Disclaimer: We’re dealing with a political situation that makes it borderline crass to talk about first world problems like which first class is best or how to avoid <GASP> flying in economy when there are people who would strap themselves to the wing of a plane just to find refuge in this country if they could. That being said, I also believe that people can think about more than one thing at once, and that me writing about luxury travel and capitalist trappings like credit card loyalty programs is not going to trade off with the volume of necessary journalism devoted to covering current events. However, I would encourage you to support organizations that help refugees, the ACLU, or independent journalism outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, or The Guardian, all of which need all the financial support they can get right now. Finally, if you didn’t come here to hear about my politics, then leave, because I’m not going to hold back just because “this is supposed to be a points and miles blog.”
The Points Guy had an article today on why you should go to the Faroe Islands. I was happy to see the Faroe Islands written about on such a highly-trafficked blog, because it really is an amazing place to visit. However, for a site about points (well, technically it’s a site about a guy who’s known for his points), the article doesn’t go much further than what you’d see in a 1/3-page sidebar in Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Since I love the Faroe Islands and feel really passionately about this subject, I figured I might as well provide some additional info.
(By the way, the four or five people who could be considered “longtime” readers might see me repeating myself a little bit, since I’ve mentioned some of this stuff in previous posts. This will bring everything into one master post that you can use for future reference.)
Intro: Deciding to go
I first heard about the Faroe Islands from Whale Wars, since they did a mini-season about their campaign in the Faroes in between fighting Japanese whalers in the Arctic. However, unlike in Japan, the Sea Shepherd people were allowed to go on-shore in the Faroes, and so the season gives you a much more balanced sense of who the Faroese people are and why they whale. Clearly I’m not going to the Faroes to eat whales (I’m not going there to eat any meat at all), but I don’t think you can shun an entire country based on cultural practices you may not agree with. Plus, I kind of agree with the Faroese people’s argument that there’s a lot of animal abuse that goes down in the USA for us to take the moral high ground. We don’t need to have a debate about whaling here – clearly, if you feel really strongly about it, don’t go there.
Anyway, one thing Justine and I kept remarking on while watching Whale Wars is how jaw-droppingly beautiful the Faroe Islands are, and how much we wanted to go. Which is kind of funny, given that I don’t think Sea Shepherd intended their campaign against the Faroese to advertise for the Faroese tourism industry, but it certainly did for us. I actually didn’t know how easy it was to go there until I was browsing Google Flights in map mode and kept seeing Vagar come up as a non-stop destination from places like Copenhagen and Bergen. We were in the process of planning a Europe trip at the time, so it was pretty easy to set aside a few days for a trip there.
Should you go? If you love scenery, secluded places, cold & rainy weather, and sheep, then yes. If you love bustling metropolises, beaches, warm & sunny weather, and whales, then no. Considering the latitude, you may not want to go in fall or winter, either. The days get pretty short, although when I was there in mid-September, sunrise and sunset were still at relatively “normal” times.
The Faroes are served from a few destinations by their national airline, Atlantic Airways. You can fly from Reykjavik, Bergen, Edinburgh, and Copenhagen, among others. Atlantic took on three A319s fairly recently, so it’s nice that all service is on a mainline jet rather than a crappy prop plane.
In an interesting development for points people, SAS also started flying to Vagar from Copenhagen, which means that Vagar is now a recognized Star Alliance destination. It’s sometimes hard to get Star Alliance booking engines to route all the way there, but it can be done. Being able to book all the way to Vagar would have saved me some money on my last trip, given that the cheapest CPH-FAE fares are around $225 for a round-trip. This also opens up some options for intra-Europe flying if you’re basing in a city other than Copenhagen. For instance, if you start your trip in Amsterdam, you can fly to FAE via CPH on SAS, which is easier and cheaper than, for instance, flying KLM to CPH and Atlantic to FAE. This would come in handy if you used Sky Miles to fly from the US to Amsterdam, especially if Delta’s engine choked when you asked it to give you a stopover in AMS and then fly you onward to CPH.
Where to stay
There’s one luxury hotel that I know of, just outside Torshavn (the capital). The airport is actually on a different island, since there aren’t that many places in the Faroes that are flat enough to put a runway capable of handling a full-sized plane. It’s around 45 minutes drive from the airport to Torshavn, and public transportation is pretty easy.
There are a number of serviceable hotels as well, most of which are in Torshavn or Klaksvik, although I’d strongly recommend renting an AirBNB instead. Tons of people own vacation homes here, so it’s pretty easy to get an entire house in a remote village. There are also rentals for in-law units, which are nice if you want to interact more with your hosts. We stayed in a cottage in Funningur, which I can’t say enough good things about. It’s on AirBNB, but it also has its own website.
I recommend renting a car, even though the bus system is pretty good. One amazing thing about the Faroes is that the roads are pretty much universally smooth and in great condition. The only exception is if you try to drive out to depopulated villages (such as Mulí), but as long as someone’s living in the place you’re going, the roads will be nice. Since the Faroes aren’t very big, it’s really hard to get lost, so it’s fun just to drive around looking for what we called “flower roads” – road signs with a flower signify a scenic route.
The problem for points people is that no portals that I know of will find you cars here. If you’re looking to conserve cash, this would be a good opportunity to use Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents per point, or maybe proprietary points in less common programs, like City National Rewards. I tried every rewards program I have, though, and none of them were able to locate any cars. Also, I’m man enough to admit that I don’t know how to drive a manual, so that narrows it down even more. There are a bunch of rental car companies that operate out of Vagar airport (Avis, Sixt, Europcar, etc), but all of them contract with one main service – 62 North. If you want to rent an automatic, it will be around $100 per day. Manuals are less, but still comparatively expensive.
I’m going to assume that you used points at least to get as far as Copenhagen, so we’ll start there. If you need to overnight at CPH, I actually really liked the Hilton CPH airport, and if you have gold status, they’ll upgrade you to a pretty nice room. It’s not the cheapest hotel, but I got a room for 20,000 Hilton points plus $100, which worked out to almost .7 cents per Hilton point. If you’re flying Atlantic to get to Vagar, you’ll have a good opportunity to use the $250 airline credit from the Citi Prestige card (I did, and the credit posted without issue). You can also book the SAS flight through United, meaning you can use gift registry credit that you built up from the incidental fee credit on your Amex card.
You can book hotels using a rewards portal; unfortunately there aren’t any chains to redeem points at. (What an ironic sentence I just typed… in any other context, the absence of chain hotels would be a great asset for any destination.) However, if you go the AirBNB route, you’re best off paying cash, at least until they partner with Chase and allow you to book using Ultimate Rewards points (fingers crossed).
As a result, planning a trip to the Faroes is a really good reason to look into a card that earns fixed-value points like the Barclay Arrival+ or whatever that PNC travel rewards card is called. Capital One has one too. (You can tell how much I care about this type of card product by the specificity with which I’m talking about them.) The bonus on the Arrival+ and PNC cards combined is worth $800, although you’ll have to spend $6000 to get there. Still, if you’re set on flexible points for the time being, cards like this can save you a decent amount of money. Combine it with a checking account bonus from whoever is offering one in any given week, and you’ll pay for a nice AirBNB cottage for a week.
As far as earning points while you’re there, it’s really no different than anywhere else you’ll travel. Credit cards are pretty widely accepted, although it’s still a good idea to have cash on hand. (The currency is Danish kroner, but the Faroe Islands have their own bills, which are interchangeable with Danish ones.) Oh, and I wasn’t worried about having too much cash at the end of the trip, since CPH airport has some pretty damn good whisky available in Duty Free, so I knew I’d have an opportunity to liquidate whatever money was left over (no pun intended).
I was only there for a few days, which means I didn’t get to do some of the stuff I wanted to do the most – especially hikes to the Enniberg sea cliff and Kallur lighthouse. Next time for sure. Still, you can really see a lot in a few days, given how easy it is to get around. (For reference, driving from the airport to the northernmost settlement, Vidareidi, takes under two hours. BTW, I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but vidd-are-ay-dee is not even close.) Given its proximity to the rest of Europe, you shouldn’t feel like you need tons of time to explore here. We blocked out four days, and while I want to go back for longer, we didn’t feel like we had massively missed out on anything due to the length of our trip.
Leaving here was tough, and not just because it was six AM when we got in the car to drive to the airport. We both agreed before we even left that we’d be back on our next trip.