I seemed to be fine as long as I kept moving. Up the steep cliffs, down the boggy paths. Almost every day a new cliff or top to reach. Strong legs, my whole being full of energy. Now that I’m back home though, my legs are aching and back is protesting. Although I have no scientific proof, it might have something to do with the sudden inactivity in a horizontal position on the couch, with glass of wine and box of chocolates. Maybe.
Before I get moving again I thought I’d sit down just long enough to share few memories and images from the hikes in Faroe Islands. That was the main reason we were there after all besides biking, which never happened in the end. We got too wrapped in finding new tops and cliffs to reach by foot that the biking has to wait till the next time.
The great thing about hiking in the Faroes is that you can pretty much walk anywhere and everywhere, just pick your spot and head up or down. There is no threatening wildlife to watch out for, although one ram especially did cause us elevated heart rate and probably few laughs among the locals as us three women, of which one positively round with 6-months of a pregnant belly on her, sprinted across the fields and over the fences on Fugloy, one of the outer northern islands.
“The sheep are just fine, they never attack anyone” we got told afterwards. Yeah right. Although the truth to be told, that ram probably never even came after us. We were too busy trying to get out of there to check.
The not so great thing about hiking in the Faroes is the fog. Which means you might end up in a bog. And hopefully finally out of the fog and the bog again without falling off a cliff. The fog may come unannounced, although often it lingers on top of the mountains or just around the corner, teasing and almost disappearing at times, before gathering its force and enveloping everything in white. The weather, and the fog can also be very different from island to island, or even from one side of an island to another. And all this in a very small place where you can never really drive longer than two hours from point A to B.
“We’ll keep this height and don’t enter the fog if we don’t see exactly where the cairns go”
Famous, almost last words. We did keep the height, and then went even higher. And we entered the fog with no clue where the cairns where.
“It’s just up here and down again on the other side, anyway”
Which it was, kind of. The fog has its way of disturbing sense of direction and all the suddenly, when we got just a moment of clarity, we saw the steep cliffs. In a direction we had not intended to go towards.
So you see. The fog might become an issue. If you are heading this way bring a map, compass, and learn to use them even if you think the route is pretty straightforward. Funnily enough, quite often it wasn’t. We might have had to even google “how to use compass in the fog” after our first foggy encounter.
The absolutely best thing about the outdoors in the Faroes, at least in late August and early September is that there is not many people around in the mountains, if any. Just sheep, ram and more sheep. On some hikes you can follow the cairns, but quite often not. And even if you try to follow the cairns on lesser trodden paths it is possible to unintentionally lose them, meaning that you can pretend to become a true explorer before finding your way again.
It is also very easy to get around with public transport, the network of buses, ferries and helicopters take you to most places, at least once or twice a day, and if you miss your ride, it is very possible that a friendly local takes you home instead. Although English is spoken by pretty much everyone, I never thought my work-in-progress Norwegian would come handy outside the borders of Norway. Hence it felt like we were very much at home, although quite a lot of the time, momentarily displaced, usually in the fog!
Ever thought about hiking in the Faroes yourself? Read on.
Couldn’t be less interested? Adios for now, I’ll come up with something non-hiking related for the next time!
TIPS FOR HIKING IN THE FAROE ISLANDS
- Fog: watch out for it and be prepared. Know where you are going, or where you came from. If you can’t see the next cairn (given that you are actually on a marked path) stay put, cover up and eat chocolate.
- Come prepared: these are small mountains with bit of fight in them. Have extra snacks, warm layers and water-proof gear with you without forgetting compass and a map. It is also useful to learn how to use both of those before starting your journey. Just saying. Possibly from own experience…
- Bring snacks. You will not find a store, kiosk or petrol station at short intervals. To put it into perspective, Faroes is a small place where the 2nd biggest “city” Klaksvík, has only about 5,000 inhabitants. Just imagine what it is like in the even smaller villages out there along or in the end of your hiking route.
- Hiking times: If you read about hiking times in any booklets (for example this one on Visit Faroe Islands site), remember that these times are pretty spot on without any photography/snack brakes unlike in most places I’ve been to. Hence if you are planning to catch a bus back from your destination, allow plenty of time.
- More resources: Visit Faroe Islands have just come out with this brand new guide for walking on the Faroes, take a look!
HIKING IN THE FAROE ISLANDS – THE FAVOURITES
- Mykines. See these photos for yourself. Mykines can be very touristy in the peak season, but if you opt to stay for the night, you might be lucky enough to watch the sunset without crowds.
- From Saksun to Tjørnuvík on Streymoy island. This in a way is “the hike that got away”, i.e. the hike I’d love to do again with more time. How to do it? Get a ride or taxi to Saksun, preferably during low tide so you can follow the small inlet out to the sea. Hike up the mountain, try to follow the cairns and back down again to Tjørnuvík, but allow enough time to sit down and stare at the sea by the beautiful sandy beach. We ran for the bus, hence there was no staring going on what so ever. This image on Instagram though gives you an idea what it was like.
- Suðuroy island. I wrote a whole post about Suðuroy. We saw some fantastic views, found the scariest bridge ever (a lot scarier than Carrick-a-Rede in Ireland), and saw no other people on the hikes. That seems to be the running theme here! And even still, apparently we missed the most amazing views on the west side of Beinisvørð and the western cliffs right by it. Next time.
- Gjógv on Eysturoy island. As tiny a village Gjógv is with less than 50 inhabitants, it can get busy because of the village’s popular Gjáargarður guest house. There is a nice hike just behind the guest house for both those who want to stretch their legs just a little, and for those who want to make it a 4-5 hour adventure.
- From Hattarvik to Kirkja on Fugloy island. This is not for the hike itself which was easy and straight-forward, but the DKK 110 helicopter ride back was priceless. Perfect for a day excursion, take the bus from Klaksvík to Hvannasund, and ferry from there to Hattarvik. From Hattarvik you can hike in leisurely pace over to Kirkja and return with the ferry again or even better, by helicopter (note that the Helicopter has to be pre-booked and it doesn’t fly everyday. See timetables here)
- From Miðvágur to Bøsdalafossur on Vágar island. Easy day trip from Tórshavn, the capital, or from the airport. This hike borders Faroes’ largest lake Leitisvatn and it is super easy, especially if you follow the lake all the way down to the Ocean, and back. This is another one I’d love to go to with good weather and more time, the views you can get of both the lake and ocean are amazing. See this one for example!
Images: Kate Cornfield & Satu Vänskä-Westgarth
Visit Faroe Islands kindly flew myself, Kate and Anne Marit to the Faroes and then back again for our hiking adventure, and armed us with public transportation cards and three nights of accommodation. Rest was for us to discover, which we did, fog or not!