After spending six days in Iceland, we were looking forward to our next destination, a tiny set of remote islands owned by Denmark and located in the Atlantic Ocean halfway between Iceland and Norway.
When our short, 80-minute flight arrived at 10 o’clock at night on the Faroe Islands, there was still a tiny bit of light left, but the dense, moody fog cropped our teaser views of the unbelievable waterfalls that flowed off the gently sloped, green mountainsides and into the ocean.
Unlike waterfalls we had seen in past destinations, such as Costa Rica or Hawaii, these were flaunting their lengthy beauty in plain sight, not hidden by thick jungle or even a single bush or tree. We couldn’t wait to see more of the incredible landscape of the Faroe Islands, but we would have to wait until the next morning to get our first real views!
DAY ONE >> VESTMANNA BIRD CLIFFS BOAT TOUR
We decided to rent two Airbnbs in the Faroe Islands – one, a traditional Faroese grass-roofed house that was so secluded, it didn’t even have an official address, and the second, an adorable IKEA-style modern apartment in the largest town and capital of the Faroe Islands, Tórshavn.
We had arrived at our first Airbnb in the dark the night before, so it was pretty exciting to finally see our Faroese Airbnb the next morning and see that it also came complete with its own obligatory Faroese waterfall just steps from the house.
We awoke the first morning of our trip in the Faroe Islands to none other than the sounds of Faroese sheep “baa-ing” at 5 a.m., mere feet outside the window of our bedroom. In Costa Rica, we had experienced creepy howler monkeys howling all night outside our beach-side, jungle cottage, and in Kauai, we had experienced chickens crowing all morning outside our window until the sun had fully peaked over the horizon, so we had come to expect that every fanciful destination we visited would come with an interesting and noisy, new animal that was intent on keeping us awake or waking us up early in the morning.
It was no surprise that once we had surrendered to the sheep alarm clock after attempting to hit the snooze button for an hour, that the sheep suddenly decided they were done with their special morning chant. Nonetheless, we continued to get ready, instead of retreating back to bed, because we looked forward to our first activity on the Faroe Islands, a ferry trip to Mykines.
Mykines is the westernmost island of the Faroe Islands, and while there are underground road tunnels that connect many of the other islands, Mykines is one of the few islands left that can only be reached by ferry, in order to help protect the bird life and preserve the charm of the small, 10-person, no-car village on Mykines.
Our ferry trip to Mykines had to be reserved two weeks prior to our trip because of the popularity of the activity and tendency for the ferry to book up quickly. The ferry to Mykines only departs once or twice a day during the summer months and holds approximately 70 people. It was also recommended that we book our ferry trip early on in our five-day itinerary, given the likelihood of the ferry being cancelled due to bad weather at sea.
Although the scenery on Mykines is breathtaking and the bird life varied and fascinating, the biggest allure of Mykines is the adorable and comical-looking puffins. Puffins exist on Iceland as well, but we never spotted any during our travels. They also exist elsewhere on the Faroe Islands if you know where to look, but if a puffin-encounter is what you seek, Mykines is the place to visit. Mykines is full of these seabirds that fly out to sea to collect mouth fulls of tiny sand eels and return to their cliff side colonies to feed their young. We were fortunate enough to be visiting in mid-August, the final time of year they hang out on land before heading out to sea, their more common habitat, for several months.
Very limited information could be found on our ferry trip to Mykines, not even basic info, such as the exact meeting location or how rough we could expect the waters to be, so we hesitantly took motion sickness pills beforehand, not knowing whether they would actually be necessary for our 45-minute ferry ride.
Before we could even set foot out the door for our 10:20 a.m. ferry departure, we received an email notice that the ferry ride was delayed until noon. It didn’t seem possible that the weather that morning could impact our ferry ride, since it seemed like a typical foggy, but calm day.
With new worries on our minds that the ferry could be cancelled altogether, we waited as long as we could in our Airbnb, refreshing our email and looking for a dreaded cancellation notice. When we received no such notice, we headed out, anxious that we would be seeing puffins in just a couple of hours.
No sooner a small, excited group began to form on the dock, the ferry captain came out of the boat and casually announced that the ferry trip was cancelled. The group seemed to share the same look of disbelief, as we assumed that the ferry captain must have been playing a cruel joke on a bunch of gullible, overly eager tourists. Indeed, it was cancelled though. Although the water looked calm in the bay we were at, apparently it was much more rough out at sea.
Everyone’s faces immediately turned to panic as we all quietly disbanded and wondered what we were supposed to do next to make sure we could catch another ferry during our stay on the Faroe Islands. Since hubby and I did not have cell service on the Faroe Islands, we raced back to our Airbnb knowing that several dozen other people were probably wanting to re-book ferry trips that were likely already sold out or close to sold out.
Not surprisingly, we were still unable to find any open trips for the rest of our time on the island. Even though we had strategically booked our ferry ride early on in our itinerary in order to re-book in the case of bad weather, it almost seemed like it didn’t matter because there was no way to book a last minute ferry ride anyway. Our only hope left was that they would open up an extra, second trip on one of our three remaining full days, which they seemed to only do infrequently and spontaneously when needed (or when they felt like it).
Our ferry cancellation on our first day in the Faroe Islands was the biggest letdown. It was the one activity I had planned ahead for and looked forward to. It seemed so heartbreaking to visit the Faroe Islands and to not be able to see the puffins on Mykines.
Not only was I immensely bummed, but I was extremely tired. Hubby had done the driving to and from the Sørvágur harbor 20 minutes from our Airbnb and it was a good thing because I would have literally fallen asleep at the wheel.
At first, I had assumed that our early morning sheep alarm clock was to blame for my groggy state of mind, but then it occurred to me that the motion sickness pills that I had preemptively taken that morning and night before for our ferry ride (that were supposedly non-drowsy) were more likely to blame. Luckily, we had alternative plans that we were able to book last minute and ended up fitting right in with our new, improvised itinerary.
The Vestmanna Bird Cliffs boat tour was not only on my short list of must-do activities, but there was a boat going out later at 4:20 p.m., which meant we could take a nice long nap and not let let our motion sickness pills go to complete waste for that day!
After a much needed nap, we hopped on a small boat and set sail in misty weather for the Vestmanna Bird Cliffs. It was not necessary to be a bird fanatic to enjoy the Vestmanna Bird Cliffs boat tour. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing the coast line of the Faroe Islands more than the birds!
Not only did we get to see soaring cliffs up close with sheep grazing precariously off the steep slopes, but we sailed narrow passages between tall sea stacks and navigated nervously close to grottoes in the choppy water. We could not have asked for better views to start off our tour of the Faroe Islands!
That night, back at our warm and cozy Airbnb, we enjoyed a colorful sunset (the first on our trip!) from our picturesque dining room window and lamented that we had only booked two nights at that cute and [mostly] quiet Airbnb.
We had originally assumed we would enjoy being in the city more, with closer access to restaurants and stores, so we booked more days at the city Airbnb than this secluded Airbnb. While it was true that I desperately craved a latte — and there were no coffee shops within 20 miles of our remote Airbnb — it was a tragedy that we would leave behind the incredible views and and serene mood of our classic, grass-roofed Faroese house so soon the next day.
DAY TWO >> SØRVÁGSVATN LAKE HIKE
Our very first task on our second morning was to check for openings on the Mykines ferry. Not only were there no new ferry openings, but the ferry was cancelled again for the day. We had not let ourselves get our hopes up after they had been let down the first day, so we apathetically moved on to decide what we were going to do on our second day.
Even though it felt like I had done endless hours of research for our Iceland/Faroe trip, it still felt like I wasn’t gaining any traction in actually planning activities. A big reason for this was that the names of sights and hikes all seemed like they were just a jumble of random letters put together, which sounded frustratingly unfamiliar and familiar all at once. Instagram became a helpful source of creating a disarranged itinerary based on photos, rather than words, of interesting places that we could refer back to later to decide if they fit our schedule for the day.
The sight we picked to visit on our second day was definitely one such place that was easy to remember it needed to be on our itinerary based on its spectacular photos rather than its crackjaw name. The hike along Sørvágsvatn Lake is a popular one due to its remarkable view from a particular position atop a cliff where it looks like an optical illusion of a lake sitting far above the ocean.
Before we said goodbye to our charming grass-roofed house and headed on our hike to Sørvágsvatn Lake, we decided to leave our Airbnb with one small parting gift. We had heard it was Faroese tradition to pick up wool that sheep periodically shed in random places on the island, so we retrieved a long, lonely piece of wool that had been snagged on a big rock near the property’s waterfall and joined it with some piles of wool scraps that were draped over a wooden fence beside the house.
Despite the hike to Sørvágsvatn Lake being such a popular one, we experienced so much frustration trying to locate the start of it in the small village of Miðvágur. The Faroe Islands even have a handy (and free!) hiking guide that can be found in the airport or online, which contains practically all of the Faroe Islands hikes (most of which used to be old walking paths connecting the small villages), but somehow, we still couldn’t find this particular hike we wanted to do in that guide.
After a lot of bickering in the car and several u-turns, we finally located the trail head. It turns out the hike was indeed in the guide book as the #15 hike, under the name “Miðvágur – Bøsdalafossur”; with Miðvágur being the town the hike started in (obvs!) and Bøsdalafossur, the name of the waterfall at the end of the hike that flows off of Sørvágsvatn Lake.
Once we located the trail head, we were on our way to soaking in our first amazing views of the Faroe Islands on land! The “optical illusion” view of Sørvágsvatn Lake, known as Trælanýpa (“the lake above the sea”), required hoofing it up along a short, steep cliff and was literally breathtaking. Even more breathtaking were the views looking straight down the tall cliffs all along the final stretch of this hike.
We completed our hike by aimlessly climbing down large boulders on the hillside to get to the Bøsdalafossur waterfall. While most tourists seemed to rave about the “optical illusion” view of Sørvágsvatn Lake, the view of Bøsdalafossur waterfall flowing into the teal blue, moody sea with the fog-tipped cliff sides in the backdrop was even more impressive and simply mesmerizing.
After our hike along Sørvágsvatn Lake, we drove to Tórshavn and settled into our new swanky city Airbnb, which consisted of the entire third floor of a small building and boasted incredible city views of the colorful Faroese houses from every angle in the apartment.
The second day of our Faroe Island trip also happened to be the date of our five-year anniversary, so we concluded our exhausting day by treating ourselves to a fancy dinner at a port-side grill house called The Tarv.
Before visiting the Faroe Islands, we had imagined that the only restaurants the islands would have would be dark, dingy, hole-in-the-wall places with inconsistent hours, staff unhappy to serve spoiled tourists, and underwhelming food options. Tórshavn actually had a number of charming restaurants with incredible ambience and delicious food, which was such a nice, welcome surprise!
After our satisfying dinner at The Tarv, back at our Airbnb, we crossed our fingers yet again as we checked the Mykines ferry schedule for openings. This time, we were in luck! They had opened up an extra trip for the day after the next (Sunday) and we could not have been more thrilled! Not only had they finally opened up an extra ferry ride, we were especially lucky because Sunday was our last full day on the islands, and as such, was our last opportunity to even take the ferry since it’s a day-long activity.
However, there was a catch. The extra trip required at least 40 people to book or it would be cancelled and we were only the fifth and sixth people to book. Furthermore, the cost of the “extra trip” more than doubled from $37 USD for two people, to $93 USD for two people. On top of that cost, there was also a fee to be able to hike the necessary trail where the puffins can be observed along the trail and off the nearby cliffs. But whatever the cost, there was no question, we were booking this once-in-a-lifetime activity!
DAY THREE >> DRANGARNIR HIKE
On the third day in the Faroe Islands, I woke up very tired, but very excited to finally get one little luxury I hadn’t had in a few days, a latte! The grass-roofed coffee shop near our Airbnb was not only a welcome sight, but it was too cute for words!
The caffeine was appropriate for the day’s itinerary because we were going to do yet another hike, and this time, a long one! Drangarnir was another sight on the Faroe Islands that seemed equally as iconic as Sørvágsvatn Lake. Drangarnir is the name given to two sea stacks that can be seen from the northern edge of the island of Vágar and is easily recognizable in photos because one of the sea stacks is a unique, giant arch.
Unfortunately, this extraordinary sight came at a extraordinary cost. The hike to Drangarnir could not be found in the local hiking guide because it is actually located on privately-owned land. With the increase in recent tourism, the Faroese legislation decided to rightfully limit access to this hike by requiring a paid, local guide to accompany hikers for a fee of $85 USD per person. Luckily, we had done extensive research to find this crucial information out before setting foot on the hike and getting fined, but the information was still quite confusing since many tourists had been able to recently do the hike for free, while others were ignoring the new regulations and attempting the hike without a paid guide.
While we thought it was fair that the Faroe Islands wanted to protect certain hiking trails such as this one, it was slightly inconvenient that the hike could only be done on certain days and had to be done with a guide. We had booked this guided hike early on in our trip and in the meantime, I worried that with our luck, the day we booked this hike would end up being the one day the Mykines ferry would have a new trip open up. Luckily, this didn’t end up being the case and it worked out perfectly that we were able to do this hike on Saturday and re-book the ferry trip for Sunday.
Before we hit the road for our noon start time of the hike, we checked the Mykines ferry schedule and that day’s ferry was cancelled yet again. This was bad news for those booked for the ferry that day, but great news for us because with all the cancelled ferry riders the past few days, the “extra trip” ferry ride we had reserved for the next day was getting much closer to reaching the minimum number of people required to set sail.
Once on the road, I didn’t know if it was the high from the caffeine fix or the recent bit of good news on the Mykines ferry, but the waterfalls that tumbled off the gently-sloped mountainsides along our entire drive looked especially breathtaking. Even though they were still cropped by the low-lying fog, they were everywhere and quite the treat to see!
At the harbor in Sørvágur, the meeting place for our hike, we met a small, reasonably sized group of just seven other hikers and took off in very windy weather for our exciting adventure to Drangarnir.
I had not read much about our hike other than that some people said it was difficult to navigate without a guide and very long. The hike turned out to be mostly straight forward, but the thing that did shock me was how steep and slippery it was. The trail started off on a rocky cliff side and when we weren’t crossing slippery, trickling waterfalls, we were trekking through soggy ruts in the narrow, muddy trail.
With caffeine still pumping through my body, my legs were jittery with every step and it felt a bit unnerving knowing that a single misstep could take me right off the skinny trail and into the ocean several feet below. Not long into our hike, a female hiker in front of me and also last in line with me decided she was no longer up for this precarious cliff side adventure and decided to turn back. This was unfortunate for her, since the rest of the trail ended up being more annoying with the mud, than scary.
In fact, after crossing a couple of waterfalls, hopping a few fences, and cresting over a large hill, we had finally reached our first stunning view of Drangarnir in the far distance, with the jagged peaks of Tindhólmur island towering behind it, and we were no where near a cliff side edge trying to balance on the narrow, wet trail.
Although we felt very frustrated that we had to be accompanied by a local guide on this hike, who not only did not add anything valuable to the experience, but actually detracted from it several times by smoking, talking on his cell phone, and altogether abandoning us on the trip back, we still left our hiking adventure feeling grateful that the landowner had still allowed tourists like us to do this memorable hike.
DAY FOUR >> MYKINES AND PUFFINS!
Day four was our last full day in the Faroe Islands and most anticipated day. I woke up early and checked the number of people that had reserved the Mykines ferry “extra trip” for the day and not only had the ferry reached the minimum number of people required to set sail, but it was maxed out. YASSS! Now we just needed the weather to cooperate!
We took advantage of the extra free time we had that morning before our ferry departed at 12:30 pm and decided to visit a few quick, must-see sights.
First up was Fossá, the largest waterfall in the Faroe Islands. Fossá was unbelievably tall and impressive in person, and as a nice bonus, there wasn’t a soul in sight. The solitude we experienced in the Faroe Islands was so refreshing compared to the touristy sights in Iceland!
Prior to visiting Fossá, I read that it was possible to climb to the second tier of the waterfall, but neglected to research further, which would have provided us with the useful tip to find the small gap in the cliff side that would have easily taken us up to the second tier.
I ended up dragging hubby on a scary traverse along the whole steep hillside just to get up to the second tier. Between the Drangarnir hike and the Fossa hike, I began to think we might not leave the island alive. Who knew hiking in the serene and pretty Faroe Islands would be so scary and challenging!
Our second sight to see was the very famous Múlafossur waterfall near the town of Gásadalur. Fun fact, this waterfall was actually THE waterfall that made me originally made me fall in love with the Faroe Islands and want to visit.
Unfortunately, as beautiful as this waterfall was, especially with the fog setting the perfect, mystical scene in the background, it was one of my most disliked activities on the island due to the number of tourists. A gigantic tour bus had just dropped off a whole boat-load of people to this walk-up sight right before we arrived. We snapped some pics of the waterfall and got our butts out of there as quick as possible!
At noon, we gathered on the harbor in Sørvágur with a bunch of other tourists that were eagerly waiting for their chance to see the puffins on Mykines. The first ferry of the day had already successful departed for Mykines, so the chances of our ferry being cancelled due to weather were slim. We were going to Mykines!!!
With a fully booked ferry, by the time we boarded, we were forced to retreat to the lower cabin. We were puzzled by the sight of Chinese take-out boxes that adorned each of the tables in the lower cabin, but it didn’t take long before we figured out they were actually improvised up-chuck buckets.
Earlier that morning, I had reluctantly taken a motion sickness pill, not knowing whether it would be worth a repeat of the overwhelming drowsiness I had experienced on day one. Hubby, on the other hand, confidently declined to take one, and even more confidently sat down and started reading a book.
The bay of Sørvágur was deceptively calm, tricking us into believing the entire trip to Mykines would be smooth sailing. Only five minutes into our 45-minute trip, the sea began to bounce our ferry around with the big swells, and five minutes after that, commotion started to stir in the back corner of the cabin where one up-chuck bucket was apparently being traded out for a fresh one for a passenger that was definitely not enjoying the rocky ride.
The sick passenger on our ferry trip was more than enough to convince me that I had made the right choice to take a motion sickness pill that morning. Shockingly, hubby kept reading his book until we docked on the far west side of the island of Mykines, completely unaffected by the waves and rocky ride.
Upon de-boarding our ferry in Mykines, we were greeted by a a long, steep set of stairs to get to the village, and yet another very steep, muddy climb up a hill before we could finally see the much-anticipated puffins.
The puffins were every bit as cute as we had made them up to be in our heads and it was true that they were practically everywhere on the island, including the first small hill we came to on the cliff side after our steep trek.
However, before we could even start the official trail to the famous lighthouse of Mykines, where we expected to see many more puffins along the way, we were greeted by a village ambassador who asked us to show proof we had paid to do the Mykines hike. We showed him proof on our phone and before we eagerly tore off to see more of the puffins before the crowds began to catch up to us, he casually mentioned that the hike to the lighthouse was closed “before the lighthouse”.
We brushed off the notice from this ambassador because we didn’t really care about the lighthouse — we were there for the puffins (duh!) — but as it turned out, the hike to the lighthouse was not just closed shortly before the lighthouse, as we had assumed from the choice of words the ambassador had used; it was closed almost the entire way!
Apparently the trail had become a bit overused during the season from the sharp rise in tourism, so they had decided to close it recently. It was understandable that they had decided to close the trail, because even the first section of the trail was quite muddy and torn up, but it seemed a bit unfair to still require visitors to still pay the hiking fee.
Nonetheless, we still enjoyed our visit on Mykines, but we had six hours to kill until the ferry returned to pick up the second trip of passengers, which resulted in a heck of lot of time to kill without being able to do the long hike to the lighthouse.
While most of the visitors soon became bored of the short portion of hike that could be done and ventured off to hike the other trails on the island or visit the small town on Mykines, we stayed put on the hillside, completely fascinated by these little cartoon-ish birds. I simply could NOT get enough of them!
Near the end of our time on Mykines, we finally toured a bit of the village before we finally said goodbye to the adorable puffins and island.
Back in Tórshavn, we decided to treat ourselves to another dinner out for our last night on the Faroe Islands. We found a cute, perfectly Faroese restaurant to dine at that was not far from our Airbnb called Barbara’s Fish House.
During our dinner, we reflected on what a perfect trip we had had in the Faroe Islands and how welcoming the locals had been during our trip. It was certainly bitter sweet to leave, but we had many memories that were coming with us.
DAY FIVE >> SAKSUN VILLAGE AND GOODBYE
On our final day, we just had one more iconic place I wanted to try to visit before we caught our flight to our next stop, Copenhagen. Saksun is a cozy little village on the northwest end of the island of Streymoy and although it had started to feel like every view in the islands was of the same-looking grassy, green mountain with a waterfall or two (or dozen) flowing off of it, Saksun ended up being a nice surprise.
Saksun is located up a narrow fjord and inlet of the sea, which provided some incredible, valley-like views out towards the sea. We didn’t need much time to visit Saksun, and didn’t have much time to spare before our flight that day anyway.
Although our time in the Faroe Islands had been short, and I originally felt like our brief five-day stay would leave us feeling rushed and unfulfilled, in the end, I felt like we had been able to complete plenty of memorable experiences on the Faroe Islands from boat rides to see the coastline and puffins to hikes to see unique sea stacks and views.
Up next: We make our way back home via Copenhagen and Paris.