PHOTO GALLERY: Mythical, Magical Faroe Islands

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:

I finish with photos around Tórshavn.


This is a map of our total route. A/F = Tórshavn. B = Kollafjörður. C = Eiði. D = Gjógv. E = Fossáfossur Waterfall (rough location).Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 9.30.48 PM

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)!

A settlement must have at least 1500 residents to have “town” status. Otherwise, it is a village – even if it is just one family!IMG_5961

Entering KaldbaksfjørðurIMG_5963

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.

Fun fact: if a foreign company is working or investing in the Faroe Islands, it can only own up to 33% of the company. IMG_5964

Inside Kaldbaksfjørður IMG_6074

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.IMG_5971

A typical Faroese house. It could easily hold 25 family members in one end plus farm animals (cows and sheep) in the other!

The grass roof helps with insulation and stabilization against the elements.IMG_5972

Kollafjørður church, built in 1837
Religion is commonly Luthern in the islands.IMG_6075

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.

It also serves as a safe place to keep an eye out for incoming ships. Pirating from Morrocco and Turkey was extremely problematic in the 1500’s in the Faroe Islands.IMG_5973

Oyrarbakki (population 132). There is a high school in this town. Students are required to stay in school in their own village until 10th grade. Afterward, they go elsewhere by ferry for education.IMG_5979

Bridge between Streymoy island and Eysturoy island – called the “Longest Bridge Over the North Atlantic”. On the other side of the bridge is Norðskáli, population 295.IMG_5981

Fossáfossur on Streymoy island, seen from Eysturoy island – the highest waterfall in the islands IMG_5984

Fossáfossur, close up.P1020563

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.IMG_5992

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. IMG_5997

Just an easy drive in the Faroe Islands.IMG_6001

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.

There are no predatory animals in the islands. IMG_5994

The Faroes are volcanic and approx. 50-60 million years old.

If one likes geology, I am told you should go to Suðuroy (one of the southern islands). There are huge columnar basalt formations there.IMG_6077

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.IMG_6013

Arriving to our target destination, Gjógv, population 31.IMG_6016

A small stream where children swim and row small boats while their mothers sit on benches on the side and knit. Knitting is HUGE here.IMG_6018 IMG_6022

This statue of a mother and 2 children faces out toward the sea and represents the family at home waiting, wishing, hoping, and praying that the fisherman husband/father returns from sea.IMG_6020

The gorge that gives Gjógv its name. Many people come to this spot to repell from these cliffs and SCUBA dive in these waters. IMG_6030

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.P1020540

The view out the window.P1020541

Private rooms at Gjáargarður Guesthouse P1020550

Faroese sheep.

The Faroese eat the meat and use the wool, but they do not use the milk.P1020558



Now for pictures of Tórshavn…

View from my room in Hotel HafniaIMG_5955

View of Dómkirkjan from my room in Hotel HafniaIMG_5954

The Harbor

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.IMG_5959



I told you knitting was HUGE.IMG_6050

The MallIMG_6067