(The video above is a 360 degree video so feel free to drag the corners and look around as it plays)
The idea of a Euro Trip doesn’t often conjure up an image of the Faroe Islands; at least, it didn’t for me. Four months ago, though, as my friend Otto and I were looking for places to go in Europe following a climbing trip in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, I was struck by a photograph of a small cluster of islands seemingly lost in the middle of the Northern Atlantic. Visually stunning and off the grid, they seemed like a place I would want to explore.
The more I researched, the more confused – and interested – I became. Little information existed on how to get to and around the islands, and I couldn’t find much that detailed where to stay or what camping regulations existed. I did discover that one airline, Atlantic Airways, flew there most often from Copenhagen; knowing that at the very least we could get there was enough to convince me and Otto to give travel there a shot. We booked flights and one month later, we were off; our non-traditional Euro Trip would route us from Terksol, Russia to Moscow to Copenhagen to Vagar, Faroe Islands.
The flight into Vagar was stunning: a blanket of fog covered the sea for much of the two-hour journey from Copenhagen, and as we descended toward the airport, the peaks of the island’s massive island cliffs began to poke through the clouds, whetting our palettes for the adventure to come. Just before we touched down, we soared directly over the famous Lake Sørvágsvatn, separated from the ocean by massive cliffs that create an optical illusion, making the lake appear at a greater distance from sea level than it actually is at just 30 meters above.
The island’s infrastructure had us in awe – it was unlike what we expected for a part of the European continent that seemed less traveled. The airport, though small, was modern and busy and renting a car was quick and simple. We learned that most of Faroe’s islands are connected by harrowing one-way tunnels; those that aren’t can be accessed by a subsidized helicopter taxi system and a routine ferry and bus system. Although it took us some time to work out driving protocol – we weren’t sure which car was supposed to pull off the road in the event of an impending head-on collision in the tunnels – once we did, we had free reign to explore the islands.
Our plan was to start in the city of Tórshavn and explore Streymoy, the largest island in the collection, for our first few days. From there, we’d visit the desolate island of Koltur for some hiking, the island of Mykines, famous for puffins and its large lighthouse, and the northeastern islands, known for their massive sea cliffs. Although it seemed like a lot of moving around, we were sure that each day’s 18 hours of sunlight would aid us in our mission.
As we followed our route, we were struck by the fact that each island, despite having some very similar physical features – most notably giant cliffs that dropped steeply into a ferociously wild ocean – had different and equally interesting things to offer. On Gjogv, we walked along a grassy cliff’s edge and looked down a perfectly vertical slab of rock thousands of feet to the ocean below; on Mykines, we crossed one of the few bridges that “span the Atlantic”; and on Kalsoy, we walked a spine as long as a football field with one thousand foot drops to a lighthouse that was tucked below a giant sea cliff. Whereas elsewhere in Europe I have found myself feeling bored by repetitive architecture or museums, in the Faroe Islands, each day and each excursion provided a new adventure and a new perspective of some of the most aggressive and beautiful terrain I had ever seen.
Also surprising about the Faroe Islands was the fact that many of the locals we met had traveled to very few of the eighteen islands. An hour long drive across the country or a quick helicopter ride was daunting to them, but for us, the proximity of the islands to one another and their small sizes were blessings. In one day, we drove from the tip of southwest Faroe to the most northeastern cliffs. We took advantage of the inexpensive helicopter system and took a $29 ride to Koltur, only 10 minutes away. We wanted to see as much as we could in the time that we had, but most locals seemed content with staying rooted in their towns and communities. Despite their lack of mobility, however, the Faroese people were wonderfully welcoming and friendly. They routinely introduced themselves at bars, always interested to hear where we came from and why we had decided to visit the islands.
Our initial concerns over logistics – mainly where to stay and eat, as the guidebooks cautioned us that very few of the island towns had hotels or restaurants – were eased by guesthouses. There, the local hosts offered additional tips. Airbnb options were robust on the island and it wasn’t difficult to find places to sample the world-renowned local Salmon, the main export of the islands, but our best and least expensive experiences were at the guesthouses themselves.
Otto and I were grateful to travel to the Faroe Islands, and recognize that not everyone has the same opportunity. Fortunately, earlier in the year, we were selected to be part of the Nokia Ozo Pioneer program; we were two of just a handful of people who received Nokia’s new production virtual reality camera before public release. We carried the 10-pound, soccer ball-sized camera with us on all our hikes, capturing the island in both 360 degree video as well as stereoscopic 3D for the new Oculus and Virtual Reality headsets. The technology is exciting in that it gives us the ability to transport friends, family and others, like Passion Passport community members, to remote locales that they may not be able to get to. I watch the faces of my friends and family light up (some even experience a bit of vertigo) as I transport them onto towering cliffs, into fast-moving helicopters, and to famous and beautiful tourist sites. Sure, the alien camera turned heads wherever we went, but we were able to capture some truly spectacular areas in virtual reality and I hope you enjoy what we put together, below. As a person who loves to live on the road, I will continue to capture and publish my adventures in virtual wherever I travel; I invite you to join me as I do.