For savvy travelers looking for a break from big cities and bustling resorts, the Faroe Islands are an ideal destination. Located in the Norwegian Sea, the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean, between the Scottish islands and Iceland, the archipelago attracts with its beauty even experienced travelers.
The local nature is extraordinary: gorges, lakes, numerous waterfalls, fjords, graceful cliffs – all charming at first sight. There are practically no trees, but you can endlessly admire the snow-capped peaks of the mountains, towering over the lands of the archipelago. The highest point of these places is Slattaratindur Peak, located on the island of Esturai, which is 882 meters above sea level.
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Video: Faroe Islands
The Faroe region is an internal autonomy of the Kingdom of Denmark, independently governing almost all matters, excluding the topic of defense and foreign policy. The archipelago includes 18 islands, of which 17 are inhabited. Of the 48 thousand local residents about 20 thousand live in the capital or in the suburbs.
The official languages on the islands are two – Faroese and Danish. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are native speakers of Faroese, which is a mixture of the West Scandinavian dialects and is widely used in almost all spheres of life.
Climate and weather
The Faroe Islands are situated at the heart of the warm Gulf Stream, thus causing a constant off-season with 280 rainy days per year. Although the islands seem to have no seasonal boundaries, the climate is mild. Monthly average temperature ranges from 0 ° C to + 4 ° C in winter and from +11 ° C to +17 ° C in summer. The rainy season falls in September – January, and then the archipelago is covered with fog, not allowing the sun rays to penetrate to the surface.
Thanks to the warm sea current the water on the islands has almost the same temperature – +10 ° C – all year round, creating all the conditions for the development of fisheries.
Holiday in the Faroe Islands is a recreation in the bosom of nature in its pristine form. Because of private strong winds the islands are mostly treeless, sometimes you can find mountain ash, maple, conifers. Much of the territory of the islands is occupied by peat bogs, meadows, as well as mountain ranges.
In their free time fauna lovers can diversify their leisure on the islands to observe colonies of seabirds, seals, whales and dolphins.
There are a huge number of sheep on the archipelago. The latter were once brought to the local hills by the Celts. The local endless pastures attracted the sheep, and today there are two sheep for every resident.
The Faroe Islands are most comfortable to visit during the summer months when there is little precipitation and warm weather.
Excursion program on the Faroe Islands is varied: visit the capital Torshavn, small villages, bird markets, boat trips in the coastal waters.
The capital of the islands, Torshavn, lies in a most picturesque area. The main part of the city protrudes over the fjord, which offers an amazing view of the wild mountains and steep cliffs. It’s very quiet here, with only the central square and the piers, where work is in full swing. The streets away from the center tend to be small and cramped.
The main attraction of Torshavn is Munkastovan monastery, built in the XV century, surrounded by a stone wall. Munkastovan is one of the few buildings that escaped the great fire of 1673. Another building that also survived the fire is the royal storehouse of Leigubun.
Inquisitive travelers will be interested in a trip to the Historical Museum, which has a collection of ship models, household items of local residents, fishing gear and farming tools from Viking times to the present day, as well as items of religious value.
Take a walk through the Vidarlunn Park and visit the Museum of Art and enjoy the magnificent examples of sculpture and painting.
Fygloi, the “island of birds”, is named for its majestic cliffs, populated by millions of seabird colonies.
North of the settlement of Skarvanes is the beautiful sea cliff of Tretlkonufingur (“the finger of the troll woman”).
At the end of July (the 28th and 29th), the Faroese celebrate their main holiday, St. Olaf’s Day. During these days, the usually reserved locals throw a real riot of emotions. The festival is named after Olaf II, who, as King of Norway, introduced Christianity in Scandinavia and began to fight against paganism.
Traditionally, celebrations include rowing competitions, horse races, dance and religious processions, and art exhibitions.
The inhabitants of Faroe Islands owe their national menu to the harsh climate of the islands. Local dishes traditionally consist of meat and fish. Faroese specialties such as sheep’s head, whale fat and skorpiket (dried lamb) are a must for gourmets. And for lovers of traditional cuisine, local restaurants will be happy to serve roast lamb. Tourists have a chance to try the exquisitely stuffed with sweet pastry tupik (a kind of birds), which are served with sweet berries and potatoes. The ubiquitous rhubarb will also be new to many.
Alcoholic beverages are officially allowed on the islands from the age of 18. Light beer is sold everywhere, but a strong dark beer, soft drinks and wine – only in the state monopoly stores in major cities and restaurants with a license.
We recommend the Merlot in the center of Torshavn and Glasstovan at the Feroyar Hotel. The latter has a wonderful view over the city.
Lunch at a local restaurant will cost a tourist on average $ 30, at higher establishments – $ 45-50, excluding alcohol. You can eat at a local cafe much cheaper.
Upon arrival to the islands you can stay in the capital three-star hotels “Torshavn” or “Streim” or more comfortable “Hafnia” and “Feroyar”, In all hotels, tourists are offered rooms with amenities, shuttle service to / from the airport, free Wi-Fi throughout the area. The cost of accommodation is quite high – from $120, but there are seasonal discounts.
A more budget option would be guest houses and hostels. The most popular are Skansin and Bládýpi, but you need to book rooms in them several months in advance. There are also mini-hotels that work on the principle of “bed and breakfast”. Prices start at $80 and vary depending on the time of year.
For travelers who prefer recreation in nature, there are camping sites located in specially designated areas. In the Faroe Islands there is a very strict attitude to order, so vacationers in tents are required to keep clean and thoroughly clean when leaving.
Entertainment and Recreation
There are many varieties of fish in the local waters, so fishing is very popular among locals and vacationers. By the way, the local law allows to take out of the country any fish longer than 30 cm, which has long been prohibited in most European countries.
The Faroe Islands are interesting for wreck-divers: you can find shipwrecks in local coastal waters. Near the island of Nolsoy it is interesting to watch the underwater life of seals.
Nightlife lovers can spend time in the capital clubs Rex or Eclipse. The latter is open to visitors no younger than 18, but no older than 25.
Of Faroese souvenirs the most interesting are the numerous woolen products, pottery and wooden crafts.
Because of the fairly harsh climate the islanders revere woolen clothes. Here you can always buy a fashionable sweater, gloves or a hat at attractive prices.
Most stores are open from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. to 5:30 to 6 p.m. On Fridays, many stay open until 7pm. On Saturdays, the opening hours are 9 a.m. to 12 noon, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays are usually a holiday.
In the Faroe Islands, there is a well-developed bus route network and ferries go between islands. In the capital there are local buses in red with four routes, which you can use to get to almost all parts of the city. The waiting interval is half an hour in the morning and afternoon – increases to one hour in the evening. Blue Bygdaleiðir buses are the connecting transport of the islands. Maps of routes and schedules of passenger transport are available at the kiosks Steinatún.
The best way to get to the islands themselves is by plane. The only international airport Vagar is located on the island of the same name near the village of Sorvagur. Tourists to travel around the islands can rent a car. In order to rent a car, you must have an international driver’s license, a credit card and be over 20 years old. Rental rates start at $60 per day.
The standard of mobile communications on the islands is GSM. There is also an analog version, but it is almost superseded by the digital format.
Local mobile operators – Foroya Tele and Kall P / F. Roaming in their networks is available to subscribers of major mobile operators in Russia.
Travelers can purchase local cell phone SIM cards at Teleshops, hotels, post offices and gas stations.
A sufficient number of pay phones (credit card and coin-operated) also operate in Faroes. When calling abroad, you need to dial 00, the national code, and the number you wish to call.
You can use the Internet in Internet cafes. Most hotels provide a wireless connection on their premises.
Traveling through the islands, you can not worry about the safety of your property – the level of crime is extremely low here. In order not to spoil your vacation, it is enough not to leave personal belongings unattended, do not take with them large sums of money, be polite to the locals and do not abuse the night walks. If necessary, the police are always ready to help.
If you need medical assistance during your trip, you can be sure that it will be provided at the highest level. The central hospital is located in the capital city and has excellent medical facilities.
Registering a business in the Faroe Islands takes only a few days. The most common forms are joint stock company, suitable for large companies, and limited liability company. In order to start a business here, you need to have a legal address on the islands. Another condition – a resident of the Kingdom of Denmark as one of the participants in the case.
The minimum authorized capital for the joint stock company is approximately $ 85,000, for a limited liability company – about $ 20,000. For registration, you will also need a draft memorandum of association, articles of association and an application.
Foreign companies can enter the Faroese market by opening branches. The head of the branch must also be a resident of the islands or Denmark.
In terms of taxation, business law and accounting standards, the Faroe Islands offer optimal conditions for the development of companies. Legal regulation of business is similar to Danish and adheres to EU standards.
The main business on the archipelago is concentrated in the service and fishing industry.
On local investment sites one can find proposals for entrepreneurs willing to invest in new ways of developing the fishing industry. At the same time, the Faroese are very interested in high-tech businesses that are able to offer environmentally friendly solutions for productions.
Acquisition of real estate abroad is rightly considered one of the most promising and long-term investments. The Faroe Islands can become an excellent place for both temporary and permanent residence. They are especially attractive to people who like comfort and privacy, seeking order. Offers on the real estate market are varied – from a small studio apartment to a solid large house. The prices are quite attractive. A house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large surrounding area will cost about $ 130,000.
However, those who have decided on such a deal need to keep in mind that the local banks do not give a mortgage on the housing in the absence of a residence permit. In addition, the local law for the acquisition of the property by a foreigner requires a permit of the Ministry of Justice.
Tips for the tourist
Travelling to the islands – not a pleasure not cheap. The price level here is high enough and equal to the average European. However, when leaving the country tourists can get a VAT refund with a receipt from the store, which operates under the Tax Free system. Appropriate signs are present at the entrance to the store. To qualify for a tax refund, the amount of a single purchase must exceed $48.
Tipping is not accepted on the islands and is usually included in the bill.
Fishing is permitted only in certain waters on the basis of a license sold at the tourist offices. If the tourist intends to bring fishing gear with him from home, it must be sanitized before arrival on the islands. Instructions for fishermen can be found in the tourist brochures. In streams and creeks, the fishing season is open from May 1 to August 31, in the sea all year round.
When traveling should not forget about the local changeable climate. On holiday it won’t hurt to have warm clothes and a few pairs of comfortable shoes for moving over the hilly terrain and trips to the sea.
Vaccinations are not required before your trip. The telephone number of the emergency service is 112.
To get a visa you should apply to the Consular Department of the Danish Embassy in Moscow at 9, Prechistensky lane.
Applicants must provide a visa application form, 2 photographs, passport (valid for at least three months after the expiry of the requested visa) with a copy, a national passport with a copy, hotel reservation confirmation, reference from work (school), insurance policy, covering all risks (the insurance coverage should be at least 30 000 €), a bank statement or traveler’s cheques (50 € per day of stay).
You can find more information about the package of documents at the Consular Section on weekdays from 9:00 to 16:00.
Oystercatcher, plover, symbol of the Faroe Islands, Faroe Islands. Photo by Ted Smith.
In the North Atlantic Ocean, between Scotland and Iceland, lies the last frontier of great and wild nature, the Faroe Islands. The archipelago of 18 rocky formations impresses with powerful, unspoiled landscapes. Hills, green valleys, fjords, dizzying cliffs and waterfalls – the few travelers see a fabulous landscape. Most tourists come to the islands out of curiosity, for just two or three days. And all invariably regret not planning a longer stay. The delightful atmosphere of the Faroe Islands, filled with peace and tranquility, beckons to stay forever in the harsh, but infinitely beautiful Paradise of introverts.
Sunrise, Kallur lighthouse, Faroe Islands. Photo by Sven Broeks.
Faroe Islands: general information about the archipelago
Torshavn, Faroe Islands. Photo by Teolk Eniger.
Name: from Danish the name of the archipelago translates as “sheep islands”. And it is fully consistent with reality. Sheep are everywhere on the islands: there are about 80 thousand sheep for 50 thousand inhabitants.
Status: the Faroe Islands belong to the Kingdom of Denmark, with autonomy.
Area: the total area of the islands is 1,399 km².
Population : 52,100 inhabitants spread out over 17 out of 18 islands of the archipelago.
Capital : Torshavn. Nearly a quarter of the whole archipelago’s population live here.
Official language : Faroese Danish.
Religion : Protestant Lutheranism.
Status: since 1948, the Faroe Islands have been an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark. Unlike Denmark, the archipelago is not part of the European Union.
Prime Minister : since September 2019, the post has been held by Bardur Steig Nielsen.
Institutions and politics : inherited from the old Viking assemblies, the unicameral parliament of the Faroe Islands, Løgting, has had the power to legislate since 1948. It consists of 33 members, elected every 4 years.
Flag : resembles the Norwegian and Icelandic flags – a large red cross, highlighted in blue, on a white background.
Economy : 90% of exports and 20% of GDP are based on fishing rights. Maritime transport, offshore services, agriculture and tourism (just gaining momentum) supplement the resources. In spring 2017, the Faroese government resumed offshore oil exploration in hopes of improving its financial situation, should it become independent. The archipelago receives an annual subsidy from the Danish government of 85 million euros, or 3.3 percent of GDP. The service sector provides most of the jobs, and unemployment is virtually nonexistent, at about 3%, one of the lowest rates in Europe.
Porkeri village after the storm, Faroe Islands. Photo by Eileen Sanda.
The Faroe Islands form an archipelago of eighteen major rock formations in the North Atlantic Ocean. The closest land is the Scottish island of North Rhône. The coast of Scotland is 322 km away, Iceland – 762 km, Denmark – 989 km. The area of the archipelago reaches 1399 km2. Rocky, sharply delineated coastline is estimated at 1117 km. The highest point of the archipelago is Slattaratindur. The “flat top” is located on the island of Esturoi. Average depths around the archipelago are 150-200 meters.
Slattaratindur, Esturoy Island, Faroe Islands. The author of the photo is Thomas Juul Andersen.
The climate of the islands is maritime subarctic. Oceanic character is determined by drifting in the North Atlantic Ocean: summers are cool (average temperature of + 9,5 to + 11 ° C), winters are mild (average temperature of + 3 to – 4 ° C). The archipelago experiences frequent fogs and strong winds (average speed of 16-22 km/h). The average annual rainfall in the capital city of Torshavn is 1280 mm, and on the northern peaks it falls up to 3000 mm.
The two dominant currents, warm on the surface (corresponding to the Gulf Stream expansion) and cold at depth (from the Norwegian Sea), mix so that these waters are rich in nutrients and attract huge numbers of fish.
The culture of the islands in detail
The village of Saksun, Faroe Islands. Photo by Glen Sinclair.
The Faroe Islands are a unique way of life that hasn’t changed in centuries. The islands are as if frozen in time. Fishing and sheep breeding are still practiced here, except in other, more modern ways. Technological progress has undoubtedly reached the archipelago, but it is so safely hidden behind the toy houses with grass roofs, that the impression of traveling to a distant past.
Small islands in the national culture
Sunset, Koltur Island, Faroe Islands. Photo by Hans Juul Hansen.
The tiny, mountainous island of Koltur (2.5 km²), southwest of Streyma (with Torshavn as its capital), symbolizes the Faroese way of life. At its peak in the 17th century, there were four farms here. Today only one remains. Nevertheless, it shows the constancy of the way of life. For more than a millennium, the population has been raising sheep, growing a few crops and carefully preserving craft traditions.
Stoura Duymoon Island, Duymoon Islands, Faroe Islands. Photo by Erik Christensen.
To the south, between the big islands of Sanda and Sudur, there are two very small rock formations: Stowra-Duimun and Luytla-Duimun. But size doesn’t matter here at all. The islets can easily become a trademark of the Faroe Islands. Stoura is accessible only by helicopter. The population is very colorful – 80 thousand deadheads, 30 thousand petrels, 450 sheep, a cow and … two brothers with their families (8 people).
Luytla Duimun Island, Duimun Islands, Faroe Islands. The author of the photo is Erik Christensen.
Luytla Duymoon is the only uninhabited island of the archipelago. The only inhabitants here are dead sheep and shepherds. Remarkably, the sheep are brought here for a walk at the beginning of the lush grass blossom and are taken away with the coming of autumn. Almost forty people take part in the amazing process. The animals are transported by boat and then hoisted to the upper plateau on ropes. Why such maneuvers are necessary, remains a mystery to foreigners. The locals assure that the wool, meat and milk of sheep after Luytla-Duimun acquire almost medicinal properties.
Faroe Islands. Photo by James Little.
Sheep are central to Faroese culture. The first animals were brought to the archipelago immediately after colonization by the Vikings in the 9th century. The harsh Faroese climate did not allow for anything else. In the 15th century, huge herds were destroyed by an unknown disease. New stock had to be imported from Iceland, Scotland and the Orkney Islands. The breeds were much more resistant to infection and had wool of exceptional quality. Currently, there are up to 80,000 thousand sheep in the Faroe Islands.
A golden sheep’s horn adorns the islands’ coat of arms, the animal serves as a symbol for the national beer brand, the lamb is served in all restaurants, and sheep even work on Google Maps. In 2016, the SheepView360° project was launched in the Faroe Islands. Many of the animals got their own webcam to show users live the beauty of the islands.
Catch fish big and small
An old fishing boat, Faroe Islands. The author of the photo is Frank.
Fishing (and seal hunting in the past) has always been vital to the Faroese. But only at the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the British schooners, did the traditional craft become commercial. The first naval school was founded in 1893 and literally within half a century, a social revolution took place on the islands, marked by the involvement of women in production. Numerous canneries grew like mushrooms, and laborers were in short supply. So the ship owners completely broke the traditional way of life of the islanders.
The emergence of longline trawlers in the 1950s brought the Faroese fishery to the international level. However, the consequences of the rapid development of the marine sector are sad – huge populations of rare fish disappeared. Only in 1977, the volume of catches decreased, exclusive economic zones were established and the Faroese began to protect their internal waters from the enormous appetites of Irish, French and Spanish fishermen. The fishing agreement firmly binds the archipelago to the European Union. The Faroese intend to continue setting strict quotas in their economic zone. This situation even caused friction with Brussels in 2014, dubbed the “herring wars. The conflict led to Faroese ships being banned from shipping their catch to EU ports for a year.
At the same time, more and more islanders work in large shipping groups, on oil platforms, or in aquaculture. For example, the national company Bakkafrost is the ninth largest producer of farmed salmon in the world.
Faroese traditions and customs
Grindadrup, Faroe Islands. Photo by Jan Egil Christiansen.
Hardly a civilized person would want to know what a grindadrap is, but whaling still thrives on the Faroe Islands, only as a “holiday.” The bloody tradition is terrifying to the world. Several times a year the islands are hunted for cetaceans. The animals are trapped in a narrow bay and harpooned. Between 20 and 250 whales are killed in 10 minutes. The water turns red with blood. The entire local population, from small children to adults, enjoys the entertainment. The world community neither understands nor approves of the tradition. In response to the accusations of international organizations, the Faroese coldly answer that the mass killing of whales unites the islanders, brings generations closer together, and the hunting is fully controlled and does not threaten the population.
Moreover, in 2015, the Faroese parliament passed a new law that penalizes those who fight against green whales. In particular, the authorities prohibit taking the animals away from the coast and disturbing the “holiday. Violations of the law are punishable by a large fine and even imprisonment in case of “recidivism”. But international organizations continue to take action. This gives hope that the inhumane tradition will remain only in the memory of new generations.
Oulavsjoka, Faroe Islands. Photo by Knorrur.
The Faroese national holiday is celebrated on July 29. The celebration is dedicated to St. Olaf (995-1030), the greatest king of medieval Norway, canonized in the 12th century. After all, the Faroe Islands were dependent on the Scandinavian kingdom for several centuries. The bright, distinctive celebration provides an opportunity for many locals to wear traditional costumes.
The celebrations begin with concerts in Torshavn. Then a procession of media and officials marks the opening of the festivities. The famous Faroese Grand Boat Race, the pompous end to the competition, begins. The next festive day opens with a procession of officials to the Torshavn Cathedral, the solemn announcement of the imminent opening of Parliament. Many other events are added to the entertainment program: exhibitions, fairs, sheep markets, sports competitions, etc. Mass festivities, with singing and ancient Viking dances, round out the festivities.
Faroese boat races
The famous boat races have become another symbol of the Faroes. It’s an expression of local identity based on ancient Viking fighting skills. On the archipelago at least 400 people are professionally engaged in the national sport. Training before the main competition takes place 7-8 months a year at various yacht clubs.
A very keen competitive spirit goes back to ancient times, when fishermen, returning to port, fought for the right to be the first to set foot on land. Later races began to be dedicated to royal visits.
Modern competitions are held in front of Oulavsjoka. The first qualifying rounds are held in early June. Great Race on the feast of St. Olaf becomes a demonstration of the winners.
When to go to the Faroe Islands?
Most travelers visit the islands between May and August, when the days are longest and sunniest. However, even in summer it rains almost every day, so it’s best to prepare accordingly! In winter, thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, the temperature never drops below -10°C.
What to see?
Gasadalur, Vagar Island, Faroe Islands. Photo by Seral Mobar.
The archipelago is unique. Each island offers its own attractions and landscapes.
- Torshavn. The ferry arrives at the old port of Skansin, the first attraction of the islands.
- Streymoy is the largest island of the archipelago. There are a lot of ancient ruins, which are interesting to look at even without a guide.
- Nolsoi is a colorful little island with a cozy village and a magical lighthouse. It is also home to the world’s largest colony of petrels.
- Vagar is a sparsely populated island with only one road, along which there are farmhouses. The main attraction is the lake above the sea Sørvagsvatn or Laitisvatn, which spectacularly flows into the ocean with a 30-meter waterfall.
- Michines is a real jewel of the Faroe Islands with a fantastic panorama. A walk to the lighthouse will long be remembered for its amazing colors.
- Eysturoy is a large island, extending within reach of the Strait Bridge. The land here is hilly and riddled with fjords, especially to the north. Winding roads offer stunning views.
- Norjoy and Vishoi is an underwater tunnel 6.2 km long, which runs underwater at a depth of 150 m. Allows a very exotic visit to the islands Eisturoi and Norjoy.
- Kunoy – the only northern island, which can be reached by car on a short, “unsinkable” road. Here is the only village and church built in the best traditions of mythical hobbits.
- Suduroi is the southernmost island, rugged with cliffs. Here birds prefer to nest. Impregnable shelter reliably protects from uninvited guests. Tourists will be interested to visit the small but very beautiful lake Hvannhagi. This natural body of water looks like something out of an artist’s painting: picturesque rocks framing it, lush greenery, and impeccably clear water.
Where to stay?
Lodging is very expensive in the Faroe Islands. Double room in a hostel costs at least 60 € (450 crowns). A room in guest houses offer for 80-95 € (600-700 kronor). In hotels the price is even higher, from 110 to 270 € per night (800-2000 CZK) depending on comfort and season. The only affordable solution – camping. The archipelago has about 20 of them, and some are free. But you will need to rent a car.
Where to eat?
The high cost becomes a real obstacle in the public dining area as well. There are several good restaurants in Torshavn that offer traditional dishes, priced between 450 and 1400 kroner (60-190 €). As a budget alternative, there are supermarkets and local fast food outlets. Note that they all close at 6-7 pm.
Faroe Islands are rapidly gaining popularity among travelers. The locals rightly fear that the development of tourism can forever destroy the charm of unspoiled nature. It is quite possible that the world community will try to protect the archipelago from mass visits. Well, in the meantime, a unique opportunity to see the true wonder of the world is open to everyone.
Faroe Islands. The author of photos – cec_hz.