The 18 islands
Each of the 18 Faroe Islands has an individual character. Which is your favourite?
The Northern Islands
The six islands which make up the most northerly region of the Faroes are scenically the most dramatic. The mountains are higher here, the coastline is that little bit more craggy and the weather, yes, we’re afraid to say so, is just that little bit more unpredicatable! It’s here you’ll find the Faroes’ second town, Klaksvík, which functions as the country’s main fisheries centre. Large, high-tech trawlers and smaller family-owned fishing boats operate out of Klaksvík to supply the fillet factories with fresh fish.
In summer, Klaksvík is deservedly known for its outdoor festivals, including the popular Summer Festival which has grown into the country’s biggest al-fresco music event.
Of the other islands, remote Fugloy and Svínoy are havens of peace and quiet, and only reachable by boat and helicopter; whilst Kalsoy, with regular ferry links to Klaksvík, is a thriving island with some truly spectacular scenery. Borðoy (where you’ll find Klaksvík itself), Viðoy and Kunoy are all linked together by road whereas a submarine tunnel links Borðoy with neighbouring Eysturoy and ultimately Tórshavn.
For further information see www.visitnordoy.fo
Eysturoy’s pride and joy is Slættaratindur – the highest mountain in the Faroes at 882m. On a clear day, the views from the summit, which is, incidentally, as flat as a pancake, are quite astounding. Closeby, in the northern part of the island, you’ll find two of the Faroes’ most popular places to visit: the unspoilt village of Gjógv, which sits atop a deep and narrow ravine which for centuries has been the village’s only access to the sea, and the sea stacks, Risin and Kellingin. In the southern part of Eysturoy, the village Gøta, attracts music fans every summer for its G! Music Festival – voted second best in the whole of Europe, no less!
Today the main industry here is fish farming, and one of the world’s biggest salmon farmers is headquartered on Eysturoy.
For further information see www.visiteysturoy.fo
Streymoy and Nólsoy
Streymoy is the largest as well as the longest of the Faroe Islands. The main attraction is, of course, Tórshavn, but within easy striking distance of the capital, Kirkjubøur, is the site of an unfinished medieval cathedral which dates from 1300 – perhaps it was an uprising against the bishop or perhaps the Black Death, we don’t really know why building stopped. At the opposite, northern tip of Streymoy, there are three places you should put on your list of places to see. Firstly, Saksun, is a village like villages used to be: peaceful, undisturbed and lip-smackingly pretty. Go and you’ll see what we mean. Nearby, Vestmanna is the place to take a boat trip to see the amazing birdcliffs just outside the village, whilst Tjørnuvík enjoys a spectacular location nestled inside a dramatic glacial valley.
Birdlovers won’t want to miss the island of Nólsoy, reached by ferry from Tórshavn – it’s the location of the world’s biggest colony of storm petrels. Plus, there are some great hiking trails here, too.
Vágar and Mykines
Flying to the Faroes rather than taking the ferry? Then, chances are, Vágar is the first of the 18 islands you’ll see, as this is the location for the international airport. Built by the British when they occupied the islands during World War II, the airport has recently been extended and modernised – the runway, too, has been lengthened making approach in inclement weather altogether more straightforward. Beyond the airport, the tiny village of Gásadalur is one of the Faroes’ most remote – a handful of dwellings huddled together at the head of a cascading waterfall. Although the village is now connected to the islands’ road network through a tunnel, it retains a wonderful end-of-the-world feeling.
Want to see puffins, puffins and yet more puffins? Then Mykines is the island to head for. In summer you can’t move for them on the clifftops. A veritable ornithologist’s paradise, Mykines is also to place to come to see the magnificient gannet – there’s an impressive gannetry just off the island’s westernmost point.
For further information see www.visitvagar.fo
Sandoy and Skúgvoy
As you might imagine from an island called Sandoy, it is indeed sand rather than rock which forms the island’s very distinctive character. Unlike the rest of the Faroes which are dominated by towering mountains and peaks, Sandoy’s geography is a little tamer – something which makes the island the perfect place for hiking. Indeed, there’s any number of trails waiting to be discovered. Art lovers are also well-catered for: one of the Faroes’ best collections is here in the main village, Sandur. A short ferry ride away will take you to Skúgvoy, known for its colonies of guillemots, Arctic terns and great skuas.
For further information see www.visitsandoy.fo
Stóra and Lítla Dímun
Just one family lives on the seemingly impenetrable fortress that is Stóra Dímun – the children here have their very own teacher! Sheep are reared on the flatland at the top of the island but nobody is going to suggest that life here is easy. Remote, frequently cut-off in bad weather and all but inaccessible by sea, this is the Faroes at their most elemental. Lítla Dímun is an island too far – even for us Faroese. Nobody lives on this plug of volcanic land which rises unforgivingly out of the sea – though look carefully and you’ll spot two cabins clinging precariously to the sheer cliffaces; they’re used by farmers who come here to round up their sheep.
For further information see www.storadimun.fo
It’s a two hour sail onboard the large and comfortable ferry, Smyril, south from Tórshavn, to reach Suðuroy, the southernmost island in the Faroese chain. It‘s this distance and separation from Tórshavn which makes life here that bit different – people here have a reputation for their friendly nature – and it‘s said the weather down here is a little better than elsewhere in the islands. Got some Faroese banknotes in your pocket? Then, have a look at the picture on the 50kr note and you‘ll see the island‘s highest mountain, Beinisvørð, which soars to a dizzying height of 470m above sea level. Standing at the top is not for the fainthearted – the drop to the sea below is sheer—but you’ll soon see why the mountain and cliffs have inspired many a poet and composer over the years. There‘s plenty of great hiking to be had on Suðuroy – perhaps down to the picturesque village of Fámjin to see the very first Faroese flag (which we´re all very proud of here!) or perhaps out to Akraberg, the southernmost point in the whole country, where you can stare out across the vastness of the North Atlantic and breathe the fresh, crisp air, heavy with the salty tang of seaweed.
For further information see www.visitsuduroy.fo