Faroe islands: Optical illusion, waterfall and turf houses - The Laughing Traveller
The Laughing Traveller

Faroe islands: Optical illusion, waterfall and turf houses

Landing and getting settled

After a long day of flights and connections I landed in the Faroe islands at 8PM but with daylight. I found a good deal for the flight tickets but it took almost a whole day to reach my destination. There was something about the last leg that I didn't feel for a long time. A kind of anticipation and excitement which reminded me a little of how I felt when I landed in Yellowstone.

Speaking of the last leg… it was with Atlantic airways, the official carrier of the islands, which was really good. In Copenhagen airport everything was self service – the check-in process, including printing a boarding pass and the label for the suitcase which you also need to send… alone! (this is kind of stressing…)

The airport is located on the island of Vagar (one of the 18 islands of the Faroes) which also hosts 2 of the most iconic locations of the islands. I picked up the car and drove to Sandavagur, a small village close by.

Practical tips

  • When going on a vacation I recommend to spend the first and last night near the airport, especially if you arrive late or leave early. This way you dont have to worry about navigating after a long day of airports and so on.
  • Specifically for the Faroe islands, if you really want to play it safe, there's a hotel within walking distance from the airport, Hotel Vagar

I reached the B&B and before I even take my backpack off my back, the lady starts explaining me about all the places I have to visit the next day. Helllllllllllooooo, I'm after 20 something restless hours, at least let me take the backpack off… I must say that I didn't see her since then and I spent 2 nights there 🙂 . The room was nice and had a view looking directly at the village with its impressive pinkish church.

During breakfast I met a Finnish couple who also came for a 1 week vacation, but unlike me, decided to spend their whole stay in the same B&B. My plan was to move almost everyday to a different place.

Lake Sørvágsvatn

Anyway, i hit the road and started with lake Sørvágsvatn (good luck with pronouncing it!). I came prepared with some hard-copy hiking trails which you can get here. I'm mentioning this since from the explanations the lady gave me at the B&B I'm not sure I would reach the place.

Tip: Before the trip I did some research about navigation applications which can work offline. The thing is I didn't find any which had the Faroe islands on them! So I suggest to download the area from Google maps, this way they are available offline

I parked the car near the trail head and before I noticed anything I see a herd of sheep running towards me! 2 seconds pass and I notice they are fenced so I'm like phewwww. Even though it was nice outside, the wind was blowing so I put on the wind jacket which hid the "premiere" of my blog shirt, but don't worry, you'll see it 🙂 .

The trail was exactly the way I like it – flat, solid ground, beautiful scenery from both sides that includes treeless mountains and a lake, not just any lake, the biggest in the Faroes(!). There's some mud which over time gets stuck to your boots, but nothing too serious. 

איי פארו
 Suddenly, I noticed to my left a downwards viewing point. It's hard to explain but I saw the end of the cliff and from there you can look down and see the ocean. I went to the spot and then noticed a higher spot. That's when I said to myself "I want to be there!" and if you look real tight you'll see people in that picture below.
I started climbing and when I looked backwards I realized this is the image. This is the frame I want to catch but "no sweat no gain" right? It doesn't seem to end and there's not even a trail… you just walk on the grass uphill. This lake (on the left) creates an optical illusion. What's the illusion? Well, even though it seems to be well above the ocean, they are almost at the same altitude! You can more about it here and here.
איי פארו
 One of the coolest things in the Faroe islands is that you're practically alone. Look at this… No one here, well besides these 2 people on the cliff before 🙂 . It's just pure nature!

Turns out I visited after the littering season so there were many lambs

Faroe islands

It became hot after climbing… here is the famous shirt!

איי פארו

A short video:

What's the deal with their ABC?  Ðð, Ææ, Øø

Off topic for a moment… Take a look at their alphabet, mostly with familiar letters but also some strange Nordic additions. The thing is that even the letters we know are not always pronounced the way we're used to. Specifically in Vagar, the names are relatively easy but… so I tried to record a local saying some of the places 🙂 .

 

< Click me

The villages are: Gásadalur, Sørvágur, Miðvágur, Sandavágur (the first one is a bit cut).

Gásadalur waterfall

Back to my story…
From there I drove to the other side of the island to watch the famous waterfall. How famous? If you google "faroe islands" you'll probably get 2 main images: the lake you saw earlier in the post and this waterfall. It's not like there are lanes of tourists, don't worry. There are 2 ways to see the waterfall, either by hiking or by parking next to it. The hike level was difficult so I chose the easy way.
In order to get to the fall, you drive through a tunnel and this was my first in the islands (many more to come). It's a bout 1 mile of darkness. Eventually you get out and it's like someone changed the desktop image, a totally different view! A couple of minutes and you reach the small village by the same name. There are maybe 10 houses… According to Wikipedia 18 people live there. Up until 2004 there wasn't even a road that led here!! The locals would either get here by boat, when the ocean allowed, or walking a few hours to the neighboring village. And one last thing – this village had no church, so service is held in the school! 🙂 .

This is what I saw when I exited the tunnel

I parked the car and walked to the waterfall. Suddenly to my right I noticed a bench which didn't quite make sense so I went to check it myself. Well, what do you know? You can see the fall from here! But still there's a better viewing point down the trail. It's crazy! All this scenery with the village behind and then the mountains and the ocean with more islands, and the water dropping from nowhere to the ocean… priceless.

The lonely bench looking over Mykines island

I just stood there and tried to "swallow" the views. I looked for different photo-ops and I think I got some good ones.

I turned around and walked over to see the source of the waterfall. It's funny to see that it's just a small stream… The weather was soooo nice that I just laid down and rested. Gasadalur was actually the first village I visited, not a small town, and one of the cutest things in these villages is the turf houses 🙂 . These houses with grass roof tops. Even before the trip this was one of the things I was really excited about. If you like it, there are plenty more…

Turf house

Buttercup roads

This is where the nature part of the day ends and now I drove 40 minutes to the capital city, Torshavn. Keep in mind that every drive here is pretty amazing – all the time hills covered in green, from time to time a small waterfall in the cracks but you can't stop admiring it, obviously not on your first day (that didn't change later 🙂 ). But let's stop for a minute and talk about the roads – there are standard roads and there are buttercup roads which are breathtaking!

Whenever I had the possibility of stopping and taking some photos, that's what I did. Today I had 2 segments of such roads – from Bour to Gasadalur and the way to Torshavn starting on the island of Streymoy.

During the rest of my trip I made sure to drive all these roads!

Tindhólmur

When you're tired of leaving the car…

Europe's smallest capital city?

Torshavn is a real city with traffic lights (2-3 don't push it) and everything – there's a mall with Burger King(!), a national stadium, etc. I went to SMS mall, the only mall in the Faroe islands, to get a local SIM card.

Tip: From what I understood this is the only place to get a SIM card.

A small shop in downtown Torshavn

During the writing of this post I looked for evidence that this is the smallest capital in Europe. I couldn't find that but there was something else that got my attentions:

"The Faroe Islands are the country that most people did not know existed. And it is not strange that people do not know about the Faroe Islands. On most world maps they are not even there. And if they are, they are marked by two or three small dots hardly visible to the naked eye. This also means that it can be difficult for tourists – who are looking for a new destination – to imagine the versatility of what is on offer in the Faroe Islands."

I added the bold emphasize because this is so true! I have a scratch map in my room and the Faroes aren't there 🙁 .

Torshavn port

End of the day…

I returned to "my" town and found out I didn't bring the right USB cable to charge my gopro 🙁 . This was so frustrating as this was the first trip where I used a gopro. But I got to a conclusion bing upset won't solve the problem, just move on. The Finnish couple had a matching cable so I used it overnight. We exchanged some experiences from the day and before I went to sleep I saw the church with its lights turned on.

** This picture was shot after midnight!

 

I was expecting the next day since that was the day I was supposed to see the puffins! So more on that in the next post 🙂 .

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