Discover the magic of the Faroe Islands by sailing and hiking around the kingdom of puffins and selkies. This mythical archipelago is the perfect place to become a believer.
The Faroe Islands are one of the most remote and isolated places in the world and a week-long hiking and sailing tour allows travelers to venture off the beaten path into landscapes so otherworldly it’ll feel like you stepped into a fairytale. Mountains look like they have been planted in the ocean. Each plummeting fjord and craggy cliff radiates with adventure. Hiking the Faroe Islands winds through picturesque villages and jaw-dropping natural wonders. Just when you think this expedition couldn’t get more epic, board a historic Nordic sailboat and pass the same lagoons and towering fjords plucked from the ancient stories shared by Faroese locals. One thing’s for certain, this Faroe Islands hiking and sailing tour will leave you breathless.
The distant Faroe Islands, also known as the “Sheep Islands,” are located in the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Scottish coast. They’re only 500 km away from the Arctic Circle and consist of 779 islands, islets and reefs. Despite the hundreds of land masses, only 18 of the islands are considered the “main” ones and 17 of the islands are populated. The archipelago stretches 70 km east to west and about 120 km from north to south. It’s the perfect size for discovering new sights even after several days on the trail.
Pros and Cons of Hiking and Sailing the Faroe Islands
Hiking in the Faroe Islands gives a glimpse into its strong community
The Faroe Islands are known for being the kingdom of the puffins, as well as flying oystercatchers and gannets. There are about 275 different species of birds coexisting in the Faroe Islands. There are also thousands of sheep roaming free. The sheep population is almost twice the number of the inhabitants of the islands. Even though the islands are part of Denmark, the Faroese people have a very strong national identity. The Faroese people govern independently, and have their own language, culture and traditions. What makes hiking in the Faroe Islands so special is the fact you need to connect with the locals to reach the lesser known trails. It is still difficult to find information about certain areas on the islands, even with them getting more hype.
Why I guide hiking in the Faroe Islands
I founded Amarok Adventures, an outdoor adventure guiding service for mountaineering and hiking with my partner Mónica. We are both mountain and glacier guides that belong to the AIMG (Association of Icelandic Mountain Guides); Mónica is also licensed through the Union of International Mountain Leader Associations (UIMLA ). We’ve been guiding clients all over the world for over ten years, including Nepal, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Hiking the hidden trails of Iceland is one of my favorite adventures to guide, but hiking and sailing in the Faroe Islands on a whole other level, and in my opinion, the best way to get to know these islands. All the culture, history and traditions are connected to the island’s nature. No matter where you are in the archipelago, you can feel the force of the sea and smell the sea salt and grasses. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been.
After our first trip to the Faroe Islands a few years ago, Monica and I wanted to design a trip to the archipelago by connecting our hiking ethos with the ocean the Faroese culture is built around. We got in touch with Faroese local Frank Djurhuus Jakobsen, who runs the operations of the sailboat Norðlýsið sailboat with a team of experienced skippers. Frank and his sailboat were key in making this adventure possible. We joined forces and created an eight-day hiking and sailing expedition to bring travelers to discover the furthest reaches of this wild place.
The Nordic Light created a new industry in the Faroe Islands
Visitors can explore the furthest reaches of this volcanic archipelago thanks to a historic sailboat that acts as transportation and temporary homebase. Norðlýsið, also called the Nordic Light, is a vessel built for the Faroese fishing industry. The boat was delivered to its owners in May 1945, the day World War II ended. With that historic day as its birthday, Norðlýsið has to be a lucky ship. During its 39 years as a fishing vessel, the ship used this luck to benefit the island. The skipper of the sailboat felt compelled to take action one year when bait was scarce resulting in poor catch for this vital industry. He gathered some nets and went out fishing for herring to use bait. The skipper found out the population of herring was immense. This changed the whole industry and became the new basis of the Faroese economy. Herring became crucial for the Faroese people in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Norðlýsið gains a new life thanks to Faroese artist Tróndur Pætursson
After being a crucial part of the fishing industry, Norðlýsið fell out of use. The Faroese artist Tróndur Pætursson fell in love with Norðlýsið and asked the owner to sell him the ship. He had a vision to rebuild it, making it not only aesthetically pleasing with new sails but easier to handle with a smaller crew. The owner, however, wouldn’t part with the Norðlýsið. After the owner’s passing, the son delivered an envelope to Pætursson explaining all the artist had to pay for was the ship’s harbor fees. Seven years of hard work later, the restored ship became reality. It’s now been used for tourism since the ‘90s, and is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Sailing aboard Norðlýsið is a real pleasure. It takes a hearty ship to navigate the demanding seas of the Faroe Islands. Norðlýsið was brought onto dry land in 2020 for maintenance work and upgrades to make this trip even more comfortable. This is an old ship with a soul that needs to be respected. The improvements are felt, not seen.
Gestablidni means a culture of hospitality on the Faroe Islands
The Faroese hospitality is called gestablidni and it can be translated into guest kindness. The locals aren’t big on clean-cut uniforms and frosted drinks. But, Faroese people make sure guests are comfortable and happy. Locals are also fond of storytelling and are quite skilled at it, adjusting tales based on the character and preference of the listener. Sharing tales about the mystical islands is a part of the culture and a beloved tradition. Some jokingly tend to safeguard their stories by emphasizing they heard it from someone else to avoid liability if it isn’t true. Even the island’s national dance is accompanied by a complex story about vikings. There’s always plenty of time for storytelling on evenings spent aboard the sailboat.
Tips for the Best Hiking in the Faroe Islands
Arrive in Vágar and hike to the stunning cliff lake, Sørvágsvatn
Unless you arrive by ferry, your first stop on the Faroe Islands hiking tour will be the Island of Vágar, where the airport is located. The first day is about getting acclimated before hiking in the Faroe Islands. After a night in Sandavágur, the first day on the trail involves hiking around the famous “hanging lake.” The view of this lake on the edge of a cliff creates an optical illusion that the island’s largest body of water is hovering directly over the Atlantic ocean. It’s unreal to see it in person. From there, the hiking path is easy up to Trælanípa cliff. The goal is to start at a comfortable pace.
Day Two: Hike to the village of Gásadalur for the Múlafossur waterfall
On the second part of day two, the Faroe Islands hiking tour stop will be the village of Gásadalur, one of the most picturesque villages on the island. The houses around the church in the center of town are bright and colorful. Other houses further from town center have moss-covered roofs blending the structures with the surrounding nature. The village of Bøur is a trailhead to the historic postman trail, traveling along the west coast of the island of Vágar. Epic views are along the trail leading to one of the most isolated villages and best-known spots on the Faroe Islands. Before 2004, the people would hike over the mountain to reach the outside world. The postman also hiked the mountain trail three times per week! The hiking trail takes 2.5 hours to reach the stunning Múlafossur waterfallI. The water flows straight from the mountain, across town, and falls directly into the sea off the cliffside. If you arrive later in the evening, you’ll be joined by almost no other tourists.
From there, you should hike to a restaurant in Gásadalur, the Gásadalsgarður cafe and guesthouse. During autumn, the space is used for sheep. For the rest of the year, it turns into a restaurant with a fairytale-like atmosphere. I’ll say it again: Everything about the Faroe Islands is magical.
Day Three: Ferry ride to Mykines Island for puffins and Knúkur peak
Today, your Faroe Islands hiking tour heads to Mykines Island, west of Vágar. It’s an early start to board a ferry. Depending on the conditions, it’s about a 45-minute trip to the 10 km long and three km wide island. It’s a true treasure of the Faroe Islands. In the winter season, ferry rides stop while everything is icy and the sea is unpredictable. Come summer, Mykines turns into a paradise island with sprawling green meadows. The island is home to the iconic puffins on the rolling hills. Once there, you’ll be joined by Oda from GoLocal. If you’re planning on going to the Faroe Islands on your own, I strongly recommend you get in touch with her. Not only does she run an amazing company, but she has also recently been awarded by Lonely Planet for offering tours in a top sustainable tourism destination.
From there, I take guests to hike up to Knúkur, all while avoiding the most common Faroe Island hiking trails for tourists, and finding some of the best views of the entire trip as a result. The trail is a round-trip hike that takes about four to five hours to complete, depending on the rhythm of the group. In the evening, you’ll take the ferry back and prepare for the next day.
Day Four: Start sailing with the first stop at Streymoy Island
The big moment has finally arrived, on the fourth day of your expedition, we finally get to board the Norðlýsið, our home, and transportation for this Faroe Islands hiking tour. We’ll dock into a small bay called Saksun, an old viking village located on Streymoy Island. The start of your hike is the bay itself and the trail follows the gorgeous turquoise lagoon. The distant farmhouses you’ll see on your hike is a village of only 14 people. The first time I met one of the farmers it was a freezing February night and the snow was everywhere. Having come from Iceland, I thought the Faroe Islands have nothing on the kind of snow we have back home. I was completely mistaken. The farmer saw us struggling and helped us move the snow from the road. He told us it’s actually his job to pull out tourists’ cars from the snow. Judging by the way we underestimated the conditions, his profession is a profitable decision.
Hiking the Faroes Islands requires a visit to Tjørnuvík beach
Leaving the Saksun village behind, you’ll start the hike to Tjørnuvík and along a small path across the rolling mountains. Along the trail is a small detour that will reward you with one of the most impressive and least-known views in the entire archipelago: Mýlingur. It’s a breathtaking cliff piercing the sky, a striking contrast with the island’s bright green grass. Our group will descend the mountain through a valley, passing one of the last shepherd huts on the islands. We’ll head to Tjørnuvík, one of the most beautiful surfing beaches you’ll ever see. Tjørnuvík has become more popular through the years. We’ll then be picked up by a RIB boat to reach the sailboat for a night in Eiði’s harbour.
Day Five: Challenging Faroe Islands hiking trail up Slættaratindur peak
The next day, you’ll awake in the coastal town Eiði and start hiking to what is known as the Faroese Alps. The main goal for today is reaching the top of Slættaratindur, which stands at 882 meters as the highest peak on the island. During the winter, the mountain is snow capped. In summer, it’s a beautiful and challenging hike only attempted by a few. On a really clear day, it’s the perfect viewpoint for admiring the Vatnajökull glacier in the distance. Once at the top, people will often ask me if this was it for the day, thinking it couldn’t get better and hoping they’ll be able to lounge around on the deck. One more amazing destination is waiting to be explored: the scenic village of Gjógv. This centuries-old village is connected to the peak by an unknown path. I could never pick a favorite village, but there is something about the colorful old timber houses, turf-roofed cottages and a natural harbor nestled in a seafield gorge. This place really is completely special. We return to the ship to sail to Fuglafjørður fjord. It’s a lovely evening with a Faroese meal aboard the vessel and watching the sunset.
Day Six: Kalsoy Island is a lush photographer-friendly destination
In my opinion, the island of Kalsoy is one of the most mystical islands of the entire Faroe Islands hiking expedition. I say mystical because the atmosphere makes it easy to believe the legends are more than just tall-tales. The second I saw its muted mustard-colored valleys, I knew this place was special. The feeling is indescribable — one of those places you just have to see and experience yourself. In comparison to the other Faroe islands, Kalsoy is special because there are almost no flat surfaces on the narrow land mass. On top of that, everything is exposed to the elements. Despite nature pummeling the isle from every angle, people managed to find fertile soil and create four villages. Don’t skip this scenic island as a hiker and photographer when planning this expedition.
If the weather allows it, you’ll disembark in the village of Mikladalur. To celebrate its rich folklore, the people erected a statue of Kópakonan, a mythical selkie believed to be able to change from a seal to a person. The woman looks as if she stepped out of the sea mere moments ago, carrying a seal skin that she sheds once she reaches dry land. Bidding the selkie farewell, you’ll hike up the Khalsa mountain toward the small town of Trøllanes, with troll legends.
Hike to the Kallur Lighthouse for the best views in the Faroes Islands
The Kallur Lighthouse trek is one of the most famous hikes on not only Kalsoy but the entire archipelago. It’s less than an hour away from town, the path is steep but offers probably the best views of all the islands. Weather conditions are tricky and can change fast, so make sure you’re only hiking to the lighthouse accompanied by an experienced guide. After this spectacular hike, the tour hikes back to the sailboat. Depending on the weather, we might sail to a village on the opposite side of the fjord called Klaksvik. You’ll spend the night chatting and unwinding with your fellow shipmates.
Day Seven: Fish for lunch and spend the day in capital city of Tórshavn
On the last day hiking in the Faroe Islands, we sail south towards the island of Nólsoy. If the weather agrees, we stop to fish along the way and catch a fresh lunch. The plan is to hike the mainland before heading back to Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn is known worldwide for having the least amount of sunshine but still being gorgeous. In the capital city, we say in a hotel for that night located near the harbor and Tinganes peninsula, the historical core of Tórshavn. After a free afternoon to explore the city and soak in the Nordic way of life, we regroup for our last dinner. It’s a bittersweet night to reminisce about the trip and say goodbye to the crew.
On day eight, you’ll board a bus from Tórshavn that will take you to the airport and fly home.
Insider Info for Planning Your Faroe Islands Trip
Dubbed the ‘Land of Maybe’ by the sailors of Nordic Light, due to its precarious combination of currents, waves and wind, the Faroe Islands require some planning. Here is what you need to keep in mind when preparing for your epic hiking and sailing adventure, from the right gear to booking your flight.
The Norðlýsið isn’t a cruise ship but a dramatic seaworthy vessel
Sailing the Faroe Islands is a completely different experience from a modern cruise ship. It’s not a luxury tour, but it’s an incredible one at that. The sailboat feels like a cozy mountain cottage that’s used to sail the restless seas of the Faroe Islands. Since you’ll be sharing the facilities for three nights and four days, this sailing and hiking tour in the Faroe Islands feels like a big family trip. We eat together, discuss everything from the weather conditions, plans for the next day, and what to wear. Of course, we always stop to listen to a couple of Frank’s signature tales. The boat is licensed for up to 50 passengers, so it’s quite roomy. The number of participants on the Faroe Islands hiking tour is limited to 12. All of the beds are in one communal room, but the bunks have curtains to ensure privacy. There is even air conditioning on the boat, making it comfortable to sleep in.
What is the best time of year to visit the Faroe Islands?
The best time of year to visit the Faroe Islands is in June. During the summer the weather can be pleasant. Temperatures are usually in the 15℃ range (60℉), but weather can be prone to change quickly. It’s one of those places where you can experience all four seasons in a week. This requires preparation by packing layers and gear to keep you dry. Rest assured, the weather won’t put a damper on your plans. There is always a Plan B. There’s never a shortage of amazing places to wow you in the Faroe Islands.
How to get to the Faroe Islands
You can get to the Faroe Islands by plane or taking a ferry. Keep in mind, getting to the Faroe Islands by ferry is a very long trip. I always arrive by plane. The Vágar airport is located about 50 km from the capital. The easiest way would be hopping on one of the multiple daily flights from Copenhagen, Denmark. Since the Faroe Islands aren’t a major tourist destination (just yet), there aren’t many options for direct flights to the Faroe Islands. A small price for traveling to a magical, pristine destination.
Do I need to be an experienced hiker to come on this trip?
You don’t need to be an experienced hiker to go on this Faroe Islands hiking and sailing tour. As long as you live an active life, enjoy hiking, and are comfortable with heights, you’re going to do well. Being so high up can worsen your vertigo, so you need to determine what your comfort levels are. You’ll also have an expert guide on your side. Safety is the number one priority. The longest day of hiking consists of a 20-kilometer hike. Normal distances range from 12 to 25 km per day, depending on the trail and weather conditions.
What gear do you need for the Faroe Islands hiking and sailing tour?
No technical mountain gear is needed to go hiking in the Faroe Islands. One mistake many people make before hiking on the Faroe Islands is buying brand new boots. You need to break them in with multiple miles before hiking for multiple days on the islands. Hike on a nearby mountain or even in your backyard, but make sure you break your shoes in to see where there are hot spots (aka where you could get blisters). As soon as you feel consistent rubbing from your shoe, stop and apply a moleskin or strong adhesive bandage. As with any other outdoor adventure, layers are key. You need warm layers even during the summer months. Trust me on this. I do recommend you bring your own first-aid kit, even though the guides always carry a first aid kit and are trained to use it. Apart from that, pack a sturdy sleeping bag, hiking poles, a water bottle, mountain boots, and a camera.
Employ the principles of minimalism when packing. Your main luggage is going to wait for you on the sailboat, but you need to be mindful and only carry the essentials with you. Maybe just leave the book at home and just enjoy the unbelievable landscapes surrounding you.
What if you’re traveling solo?
Solo travelers are more than welcome to join this adventure on their own. By the time the trip ends, you’ll have made friends on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. A complete group of strangers can come together and create strong ties on a tour like this.
If you want to hear more about Alberto’s exciting stories from hiking and sailing in the Faroe Islands, and hear from Frank who runs the Nordic Light sailboat, watch their 57hours Adventure Talk: