Planning An Ultra Low Cost Carrier Adventure To The Faroe Islands & Iceland

I have a lot of fun trips coming up, though I really want to plan a trip with Ford that involves nature. While I’m fortunate to see as many places as I do, Ford and I have both realized that we’re happiest in nature. Some of our favorite trips over the past few years have been to Longyearbyen, Bhutan, Hawaii, and Easter Island, and we loved all of those places specifically for being able to go outside and hike for hours.

Let me be clear, though — ultimately I’m an indoor person, so what I love in a nature destination is being able to hike for several hours a day and enjoy amazing views, while at night going back to a decent hotel with wifi (I’m lucky to be able to work from anywhere in the world, though the flip side of that is that I work every day).

While we have a lot of fun travel coming up, none of it is a true nature destination, and I’d like to change that. So, what am I thinking?

Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands

I’ve been to Iceland before, and loved it. Ford has never been, and I know he’d love it. I also know I’d enjoy it even more than I did last time if I were with him (driving around Iceland can only be so fun when you’re alone). There are two other destinations in the “area” that have interested me for a while — Greenland and the Faroe Islands — both of which I’ve written about.

No matter what we plan, Iceland will be in the mix, thanks to it being a logical connecting hub for getting to either of those places. Originally my plan was to travel to Greenland, though it looks like that’s not happening anymore.

Why Greenland isn’t happening

I’ve been wanting to review Air Greenland’s A330 business class, as they operate a flight between Copenhagen and Kangerlussuaq.

air-greenland

Based on my research, Ilulissat is the most interesting/practical part of Greenland to visit, so initially my plan was to fly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq to Ilulissat.

greenland-map

I wanted to stay at Hotel Arctic, which seems to be the decent hotel there that has great views. I had gone through the process of planning an itinerary, and then actually looked at hotel availability. As it turns out, Hotel Arctic is sold out for virtually the entire summer. I couldn’t find a date in June or July with a single room available. Oops. Maybe I should plan this for 2019?

Or maybe we should instead be looking at traveling in April or September, when I see some availability.

The Faroe Islands it is!

The Faroe Islands have also been on my list for a while. The Faroe Islands are located North of Scotland and East of Iceland, and look stunning. My plan was to go there for a few days and stay at Hotel Føroyar, which looks quite nice. They have plenty of availability over the summer.

Hotel

Before I get yelled at over this, I should mention that the Faroe Islands has a whale and dolphin slaughtering festival every year. The thought of that makes me really uncomfortable, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. I was a vegetarian for years, and have a strong preference for just about all animals over humans. So while I don’t really get that, I also feel like the US is really inhumane in terms of how they source food. They do eat the animals and they’re not endangered, so…? I don’t know, anything involving killing animals makes me uncomfortable.

Getting to the Faroe Islands could be sort of fun!

Anyway, this blog is largely about airlines, so the real point of this post is how I plan on getting to the Faroe Islands since this could be fun. The airline of the Faroe Islands is Atlantic Airways, and they fly to Reykjavik, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, and more. So I thought of a fun way we could get there and back, and it looks like Los Angeles is the best US gateway for that. What am I thinking?

  • Flying Norwegian Premium from Los Angeles to Copenhagen
  • Flying Atlantic Airways from Copenhagen to the Faroe Islands
  • Flying Atlantic Airways from the Faroe Islands to Reykjavik
  • Flying WOW Air Biz from Reykjavik to Los Angeles

We’d plan on going to Iceland for several days, and I’d like to check out both of the SPG Design Hotels properties — 101 Hotel and ION Adventure Hotel — so that I can review them, though go figure they’re very expensive (then again, most things in Iceland in summer are). They’re also Category 6 properties charging 25,000 Starpoints per night, so that’s the equivalent of ~$550 worth of points, by my valuation.

Bottom line

I’m really excited at the prospect of this trip, to be able to visit Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and also to be able to review Norwegian and WOW Air’s premium products. Before I pull the trigger on the trip, I figured I’d post in case anyone has any specific suggestions or thinks I’m going about this wrong. I guess we’ll save Greenland for next year then (unless fall is also an okay time to go).

Comments

  1. Faroe Islands! Yes, Lucky, you MUST review it…airline, airport, islands! I’ve always wanted to go there but never have.

  2. Car rentals in the Faroe Islands are expensive and sell out quickly. Automatic transmission vehicles are hard to find if that’s what you drive. I booked for March a while ago (Not a popular time to go) and by now the cars are in short supply and over $500/week. They also charge per km over a certain distance.

    Also, helicopter rides by Atlantic airways are subsidized by the Faroese government so you can ride around and see the sights from the air for an extremely reasonable price. There are only one-way rides, though, so you have to find a route with a ferry or bus home.

    The one English guide to the Faroe Islands has good advice for sightseeing. Mykines seems to be a must but unfortunately hard to get to in the off season.

  3. I’m too lazy to look up why but does this “slaughter” ultimately provide food for winter? Is it recreational(I hope not!). Who kills dolphins? Was Flipper(yes, I’m old) a porpoise or dolphin?
    Killing whales seems a bit Ahab/18th century.

  4. WOW doesn’t really have a premium product. I think they have some rows with a few extra inches of legroom, but it isn’t even premium economy.

    I’ve done Norwegian 787 in premium a few times (LAX to CPH and back). It’s extremely hit or miss with the crew. They have different bases, and you may get lucky and fly after they introduce the LAX crew base, but until then, they use a mix of Fort Lauderdale, NY, and Thai crew. It’s quite strange, actually.

    Also, upgrades are easy. If you pay the bare minimum ticket price, you can easily upgrade for about 220 USD one way (depending on how full the flight is, obviously). It’s interesting, because with that 220 dollars, that includes the checked bag, seat selection, and free food and drink, which could have cost an extra 100 dollars at booking. So in reality, it’s actually only about 120 dollars for the improved seat (which is slightly better than most premium economy seats out there, but far from business).

  5. The Faroe Islands are beautiful and the locals are also conflicted about the whale festival. While yes, it has been culturally significant in the past, most people no longer eat whale meat and it’s sort of run its course. For other local foods… I hope you like lamb.

    You should eat at Koks (fantastic new Nordic – make a reservation now) and Áarstova (traditional lamb and potatoes but quite delicious). The sushi place in Torshavn is good, but not as amazing as some would have you think, and don’t get your hopes up too much about Føroyar. It’s nice enough, but a little removed from downtown Torshavn and not anything special. Also, the fish and chips place in town is a classic. If you’re up for it, rent a car and head to Eysturoy and Tjørnuvík. The art museum in Torshavn is highly recommended and there’s a good coffee shop in Torshavn – Brell Café.

  6. Check out Hotel/Guesthouse Gjogv- it’s in such an idyllic town you’ll love it! Also, the subsidized helicopter rides between islands are a fantastic deal!

  7. I highly recommend the Ion Adventure hotel. The only issue that we didn’t love was that it was a 45minute drive on gravel to get to anything else. But once you are at the hotel, it is wonderful!

  8. Keep in mind for the Faroe Islands as another commenter wrote, Helicopter rides are extremely reasonable as they are subsidized. Make sure to try get in at least 1 or 2 and leave the main part of town to somewhere more remote.

  9. Good luck at the 101: it reminded me of the asylum in American Horror Story.
    The ION Adventure is nice, but the rooms are tiny. Food was excellent.
    At both places, breakfast is not included.

  10. Erm… I love animals too but you might wanna revisit your life priorities if you really mean what you wrote: “I […] have a strong preference for just about all animals over humans”

    Please don’t become so disconnected from humanity and ‘normal people’. Maybe all that first class flying and caviar is getting to you.

  11. @steve, first of all , it is really make you look ugly to diminish someone like that. Second of all, if you look at Ford’s bio, he had premium private education all the way. I wouldn’t bet my money on who is richer between the two of them.

  12. nice. those places have been on my radar as well. I am thinking next summer of spending time in Norway – Oslo for a few days and then take the train to Bergen (supposed to be an amazing train ride), see the fjords for a couple of days and fly from Bergen to the Faroes. And then stopover in Iceland on the way back home.

  13. We went to the Faroes in May 2016. Was one of the most amazing and unusual experiences. Flew with Atlantic from Bergen to Faroes and back to Edinburgh. Stayed at an Airbnb so it wasn’t too expensive. We hired a car with unicar.fo, was reasonably priced and super easy to do via email. The car pick up and drop off is unique! The overall price of the holiday was ok in the end.

    Renting a car and exploring is an ansolute must: Saksun, Gjogv and the waterfall on Vagar. Also do a boat tour, we did one of Vestmanna Bird Cliffs which was spectacular and we are not birdwacthers. KOKS, while having the best name ever, is really amazing, was the culinary highlight of our trip and impressed more than Noma. The locals are very friendly and are genuinely quite interested as to why you are there!

    We ran out of time to go to other islands as in May the helicopter timetable didn’t work out for us and the ferries are infrequent and take a while.

  14. If you are going to go full low cost, then why not try one of Norwegian’s 737 MAX routes to Edinburgh, Scotland from Connecticut Hartford Bradley (KBDL) or New York Stewart (KSWF)?
    You can then take Atlantic Airways to the Faroes from Edinburgh?
    Would love to read a report of a transatlantic, all economy, no frills 737 flight!

  15. Agreed that WOW AIR has no premium inflight product whatsoever, except extra fees to reserve bulkhead seats. I would love to see a review, seeing as there hasn’t been an Economy longhaul review here in ages, much less on an airline like WOW!

  16. WOW Air, on their A330 aircraft, which they fly to LAX, DO have a premium product. At the end of the day, it’s just wider seats with more leg room. You also get a meal included. Nothing fancy, but it is more spacious seating, more recline, and a better experience than you may get if you’re just flying in economy.

  17. We’d also took Atlantic Airways (CPH/FAE Economy) many years ago to the Faroes and we thought they were quite good. Though, I would make sure you have alternative plans in case your flight get’s cancelled. It happened to us in 2013 during September. We’d noticed 24 hours prior to our departure that our flight got cancelled due to the foggy weather. The next flight they were able to offer us was seven days later. Luckily, we were actually able to visit this magnificent place in 2014 and really loved it!! Make sure you take a ferry to one of the more remote islands, do some hiking there and take the Atlantic Airways helicopter back (foreigners can’t book return flights..). Even though you’re not really an outdoorsy person I am sure you’ll love the landscape. 🙂

  18. How about doing Atlantic Airways from Edinburgh? Almost did that last summer, but missed the sale.

  19. @CS – I’m with Lucky. We humans generally suck compared to other animal species. When was the last time you heard of dolphins needlessly murdering one another? Or whales destroying the planet?

  20. Lucky,
    There are a lot of videos on the Grind, the yearly slaughter of Pilot whales by the Faroese on You Tube.
    Please have a look before you go.

  21. I just got back from a trip to Greenland and stayed at the Hotel Arctic, although not on purpose. I flew Air Iceland Connect from Reykjavik to Ilulissat for a 4 day stay in Greenland. In February of course, probably not the smartest decision, but I wanted to see the Northern Lights and take a dogsled trip. I was supposed to return to Reykjavik on a Tuesday. I finally got back to Reykjavik the following Sunday, 5 days later! Every day the flight was cancelled due to weather either in Ilulissat, or Kulusuk, or Reykjavik. Weather had to be good at all 3 in order to fly, and that didn’t happen for 5 days. But Air Iceland put us up at the Hotel Arctic with all meals, which was very good. It is a beautiful hotel right on the Icefiord. The bad thing was I missed all 5 days of my pre-booked tours in Iceland, only getting back in time to return to the States. So, lesson learned, if you plan a trip to Greenland, don’t plan anything for a week afterwards!! It was a fantastic experience, I can now say that, since I don’t find myself still in Greenland!

  22. The Faroe’s are one of my favourite places I’ve visited. I second @Alex comments about unicar.fo, I rented through them which was cheap and easy.

    I stayed at various Airbnb’s through out the islands which was great and useful for getting locals advice. Heaps of amazing hikes and awesome drives.

  23. If you want a nature destination smiths beach resort (part of SLH) is great right on the beach next to hiking trails near plenty of wineries and the resort has wi fi a pool and gym and great rooms and villas with great views.

  24. Oh my Great Sally Aunt …..what a miserable God-forsaken place that destination looks and why, oh why, are you putting yourself to so much trouble and expense for what appears to be so few paltry returns?

    Fly with your beloved Ali Al-Bakr’s airline to Cardiff (although I sadly doubt that they will provide you with a Qsuite on that route) and then enjoy hiking in Wales for stunning Snowdonia mountain vistas, beautiful Pembrokeshire coastal trails and first class hotels that don’t look like they are lodged on a slag heap.

    Whatever one may think of the irritating vociferously grand and self-congratulatory Al-Bakr, we certainly have to give credit to this man for his business acumen. By putting Cardiff (Wales) on Qatar’s flight path, his vision and investment policy is sure to reap dividends.

  25. You need more than a few days in Iceland. My husband has been there about 20 times and I have been there 5 times (friends, fishing, professional research collaboration). We still haven’t fully explored the place. The Ion Hotel is very close to Thingvellir National Park. It is very historic and geologically significant. Read up on Icelandic history before you go.
    There was a documentary on Public Television about the Faroes. It showed the whale slaughter—not pretty. The problem, according to the film, is that whale is a significant part of their diet and—because of man made pollution—high in mercury. Many islanders have very high level. A local doctor/researcher has been trying to get them to stop eating whales for their own health but has met with hostility and even violence. It’s remenicent of Ibsen’s, “An Enemy of the People”.
    Also, even in summer, bring warm clothing (layers) and rain gear—jackets AND pants..

  26. Try to get to Akureryi or East Iceland if you can! They were absolutely incredible and very different from the south/west where everyone typically goes. Seydisfjordur is the cutest little town ever. In Akureyri, eat at Strikid, best meal ever. No points hotels sadly.

    We are hoping to go back to Iceland at some point during the summer, so we can visit the Highlands.

  27. Make dinner reservations weeks in advance for Reykjavik:

    Dill Restaurant – New Nordic
    *Michelin Star

    Grillmarkadurinn – Try the puffin sliders. Great Lamb.

    Apotek – lively! Amazing salted cod.

  28. p.s. Air Greenland is notorious for canceling flights. When we arrived at
    Kangerlussuaq to catch the A330 to
    KEF, there were 300 Germans that were stranded for 3 days waiting to fly to CPH. We ended up boarding, then it was decided the remaining seats would go to the Germans and the Air Greenland jet would reroute
    SFJ-KEF-CPH. It made for interesting chaos in the terminal as not all could board and resulted in an 8hr. delay just to get back to Iceland.

  29. @tda – On the subject of marine creatures… dolphins might be peace loving but lobsters are carnivorous and their favourite food is other lobsters….

  30. Why go all the way to Copenhagen? Why not just fly to Iceland, from there to the Faroe Islands, back to Iceland, and then back to the US?

  31. I’m in the Faroe Islands right now! It’s my second time here, and I absolutely love this place. From my AirBNB in Elduvík, I’m hunkered down in a blizzard, but my rental car has studded tires, so I’ll probably head out for a scenic drive soon.

    I third the recommendation to rent a car from Unicar.fo – it’s much cheaper than the airport car rental places, and they’ll leave the car at the airport with the keys in it, so you even save time not having to check in at the desk.

    My #1 recommendation for anyone traveling here is to spend at least a couple nights in one of the small villages around the islands. There are tons of options on AirBNB, since lots of people own vacation homes and live in either Torshavn or Klaksvik. You really do feel like you’ve reached the end of the Earth.

  32. A few things:

    Before you judge the whale hunting tradition in the Faroe Islands, it may be useful to understand how this is part of their culture for centuries. I suggest this documentary as a start: http://www.pbs.org/pov/theislandsandthewhales/

    FYI The only way this society could survive was through hunting, fishing, gathering and herding sheep. Crops are almost impossible to grow in this climate — so vegetarianism would not have been an option years ago. I’m not saying that continued whale hunting is morally ethical in a modern society — just the issue of the high mercury levels makes whale meat a questionable choice with which to feed young children, not to discount the treatment of the whales upon death — but it’s a complex issue that encompasses many different aspects: culture, morality, tradition, ethics, and globalization.

    The landing at Vágar Airport can be quite amazing — thick fog, strong winds and a short air-strip can make for a hair-raising experience! Car rentals are often quite casual. Our company left the keys under the mat and told us where we could find it in the parking lot. There is a toll to get to Tórshavn, but again, it’s very casual. The gas station where you normally paid the toll was closed for the night when we passed through so we paid ours at the hotel.

    Koks Restaurant is a must. The prix fixe menu is world class. The rotten lamb fat is, well, just about what it seems to be. But the wine pairings are ingenious and very thoughtful. Helicopter rides would make for a good review on this blog, but you should also island hop using at least one ferry. This is a sea-faring society so seeing it from their point of view would be important.

    The Faroe Islands are small but surprising easy to navigate. Your biggest obstacle will be finding accommodation — places like Mykines have just one hostel and they fill quickly. The weather is surprisingly temperate it can be 40F in Jan or June and rain is a constant. Be sure to bring the proper gear and you’ll have a great time. The Faroese are fond of saying that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing!

    Enjoy!! This is truly a unique society and the landscape is without equal!

  33. Oh no don’t subject yourself to the ION hotel! Such a waste of money and time. Try to remember it is a re-purposed bunk house for the electric plant that is right next door. Every picture avoids that eyesore that dominates the landscape once your are there. Also the “thermal pool” is an 18″ deep luke-warm puddle in the shape of a lap pool. If you are committed, try to remember that you have to eat the hotel’s outrageously priced food, before 8pm (remember in summer it will be light till around 1am) – which is a killer both in terms of ruining the benefit of long day outdoors and to the wallet.

  34. The Faroe – I’m going there late June. The poster who earlier said car rental are expensive is absolutely wrong. I have a car costing about $180 for a week. I’m flying Atlantic from Copenhagen, and that too was very inexpensive. I’ve arranged a few hotels, and couple AirBnBs, and an entire cabin on the souther island of Sorduroy.
    I take excursions, which I plan all on my own (and they get intense, especially my journey through Norway) and I can tell you this is a super affordable jaunt whilst I’m doing my Denmark trip.

  35. This festival is really shocking, but there’s a nice article showing the Faroese perspective: http://fotostrasse.com/grindadrap-faroese-whale-hunting/

    Essentially, the thing is: the are NO TREES in the Faroe Islands. Zero. Be my guest on looking pictures of the country and try to find one single tree.
    So there are zero possibilities for them to grow something from the soil, because of many factors.

    But still, that’s not a nice thing 🙁

  36. Went last year and loved it! Koks is superb, if you go you may want to tell them you’re not interested in trying whale. Some of the food takes a strong stomach particularly those used to an American diet.
    Gjogv and Saksun are stunning though the driving is a little hairy at times! The one lane tunnels are also an experience!
    My car rental came out at twice the expected price as mileage isn’t included and I think there are tolls so be warned!

  37. @Lucky –

    Consider adding a quick stint to the remote east coast of Greenland – flying out of Reykjavík Airport, not KEF, for Kulusuk with Air Iceland Connect? Take the helicopter from there and stay in nearby Tasiilaq.

    The approach to KUS can be mind blowing. Hike from the airport to the former U.S. radar station at Isikajjia/Kap Dan – for a view of the pack ice in the open ocean.

  38. @Lucky
    “anything involving killing animals makes me uncomfortable”

    So why are you not vegan??
    Surely if killing animals makes you uncomfortable you shouldn’t eat animals that have been mistreated and viciously killed…

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