JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SAVIOUR MIFSUD FROM TORSHAVN, FAROE ISLANDS!
Saviour Mifsud, originally from Malta has been living on the Faroe Islands for the past twelve years. He works with a food and beverages company and in his free time he goes out in nature and take pictures. About 5 years ago he bought his first dslr camera and started going around the islands and captured pictures of the beautiful landscape that Faroe islands has to offer. As he started posting images on social media he received positive feedback. Two years ago he took up guiding people and making photo tours.
TORSHAVN ( TAWR-SHOUN )
Dominated by steep mountains, deep valleys and narrow fjords, the Faroe Islands is an autonomous province of Denmark. It is situated in the heart of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, northwest of Shetland Islands and halfway between Iceland and Norway.
The Faroe Islands consists of a group of 779 islands, islets and skerries. Out of the 18 Faroese islands (in descending order of their size) – Streymoy, Eysturoy, Vagar, Suduroy, Sandoy, Bordoy, Vidoy, Kunoy, Kalsoy, Svinoy, Fugloy, Nolsoy, Mykines, Skuvoy, Hestur, Koltur only Lilta Dimun is uninhabited.
A well-established infrastructure connects these 18 islands by roads, bridges, and subsea tunnels, making it effortless to travel around the country. Home to beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, puffins, grazing sheep and horses in the middle of the road, the Faroe Islands is also a nation with its own culture and language.
Tórshavn is the capital and largest town of the Faroe Islands. It is located on the southeast coast of Streymoy island. One of the smallest capitals in the world, Tórshavn is a town named after the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder, Thor. Hence, Tórshavn means Thor’s harbour.
Faroe Islands is made up of 18 main islands. How many days are enough to see the best of them? How far are they from each other?
Ten days should be enough to see the most famous locations and islands.
The most far away island (Suduroy) takes 2 hours by ferry. With that said you can also take the helicopter operated by Atlantic Airways and that would take less of course. But the ferry goes many times a day from the harbor of Torshavn and the helicopter 3 times a week. With the helicopter you can take a flight from Torshavn as well.
What is the best time to visit Faroe Islands?
That all depends when you decide to come visit the Faroe Islands.
In summer time we have much longer days and you can see much more in one day. Daylight is up to 22 hours in June and July. I would definitely recommend June/July but you can come anytime between May to September. Most people don’t know that we have midnight sunset in Faroe Islands. It is such a treat if you get lucky to experience a beautiful sunset.
Winter is when Faroe Islands is covered with snow and if you are lucky you might witness the Northern Lights.
What are the best ways to reach Tórshavn or recommendations on flight connections to take? Any tricks that local use considering the tickets to reach there are quite expensive.
It is expensive to get to the Faroe islands. The only trick to get cheaper tickets is to buy them early. The most common place to catch a flight to the Faroe Islands is Copenhagen. There are many flights in a day.
If you are coming from the US or Canada, I hear that it is cheaper if you come from Iceland. With that said the national airline of the Faroe Island (Atlantic Airways) are launching a direct flight from New York to the Faroe islands. I would of course recommend that because you will save a lot of time and the tickets are reasonably priced.
If you are coming from Europe or any where else you have some choices in summer time. You can choose to enter Faroe Islands from Denmark, England, Norway or France. These are the most famous routes.
How to get around Faroe Islands considering it’s an archipelago?
Bussleiðin is the Municipality’s city bus system which is easily recognised by the red- and-white colours. They are free of charge.
The national transport company Strand- faraskip Landsins (SSL) operates a nationwide bus system called Bygdaleiðir which connect the different islands and villages to Tórshavn. Bygdaleiðir buses have a distinct blue colour and require a fare which can be bought on the bus or via the Travel Card. They depart from Fárstøðin ferry terminal.
Between the airport and Tórshavn a bus (Bygdaleiðir bus route 300) plies multiple times a day starting from first bus 7.55 a.m. to 20.30 p.m.
Same company also operates two ferry services that depart from Tórshavn: ferry route 7 to Suðuroy and ferry route 90 to Nólsoy. Another route to the isles of Sandoy and Hestur departs from Gamlarætt ferry terminal, which can be reached by Bygdaleiðir route 101.
More information and time tables of buses and ferries are available on the website.
Do you recommend renting a car or public transport does the job?
If you have the driving license and you can afford to rent a car then definitely do that. There is not much traffic here on the islands. The most popular traffic you will find is sheep crossing the roads. So you need to be careful how you drive and keep your eyes open at all times. They can come out from just about anywhere.
It is easy to drive to the big islands because they are connected with under sea tunnels and a bridge. There are over 20 tunnels in the Faroe Islands which are all free of charge except the two sub-sea tunnels Vágatunnilin (connects Vágar and Streymoy) & Norðoyatunnilin (connects Eysturoy and Borðoy) for which you need to pay approximately 15 USD. Pay the fee at any gas station after driving through the tunnel (within 3 days).
What are the must-visit places in Tórshavn? What is so special about them?
Voxbotn definitely. It is the name of down town Tórshavn. You will be close to everything – shops, restaurants, harbor etc.
From there you can go to the oldest part of the city that it is called Tinganes. While walking in the narrow roads you will see cute little houses, most of the with grass roof tops. The grass roof tops are part of the culture of the Faroe islands and you will find them all over the islands.
Since tourism started to pick up here in the Faroe islands, more and more grass roof tops started to pop up in the villages around the islands.
In Tinganes you will also find the old Faroese government buildings. The parliament met there for the first time in the viking ages when the Norwegian colonists placed there parliament on the location in 825. It is one of the oldest parliamentary in the world.
Explore Torshavn. Føroya Fornminnissavn (The Faroese Museum of History), Listasavn Føroya (The National Gallery), The Fort Skansin and Havnar Kirkja (Tórshavn Cathedral) are other points of interest in Torshavn.
Or visit shops to buy some souvenirs like traditional Faroese wear from Marjun Heimá or hand knit Faroese woollen wears Gudrun & Gudrun. Buy some Faroese music albums from TUTL, the leading representative and distributor of Faroese music, collectively owned by musicians and composers. Try some local food at one of the many restaurants and cafe shops. I also recommend you a nice walk by the harbor.
Which are the best places to visit on the main island, Streymoy ?
Many people refer to Faroe Islands as a treeless archipelago, but that is far from the truth. We have some man made parks in some villages around the islands one of the biggest one is in Torshavn. The park name is Vidarlund (plantation) which is located just 10 minutes away from the center by foot. It is so relaxing to go for a walk by the river, just hearing the birds sing and water flowing. You can also feed the ducks with breadcrumbs. Smaller birds will come and say hi as well, like pigeons and the robin as well.
Kirkjubour is a small village just 10 minutes away by car. There is one of the most important historic ruins sites on the islands. Magnus Cathedral from around the 1300 and Kirkjuboargardur, (also known as King’s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses in the word, if not the oldest. it dates back to the 11th Century. The farmhouse is also a museum and for a small fee you can go in and see this old fam and tools that they use to use way back when.
Tip – You can also ask to book for a meal there when visiting, all you need to do is go to the information center in Torshavn and they can guide you from there.
Kirkjuboargardur is also door to door with the Church of Saint Olav’s. Saint’s Olav’s Church was build in year 1200 which makes it the oldest church on the Faroe islands.
Tjornuvik, the northernmost village, is an outstanding place on Streymoy island of Torshavn. It takes about 40 minutes by car to arrive there. The village is famous for its black sandy beach and the view of sea stacks (Risin and Kellingin). This beach is also the best beach for surfing since it’s sandy with no rocks in the middle of the beach and has a public toilet to keep warm. The hike between Tjørnuvík and Saksun (another scenic village) is quite popular and takes about 3 hours to hike and it is not so difficult to hike.
On the way to Tjørnuvík check out the Fossá falls. Use the map displayed there to go behind the waterfall or hike to the second waterfall.Fossá Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in the Faroe Islands and drops in two levels. Fossá Waterfall is at the northern end of the island just before the village of Haldarsvík.
Before you go back to Tórshavn, go to the small village of Velbaðstaður, take a look at the houses and the view that this village has to offer. There are two islands infront of this village called Hestur and Koltur.
Norðadalur is a bucket-list location for tourists in Faroe Islands. To reach there take the mountain road Oyygjarvegur. This place is iconic to the Faroe islands because of the winding road and Koltur islands in the background.
Also, just outside Tórshavn on the way to the sea tunnel to Vágar there are 3 lakes. The first one is Leynavatn, it is big and surrounded with mountains and the other two lakes called Mjauvatn are smaller and next to each other.
Although it’s never enough, which islands would you recommend tourists to visit from Tórshavn in order to call their trip complete? How should one reach them?
Where : Vagar Island
How to Reach : Connected to Streymoy with a 5 km underwater tunnel
Vagar is where the airport is. This can be your very first destination. There are six villages on the Vagar island (where the airport is) – Sørvágur, Bøur, Gásadalur, Sandavágur, Miðvágur, and Vatnsoyrar. Gásadalur is the smallest settlement with a population of only 18 people. Múlafossur, is an amazing waterfall in Gasadalur village.
On the way back you will find the small village of Bøur with the beautiful view of Tindhólmur islet and Drangarnir sea stacks in the distance. Drangarnir and Tindhólmur islet are quite a long hike but it should be an easy one since you just have to walk by the sea shore almost all the way! The hike takes about 5 hours in all. In the village of Sandavagur is the Trøllkonufingur cliff (or Witch’s finger) which is a free standing rock.
Where : Mykines Island
How to Reach : Ferry from the village Sørvágur in Vagar Island
The Mykines island is an island filled with puffins. The ferry to Mykines leaves from the village called Sørvagur in Vagar Island. You must book the ticket with the boat to Mykines island at least 2 weeks beforehand. Walk all the way out to Mykineshólmur lighthouse and be sure to arrive back to the village at least 1 hour before the ferry goes back. There are 2 coffee shops where you can relax and eat.
Where : Eysturoy
How to Reach : Connected to Streymoy by Streymin bridge over Sundini Sound
Slættaratindur (at 2,890 feet) is the highest mountain of Faroe Islands located between the villages of Eiði, Gjógv, and Funningur. Hiking this mountain takes about an hour if you are fast. At the top you will be rewarded with amazing 360 degree view and lots of good photography perspectives.
While going down the valley you can visit the small village of Gjogv where you can park the car and walk up to the gorge. Note there are no parking fees in the Faroe Islands except at the Airport. The most common view of the gorge is from the stairs and hiking a bit around the gorge gives you a good perspective of the picture square village.
Where : Vidoy
How to Reach : From Streymoy to Eysturoy through Klaksvik on Borðoy
Vidoy is the farthest Faroese island reachable by car. Visit the picturesque village of Hvannasund there which offers stunning views. You can also take a tour of the Hvannasund church. Very near to Hvannasund is Vidareidi which is also the farthest north point you could drive to in Faroe Islands. There are many hikes that you can do from this village. One of them is to the cliff called Cape Enniberg (at the height of 754 meters). This hike takes about 6 hours and can be dangerous on a windy day.
Where : Kalsoy
How to Reach : Catch the ferry from Klasvik on Borðoy
Kalsoy has four towns – Syðradalur, Mikladalur, Húsar and Trøllanes connected by tunnels. Popular tourist spots on Kalsoy are Mikladalur for the Seal woman statue and Kallur light house close to Trøllanes.
Where : Suduroy
How to Reach : Ferry route 7 from Torshavn port to Suðuroy
Visit Suduroy by ferry (mentioned above). You will arrive at the village of Tvøroryi from where you can drive to the south village called Sumba, take the second U turn (not first), stop the car and park. Walk towards the cliff to see many sea stacks and birds. Later you can drive to a location called Akraberg which is the southernmost point of Faroe Islands.
There is so much more to see here on the Faroe islands. To find out everything visit the official website of Faroe Islands.
What does a traditional Faroese meal include? More and more people in the world are preferring plant based food, do you also have vegetarian options in your home menu?
Definitely lamb meat and fish dishes. There are more sheep than people here on the Faroe Islands and that’s the reason Faroese people like lamb meat so much. Fish like cod and salmon are two of the main fish dishes. Faroese traditional speciality also includes ræstur fiskur, a home-made air-dried and fermented fish dish.
We are starting to see more vegetarian food in the supermarkets and in some restaurants as well. Sirkus and Umami are some vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants.
Any suggestion on where to stay in Tórshavn ?
Most common choices are hotels and bed and breakfast as well. Cheapest option would be Airbnb.
If you want epic view and want to feel that you are outside of the city, then I recommend you to check out Hotel Foroyar (hotelforoyar.com) as it has the best view at the moment. You can get to the center of Torshavn in just 5 minutes by car.
There are two new hotels (Hilton Garden Inn & Hotel Brandan) being build in Tórshavn at the moment and they should open in May 2020. So all the more options and places to stay for you during your travels.
How often do Faroese experience Northern lights? What is the best time to see Aurora Borealis in Faroe Islands and from where?
If you are coming to the Faroe Islands for Aurora Borealis then I would suggest going to Norway or Iceland instead. Northern Lights can be seen here but it is not so often because of all the cloudy sky we have here. In the past four years I have seen it just a few times and for only a few minutes.
If you still want to try and see the Aurora Borealis from the Faroe islands, maybe because of the amazing landscape we have here then I would suggest to come between September – October or February – March. I have personally seen the Aurora Borealis in February and March the most.
I have seen it mostly from the iconic location called Gásadalur (mentioned above), which is only a 45 minutes drive from Torshavn but you can also try Leynar vatn which is on the same island as Torshavn (only 30 minutes away).
Faroe Islands is slowly becoming a tourist favourite, still most frequent visitors there are Danes and Norwegians. As a local, do you enjoy tourists crowding the island or would you like it to remain a hidden treasure?
Due to my background as a photographer and my activity on social media. I would be lying if I say, I don’t like tourists. I don’t mind tourists at all.
I meet tourists while I’m guiding my clients on a common hike or an iconic location. It is always nice to meet some new people. How ever I would suggest tourists to respect nature as I know that Faroese people are doing their very best to preserve it.
Is it easy to travel there considering Faroese is a difficult language to comprehend?
Yes most of the Faroese people know the English language but most of the older people don’t know it as much.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport, hidden gems or northern lights which locals use?
For the weather I would recommend Landsverk. It is very handy if you come in winter time you can see live updates on where you can drive or where it is slippery.
For transport just try the Faroe Island transport website because they still don’t have an app.
Aurora forecast is my favorite app for Aurora Borealis activity.
Trip Advisor is a great app to search for food places here on the Faroe Islands.
You definitely have to check out Visit Faroe Islands as there is a lot of information about the Faroe islands.
On my blog you will find information in detail about some of the topics we have touched in this interview.
Things to know :
Visa : The Faroe Islands are NOT part of the Schengen Area. When a visa is applied for at the Danish Embassy, it must be specifically for the Faroe Islands. The nationalities requiring a visa for entering the Faroe Islands is the same as for Denmark and can be seen here. Visas are to be applied at the Royal Danish Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. A list of Danish Embassies and Consulates around the world can be viewed here.
Official Airlines : Atlantic Airways is the official airline of Faroe Islands. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) also have flights to the island.
In summertime, a scheduled ferry connects Tórshavn with Hanstholm in Denmark and Seyðisfjörður in Iceland; the remainder of the year the ferry connects with Esbjerg in Denmark.
UNESCO Listed Sites : The Danish territory of the Faroe Islands doesn’t have any UNESCO listed sites yet.
Important Events : Ólavsøka is the biggest summer festival in the Faroe Islands. It is held on 29 July and it is the National Day of the Faroe Islands. Flag Day on 25th April. The Grindadrap is an opportunistic whale hunt which occurs annually in the Faroe Islands. Inhabitants of Faroe Islands drive pilot whales also catch and slaughter them during this event. There are Faroese who approve and disapprove of the Grindadrap.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO TORSHAVN OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SAVIOUR’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HIM ON INSTAGRAM