The Faroe Islands met me with storm but I left in bright sunshine and with a warm heart
You can experience four seasons in one day on the Faroe Islands and sensible clothing for all weather is required. Faroe Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean and the weather is part of the experience. There are a lot of weather and the sky changes color and mood all the time. Nature is overwhelming and impressive. Barren landscape some may say and do not see the beauty in this volcanic landscape. But I’ve always loved the barren landscape and have sought deserts worldwide. It strikes me that I am in the midst of a green desert.
For a Norwegian, visiting the Faroe Islands is like travel in a time capsule. I feel that I am back in Old Norse time to visit my distant relatives. They accept me with open arms and despite that Faroe Islands is part of Denmark, we have a common history.
Irish monks were the first to settle on the Faroe Islands in the year 625, but they did not stay. About 150 years later they went home without having met anyone they could mission among. It was the Norwegians who formed the first permanent settlement on the Faroe Islands and we know that the first man was Grimur Kamban. No wonder that I feel at home. People, culture and language have its roots in the Norse culture and it was Norwegian Vikings who laid the foundation for today’s settlement on the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Iceland and Norway. Not all world maps have highlighted Faroe Island on the map so it is not so well known around the world where the Faroe Islands are actually located. Many would say that the Faroe Islands are inhabited in spite of and not because of the living conditions. But the islands are located in the middle of a huge pantry. The archipelago consists of 17 inhabited islands and countless islets and reefs. Around the islands we have the Atlantic that have made it possible to live on the Faroe Islands. The Atlantic is full of fish and fishing is and has always been the main industry on the Faroe Islands.
The climate can be tough, but winters are mild and it is rarely below freezing. Summer is cold with an average temperature of around 50 degrees F, but it can be nice and warm in the sun. With mild winters and cold summers, The Faroe Islands has Europe’s smallest variation in temperature throughout the year. The climate provides the basis for great sheep grazing and the animals can go outside year round.
I’ve always thought of The Faroe Islands as the green islands. Cliff islands without trees and with bright green meadows where sheep graze and where people live in harmony with nature. It is not only I who has that notion. In 2007, the Faroe Islands were voted the most appealing and exciting destination among all the world’s small island states. The award was from National Geographic and this year their readers voted The Faroe Islands “Best of the World 2015″ destination.
And now I’m finally here on The Faroe Islands. I am invited by Visit Faroe Islands and will participate in a 2 day trip before I go on to Fuglafjørdur on the island Eysturoy to attend the knitting festival Bindifestivalur for 4 days. I must admit that I have butterflies in my stomach and my expectations are high, high.
The Faroe Islands is a paradise for landscape photographers. No trees are shading the panoramic view of fjords and mountains. There are many activities for those who want to experience the thrills and adventures of this extreme nature. Mountaineering, helicopter flights, fishing, kayaking, boat trips and grotto swimming are some of the many activities offered. If you are of the more quiet type, you can wander in leisurely pace up the mountain peaks and through beautiful valleys in the company of sheeps in all color shades and spot sea birds of all kinds.
I prefer more quiet activities but The Faroe Islands elicited the ancient woman in me. So this old lady jumped from high cliffs into the roaring Atlantic waves. I swam countercurrent and flailed me into the shore – entirely voluntary, but mind you, I was wearing a dry suit. I surprised myself and ended up in a euphoric state of pride for several hours afterwards.
In the capital Torshavn you will find new architecture, avant-garde fashion and design, food with finesse, modern art and international music in full harmony with traditional culture and Faroese singing and dancing. Instrumental music is new in the Faroe Islands; it is only 150 years ago since instrumental music was brought to the Faroe Islands. But development has been rapid and today Faroe Islands have its own philharmonic orchestra. Singing is still important and Faroese songs are a living tradition and new songs are written constantly. When the Faeroese starts singing they seldom stop until late in the night. The singing is also part of the traditional ring dance and most of the 48,000 residents sing in a choir and dances whenever they get the chance.
Olsok, June 29, is the National Day of The Faroe Islands and in Torshavn the day is celebrated with song, ring dance and the national sport, boat racing. The world’s smallest capital is being transformed from a quiet tranquil city to a crowded and lively town of people in national costumes and they sing and dance for three days.
Torshavn has several gourmet restaurants and I have rarely been served so many varieties of seafood scattered in the strangest ways, an experience for the senses of taste and eyes. Faroese food has traditionally not been regarded as particularly exciting. As in Norway, fish and meat is dried without salt. Salt is first added when food is half dried. This gives a fermented flavor or rotten taste as the Faeroese call it. But with the concept of “The New Nordic Kitchen” Faroese food have got new attention and have given the whole Faroe Islands new inspiration to experiment with their local products.
We were served lovely and tasteful food in all places we visited. Even places that we in Norway would characterize as takeaways had food with exciting flavor and excellent local products. The cousin was a positive surprise and a big inspiration for cooking at home as well.
Like in most cities, Torshavn also has its own old town, Reyng. The Faroese flag is waving at the tip of the promontory, on Tinganes, where the first Norwegian settlers decided to locate their place of justice, Tingplass. The Faroese parliament is still controlled from this old part of the town and all the red buildings are public buildings. This idyllic environment is still Faroese political center.
The Nordic House, designed by the Norwegian architect Ola Steen was opened in 1983 and is the pride of Torshavn. It is situated on the slopes right outside Torshavn center with a nice view down to Torshavn and the harbor. The Nordic House is a cultural center and a conference center of high quality. We got a simple but tasty lunch and a quick presentation of the house’s many activities and applications. The house was crowded with children attending a concert with the symphony orchestra.
Torshavn is a big fishing port and also the center of the ferry company Strandfaraskip. A big and modern ferry takes you to the southern islands in a couple of hours. The Faroe Islands are small and distances are short so you can see a lot in a few days. The infrastructure is good and undersea tunnels and bridges makes it easy to get from island to island. In Torshavn you can get the city bus for free and busses run to almost everywhere.
The airport is located on the island Vågar approximately an hour’s drive from Torshavn. On the way to Torshavn we visited the villages Bour and Gasadalur. The genus of the famous author William Heinesen comes from the village Bour, which currently has around 75 inhabitants. The village has had a settlement since the Viking era and you get a wonderful view to the rocky island Tindholmur with its 5 peaks. A group of young people climbed to all the peaks for the first time last summer. In Bour we were served homemade fish soup in the warehouse. It was surprisingly sweet, but very good.
Next stop was the village Gasadalur and to get there we had to drive through the mountain in a tunnel. As we drove out of the tunnel the countryside revealed all its glory and it was a majestic sight to see the small village lying on the cliff facing the sea and the steep mountain rising up on the other side. The river Bossdalafoss is falling straight into the Atlantic and is one of Faroe Islands most popular photo sites. Before the tunnel was built, people in Gasadalur had to walk over the mountain to get to Bour and thence by bus to wherever they were going. It is still possible to choose the mountain trail if you will approach Gasadalur the old way and in a slow speed. The view from the top must be indescribable, so next time I come to the Faroe Islands, I will consider that possibility.
Another nice route for hiking is from Torshavn to Kyrkjebo. The hike to the old bishopric and royal residence where the Norwegian King Sverre grew up, takes a few hours. In the Middle Ages Kyrkjebo was the cultural and religious center in the Faroe Islands. The old log house is told to be Europe’s oldest timber building, around 900 years old. John Patursson is our host and farmer at Kyrkjebo, he’s 17. generation onsite. Two churches are located at the site, St. Magnus Cathedral, built around the year 1300 and Olavskirken from year 1111, named after Olav Tryggvason and is the only medieval church still in use on the Faroe Islands.
It is probably needless to say that The Faroe Islands is a favorite destination for ornithologists with special interest in seabirds. Around 50 species nest annually in the Faroe Islands, but many more species are occasional visiting the islands. The island Mykines have only 8 residents who during the winter depend on helicopter transport to and from the island. But in the summer, when the ferries run, the population and the tourist stream increase by several thousand. Mykines is a bird paradise and the most famous species is the northern gannet and puffins with their parrot-like appearance. Unfortunately we did not get to Mykines, but then even a greater reason to plan another trip to the Faroe Islands.
How to get there:
Atlantic Airways flies directly from Bergen to Faroe Islands. You can also fly via Copenhagen. From Copenhagen you can also take the ferry and bring your own car. It is possible to combine a visit to Faroe Islands with a visit to Island and Shetland.
Bridges and undersea tunnels make distances short. If there is no bridge or tunnel, it is always a ferry or you can take a helicopter if weather is not too bad, weather is always an issue on the Faroe Islands. In Torshavn the city bus is free and busses goes to all the towns on the big islands. Renting a car is also an option.
Torshavn has one 4 star hotel, Hotel Føroyar and it is situated on the slopes a bit outside of town. The hotel has a fantastic view over the city. All rooms have views and the hotel restaurant KOKS is among the best in Scandinavia and a great representative of the new Nordic kitchen.
Hotel Hafnia is located in the center of Torshavn and is under renovation.
Hotel Torshavn is also downtown and has both old and new rooms. Some of the new rooms have great views to the harbor.
More information about accommodation can be found here.
My trip was sponsored by Visit Faroe Islands, Atlantic Airwais and Explore Travel, but all my opinions are my own.