I know I’ve gone on and on about this place, and this will be the last post, but we had a fabulous time in the Faroe Islands, and can wholeheartedly recommend them as a destination.
Yes, even in Winter.
A number of people questioned my sanity about the whole idea, and I must admit I was a little concerned myself, but it was a total success and our favourite destination so far.
Of course, in Winter you do have to plan carefully as lots of things shut down off season or operate reduced hours, and yes, the weather was unpredictable around a constant of around 0-2 degrees C.
The photos would of course have sparkled more in sunshine, and we could have got out into the beauty more rather than enjoying it from the car and in short bursts of hiking between rain and snow storms. We could also have seen the puffins who come in their thousands to lay eggs in summer.
But the fact that we were there off season held a number of advantages. First off, its an expensive destination, but we got accommodation pretty cheap right in the centre of Torshavn. Secondly, people were not at all jaded, just a little mystified that we were visiting. Everywhere we went, we were the only tourists (we came across one other travelling family, and one brit who was visiting a friend the whole time we were there) which meant we got to observe such a fascinating country and people just going about their business, not pandering to tourists. Both Torshavn and Klaksvik get the occasional summer cruise ship visiting and I simply can’t imagine such small places being descended upon by the cruise ship hordes.
On our penultimate day we decided to go up into the central mountains of the island we were staying on. Lauren was keen to get up close with some real snow, and I felt confident enough of the decent roads to venture to higher altitudes.
We climbed up out of Torshavn on a winding mountain road that (in the era pre-sub sea tunnels) used to be the only road out of town. Now, it’s a ‘buttercup route’, meaning scenic, but that is of course assuming one can see through the fog, snow and hail….
The weather cleared up once we reached the high plateau but was pretty icy underfoot. It was about 30km before we saw another vehicle, which raced past while I was braving the cold to take a picture. They were going about three times the speed I’d been going, clearly not as scared of the winter conditions as me.
Eventually we descended down into a valley on the other side, and decided to make a 40-minute detour to the nearest place with coffee marked on the map – Vestmanna. A tourist hotspot in season, as this is where the boats go to see the puffins nesting on nearby Mykines island, Vestmanna has a number of cafes and even a couple of restaurants.
We ended up getting a coffee and a hot chocolate from the only thing open, the service station, and having a chat with the young girl serving (she looked about 15). She seemed perfectly happy living and working in Vestmanna and seemed to have no desire to leave or do anything different. Sometimes the Faroes can feel a bit like a cult – everyone dresses and speaks the same (Lauren says all the women have the exact same haircut) and seem (to us outsiders) eerily happy with their lot. Or, you know, maybe they are just actually happy 😊.
After Vestmanna we headed to Saksun, along another ‘Buttercup route’. The was a narrow (single track) road that heads out to an almost perfectly enclosed bay, beautiful but as we arrived there was a hailstorm so we took a couple of pics and rushed back to the car for another picnic lunch. After that, given the hours of daylight, it was pretty much time to head back to Torshavn, and hand the car back.
On our last day in Torshavn we decided against any big trips (I’d mooted the idea of the ferry to Nolsoy, the island directly in front of Torshavn) and instead to have a lazy day. This turned out to be a good call, as the weather was fantastic – sunny most of the day – and we walked out to the end of the rocky promontory that sticks out into the bay, enjoying the sun. Lauren the spent over an hour messing about with the rock pools that had frozen over, having such a good time she even begged not to leave at lunchtime. Of course, this being Torshavn, this meant that by the time her fingers went completely numb and I convinced her to leave, the one cafe open on the front had run out of all soups and sandwiches, and we had to have cake for lunch. 15 euros for 2 small slices of cake and a coffee. Ouch.
Next day, it was departure day, and we were genuinely sad to pack up and leave. Luckily, the good weather continued, and the sailing from the Faroes to Iceland was smooth.
So now starts another adventure – Iceland in Winter. Hoping for snow and northern lights.