I haven’t done a travel guide before, but I visited the Faroe Islands recently and the reading material didn’t quite prepare me for the islands. So, here’s my take on visiting.
First, they are well worth a visit, but go soon. There’s debate about how to benefit from tourism whilst protecting the islands. The residents of Mykines – the western-most island, home to a vast colony of puffins – are seeing the detrimental impact of even the current limited tourism on paths and grazing land and nervous puffins. Mind, I’d be a pretty nervous puffin if humans chased me and didn’t keep their distance.
If you can afford it, hire a car. You can travel to most communities by bus, but you’re tied to the timetable and you’ll miss the joy of the Buttercup routes, roads with particularly beautiful scenery.
I stayed at various places across the islands, moving from west to east. If you plan to do that, Airbnb is pretty essential, as there simply aren’t hotels. Another option (and I didn’t realise how feasible this would be) is to have a base in the middle of the islands. From there, you’ll be able to reach all but the southern islands.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid driving through the tunnels that link some of the islands and go through the mountains. There are two types of these: tunnels that are lit, with a lane for traffic in each direction; tunnels that aren’t lit, that are hewn out of the rock to form a single lane, that have passing points at the most irregular of intervals and have a ditch (often with water in it) each side of the paved roadway. There are more of the latter than the former. If, like me, you live in a town and reversing is limited to parallel parking, go into training! Locals with right of way hurtle down tunnels and you have to get out of their way. It’s very easy to misjudge the speed of the car coming towards you and/or distance to the next passing place. I only had to reverse once, but it left mental scars.
Now, food. Don’t be deceived by the articles that have appeared in the press over the last few months: Faroese cuisine is confined to a few, very specific restaurants. Outside that elite group, I found the food adequate, but a little like food in the UK pre-rocket, pre-avocado – even pre-broccoli. However, grab any opportunity to eat langoustines, which melt in the mouth. Getting a table in restaurants is hard, but not because they’re full. I saw patrons tell people their restaurant is full, then leave several tables empty. I’m semi-speculating here, but I think it’s about how busy they’ve decided they want to be, although exceptions seemed to be made for locals. Ask a hotel receptionist to book a table for you – and that’s essential if you’re travelling alone, as the main group of well-known restaurants don’t have the facility for one person to book a table online; if you try, every day and time will be unavailable. I was told that only the receptionists at the main hotels in the same group have the facility to override the system and make the booking.
Finally, paying for it. I read that the islands are a cash society, but I only saw one shop that insisted on cash. Credit cards are accepted in most places.
These are all practical points and don’t let them put you off. The scenery is stunning, the air is clear and you’ll experience six types of weather in a day. I saw a couple of mosquitoes in Klaksvik, but otherwise, it was a mozzie-free zone. Don’t miss the ferry as a roundtrip from Hvannasund to the eastern-most islands of Fugloy and Svinoy – a bargain, but stay on deck if you get sea-sick! And do make the trip to Mykines, but please don’t chase the puffins!
If you’d like any more tips, let me know – happy to help.