Faroe Islands

12 June 2023

Exploring the scenic Faroe Islands on a cold but beautiful day.

Isolated far out in the North Atlantic, the Faroe Islands are fascinating.

● Settled by Vikings in the 800s, these islands have more or less been under Danish rule for the past thousand years. However, in 1948 the Faroes gained more independence when they became a self-governing autonomous territory of Denmark.

● The roughly 50,000 inhabitants speak Faroese, which has some similarities to Norwegian and Icelandic. Most speak Danish (the other official language) as well.

● From Copenhagen (where I bought a bargain vintage jacket), SAS took me to the only airport Vágar Floghavn. I stayed at a cozy six-room hotel (Havgrim Seaside) in the capital Tórshavn and took day trips from there.

My map above shows the roads (and ferry route) that I took. To get an idea of the scale, Streymoy, the largest island, is only about 47 km (29 miles) long and around 10 km (6 miles) wide, but somehow it seemed far larger. From my base in the capital Tórshavn, I saw the four largest islands (named above).

Tórshavn (Faroese for "Thor's Harbour") is home to some 21,000 people.

The Faroese claim their Viking ancestors held parliament meetings in 825 over a century before the Iceland's famed "first parliament" Alþingi in 930. Later, for a few centuries, the parliament met in this historic building, shown above with my guide for the day.

Tinganes, in Tórshavn's old town, has mostly traditional houses with sod roofs. The girl is playing on the old house with a tin roof.
The borough in New York City called "The Bronx" was named for Jónas Bronck who was born around 1600 and perhaps in Tórshavn. Thus, Tórshavn has Jónas Broncksgøta (Jónas Bronck street).

The small scattered fishing villages were all pristine and picturesque.

For centuries, Faroese fishermen have braved the treacherous North Atlantic where a deadly storm could suddenly descend. Most villages have memorials like this one with long lists of names of men who died at sea during the past century or so.

In every village, you see the traditional way of drying cod to preserve the healthy protein for long-term storage by hanging the fish out to dry in the sun and wind.

Farming salmon has become a major part of the economy with extremely "stringent and comprehensive" regulations for healthy aquaculture that are often considered a model for other countries. (For more on the interesting safeguards, click here.)

Clouds and fog interrupt the sunny day.

Recently with the rapid growth of tourism, a few residents in outlying villages have opened "dining" places. This man (lower left) sells coffee and waffles to tourists at this table in his house. In tiny Tvøroyri on Suðuroy, you can find astonishing, quirky Cafe Mormor (photo on right) offering a tasty, inventive menu with delicious, hearty soup perfect on a chilly day.

A small, strong breed of Faroe horses (small so technically ponies) emerged over the isolated centuries. Fewer than 100 remain, however, as Icelandic horses (said to be even more hardy, congenial, and trainable) are now more popular.

With outstanding guide Dánjal (without gloves, beanie, hoodie) on Suðuroy at the southernmost point in the Faroe Islands.

In Eysturoy near Eiði we not only have some of the sheep that are plentiful here but, beyond them, two islands that were once a giant and a witch sent to drag the Faroe Islands up to Iceland. These thieves of the night turned to stone when hit by an early sunrise.

After building many tunnels through its high mountains, Denmark and the Faroes have turned to undersea tunnels to link the islands. One remarkable new tunnel (Eysturoyartunnilin) includes the world's first undersea roundabout for its three branches.

Eggjarnar (aka Skúvanes) near Vágur village offers a particularly dramatic view of the cliffs of Suðuroy.

I suspected I would find the Faroe Islands to be fascinating, but they far exceeded expectations. In retrospect, I wish I could have stayed more than four days between Puglia and my Bothnia cruise.