The Faroe Islands
Short introduction and why I went there
In the middle of the Atlantic, at the mercy of the ever changing weather, you'll find a place consisting of 18 islands called the Faroes. For centuries people have lived a hard life constantly fighting mother nature and many, especially the fishermen, have paid the ultimate price. The harsh life has over the years depopulated the islands where many people have sought a better life in the mayor settlements or moving either for studies or permanently abroad to Denmark, Norway or further away.
The Faroes have always been highly depended on the fishery sector where most people have found employment. The success of fish export has therefore greatly influenced the economy and factors like employment and migration. During the last couple of years there's been a desire to include tourism as a compliment to the fishing industry.
My first encounter with this place was through the Internet. I was intrigued seeing all those beautiful landscapes on Instagram and Google+. Having previously visited Iceland made me curious to see if this was anything similar. For sure the landscapes are as beautiful although the Faroes lack the volcanic activity that is so specific for Iceland. On the other hand the infrastructure is much better making it a breeze visiting the main islands during a couple of days (although you should stay here much longer to really experience the nature). Almost all the roads are paved with asphalt and there are numerous bridges and tunnels for speedy movement around the mayor islands.
How to get there, where to stay and how to get around
There are 2 ways of reaching the Faroe Islands. You could take the ferry M/S Norröna that goes from Hirtshals in Denmark or you can fly from the Danish capital Copenhagen in just 2 hours.
Once on the Faroes there's a well established public transportation network at your disposal. Another alternative is renting a car, which will cost you more, but at the same time increase your flexibility. I choose the later alternative as this would give the greatest freedom allowing me to plan the photography to the fullest. I can highly recommend the car rental company Unicar.fo. They have good prices, respond very quickly to your emails and are most helpful. It was nice to be able to pick up the car from the airport parking lot and immediately be on the road.
Most of the hotels are located in the capital Tórshavn. The Faroe islands are very small, the distances are very short and the roads are very good, which means you could stay in Tórshavn all the time. But why limit yourself and miss out on the fantastic interaction with the warm and friendly local population. You'll hear all the great stories of local life and be treated to the local food. Therefore make sure you look up the many offers at Airbnb or at the local tourist office in the mayor villages around the islands. Make sure you book well in advance if you plan to visit during the summer as the places quickly fill up.
Places to visit
Can you imagine people living in a place that required them to walk for a couple of hours to do their shopping or collecting the mail. Can you also imagine they did this each week, year around, during the winter storms and other times at highly unpredictable weather. This is what the people at Gasadalur village experienced through ages until they were connected by a tunnel to the main island Vagar in 2004. Nowadays it takes 5 minutes to each the village where you can see the houses located on top of a cliff with a majestic waterfall below. This is one of the most photographed spots on the Faroes and for a good reason if you ask me.
Saksun and Tjörnuvik
Saksun village reminds you of a viking village with it's green grass roofs . The population has declined over the years and today consists of about 10 people. Here you can do a pleasant walk over the mountain to the other side where you'll find the Tjörnuvik village. Both places are well worth a visit. Make sure you take advantage of the excellent views above both villages.
The capital city with a population of 12000 people is by far the largest settlement. It's the administrative center with residential areas, a large harbor, a majority of the hotels and office buildings, Make sure you pay a visit to the old quarters behind the harbor to see how the people used to live in the old days.
In my opinion the road between Funningur and Gjogv is the most picturesque on the Faroes. The serpentine road winds it's way up the countryside, where you're able to make multiple stops to photograph the surrounding area. Or you can climb the mountain towards Slættaratindur for even better views.
In Gjogv you'll find a large hotel with a nice restaurant serving dinners and desserts. The village itself is like most other villages on the Faroes located in a beautiful location. Make sure you secure a window seat at the restaurant that will allow you combine dinning with excellent sights.
This is another beautifully located village that's located in the northern parts of Eysturoy. Once isolated, this village is now easily reached with a good quality paved road.
The northern islands:
Kalsoy is a great example what defines the Faroe peoples desire to live at places where the forces of nature would make most people simply give up. At the northern point you'll find the Kallur lighthouse and Tröllanäs village. To reach this place you'll first take the ferry for 20 minutes, then drive through 4 separate tunnels before you reach your destination. Even though the island is very small it's best to bring your own car as the buss connection on Kalsoy are very limited.
Tröllanäs is home to a couple of houses and a large farm. Walking up to the lighthouse is pretty straightforward once you pass the first steep hill right at the village. Before reaching the Tröllanäs you should also pay a visit Kopakonan (The seal woman) in Mikadalur village. It tells the the story of what happens when you interfere with other subjects way of life. On the Internet you'll can find more information about this famous Faroe islands folk tale or you can pick up a book containing this fascinating story. It's available not only in English, but also in many other languages.
Kunoy is another of the northern islands that's easily reachable by a small bridge from the island Borðoy. By taking the tunnel you'll reach the small village with the same name. Here you'll have great views to the neighboring Kalsoy and you can also raise your pulse by climbing the steep cliffs that towers the village. It's also worth visiting the church with it's fascinating setting.
On Borðoy you'll find the second largest city (by Faroes standards) Klaksvik with a population of whopping 4000 people ;-). The Christianskirkjan attracts many worshipers on Sundays and daily tourists. It's a pleasant village where you can spend a couple of hours walking around, having a coffee and doing your shopping in the local supermarkets. It's also from the harbor where you'll take the 20 minute ferry to Kalsoy. They also have their own beer brewery Föroya Bjór.
The northern most island is Vidoy. People live in the two main settlements, Hvannasund and Vidareidi. This is an islands not to be missed during your stay in the Faroes. From Hvannasund you can take the boat to Fugloy as well as Svinoy. Vidareidi lays in the northern parts of Vidoy and offers excellent hiking options. If the weather permits you can even walk all the way up the the Einniberg bird cliffs where you'll have spectacular views across the Faroes.
Fugloy and Svinoy
Not only are the Faroe Islands extremely isolated at the middle of the Atlantic, these 2 islands are even isolated themselves from the main islands. The only way to reach these places is by boat. A pleasant trip during the summer, but it could be very challenging doing it daily for the rest of the year. Therefore it's no surprise that most islanders have sought a better life elsewhere. Today only a handful of people are left and rely on daily supplies by boat of petrol, food and other necessities. A truly hardcore way of life.
Places that I did not visit this time around
Nolsoy, Sandoy, Skuvoy and Suðuroy are the small islands located at the southern parts of the Faroes. Especially Suðuroy intrigues me as it's located 2 hours from Tórshavn, which makes it isolated even by local standards. Definitely a must visit next time around!! The same goes for Mykines, the most westerly island, famous for it's large puffin colony. Because I was visiting in April there was no ferry connection and besides the puffins arrives first in June. Mykines should be one of your main priorities if you visit during the summer.
Send me an email if you have any questions about the Faroe Islands or my photos. I highly recommend the Brandt guide for your travel preparations before visiting. If deciding to buy I would highly appreciate if you would use the links below as it would give me a small commision from Amazon and it will not costs you a cent more. Thanks.
More photos from the Faroe islands are availabe here;