Spending Easter in the North Atlantic.
A few years ago I spent the Easter holidays in and around southern Finland. It was a quiet time. Even in central Helsinki, the city effectively shut down on the Easter holidays and only tourists were hanging around. The Faroes took this quiet Easter period to a new level.
It was ‘off season’ when I travelled to the North Atlantic in 2017. Vágar airport is a direct flight from Edinburgh and it takes just over an hour, making it a tempting trip. And if you’re looking to escape into the middle of nowhere then the Faroes Islands is a highly recommended place to consider. At Easter time, however, the islands effectively shut down.
Bus services stopped. Restaurants and cafes were closed. In the capital, Tórshavn, a couple of bars remained open – generally filled with the few tourists around at the time – and when venturing outside of the town, I walked for miles without seeing anyone. Bliss.
While Tórshavn is a convenient place to be based for access to places to eat and drink in the evenings, it’s not where time in the Faroes is best spent. The islands are incredibly scenic, with a rugged coast continually battered by the Atlantic, and with some stunning surprises at almost every turn.
The flight approach to Vágar set the scene nicely, flying low over Sørvágsvatn to reach the airport with a great view of the coast from either side of the plane. The route from Vágar to Tórshavn shows off some lovely parts of the country, passing mountains, tiny villages.
The Faroes felt familiar, yet different. The barren landscape is like parts of Iceland or the Highlands of Scotland; free of trees or any vegetation, looking so windswept and empty as to appear almost alien. And at times truly, truly stunning. There is something about watching the elements relentlessly battering the coastline which is mesmerising and many parts of the Faroes allow you to do exactly that, with few or no distractions at all.
In the few days I had I only spent time on Vágar and Streymoy. Other islands, including Eysturoy and the smaller islands to the east, have some breathtaking areas. It’s a country where picking a single highlight will be extremely difficult.
The popular spots – Sørvágsvatn for the floating lake – and Gásadalur, are both located on Vágar and could be visited together within a few hours. The best viewpoint for Sørvágsvatn is a walk of around 30 minutes (or an hour if, like me, you end up walking through mud) from the little town of Miðvágur.
Gásadalur – a wonderfully secluded village with high mountains on three sides and the Atlantic on the fourth – has the famous waterfall. The viewpoint means your photo of the waterfall will look like every other photo out there but it is still absolutely a must see. In particularly bad weather, there’s the bizarre sight of the waterfall flowing upwards as the strong winds can blow the water around before it has a chance to fall to the sea.
The Faroes Islands is the first place I’ve visited where I thought having a car would have made things easier. In saying that, I like walking and while I didn’t see everything I would have liked to, purely down to distance, I saw a lot of other things from endlessly wandering. In particular, the coast line on the walk from Sandavágur is incredible. I only saw it because the one bus to take me back to the capital was still several hours away and I walked, and walked, and walked.
If I had stayed longer, hiring a bike would have made sense. I covered around 30-35 miles a day while I was there (and my feet suffered from it!) – but given how remote the Faroes are, it’s best to have some mode of transport to get to certain parts. The ideal, if I was visited again and for a longer trip, would be to take a tent, make your own way around and enjoy the silence and scenery.
As a trip to get away from it all, I cannot recommend the Faroe Islands highly enough. It’s some of the most stunning scenery you may ever see, it’s an easily accessible country, and one that will be full of surprises. Time it right and you might even see the Northern Lights.