With a distance of over 300km to the nearest landmass and a number of inhabitants that is significantly surpassed by its population of sheep, visiting the amazing Faroe Islands in the Northern Atlantic truly feels like being at the edge of the earth.
While a lot of people visit the islands during a short stop-over on their way to Iceland, Stefanie and I decided to explore them more thoroughly and spent almost three weeks here on a backpacking budget, falling in love with the amazing landscapes, interesting wildlife and quaint hamlets of the Faroes (You can check out my itinerary for the Islands here).
The islands are just being discovered by travelers, and in my opinion, now is the ideal time to visit, before hoards of tourists descend upon them in the future. Read on for everything you need to know about visiting the Faroe Islands on a Budget.
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Are the Faroe Islands a Sovereign Country?
While they’re officially part of the Kingdom of Denmark, the islands are self-governing and have their own distinct culture, language and traditions, which the inhabitants are vocal to tell you about (so don’t even think of calling them Danes;-).
Moreover, the landscape couldn’t be more different from Denmark. While the highest point in in mainland Denmark lies at a mere 170m, the Faroe Islands are marked by mountainous terrain that rises dramatically out of the ocean, forming countless Fjords and seaside cliffs teeming with birdlife, making it a very different place indeed.
What to Expect
The main reason, we wanted to come here are the dramatic landscapes, which you can explore on some truly amazing hikes, but they’re certainly not the only thing the Faroe Islands have going for them. For one, we were also completely overwhelmed by the amount of seabirds, including huge colonies of cute puffins.
Then of course there are the picturesque villages full of pretty grass-decked houses, as well as the fairytale-like red wooden buildings of Tinganes – Tórshavns tiny government quarter. As an archaeologist, I was also enamoured with the many ruins we stumbled across – from Viking Houses to entire 19th-century villages.
Finally, if you want to delve into the cultural history of the islands, I highly recommend timing your visit with the annual St. Olaf’s Day Festivities on July 29th, when everyone dons some traditional attire and gathers in the capital for some partying. It was certainly one of the most interesting festivals we’ve ever attended.
Exploring the Faroe Islands on a Budget
Let’s face it: The Islands are not your typical backpacker destination and you won’t find any dirt-cheep hostels and eateries around. Still, that doesn’t mean that with a little planning you won’t be able to cut your costs significantly. Here are some tips on how to have a great budget trip to the Faroes.
How to Get to the Faroe Islands on a Budget
As you might have expected, the islands can either be reached by plane or boat. The former option is certainly quicker and easier. Direct flights to the island of Vágar are possible from several airports in Northern and Western Europe, while visitors from other parts of the globe would have to connect in between flights.
However, the cheaper and more atmospheric way of reaching the islands, is by ferry, which leaves twice a week from the northern Danish city of Hirtshals and takes about 30 hours to arrive in Tórshavn.
This is the option we chose, and reaching the islands that way certainly gave us a much better sense of their remoteness. You can also continue your journey onward to Iceland using the same line, exploring the Faroes for a few days on the way.
The prices pretty much depend on when you’re going and what kind of cabin you choose. If you’re on a super tight budget, there’s are some four-bed dormitories available on the boat. If you opt for these, the price of your (one-way) journey might even stay below 100$, depending on your travel dates.
Budget Accommodation on the Faroe Islands
The Islands are not teeming with budget accommodation, and sometimes the situation is complicated by the fact that there’s often only one option per village (keep in mind that most of the villages are tiny). That said, we managed to find a few budget options.
The only real Youth Hostel we found was the cool little Giljanes Hostel in Miðvágur on Vágar Island, which has dormitories and cheapish privates. In Tórshavn, we stayed at the student dormitories of the university, which are rented out to tourists during the summer break (62N Guesthouse Marknagil). It’s a bit out of the centre, but the free Red City Bus passes right in front of the dormitories and the views of the bay are fantastic.
The tourist information offices of the islands, can also help you find accommodation in local homes. Apart from saving some money, these are a great way of getting in touch with the locals. We used this option in Sandoy and on the Northern Islands. To do so, either visit the helpful tourist offices in Tórshavn, Kláksvik or Skopun or use this super helpful website.
Finally, a lot of villages on the islands also have camping grounds, so if you don’t mind pitching a tent, this could be a great budget option and one that certainly brings you in closer contact with nature, although you have to take the changeable weather of the islands in account – we were always happy to be able to return to a warm and dry room after our explorations.
Cheap Transportation on the Faroe Islands
The islands have a good public transportation network, consisting of buses, ferries and helicopters, and there are only a few main sights that you can’t reach by public transport. Saksun Village is probably the most famous sight on the Faroes without a bus connection.
The entire public transportation network is affordable and reliable, but of course it requires a certain degree of pre-planning, as there are usually just a few connections per day (fewer on the weekend, as a rule). We found buses especially useful for through hikes – like the great hike from Hvalvík to Vestmanna on Streymoy. You can check connections and timetables on this site.
Tórshavn and Kláksvik have a free network of buses, called Bussleiðin. The distinctive red buses ply several routes through the centre and outskirts of the respective towns. They’re especially useful if you’re staying a little outside of Tórshavn’s centre, like at the university dormitories.
Helicopter rides are subsidized by the government and thus surprisingly cheap, plus they are a great way to experience the landscape from a different angle. As great as the views are, you have to keep in mind that these flights are mainly for transport purposes and locals depend on them to get around the country.
To avoid the flights being misused as sightseeing trips by tourists, you’re allowed only one one-way flight per day. If you do snatch a seat on one of the helicopters, a great way is to go to an island via boat and return via helicopter (or vice-versa), which is exactly what we did when visiting Fugloy. Check out the current connections and prices here.
If you do decide to rent a car, I’d advise that instead of using one of the big international rental car companies (which charge up to 150$ a day), you approach one of the cheap accommodations on the islands. My suggestion would be Giljanes Hostel near Miðvágur, which rents cars for about 40$ a day. They’re a little older, but more than enough to get you from A to B.
To avoid costs of renting even a cheap car for the entire time on the islands, we used public transportation for the majority of our trip and rented the car only for our last four days to visit all the destinations we couldn’t reach otherwise, which was the ideal way to do it, in our opinion.
Affordable Food on the Faroe Islands
Eating out frequently can quickly cut into your budget, but there are actually plenty of affordable cafés and fast-food joints around. Of the latter, one of our favourites was a great Fish’n’Chips place behind the Tórshavn’s town hall. Pub food would be another option for tight budgets: Here we especially enjoyed Roykstovan Pub in Klaksvík, which serves up fantastic hamburgers.
Traditional Faroese Food is a little more expensive – here Cafés are your best option to still get something affordable, like the famous fish soup in Vestmanna’s Fjørukrógvin Café. If you book accommodation with a local family, you might also be able to get a delicious local meal.
Finally, branches of the Bónus Supermarket-chain can be found in most bigger towns, as can be smaller grocery-stores in most villages. Thus, self-catering is always an option if you’re staying at a place where you can cook.
Cheap and Free Sights on the Faroe Islands
The good news is that the islands offer plenty of free sights. Most hiking trails and impressive natural and man-made sights are completely free of charge. This includes Múlafossur waterfall on Vágar and Fossa waterfall on Streymoy, Kallur lighthouse on Kalsoy, Saksun village, the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkjubøur as well as Tórshavns government quarter Tinganes.
Other sites have unfortunately started to charge sometimes quite steep entrance fees recently. These now include the hikes along Lake Sørvágsvatn on Vágar and to the top of Villingdalsfjall mountain on Viðoy (currently both 200 DKK). Still, you can find plenty of free hikes with amazing views of the surrounding nature, including the climb to the Islands highest peak – Slættaratindur.
Others charge much more reasonable prices like the amazing hike to Ambadalur in Gjógv (currently 50 DKK). Apart from that, you don’t have to pay for exploring the beautiful alleyways of the small enchanting villages all over the islands.
Daily Backpacking Budget for the Faroe Islands
As a couple doing backpacking, we spent an average of 400 DKK (about 50€ or 55$) per day per person during our time on the islands. While it’s possible to spend less by only camping or staying in hostel dormitories and only doing self-catering, I think this is the ideal amount to make the most of your time on the Faroes on a small budget.
General Travel Advice for the Faroe Islands
The Best Travel Time for the Faroe Islands
The weather on the islands is rather cool and wet year round topping at temperatures of 10 to 15° Celsius in July and August (when we were there), although, if the sun shows itself, it certainly can get warm enough to walk around in your T-Shirt.
June to August is probably the best time to visit weather-wise, with less rainy days and more sunshine hours on average than the rest of the year. It also means that you will have plenty of hours of daylight to go hiking and exploring, as the islands are so far up north, that the sun only sets for about 4 hours on the longest day (June 21st).
How Long to Stay on the Faroe Islands
A lot of people seem to only do a short stopover of about three days on their way to Iceland, but while this may give you a glimpse of what the Islands have to offer, you certainly can’t do more than scratch the surface in that time.
If you really want to experience this fantastic place, I recommend that you spend at least 5 to 7 days here, even better 10 days to two weeks, which would give you the opportunity to explore a few of the islands and really get a feel of the nature and the people.
As a point of comparison: We spent almost three weeks there and still were only able to explore 11 of the 18 islands. Stay tuned for my Faroe Islands Itinerary for more in-depth info.
Some Quick Facts About the Faroe Islands
- Capital: Tórshavn
- Official Language: Faroese and Danish (English is widely spoken)
- Population: approx. 50,000
- Size: approx. 1,400 km2 (540 square miles)
- Currency: Faroese Krone (local issue of Danish Krone – they are exchangeable)
- Electrical Sockets: Type F and K