So I haven’t written a post since April. Why? Well I would say it’s because life has gone on and we traveled very little over those months. But we were able to make it stateside in July. The girls and I spent a whole month in the USA and we spent the majority of it seeing family. It was so good to see everyone again.
But when we returned back to Denmark, it seemed like a completely different country. All restrictions, mandates, policies for COVID-19 have pretty much been eased. There are still a few travel restrictions but movement is pretty free across the country and most of the EU. Nearly 75% of the Danish population is vaccinated with boosters beginning for those in high risk groups. So we were happy when the Faroe Islands (a part of the Denmark kingdom) announced that it was opening to tourists.
Backstory: we had booked airline tickets to visit the Faroe Islands when COVID-19 first closed down the country. We assumed we would be able to travel there in the summer of 2020. Unfortunately, the Faroe Islands closed their borders so we were left with flight vouchers. So on September 1st when the Faroes announced it was open to tourists, we booked our tickets.
The Faroe Islands are a small group of islands located north of Scotland. It is a cluster of green, lush islands full of sheep (how the island may have gotten its name), migrating birds, and beautiful landscapes. The islands make up 540 sq. miles and are populated with around 53,000 people (according to Wikipedia). There are only two airlines that fly to the Faroe Islands, Atlantic Airways and Scandinavian Airlines. We had tickets with the former. Our flight wasn’t until the afternoon and we didn’t arrive in the Faroe Islands until after 6 PM. Since we were only going to be on there for 5-days, we decided to book a campervan. I’m fairly certain the girls were most excited about the thought of camping than seeing the island itself.
When we landed at the airport, there was no border patrol or car rental booth. An email told us to head directly to the rental lot and that our van would be ready and waiting.
Our first stop for the night was to a campsite.
Not a bad view, huh?
Out in front of our van (the silver one), we saw what we believe are fish rearing hoops. In the distance, is the island of Koltur, population 2.
We went about the task of setting up the van. We could not find directions on how exactly to do that though. The camping/hostel we stayed at did have Wi-Fi so we were able to look up some YouTube videos on how to raise the top and make our beds. The girls were so happy to jump to the top level.
But one became too sacred to sleep up in the dark tent with just her sister so dad was sent to sleep on the top bunk.
After some not great sleep (I like my home bed), we started the day off with groceries. We needed to fill up the van with enough meals and snacks to last us in the coming days.
As soon as we had eaten breakfast, we made our way to Sørvágsvatn Trail Head. Unfortunately, that trail entrance was closed due to rough conditions and we had to recalculate our way to the correct entrance. At this entrance, we all used the toilets and paid to hike the trail. It wasn’t cheap (~$30/adult) but I understand the reasoning. Since the spot has become so popular, the money is used to help keep the trail in good condition and protect the land.
So we set out with snacks, patience and adventure in our hearts.
The girls did quite well. It is about a 1.5 mile walk and with two little ones in tow, it took us around an hour to reach the first overlook. We did have to take a stop whenever we saw a bench and many cookies were promised when we reached the lookout over the sea. Man, it was breathtaking (I’ll be using that word a lot throughout this post).
The photos above really don’t do it justice. It was a cliff! The distance from the ocean to the top of the cliff, Trælanípan, is 313 meters (~1026.9 feet) tall. Eek! We could see birds swooping in and out of the cliff, the crashing ocean waves and the islands on the horizon. What. A. View.
After taking it in (and holding on tightly to the girls), we hiked towards the lake to try to see Bøsdalafossur, a waterfall. This hike is actually part of a very famous photo you may have seen, the lake over the ocean. It is a fresh water lake that flows/falls into the ocean. Unfortunately, we learned that you really can’t see it from the trail. Maybe we could have seen it if we had hiked all the way up to the top of Trælanípan but our little ones were tired of walking (and very hungry). So instead, we sat down on the rocks leading to the waterfall and took a long rest.
I ventured away from my crew to try and see the waterfall. I could see a bit of it flowing into the ocean but the angle just wasn’t right. If we had a drone, I would have been able to snap the perfect picture.
Then we headed back.
Oh man, that was pure torture for my youngest. Her little legs were killing her and she had had enough hiking. So we kept encouraging her, switching parents to keep patience together and we made it back. We told them both how proud we were of them and let them get lollipops from the trailhead shop.
Our next stop was Saksun. At about this point (midday), the weather had turned sour. It was rainy, windy and chilly. When we reached Saksun, the wind was howling and a constant drizzle was in place.
There is a hike we could have done (Út á Lónna-Black Beach), but due to the weather and my youngest refusing to get out of the van, we decided to just take in the scenery.
Just a little church sitting on the edge of wilderness and it was a gorgeous sight.
We then turned around to see a waterfall with Fabio the horse grazing before it. I had to explain to Claire who Fabio was and how the blonde hair on the horse reminded me so much of the model.
After taking in Saksun, we headed farther east to Tjørnuvik where we could experience another black beach and catch a view of Risin og Kellingin.
Risin og Kellingin (The Giant & the Witch) are named after a legend about a giant and witch who were trying to steal the Faroe Islands for Iceland at night. They were so preoccupied with their task that they forgot about the rising sun. Since they were creatures of the night, they were instantly turned to stone off the coast of Eiði. Read/listen to the full story here.
By the time we arrived at Tjørnuvik, the weather had not improved. It was still windy and rainy. But the good thing about the weather is that it provided a rough sea and we were able to see the power of the waves pounding against the beach. Claire especially enjoyed monitoring the waves to see just how close/high they would get on her waterproof boots.
Click photos to enlarge:
We then took a little walk down a road that went along the side of the beach. During this walk, we saw someone trying to surf the waves. They must have decided it was too rough or unsafe as they never got up. But we all enjoyed watching them ride out in the rough water because we knew we would never be brave enough to do something like that.
After our walk, we made our way to the neighboring island of Eiði, where we would be spending the night.
The campsite was on an old soccer field right next to the water. There was no one there to check us in or even tell us where to park so we just picked a spot with a decent view of the sea. We learned here that camping is pretty much based on a trust system. No need to check in, just pay and park; “we trust you”.
That night, the eldest had a bit of motion sickness and since the tent part was loud from the wind, she spent the night on the bottom with dad while I popped to the top with the youngest.
The next morning was again dreary and rainy but hey, we can’t let that ruin our fun. As soon as we woke up and had breakfast, we made our way east again. We did stop at one viewpoint to catch another look at Risin and Kellingin before we saw our next legend.
If you can tell from the traffic jam picture above, many of the roads on the Faroe Islands are one lane, especially the more remote you go. We happily never had an issue but looking from the side of our rented van, I believe it may be an issue for some. The roads are also carved into the side of sloping mountains so views like below were very common:
We were in awe (again) at the views as we made our way to Gjógv.
Gjógv is a village that has a gorge or natural harbor that runs into the village. It also has a small overlook with a special bench, Mary’s bench. The bench is named after the Crowned Princess Mary of Denmark (Denmark is a constitutional monarchy) after she came to visit the village in 2005 and was the first to sit upon this bench.
It is definitely another small village with gorgeous views. We walked down into the gorge and heard music/sounds. Someone had placed speakers inside the gorge to give a sort of new experience besides the crashing waves. It was very serene.
After we had our fill of Gjógv, we made our way to Klaksvík to catch our ferry.
Klaksvík is the second largest town in the Faroe Islands. We arrived three hours before our ferry. I had originally planned on us sleeping in a bit that morning but since we didn’t, we were a wee bit early. So we decided to grab a bite to eat then walk the town.
Unfortunately, our youngest had had enough walking for one day so we really didn’t get very far but we were able to burn some time by walking with the ducks, seeing the harbor and checking out sweater and toy stores.
At 3:15 PM, our ferry was ready. We paid with card (price included our return trip) and the ferry filled up quickly. Around 15 cars could fit on the ferry and I’m pretty sure it was full when we took off for the island of Kalsoy.
Kalsoy is very popular for tourists. It has an extremely popular hike to the Kallur lighthouse, a lighthouse that sits atop a mountain and overlooks the sea (you may have seen it). I even learned that that part of the island may be in the new James Bond movie, so look out for that…
But even so, the population is only around 76. There are no gas stations, grocery stores or the like on Kalsoy. Since it is so unpopulated, the roads are narrow. And to make it more exciting, one lane tunnels.
We did not run into any oncoming traffic which is likely due to the spaced out ferry times.
We drove right to our campsite, another soccer field but this time we didn’t set up on it. We parked next to it. There was an outdoor trailer with heated bathrooms probably in the best condition of all the previous campsites we had been to. (Not that the others were bad, this one was just the best.)
The view too! Wow! We sat atop a hill overlooking the village of Mikladalur and the sea beyond. The campsite with the best view to date!
We played a quick round of soccer then walked down to Mikladalur towards the famous statue on the island representing another Faroe Island myth. The statue of the Seal Woman or Kópakonan.
The legend of Kópakonan is a terrifying story. You can read it all here but the jest of it is this: Once a year, the seals from the sea would come up to the shore, shed their skin and become human to party the night away. But one year, a young farmer hid and watched. One particular seal shed its skin to become the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. So he stole her seal skin and she was unable to turn back into a seal at sunrise. He hid it in a chest keeping the key on his belt loop while she stayed with him in the village. Many years passed and the farmer and seal woman built a life together though he knew she wanted to return to the sea.
One day while fishing, the farmer realized he did not have the key on him. On returning to the house, he found their children safely in the house but the chest unlocked and his wife gone.
As time passed, a big seal hunt was planned by the village. The farmer was visited in a dream by his wife. She said to leave a big male seal and the cubs alone at a particular cave as they were her seal family. But this only enraged the farmer and he found the male and cubs and killed them.
That night as the villagers prepared to celebrate, the seal woman visited as a banshee and cursed the entire village: many would fall or be killed by the sea from Mikladalur.
To this day, it is believed that the webbed toes that are common in the Faroe Islands are descendants from the farmer and seal woman’s human children.
Scary, huh? We didn’t read the whole story to our youngest but did convey the main points to her. But the way the statue just emerges from the rock and sea is stunning. I honestly think the trip to the island was 100% worth the view and story of Kópakonan.
After a steep trek back to our campsite, we settled down for the evening.
Another fellow camper pulled up to us from Belgium. My husband saw him pull out an ATV and was intrigued enough to strike up a conversation with him. He had just come from Iceland and was on a months long tour of Iceland and the Faroe Islands by ferry. What an adventurous spirit!
That night was the first one the girls slept on their own at the top of van while mom and dad got the bottom.
We woke up to dreary, foggy conditions. I had contemplated heading farther north on Kalsoy to hike to Kallur Lighthouse. But the weather was so dreary, I knew that it would be dangerous for us to go before the fog lifted. The thought of walking on a moderately difficult hike with my 5-year old was also not appealing. Instead, we took our time getting ready in the morning and arrived an hour before our ferry departure time.
Next, we drove to Tórshavn, the Faroe Islands’ capital and largest city.
First, we found parking along the harbor and to be honest with you, finding this parking was the most harrowing part of our trip. The streets were narrow like in the countryside but there was on-coming traffic this time. The streets also round around sharp corners and many were one-ways and downhill. But we made it to the full, free parking lot just as someone was pulling out. Score!
After lunch in the van, we decided to roam the streets of Tórshavn. We first stopped at a few thrift shops to see if we could find some Faroese wool sweaters at a good price. We left those shops empty handed and instead went to some sweater stores. You definitely have your pick there. It seemed like every block had at least one store. I did manage to find one that I liked. It is authentic and handmade. The store owner was also amazing with the girls and shared information on each sweater I tried on. She indicated that the one I had picked out was definitely Faroese wool because it was thicker and itchier than the Norwegian sweater I had in my other hand. She also told me to NEVER wash it to keep the lanolin of the wool on the sweater. So if I smell like sheep, this is the reason why.
After purchasing the sweater, we made our way to a coffee shop, toy store and grocery store (to get ice cream). We then made our way down to the harbor and walked toward the Fort of Tórshavn.
The current fort is believed to have been built in the 1780s. It was then fortified by the military in 1865 with two large guns added by the British Forces during WWII.
After Tórshavn, we drove back to the island of Vágar where the airport is located. This time we went west of the airport along the coast towards the island’s famous waterfall, Múlafossur.
Could we have wished for more perfect weather?
The waterfall falls over 100 feet (30 meters) into the ocean from a tiny river. We were lucky as strong winds are known to push the waterfall back into the cliff, but this day was perfect.
There are only 25 houses in the village of Gasadalur but there is a parking area just for the hikers and tourists who come. It was quite breathtaking as you just pop out of this one-way tunnel to this stunning sight at the end of the road. Just wow!
We were also able to see the island of Mykines from Gasadalur. Mykines is famous for puffins. Puffins tend to descend upon the island during the spring and early summer months. We had originally planned on visiting Mykines during this time to experience the puffins. But since we arrived in fall when most of the puffins were gone and the hike alone would be around two hours one-way, we decided to pass.
As we drove back towards Sandavágur to camp the night, we stopped to overlook Sørvágs fjord. We saw Drangarnir (the rock with the hole in it), Tindhólmur (the big pointy rock on the right) and more fish rearing stations.
The last stop of the day was at Leitisvatn, the lake from our first hike.
There was a horse statue just jutting out of the water and I wanted to see what it was about. A sign close to it told about another Faroese myth, the myth of The Nix.
The Nix is a horrifying creature that lives in almost all lakes on Faroe Islands. Its sole purpose is to lure people to the water and then drown them. This particular statue is to represent the legend of the Nix in Leitisvatn. The legend states that one day some children were playing by the lake when they came upon a beautiful horse. The children went to pet it and jumped up on its back. It then took off towards the middle of the lake with the children unable to break their grip. However, the youngest child who was unable to climb up on the horse, called after his brother. He called “brother Nics!” The Nix, hearing its name, lost its power and the children were able to get away and were saved. This determined that saying the Nix’s name will save all from a watery grave.
Thankfully, my children did not read this story so they didn’t go to bed that night terrified a Nix was going to come get them.
We stayed at the same campsite we were at on our first night since it was just 10 minutes away from the airport. We even ran into our Belgium friend again. We settled the girls down with a movie while the husband and I worked on cleaning out the campervan and making sure it was ready to be handed back over to the rental company.
The following morning, we were greeted with the best sunrise over the Faroe Islands. A good ending to a short, scenic family vacation.