Flying the North Atlantic is a must for those who have the opportunity or means to do so. The most common routes involve launching from North Eastern Canada while stopping in Greenland and Iceland on the way to the UK. This is an amazing journey and even doing it a number of times does not diminish the grandeur or beauty. On the final transatlantic portion eastbound between Iceland and Scotland there is a small set of islands that typically provide slight interest by virtue of providing a possible en-route alternate. Very few use it as a destination and those few who venture into this lost Viking Kingdom typically say it is one of the most spectacular places they have ever been.
ACG CEO describes his first experience here.
“My opportunity to visit came when a friend and I had to ferry a DA42 Twinstar from Berlin to Los Angeles. It was decided we would take an alternate route over the North Atlantic that would see us fly from Berlin to Bergen, Norway to Vagar on the Faroe Islands and on to Akureyri on the north coast of Iceland and on from there.
We departed Berlin early morning and after a four-hour flight in IMC we landed in a very wet Bergen. While they fueled our plane we found an open hangar and scrambled into our immersion flight suits. If nothing else, we would be waterproof against the rain. With our clearance received to Vagar (EKVG), we launched over the dreary and always (minimally) mildly ominous North Atlantic.
As we got within about 100 miles of Vagar listening to the Faroe Islands radio the communication was broadcast:
‘This is Atlantic Airways, I believe there is a small plane on its way into Vagar, are you on frequency?’
‘We are, go ahead’
‘I am a captain of the Faroe Islands Airlines 737 and we have just departed Vagar. As you probably know this airport is infamous for wind shear and turbulence. I have been flying out of Vagar for a lot of years and this is one of the days they warn you about’
From there the scene was set as the conditions seemed a bit worse than the forecast has us believe.
There was turbulence and wind shear, but the DA42 took it in its stride. The clouds and visibility cooperated enough for us to appreciate flying into a landscape where I’d expected to find a dragon swoop across our path at any moment. What makes the approach into Vagar all the more spectacular is the optical illusion of a lake that appears part of the ocean that’s actually elevated 300 feet above. Maybe Escher was not such a genius after all… and he had just flown into Vagar.
Once we landed and took care of the customary paperwork, we jumped in a taxi and headed off to another island to find our hotel. The archipelago is linked by a series of ferries and tunnels. These tunnels are carved out of the basalt foundations of the islands and the basalt, in turn, a result of the Foroe’s fiery volcanic birth. Basalt is so hard there was no need to reinforce the tunnels with concrete, so they appear more like re-purposed troll caves. There is even a roundabout in the tunnel with a sign posted for your choice of island(s). We were off to Torshavn, the capital and biggest village. The landscape is spectacular. It only appears there’s one piece of relatively flat land and that’s where they put the airport. The default landscape seems to be near vertical grass-covered, rock-scared slopes decorated by cascades and waterfalls. The prevalence of so much surface water is a result of the wet climate and the rocky island’s inability to absorb.
If the road was not underground, then it was climbing or descending constantly opening up new vistas of this mad treeless landscape dotted by small cottages with grass covered roofs.
Torshavn is a small town that serves as the financial center with fishing as their main industry. We stayed at the insightfully named Hotel Torshavn.
After going for a run along the shoreline to take in the sights and smells sans airplane and car windows, we had had an amazing meal in one of the many fantastic little restaurants in the Faroe Islands, these forgotten about Vikings can sure cook (and brew beer).
The next morning after a great breakfast and another unforgettable trip through the otherworldly landscape we set our spinners pointed towards Iceland. The flight out of Vagar was equally as spectacular as the flight in and we stayed at low level for as long as possible so we could see as much of the magical islands before we headed back up into the clouds to leave the hobbits and dragons behind.
When we arrived in Akureyri, they joked that they called the Faroese halfway-ers because they never made it the whole way to Iceland. I think if I found a place like that I would have probably stayed also.”