The Faroe Islands are the one-time home of Vikings and Norsemen. The 18 islands are situated between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean and are populated by only 50,000 hearty souls and their 70,000 sheep. Surprisingly, the islands are inter-connected by a series of well-maintained roads and tunnels, dug deep beneath the islands’ many fjords.
Although it seems as if the Faroes are remote, they are actually fairly easy to get to. The local population is counting on that. As Iceland, only a 90-minute plane ride away, is becoming over-touristed, the Faroese are aiming to diversify their economy by luring many of those tourists to their homeland. In the words of many Faroese, their economy is fishing, fishing, and fishing!
My wife, Niki, and I spent a week on the Faroes in early summer, guided by expert professional photographers Pall Jokull Petursson of Iceland, and Arjin Wilmsen of the Netherlands. Summer in the Faroes is a bit cooler than what we are used to in the mid-Atlantic states.
We were very impressed by the friendliness of the people. We happened to arrive on St. Olaf’s Day, a national holiday that seemed to attract most of the people to Torshavn, the capital of the island. Torshavn, the world’s smallest national capital, is named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor.
The countryside is marked by towering fjords, waterfalls, pastures full of sheep, which double as hiking trails. The roofs of many of the buildings are covered in grass. Towns are very small, sometimes with only a handful of citizens. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to view the large puffin population on one of the further islands, but oyster catchers, the national bird, are found everywhere.
Outside of Torshavn, there are few restaurants on the islands. It seemed to us that the biggest food attraction was hot dogs sold at the few gas station/convenience stores along the highways. Given their thriving salmon industry, you would think that salmon and other fish would be well-represented on local menus. On the contrary, there is little fish to be found in restaurants. But other items on the menu or at home can be washed down with one of the island’s many craft beers. For those hardy enough to visit the Faroes during the winter, the Northern Lights often fill the skies to the enjoyment of all lucky enough to view them.
A visit to the Faroe Islands may not be on your bucket list, but for those looking for a rugged, beautiful, unspoiled and unpopulated place to visit, then hurry to the Faroes, as they soon will become a very popular location. On your way there or home, stop off in Iceland for several days. Reyjavik has become extremely over-crowded, so a visit to the land of fire and ice may be best enjoyed either in the remote areas of Iceland or during the winter.
All photos by Gary J. Kohn
Top: One of Island’s 20,000 sheep, perched precariously on hill side near top of mountain overlooking fjord.