The hidden guide to the Faroe Islands
Words and photographs
Steep cliffs, lush green fields and tiny clusters of colourful square houses emerge from drifting fog. Streams rush down rocky paths carved on hillsides as you hear the sounds of sheep emerging through the mists – welcome to one of the most secluded places on earth.
The Faroe Islands shoot up from the North Atlantic – an isolated group of 18 individual islands that are home to a small Nordic population and their estimated 70,000 sheep. Described as one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, this is a place of fresh air, wilderness… and of course making. The Faroese way of life is still very much anchored in the traditional, where using your hands to make everyday things – whether it is farming, knitting, woodworking, or food – is prominent everywhere.
In the Faroes you are always at the mercy of the all-pervading nature that has prompted the nickname ‘land of maybe’ (since your plans always have an invisible ‘weather permitting’ asterisk against them). The Faroese people are resilient and their culture of sharing is one that will make any visitor feel instantly welcome.
Though you are always outside of the mainstream in the Faroes, here are Hole & Corner’s favourite spots, with a little help from the locals we met along the way…
For the perfect tiny capital experience
Torshavn, Thor’s harbour, is the Faroese capital and the largest city on the islands – and also happens to be one of the smallest capitals in the world. It is full of Nordic charm, with small winding streets and grass-roofed houses. The famous sheep roam on tiny fields scattered among the buildings only minutes from the centre, while the sea, with its salty wind, is never far away. Torshavn has some great little shops and the harbour hosts a row of nice cafés as well as a couple of traditional restaurants.
On the hunt for Faroese vinyl
The music industry in the Faroes is huge compared to its small population and there are many music festivals organised over the summer months. The best place to discover Faroese artists, both traditional and modern, is the TUTL record shop in the centre of Torshavn. The record label behind the store – whose name derives from the Faroese word for murmur – has been producing local artists since 1977 and the shop offers both free coffee and concerts. For a taste of Faroese sounds, listen to their playlists on Spotify.
Traditional making with a modern twist
Wool is a quintessential material here, and you can find shops selling both yarn and traditional knitwear in most villages around the islands. Everything is usually knit by local women who send their creations to be sold in these communal shops. Gudrun & Gudrun is a local knitwear brand that has taken this tradition and given it a modern twist. Most of their garments are hand knit traditionally in Faroese homes, but some are also knit abroad as a part of programmes aimed at empowering women through craft. Their functional and delicate designs are inspired both by Faroese isolation and European fashions.
Cosy café with the best carrot cake
On the southern island of Suduroy, the ferry arrives at a town called Tvøroyri. There are many places to discover on the island, such as the walk up to Akraberg, which is the southernmost point of the Faroes, but a slice of delicious carrot cake at café MorMor is our top recommendation. Set in the house of a local woman who has come to be known by everyone as mormor (Danish for grandmother), the café serves a selection of homemade cakes and light dishes.
The best combination of lakeside and seaside walk
If you have ever wanted to combine the tranquillity of looking over a lake, gazing over the seemingly endless North Atlantic and admiring a waterfall rushing down a cliff, then we recommend the walk up to Bøsdalafossur on the island of Vagar. The walk is not as steep as many others around the islands and it follows the lakeside all the way to the point where the waters stream into a river which then rushes down over the crashing waves of the ocean. If you’re not afraid of getting your feet wet, climb over the river and up the other side for a magnificent view over cliffs and ocean.
A place to stay, away from it all
There are cosy guesthouses and B&Bs – and of course the ubiquitous Airbnb – across the Faroes, but if you have the opportunity you should definitely look to stay on the Island of Stóra Dímun. Inhabited only by nine people – two families who are eighth generation sheep farmers – it is an amazing opportunity to be immersed in traditional Faroese lifestyle and enjoy being truly disconnected from the world. The family has a beautiful cabin that they rent out during the summer, as it also functions as a schoolhouse for the children on the island.
A historic village with a modern star
Kirkjubøur and KOKS
The old village of Kirkjubøur is just a short bus ride from Torshavn and is home to some beautiful old buildings as well as the new pride of the Faroes – a Michelin-starred restaurant called KOKS, which serves food made from traditional Faroese ingredients, such as fish, seaweeds, ræst lamb and local roots – and sources inspiration from the new wave of modern Nordic cuisine.