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Getting started is the hardest part

Story by Steven Yan September 23rd, 2016

No signs point to anywhere

I had just gotten off the phone with the office at Strandfaraskip Landsins and didn't feel much more confident. After going through two people to find someone who could speak English well enough to cover the broad range of questions I had: "Turn left at the hook and look for a boat named 'Sam'."

The ferries run on a more sparse schedule in the winter; I was worried about missing the first ferry and having to wait hours for the next, so I set off for Kláksvik early the next morning. It turns out that "the hook" is a giant fish hook sculpture in the middle of a roundabout as you enter town. I made a beeline for the nearest semblance of a harbor-looking structure, and spotted what appeared to be a ferry that could carry a car.

The ferry was empty. I looked in vain for some kind of ticket office where I could purchase my fare or perhaps someone prepping the ferry that I could talk to. Unable to find either, I resigned to sitting and waiting. Twenty minutes later, a middle-aged gentleman rolled up in a car and unceremoniously raised the gate to enter the ferry.

The islands were telling me yet again: "Slow down. You'll get there, eventually."

That lovely Faroese morning mist on the way to Klaksvík.
I found Sam.
When you're super paranoid about there not being any space and you're first in line.


Ferry 56 from Klaksvík to Syðradalur is a quick 20 minute ride. From here, I began my search for the Kallur lighthouse that marks the northern tip of Kalsoy.

Mostly empty ferry on the ride to Kalsoy. A round trip fare on ferry 56 Klaksvík-Syðradalur: 160 Faroese króna, or $22.38 USD. Cheap!
The conical peaks that cradle the town of Klaksvík were shrouded in clouds this morning.
Arrival at Syðradalur, Kalsoy. I wasn't expecting the front of the ferry to open!
A faint rainbow bridges the islands of Kalsoy and Kunoy.

From Syðradalur, the only direction is north. A single lane road passes through four tunnels as it wends its way along the beautiful eastern coast of the island.

In the winter season, the ferry only runs three times on Sundays. I had a little under four hours to reach the lighthouse and return back to the southern end of the island, or else I would have to wait until evening for the next ferry.

A well kept single lane road traces the eastern coast of Kalsoy.
Oh look, more sheep.
Húsar, one of four villages on Kalsoy.
The small town of Kunoy can be spotted across the water.
It's easy to stop and snap a photo when there's nobody around.
The longest tunnel on Kalsoy takes you to the village of Trøllanes.
There are turnouts within the tunnel in case two cars enter from opposing directions.

The sheep on these islands are intensely curious about humans. When I pulled over for a picture, they gathered together inquisitively, which made for some photogenic sheep.



A few final hairpin turns brought me to Trøllanes, nestled between two sizable peaks at the north end of the island. Intuitively, I knew that once I entered the village, I should continue my trek north on foot.

I doubted myself the instant I got out of the car. I was staring at what looked like a climb up a mountain. To add to my hesitation, I could see that I would have to trek around the peak that I could see from below, but I had no idea which direction was the correct one.

A small red outfield gate in the distance was the only additional hint that maybe something special lay up and over that mountain.

A few hairpin turns take you down to Trøllanes.
Mental switch: these outfield gates are meant to keep sheep in, not people out.
Trøllanes quickly disappeared behind the ridge.

Much as I had experienced in my hikes the day before, the constant rain on the islands made the terrain uneven and slippery underfoot, and I was always watching out for the streams of runoff that carve their own way down the mountain. The initial ascent from Trøllanes was quite steep, to the point where I found it easier to zigzag my way up the slippery grass incline. The hand-wringing below about which direction to choose quickly became a non-issue, however, as the ascent eventually gave way to rolling fields and old stone relics.

At this point in my journey, I came to appreciate just how different the Faroe Islands had been from the rest of my travels. Its most iconic places sat unmarked, unassuming, yet well within reach. The islands only required that I forge my own path to find them.

Just an hour later, I had reached the Kallur lighthouse. I have pictures, but there are no further words. You have to see it for yourself.

Glimpsing the Kallur lighthouse in the distance.
The final approach to the lighthouse requires traversing a grassy slope, with plenty of sheep to keep you company.
I'm pretty sure happy sheep come from the Faroe Islands.
What would a hike be in the Faroes without a little bit of rain?
That lighthouse view though.
Getting the classic shot of the lighthouse requires navigating a narrow ridge that drops into the ocean on either side.
The Kallur Lighthouse. Far away from home but incredibly peaceful.

start from the bottom

Funningur was home base for my time on the islands. It's a small, peaceful village nestled between a beautiful fjord and the base of Slættaratindur, the highest peak in the Faroe Islands at an elevation of 882m. The first vikings to settle on the Faroe Islands settled here.

Funningur and Funningsfjørður from the mountain pass that leads to Eiði.
My charming cottage in Funningur.
View of Funningur fjord from inside the cottage.
Those ever-present grass-roofed churches.
These weather-beaten cottages must have endured some harsh Atlantic storms. You can see the slopes of Slættaratindur in the background.

The Slættaratindur ascent was cold and windy. Throughout the hike I was buffeted by 20-30 mph winds, only to have it subside with amazing sun breaks, only to be completely washed out again by fog and mist. I was contemplating not even making the short but steep final climb to the summit, because it was shrouded in clouds for most of my ascent. When those clouds did clear, I was treated to a complete 360 degree view of the islands.

Rainbow over Tjornuvík
Can you spot the red hatchback?
Mist rolled in, only to be gone moments later.
From the top of Slættaratindur, you feel like your head is grazing the clouds.

On this day, in exchange for some heavy gusts of wind, I got some beautiful late afternoon light looking east towards Kalsoy and the peaks of Eysturoy.

The Faroese say that "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." That's what I'll remember the most about my time on these islands. Sometimes the best decision is to slow down, wait, and let life evolve in front of you.

Looking east towards Eysturoy and Kalsoy. If you squint really hard you can see the Kallur lighthouse, where I was earlier.
Faroe Islands