The weather is maritime, quite changeable and totally dominated by the Gulf Stream which encircles the islands and moderates the climate, giving an annual average range between 3°C in winter and 11°C in summer. In sheltered valleys the temperature can often reach into the high teens; however, the highest temperature ever recorded in the islands is a balmy 22°C.
The Faroes also lie in the stormiest part of the North Atlantic, directly in the path of the majority of Atlantic depressions, and as a result are cloudy, wet and windy throughout the year. In winter, temperatures are relatively mild for the high latitude (the Faroes are warmer in winter, for example, than Denmark, 6° of latitude further south), harbours never freeze and although snowfall does occur it is generally short-lived. Winter storms though can rage for days, cutting off some of the smaller islands.
Conversely, in summer, days are cool and rather cloudy. Throughout the year, mist (Tórshavn is particularly prone to fog in the summer months) and rain are common, but weather changes are rapid and there are nearly always variable conditions prevailing on different islands. The two main southern islands, Sandoy and Suðuroy, for example, have more sunny days than the northern islands and are generally a shade warmer.
When to visit
Undoubtedly the best time to be in the Faroes is during the long days of summer. From May to the end of July, when the evenings are light and the weather is at its most stable, the islands show their best side: wild flowers grow amid the deep-green tussocky grass of the valley slopes, the waterfalls glisten against the patchwork of whites and blues of the northern sky and everywhere the air is heavy with the scent of freshly mown hay and full of the calls of thousands of birds.
August and September, too, are delightful months to be in the islands; the days are still long and can be pleasantly warm. September, in particular, can be a great time to have the islands to yourself; most other tourists have left and you can hike without seeing a soul and experience the unsullied Faroese nature totally undisturbed. However, the weather now is on the change and the first of the winter storms is never far away.
Although autumn, and especially winter, are not ideally suited to tourism in the Faroes, there is nevertheless a certain masochistic pleasure to be gained from being buffeted by winds and rain, the intensity of which you will probably never have experienced before. The downside, of course, is that daylight is scarce at this time of year, and in December and January, it’s already starting to get dark around 14.00–14.30 – it’s black by 14.30–15.00.
Under a fresh fall of snow, the elemental beauty of the Faroese landscapes of mountain peaks and deep valleys is certainly breathtaking, but it’s worth remembering that many attractions are closed or inaccessible during the long winter months.
Spring brings a new lease of life to the islands, and daffodils and snowdrops are in full bloom in the Faroes way before they even start to peek out of the ground in Iceland, for example, barely an hour’s flight to the north. March and April are incredibly satisfying months to visit the country – not only can you appreciate the fresh leaves on the trees and the newly opened flowers, but the birds are starting to return, a sure sign that spring has arrived.
Faroese flag day
Faroese flag day (25 April) revolves around recognition of the Faroese flag (announced on the BBC during wartime) which is a sign of national pride and independence.
Festival of Classical and Contemporary Music, Summartónar
Every year from June to August the Festival of Classical and Contemporary Music, Summartónar, is held around the Faroe Islands in different churches, museums and other public places.
Faroe Islands Regatta
In early July experience the unique Faroese Wooden Sail Ships in a regatta voyage from the north to the south of the Faroe Islands. You can participate in the Faroe Islands Regatta by taking the whole trip or doing parts of the trip.
National Day, Ólavsøka, is celebrated on 29 July with lots of sport, music and cultural events in Tórshavn including a march through the capital, terminating at parliament.
Gay Pride is held at the same time as Ólavsøka and is undoubtedly the best time for a gay visit to the islands. An all-inclusive march through town with much merriment and flag waving at a time when the gay community is finally getting its voice heard.
Also in late July is G! Festival. The festival brings leading international and local musicians together for a musical extravaganza against the splendid scenery of the ancient, seaside village of Gøta.
The Tour de Faroes
The Tour de Faroes in early August is by far the biggest cycling event in the Faroe Islands. It is a good opportunity to experience the Faroe Islands and its changing landscape. The only thing you need is a racing bike, though watch out for sheep crossing at seemingly any moment!
The Summer Festival is a unique music event held in early August in the centre of the town Klaksvík. It is the biggest music event in the Faroe Islands, and acts like Brian McFadden, Roger Hodgson, Ken Hensley, Shakin’ Stevens and others have all played at the festival.
Ovastevna is a regional festival on the island of Nólsoy in mid-August. The ferry shuttles across from Tórshavn during the day and into the night. The festival is held in honour of Ove Joensen who rowed single-handedly from the Faroes to the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.
You can participate in the 11th Atlantic Airways Tórshavn Marathon in early September. In addition to the full Marathon the races will include a half marathon, a 5.5 km Health run and a 2.2 km Health run.
The annual sheep slaughter takes place in September. Farmers bring in their sheep from the hills and choose which ones will be slaughtered ahead of winter. This is an intrinsic part of the sheep-rearing culture in the Faroes and is an important part of the annual calendar which has been practised since Viking times. Much celebration and merriment in the villages and in the countryside surrounds the event.