Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

Photo: Copyright (c) 2004 Erik Christensen
Photo: Copyright (c) 2004 Erik Christensen

You’re a sucker for remote, green places. You’ve backpacked through the South Island of New Zealand, hiked in Patagonia, sailed along the Alaskan coastline, and driven Iceland’s Ring Road. Throughout your travels, you’ve encountered more birds–and sometimes sheep–than people. But you have great stories to tell about the locals who helped you along the way. So as more and more travelers “discover” your favorite escapes, the question becomes: where next? A place that few people could point out on a world map is a good bet.

Though located in Europe, the Faroe Islands are one of those places. The 18-island archipelago is halfway between Iceland and Norway. Only a few flights arrive each day. Ferries and cruise ships are the only other options. Though 20 hours on a ferry would deter even the most adventurous spirit.

However, those who make the journey will be rewarded. The islands may be loosely governed by the Danish, but with green valleys, hillside streams, and deep fjords, they look a lot like Iceland. Driving from Vágar Airport to the capital, Tórshavn, there are few trees and lots of sheep. It’s bright green everywhere thanks to the Gulf Stream, which gives the Faroe Islands chilly summers, but mild winters. Plus lots of cloud coverage.

Photo: Hotel Føroyar
Photo: Hotel Føroyar

Tórshavn is one of the smallest capitals in the world. It was founded by the Vikings and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning. Tinganes, the old section of town, is still filled with 500-year-old wooden houses that have turf roofs. You’ll quickly get lost while exploring the narrow pathways. Tórshavn Cathedral’s white clock tower should help guide you in the right direction though. Walk over to Skansin. The fort was built to protect the harbor from pirates, and later used as a British military base during World War II. And then head up to Listasavn Føroya, the Faroese art museum. It’s located near Vidalundin, a park filled with sculptures and trees.

Also on the hill, you’ll find Hotel Føroyar. The turf-roofed building was carved into the rocks and the hillside. A gardener may be mowing the roof when you arrive. Grab a Rinkusteinur–lava stones were added to the amber ale during brewing–and enjoy the view. The hotel overlooks all of Tórshavn, with Nólsoy island and the North Atlantic Ocean in the distance. If you’re lucky, the clouds will break. At least for a few minutes.

The evenings arrive early this far north. Start with dinner at KOKS, a restaurant located right at Hotel Føroyar. The tasting menu lets you try the best food of the Faroe Islands. Dried fish and fish skin arrive on a bleached cod skeleton. Skate, langoustine, and lamb might follow. And then head back into town for another beer. Café Natúr and Cleopatra–both near the waterfront–usually have live music until the early hours of the morning.

Enjoy your night out in Tórshavn, because once you leave the city to start exploring the outer islands, guillemots and puffins will replace people, and nightlife will be practically unheard of. But then again, that’s why you came.

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