If you’re visiting the Faroe Islands, one of the most unique and interesting things you can do is embarking on a truly breathtaking helicopter flight with Atlantic Airways.
Atlantic Airways Helicopters – Booking
Atlantic Airways’s helicopters serve as important transport links between the various islands of the Faroese archipelago.
Atlantic Airways operates a total of two Leonardo AW139 helicopters in their fleet. With only 15 bookable spots on each route, the seats tend to get booked up rather quickly. What’s more, since the helicopter flights are subsidized by the Faroese government, the fares are very reasonable.
While the helicopter flights are intended for locals to get around, visitors to the islands can also book available seats. However, only one-way bookings are permitted, and not round-trip bookings, to prevent tourists from taking a ride on the helicopter “just for fun” and taking seats away from the locals.
Since tourists can only book a single one-way flight per day, the best way to experience the helicopters as a tourist is to fly between two islands in one direction, and then make use of the Faroe Islands’ excellent ferry and bus transport infrastructure for the other leg of the journey.
Bookings open seven days in advance on many routes between most of the islands. The exceptions are the routes to and from Froðba and Stóra Dímun, the two southernmost islands served by helicopters, where bookings only open two days in advance.
The route network is quite extensive and spans most destinations in the archipelago. Helicopter service is available to and from the westernmost, easternmost and southernmost extremities of the territory.
In our case, we booked our flight only a few days in advance, when most of the seats to and from the biggest population centres were already full.
However, we managed to score a ride between Froðba and Skúvoy, the southernmost and third-southernmost heliports, situated on the islands of Suðuroy and the eponymous Skúvoy, respectively.
From Skúvoy, we planned our journey to return to the capital of Tórshavn via a series of ferries and buses. Thus, our day-trip excursion would take us on three different modes of transportation:
- Ferry from Tórshavn (on the main island of Streymoy) out to Tvøroyri (on the island of Suðuroy)
- Helicopter from Froðba (on the island of Suðuroy) to Skúvoy
- Ferry from Skúvoy to Sandoy (on the island of Sandur)
- Bus from Sandoy to Skopun
- Ferry from Skopun to Gamlarætt (on the main island of Streymoy)
- Bus from Gamlarætt back to Tórshavn
Remember when I said that the helicopter fares were quite reasonable? The ride from Froðba to Skúvoy was only $85 Danish krone ($15 CAD). That’s an incredible deal for a flight by helicopter, especially with the incredible scenery of the Faroe Islands all around us!
I was teeming with anticipation after locking in our booking, because the only other helicopter I’ve taken so far was with BLADE helicopters in New York.
A seven-minute helicopter ride with BLADE costs $149 (USD), so I was certainly getting far better value out here with Atlantic Airways.
Atlantic Airways Helicopters – Check-in
Upon arrival in the village of Tvøroyri on the island of Suðuroy, we realized that we didn’t have much time left until our 30-minute check-in deadline at the Froðba heliport. We therefore decided to do something we had never done before: hitchhike.
Luckily, we were picked up by a lovely older Faroese couple. We had a very pleasant conversation with them, learning about what life was like in this quiet corner of the world.
Our first-time hitchhiking experience was a delightful one, and we’ll now have to send a postcard from Vancouver out to our new Faroese pen pals.
Upon arrival at Froðba Heliport, it became clear that there was really no need to respect the instruction of arriving 30 minutes in advance. The heliport is just a tiny building, and we would be the only passengers on that morning’s flight from Froðba out to Skúvoy.
As the only passengers on the flight, we underwent some very casual check-in formalities. The staff simply looked at the email confirmation and didn’t check our IDs or anything else.
We were then invited into a little waiting room, where we saw a series of bag tags for each of the potential destinations here in the Faroe Islands. Our bags were weighed and then tagged through to Skúvoy.
After that, we watched the helicopter arrive from its inbound journey. After landing, the Suðuroy-bound passengers exited and were met by some locals who had come to greet them, and then there was a bit of a lull in the action.
The captain strolled back into the hall and relaxed for a little bit while the helicopter was refuelled. Then, as we approached our departure time of 12:35pm, the captain went back out, fired up the engine, and invited us to board.
On our machine, there were 15 seats spread out across three rows. Two of the rows faced forward, and one faced rearward.
My partner Jessy and I took up the seats by the port-side windows, looking outwards. We donned our headphones and were informed of a flying time of five minutes to Stóra Dímun, the first island (where we’d simply be dropping off some mail for the lcoals), and then a further seven minutes from there over to our destination of Skúvoy.
We were soon up and away, looking out at the spectacular views of Suðuroy. The pilot navigated around the island before heading north towards Stóra Dímun.
As with many of the islands here in the Faroes, Stóra Dímun was really just a lush, green rock protruding out of the ocean.
Compared to some of the other islands, Stóra Dímun has very few beaches suitable for boats to dock. Instead, it has rugged cliffs all around, so the helicopter service is a crucial way for the 10 residents that live on the island to have a connection to the outside world.
(Yes, there are only 10 residents from two families living on this island. Talk about remoteness!)
Indeed, after a very brisk landing on the island, we saw somebody come over to collect the mail from the helicopter before walking away. Within 30 seconds, we were lifting off again, this time headed towards Skúvoy.
As we flew away, we were treated to epic views of the rugged cliffs of Stóra Dímun. At the base, enormous ocean waves pounded against the shore, and I found myself transfixed by the incredible natural scenery.
The seven-minute ride from Stóra Dímun took us north-by-northwesterly towards Skúvoy. Across the open sea we went, until making landfall once again on another rugged island, this time populated by only 22 residents.
Skúvoy is another island that consists of only one village, which also happens to be named Skúvoy. Compared to Stóra Dímun, this island is home to smoother sloping cliffs that meet the edge of the sea.
We made our landing at the heliport right next to the edge of the water, bringing our exhilarating Faroese helicopter ride to an end.
Upon arrival, we encountered a family who was bidding farewell to some of their family members who boarded the helicopter’s onward flight to Tórshavn.
As they finished waving goodbye, they turned to us and took great interest in what on earth we were doing here on this tiny, remote island.
The very nice family invited us for coffee at their house, which they used as their summer home. It turns out that the family actually lives in Copenhagen, but they come out to the Faroe Islands in the summers because of their Faroese roots.
We thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the country over coffee at their house. After we finished our cups, at the family’s recommendation, we embarked on an hour-long hike up the hill to explore a bit of the very sparsely populated island.
After our hike, we popped down to catch our scheduled ferry service to the island of Sandoy, en route eventually back to the Faroese capital of Tórshavn via a series of ferries and buses.
Travelling by helicopter with Atlantic Airways is a great way to get to know the islands, see a bit of the archipelago’s farthest reaches, and get a quintessential Faroese experience under your belt.
Whether you’re an aviation enthusiast or simply a traveller looking for an extra dose of adrenaline, a helicopter ride – starting at a very affordable $15 (CAD) – is something I’d highly recommend for anyone visiting the Faroe Islands.
Beyond the helicopter experience, though, there was plenty more to see and do on this magical archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean – and we’ll delve into all of it in the next installment.