoy complete tranquility and tremendous views of the ocean to the west and more islands to the east, but only if you can find space between the hundreds of puffins nestled in burrows on its precipitous clifftops.
Best things to do on the Faroe Islands
Explore on horseback
The small, hardy, good natured Faroese horse has wandered these windswept islands for more than a thousand years. Originally used as workhorses thanks to their stocky build and mild temperament, they almost became extinct in the 1960s. However, a concerted effort has now grown their numbers to a modest 74. Exploring the islands’ landscape on horseback is a brilliant way to soak up the local sights and experience this beautiful animal in its natural habitat. Faroese horses don’t wear saddles or horse shoes, so even experienced riders will take something unique away from the experience.
Listen to live music
The Faroe Islands have a hugely active music scene, with their own orchestra and lots of different choirs. Music is a huge part of island life and there are some great venues to listen to the vibes. Follow your ears to Blábar, a cosy bar and music venue in the centre of Tórshavn, playing exceptional jazz and blues. Or join the Tórshavn locals in taking a short ferry ride over to neighbouring island Nólsoy to enjoy a concert at lauded venue Maggies, a favourite with musicians from all over the world.
Shop for Faroese knits
Knitting has been a part of the Faroese culture for centuries and in a corner of the world where sheep outnumber people, wool is undoubtedly the most common material used to make clothes. Designs incorporate traditional Nordic patterns, with many handed down from mother to daughter. You can pick up beautifully-made items from the shops in Tórshavn, from chunky knit sweaters to delicate socks. And all guaranteed to keep you toasty warm, whether you’re stepping out for a hike, or a spin around the deck of a ship.
Discover rare birds
The remote location of the islands makes the territory a magnet for all sorts of birds migrating over the North Atlantic Ocean. More than 300 breeds flock to the Faroes each summer, when puffins jostle for space on the breezy clifftops, and thousands of kittiwakes squawk their contentment. The sheer number of beautiful birds here means you can do most birdwatching easily with the naked eye. You don’t even need to get off the ship to have a gander, as some of the very best birding spots can be seen from the deck as you cruise by the islands.
Summit a mountain
The almost 880m climb to the top of the Faroes’ highest mountain, Slaettaratindur on the island of Eysturoy, rewards visitors with spectacular views of the entire Faroe archipelago. You can march up to the summit via a four-hour scenic hike or a less demanding one-hour trek. It has become a local tradition to climb Slaettaratindur on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, to watch the sun set and then rise again just a few hours later. Traditional singing and dancing help to kill time while waiting, and a strong flask of coffee will keep you awake for the enchanting finale.
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