Last week I had the incredible opportunity to take a business trip to the Faroe Islands! It is 1/3 of the North Atlantic Tourism Association, so together with Greenland and Iceland, we three countries are always looking for partnership opportunities to improve tourism in the entire North Atlantic region.
In the Faroe Islands, I ate some fantastic local specialties and did some sightseeing/shopping around Tórshavn (the capital), but I think the absolute best experience was a private guided driving tour with John Esturoy. He has recently retired from the national tourist board, Visit Faroe Islands, but not to worry! He will continue to guide on the islands so you can just look him up!!
I am a firm believer that one should get a holistic view of a country when he/she visits. It is necessary to see large cities and remote villages, natural wonders and built architecture, and to learn about the culture from both a historical and modern viewpoint. The Faroese also believe this. They say, “You cannot visit Tórshavn only and say that you have seen the Faroe Islands!”
So here are my photos that illustrate our 5-hour driving tour that gave me as holistic a view of the Faroe Islands as my time permitted! They cover Tórshavn (capital city on Streymoy island, population 12,245) to Gjógv (village on Esturoy island, population 31) and everywhere in between! Statistics source: hagstova.fo.
I finish with photos around Tórshavn.
Awful shot from the car, but below is the island of Eysturoy. There are 6 wind turbines out there, out of a total of 9 on the islands. (Unfortunately 2 were ruined in a bad storm a few years ago.)
5% of the power on the islands comes from wind turbines, 45% is hydropower, and the remainder comes from diesel. The largest diesel plant is in Sundur.
For water, there is no groundwater. Drinking water is rainwater that is collected via underground tunnels and directed to a reservoir.
While on the topic of resources, they burn as much garbage and waste as possible at a garbage plant. There are 2 plants – 1 just outside of Tórshavn in Hoyvík to burn all of Tórshavn’s garbage, and one on the Eysturoy island to burn the garbage for the rest of the islands. Any unmanageable garbage gets shipped out of the country.
There are 18 islands in total, and 17 are inhabited. Lítla Dímun is the only uninhabited island. 2 of islands (Koltur and Stóra Dímun) are inhabited by only one single family. Stóra Dímun has kids living on it, so to get educated, the child(ren) spend 2 weeks a month on the island of Sandoy. During the other 2 weeks, the teacher actually travels to the family’s island and lives there while she teaches the child(ren)!
Salmon farming in Kaldbaksfjørður (with Kaldbak village behind, population 232). This is a booming industry for the Faroes despite a shaky history of overexerting the resources in the past.
There is also a small bit of cod, and they are doing research together with Iceland regarding halibut.
Approaching Kollafjørður (population 771), the longest stretching town in the islands (8 km). It is officially part of the Tórshavn council, and most people are making the 30 minute drive to work in Tórshavn.
The infrastructure in the Faroes is quite good! There is an intricate network of paved roads, tunnels, and bridges that connect the three biggest islands, Vágar, Streymoy, and Eysturoy. All of the villages are on the coastline (except for Vatnsoyrar on Vágar) so all the roads are along the coastline, too.
Wondering where those trees came from? Actually, there were many native trees on the islands, but a large storm in 1988 destroyed 75% of them, so most of what you see here are transplanted trees from elsewhere in the world.
A typical Faroese house. It could easily hold 25 family members in one end plus farm animals (cows and sheep) in the other!
The chuches are always located extremely close to the water so that they are the first thing seen upon arrival and the last thing seen upon departure.
The town of Eiði, population 607. On the land across the water (on Streymoy island) is Tjørnuvík, one of the oldest villages in the islands. People have been living there since approximately 650 AD. It was most likely Irish Monks there first, followed by Norwegian Viking in the 700’s.
BUT recent excavation on Sandoy island indicates that history might have to be rewritten. Writings have been discovered in Gaelic writing, the writing of Southern Vikings. If it was Norwegian Vikings, it would be written in Runic writing.
Rock formation at the extreme north tip of Eiðiskollur mountain (338 meters), which sits above Eiði.
The rocks are called Kellingin. The small one is said to be a woman and the large one a man, with a baby on his back. The notch in the mountain itself is said to be the space where a rope was tied and cut all the way to the sea.
Slættaratindur Mountain (880 meters)
I had hoped to hike her, but there is much snow already and the weather was awful for hiking!
A word about hiking in the Faroes, there are many hiking paths marked on the maps. In fact, they used to be used by locals to get from one village to another. The hiking paths are public space, so everyone is allowed on them. And if you see a running stream, go ahead and take a drink!
However, off the path is private property. Every bit of land in the Faroes is either privately owned or government-owned. Even the tops of mountains
However, IF a hiker behaves himself (leaves the sheep and birds alone) and finds himself off the hiking path, he will not be in trouble.
The Faroes are volcanic and approx. 50-60 million years old.
Funningur, population 58, down by the coast.
In background, where the sun is shining, the front land across the water is Kalsoy island and behind it is Kunoy island. Kalsoy is commonly called the “flute” because of its shape and the 4 villages in a row.
Dining room at Gjáargarður Guesthouse, a Green Key hotel, in Gjógv. We stopped here for a delicious and simple lunch of fish soup, vegetable quiche, fresh salad, and gingersnap cookies with tea.
Now for pictures of Tórshavn…
View from my room in Hotel Hafnia
Big ship is Smyril Line ferry that sails between the Faroe Islands, Denmark, and Iceland.
The weather changes here extremely fast, especially at this time of year! The Faroese say to come in the winter to see a really harsh environment and the elements. The summer is much less windy.
Just 3 minutes after this shot, it was dark and pouring rain! Listen to the weather report every morning at 0845 (in English and Scandinavian) to get an idea of what the day will be like! If it is a windy forecast, go in the direction WITH the wind.