Checklist: The Faroe Islands

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Checklist: The Faroe Islands

They may just be 18 little specks in the North Atlantic Ocean, suspended midway between Iceland and Scotland, but the tiny Faroe Islands are fast gaining long overdue recognition as the new Nordic hot spot, as much for their music and cuisine as their breathtaking scenery. As Iceland, the archipelago’s close neighbor, becomes increasingly overwhelmed by tourism, the Faroe Islands offer comparable otherworldly landscapes and distinctive island culture, but on a smaller and (as yet) far less visited scale.

Karen is a Scottish freelance writer now based in New York City.

1. Downtown Tórshavn


The "New Nordic" restaurant KOKS, winner of The Nordic Prize for best restaurant in the Nordic countries, will soon move from its previous home at the Hotel Føroyar to a new space in downtown Kirkjubøur. The city's compact downtown area is also home to the knitwear store Gudrun & Gudrun, made famous for being worn by the star of the original Danish version of The Killing; hip Faroese design store Öström; the cozy Reinsaríið concert hall; and Sirkus, the Tórshavn outpost of the Reykjavík live music bar that was a famed Björk hangout until it closed 10 years ago.
Photo courtesy of Olavur Frederiksen and Visit Faroe Islands

2. Tinganes, Tórshavn


In the old part of Tórshavn, Tinganes was the site of one of the world's oldest parliaments, chosen by ninth century Norwegian settlers as their "Thing," (which means assembly). The government still occupies the site today, in distinctive red wooden houses with green roofs. Some of the surrounding small wooden houses covered with turf roofs date back hundreds of years and are still used as family homes.
Photo courtesy of Visit Faroe Islands

3. The Nordic House


Set high above Tórshavn, The Nordic House flaunts appropriately Nordic-style design with its steel beams, turf-covered roof and airy lobby. The house plays host to numerous musical and theatrical performances all year-round and also has a fascinating public artwork collection that includes work by local graphic designer Edward Fuglø and glass artist Trondúr Paterson.
Photo courtesy of Visit Faroe Islands

4. Gjógv


On the northeastern tip of Eysturoy, this charming village is named for the 650-foot-long gorge running through it, but equally known for the well preserved and colorful traditional Faroese buildings dotted around. There are opportunities for hikes or walks around the village, or you could just pass the time sitting by the gorgeous natural harbor.
Photo by Karen Gardiner

5. Saksun


Driving toward Saksun at the end of a long country road in the northwestern corner of Streymoy, the tiny village wedged between mountains and with a smattering of grass-roofed homes, appears like something out Lord of the Rings. A placid lagoon lies in the fjord at the foot of the village, framed by a thin stretch of beach and waterfall trickling down the mountain. It all adds up to one of the most serene spots on the islands, if not in the world.
Photo courtesy of Olavur Frederiksen and Visit Faroe Islands

6. Mykines


The population of the westernmost point of the islands is just 10 people, who are far outnumbered by the thousands of puffins that arrive during the summer months. The island is also known as having been the home of Faroese painter, Sámal Joensen-Mikines, and visitors can stay at his former workshop, the Kristianshús guesthouse. From Vágar you can take a helicopter to Mykines for the low price of $22 then travel back by ferry for $9.
Photo courtesy of Kimberley Coole

7. Lake Sørvágsvatn


A magical trick of the eye makes it seem as though this lake, the biggest in the Faroes, is hanging precariously high over the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the lake, which bears a remarkable resemblance to those fancy infinity pools you see at luxury hotels, lies only around 90 feet above sea level; the steep cliff in front of it just makes it look higher. Optical illusion or not this is one of Vágar's most Instagrammable spots.
Photo courtesy of Jan Egil Kristiansen and Visit Faroe Islands

8. Heimablídni


Translating to "home hospitality," heimablídni is a kind of underground restaurant network. Locals welcome travelers—and even some curious Faroese—into their homes for a cozy meal, conversation and a little bit of cultural exchange. Heimablídni is offered in various locations on four different islands but perhaps nowhere as atmospheric as in Kirkjubøargarðu, the world's oldest still-inhabited wooden house located in the village of Kirkjubøur on Streymoy.
Photo by Karen Gardiner

9. Faroese Music


There is a surprisingly strong homegrown music scene in this small country—championed by local record label Tutl, which has a store in downtown Tórshavn, and the increasingly popular summertime G! Festival. Look out for artists like Eivør, whose dreamy ballads have made her one of the country's most successful exports, as well as singer/songwriter Gudrid Hansdóttir and electronic acts Byrta and Sakaris.
Photo courtesy of TUTL Records Facebook

10. Festivals


As well as the three-day G! Festival, which takes place in the village of Gøta on Eysturoy from July 14-16, look out for other summer festivals on the islands, including the pop music festival Summarfestivalurin in Klaksvík. For the 25th annual Summartónar, which runs from early June through late August, there will be performances every day, taking place in venues as varied as churches and sea caves accessible only by boat.
Photo courtesy of Kristfrio Tyril