Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands


Sunset in the Faroes. Not a bad way spending your vacation.

Sunset in the Faroes. Not a bad way spending your vacation.

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.

Excellent roads for traveling around the islands

Excellent roads for traveling around the 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

Vagar:

Gasadalur

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.

Sunset at Gasadalur.

Sunset at Gasadalur.

Streymoy:

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. 

Saksun village as seen from the trail connecting the village with Tjörnuvik

Saksun village as seen from the trail connecting the village with Tjörnuvik

Beautiful views from the hike between Saksun and Tjörnuvik

Beautiful views from the hike between Saksun and Tjörnuvik

Tjörnuvik as seen from above

Tjörnuvik as seen from above

Tórshavn

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.

The harbour area

The harbour area

Old parts of the city

Old parts of the city

Densly populatrd for beeing the Faroe Islands

Densly populatrd for beeing the Faroe Islands

Eysturoy:

Funningur

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.

Funningur as seen from the road to Gjogv

Funningur as seen from the road to Gjogv

Gjogv

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.  

Gjogv village

Gjogv village

Elduvik

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.

Elduvik

Elduvik

The northern islands:

Kalsoy

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.

Great views 

Great views 

Make sure everything is secured or the wind will take it

Make sure everything is secured or the wind will take it

The seal woman at Mikadalur

The seal woman at Mikadalur

Kunoy

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.

Kunoy village

Kunoy village

Borðoy

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.

Klaksvik from above. Foggy and rainy, still very beautiful

Klaksvik from above. Foggy and rainy, still very beautiful

Vidoy

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.

The church in Vidareidi

The church in Vidareidi

Even the dead have great views

Even the dead have great views

Vidareidi village

Vidareidi village

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.

Petrol on the way to Fugloy and Svinoy

Petrol on the way to Fugloy and Svinoy

Unloading time

Unloading time

Finally the package has arrived

Finally the package has arrived

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.

Mykines in the background. See you puffins in 2018

Mykines in the background. See you puffins in 2018

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;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Kyrgyzstan - The Pearl of Asia”


"Kyrgyzstan, where is that and why would anyone like to go there? By the way, is that not a dangerous place?"
Yurts at the Song kol lake

Yurts at the Song kol lake

Central Asia has always fascinated me. The people have throughout their history endured a hard life, various wars, conquests and occupation by foreign powers . I decided to visit this region after having read some books about Marco Polo’s travels along the Silk road .

The decision to go to Kyrgyzstan was really due to two main points; beautiful nature when searching on the Internet and my laziness in obtaining a Visa. All other countries in this region required one, which is a time consuming process since none of them have any embassies in my country of residence. This means you have to send away your original passport and hopefully have it returned to you. It also includes high costs as these countries see the Visa process as a chance of generating much needed foreign currency.

Kyrgyzstan was a exception so air flight tickets were booked, guide books were read, clothes were packed and the camera sensor was cleaned. For my preparations I also used a site called Indy-Guide, where you can find tons of useful information for planning your travels; http://indy-guide.com/kyrgyzstan

After a 12 hour flight the plane touched down at the post Soviet Manas airport in Bishkek. The booked taxi arranged by the hostel where I was staying the first night was waiting as promised. While driving into the city you truly felt a long way from home . There was a great feeling that 2 weeks of adventure lay before you.

The next day I went to the bus terminal to arrange for further transport with the most popoluar means of commuting in central asia, the marshrutka.

Marshrutkas waiting for passengers in Bishkek

Marshrutkas waiting for passengers in Bishkek

Marshrutkas are basically minibuses that run on a fixed route from town town. Most of the time there's no fixed schedule, instead they depart as soon as they are full.

Karakol

The first destination was Karakol in the north eastern part of the country close to China. The city is a somewhat of a backpacker / mountaineering hub. Of course on a much smaller scale compared to for example Tibet. The area is famous for great trekking possibilities in the Tien Shen mountains. You could do treks there that last weeks, but I decided to do some shorter excursions in the Jeti-Ögüz area, famous for its red stone formations called the seven bulls.

The seven bulls

The seven bulls

A short walk up the valley at Jeti Ögüz

A short walk up the valley at Jeti Ögüz

Local yurts in the valley

Local yurts in the valley

Local yurts in the valley

Local yurts in the valley

During his travels Marco Polo visited many animal markets and they still exist today throughout Central Asia. The most famous one is in Kashgar China, but Kyrgyzstan has many as well, the most famous one being the Sunday market in Karakol. People from the area bring their livestock for some serious buying and selling during the morning hours. I spend the morning there, walking around taking photos of the traders and action going on. I was even offered a sheep for 50 €.

Hmmm, should we buy this one?

Hmmm, should we buy this one?

Busy time at the market

Busy time at the market

Another deal done. Time to transport my new possessions home

Another deal done. Time to transport my new possessions home

Father and son waiting for customers

Father and son waiting for customers

Waiting for customers

Waiting for customers

The main square at the animal market where most of the transcations take place

The main square at the animal market where most of the transcations take place

Song kol lake

The next stop was Song kol lake, by many claimed to be the most famous place in Kyrgyzstan. Each summer the people take their livestock from the villages below up to the lake where the animals can freely move around and the people can return to their historical way of life. It was a fascinating to experience their way of life, sleeping in a yurt, hearing the animals grace outside in the early morning, eating delicious home made food and even trying kumus “fermented horse milk”. The strong acid taste is for sure not everyone’s “cup of tea”, but definitely something you should taste if given the chance. My favorite dish was Oromo, which could be described as a lasagna cooked in a pot under a steam of boiling water. Delicious!. This is for sure a beautiful area, definitely a must for people coming to Kyrgyzstan. Hopefully my photos can at least do it some justice, but you really have to experience it in person to understand its greatness.

Freedom at Song kol lake

Freedom at Song kol lake

Together with it's mother   at Song kol lake

Together with it's mother at Song kol lake

A great way of life at Song kol lake

A great way of life at Song kol lake

Paradise of earth at Song kol lake

Paradise of earth at Song kol lake

Sunset at Song kol lake

Sunset at Song kol lake

Waiting for its master

Waiting for its master

The weather can change quickly at the Song kol lake

The weather can change quickly at the Song kol lake

Arslanbob

Having visited the northern parts it was time to see what the south of the country had to offer. Compared to the north, the south has a clearly warmer climate. It’s also more mixed with a large Uzbek population in cities like Arslanbob, Jalala-bad and Osh. After the break up of the Soviet Union new borders were drawn and many cities close to the new borders have different ethnic mix compared to the rest of the country. The city Arslanbob was a perfect example of this with a mainly Uzbek population.

People coming back from the market in   Arslanbob

People coming back from the market in Arslanbob

The local butcher shop in Arslanbob

The local butcher shop in Arslanbob

Fresh delivery of hay

Fresh delivery of hay

Melons and cabbage for sale

Melons and cabbage for sale

Beautiful nature in Arslanbob. Can you spot the waterfall?

Beautiful nature in Arslanbob. Can you spot the waterfall?

In Arslanbob I would say it was more conservative compared the the rest of Kyrgyzstan in the way people dressed and approached you . Nevertheless the people were as friendly as always. We had a good home stay with a local family in their large beautiful house. Unfortunately our room was just below the attic. Every night when the lights went off you could hear the rats running around upstairs fighting for the best spots. Luckily none of them payed us a visit, but you definitely slept with one eye open.

Osh

Next destination Osh is a well known silk road city. The central market is a reminder of the old trade that took place there for thousands of years. Of course today there’s no more trade in silk, but more in cheap Chinese clothes and household items that are imported to this area.

Imported Chinese clothes

Imported Chinese clothes

A lot of shoes on display throughout the market

A lot of shoes on display throughout the market

Local delivery within the market

Local delivery within the market

Dried yogurt balls. Used as snacks by the people of Central Asia.

Dried yogurt balls. Used as snacks by the people of Central Asia.

Discussing the price of watermelons

Discussing the price of watermelons

Not only consumer goods is sold at the market. People also meet to interact, here a tournament of chess

Not only consumer goods is sold at the market. People also meet to interact, here a tournament of chess

The market offers you the chance to buy all you daily needed products and the restaurants in and around the market had some of the best tasting food I experienced during my visit. The high turnaround in people means the food is always fresh and served quickly with great customer service. A delightful experience.

Fresh food and warm chai

Fresh food and warm chai

Still warm for the owen

Still warm for the owen

M41. This is the famous Pamir highway that starts (or ends) in Osh and goes all the way to Dushanbe in Tajikistan. It’s supposed to be an epic adventure. Unfortunately I did not have the possibility to travel all the way, instead opted for a shorter excursion to the Alay region in the very south of Kyrgyzstan. The marshrutka from Osh took 3 hours through a mountainous landscape and there was not a dull minute. Everywhere there were fantastic vistas with yurts, sheep and small villages scattered around the landscape.

Sary Mogul and the Alay region

The final destination of the day was the village Sary Mogul, about 70 km from the Kyrgyz / Tadzik border. Arrangements were quickly made for a night stay at a local family.

Sary mogul village with the Pamir mountains in the background

Sary mogul village with the Pamir mountains in the background

The main road in Sary mogul village with the Pamir mountains in the background

The main road in Sary mogul village with the Pamir mountains in the background

The next day the journey continued to a yurt camp near by. The old Opel that must have been at least 20 years old picked us up in front of the guest house. It was a bumpy ride considering that the suspension was non existent, but the driver was proud, smiling, showing “thumps up” while saying “good German car”. After 30 minutes we arrived at the yurt camp located at a small lake.

Yurt camp in the background. Home for the next 3 days

Yurt camp in the background. Home for the next 3 days

New tourists have just arrived at the yurt camp

New tourists have just arrived at the yurt camp

In the afternoon I made a trek closer to this areas main attraction, the 7134 m Lenin peak. It’s considered one of the “easiest” 7000 m mountains to climb, still it must be a considerable effort in making it to the top. The snow was still deep up on the mountain so no climbing expedition were planned at the moment. Most people try to reach the top in August when as much as possible of the snow has melted.

Peak Lenin

Peak Lenin

The marmots were also active this evening, raising alarm as soon as somebody approached them. As with the rest of Kyrgystan the nature was breathtaking, you could spend weeks here exploring and never have a dull moment.

On the look out

On the look out

Sunset in the Alay region

Sunset in the Alay region

Sunrise in the Alay region

Sunrise in the Alay region

Peak lenin in the background. Sunrise in the Alay region

Peak lenin in the background. Sunrise in the Alay region

To sum it up, after 2 weeks or travel all I experienced where friendly and helpful people, children or adults, that will go out of their way in assisting you. And if you love nature as much as I do you'll definitely have a great time in Kyrgyzstan. Don't believe all that's said on the news, use your common knowledge and you'll be fine. Trust me !!

Friendly people in Bishkek

Friendly people in Bishkek

Hope you enjoyed my story from Kyrgyzstan. For my travel preparations I used the excellent Brandt travel guide, which you'll find a link to below.