The Faroe Islands are a small archipelago consisting of 18 Islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, basically if you set off from Scotland and just keep going north you will hit them about halfway to Iceland. They’re self governing islands, part of the kingdom of Denmark but fiercely retain their own cultural identity; they are in every way an independent nation and visiting here is best described as simply unimaginable. It’s not possible to grasp the sheer harshness of the natural forces at play here, or the way the people have learnt to not only survive, but thrive in this environment. This interplay is what make the Faroe Islands, in our humble opinion, one of the most amazing places in the world to explore.
The Faroe Islands are an utterly fantastically, nonsensical place. Their closeness with nature sits hand in hand with all the mod cons you would expect in any capital city. It’s a place where you can hike for hours without coming across a single fence or person and then head back to your comfy, modern hotel room with high speed wifi and order sushi and delicious locally produced beers/spirits (seriously, the best gin in the world is Faroese gin; even if you don’t drink you should try it at some point!).
The fact that they have never been settled by outsiders makes them a native and truly indigenous culture. They have their own language (a Nordic dialect), their own unique artists and painters whose work is based around their rich cultural traditions and history, a unique way of building wooden houses painted beautifully bright colours then insulated with turf roofs – making for stunning villages against a bright green backdrop.
They have an immensely strong connection with the sea – it being their only stable food source with such a harsh landscape and which has been an integral part of Faroese history. If you get the chance I really recommend partaking in a Faroese chain dance, it’s a wonderful dance where everyone links arms and dances in a chain whilst singing ballads about Faroese history – Apparently one of the songs has over 700 verses so make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes! Luckily there will inevitably be someone walking around serving schnapps/akvavit (local spirits) out of a rams horn to everyone, so you’ll get some refreshment! (another of our favourite parts of Faroese culture). Point to remember though, the rams horns hold about 2-3 measures of strong spirit, you are not expected to drink the whole thing – I mean you can, it’ll earn you brownie points, as well as making the rest of the dancing much more interesting – but a small sip will suffice.
The Faroe Islands are a place where the majority of residents are very religious, Christianity playing a major role in the day to day lives of the residents. Yet over a quarter of the whole population turned out to celebrate the 2015 Faroese LGBT pride festival.
It’s a place where you can spend lengthy days getting back in touch with nature and sourcing your own food from the wild surrounding sea, and then head to a restaurant to explore how Michelin standard chefs use this same produce to create dining to rival other foodie cities around the world.
If you visit in the summer (which we highly recommend, although don’t take the term ‘summer’ too literally – average highs are around 12 to 14 degrees Celsius) try and time your visit to coincide with Ólavsøka, the Faroese national day. It’s one of the greatest ways to experience the Faroe Islands, you will see the fierceness with which the Faroese defend and celebrate their indigenous culture, whilst adapting it to the modern, developing world. A trait which has helped them to keep their own identity and yet still take advantage of globalisation and all the advances that give us and the comforts we have grown accustomed too.
Taste some of the traditional food (mainly fish and lamb, which has usually been preserved in some way – salting, drying and pickling being the most common), see the striking national dress, participate in midnight singing in the city centre and really get involved with a truly unique culture.
The capital city of Tórshavn, is inhabited by just under 20,000 people making it one of the smallest capital cities in the world. It really is one of the most lovely places; the people are friendly, the buses are free (yes free), the food is fantastic, there is locally brewed beer, history, art, so much in such a compact city! As well as a range of accommodations to choose from there are numerous restaurants and bars, cultural events, shopping and tours. It is a beautiful place to just explore by foot, getting lost in the windy cobbled streets and exploring the crystal clear harbour waters.
Be warned though! It is not a big place, you won’t need as much time here as in say NYC or London. The great thing about the Faroe Islands though is that they are wonderfully connected; perfectly smooth roads, underwater tunnels and ferries connect the islands together, making it simple to explore. Each island and village have unique offerings of places to explore and things to do so for a truly unique travel experience, don’t limit it to just the city. Explore the nearby village of Kirkjubøur, just a short hike or bus ride from the capital, and boasting one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses in the world- now on its 17th generation of inhabitants from the same family! You could also take a ferry to the musical hub of Nølsoy, or take a longer trip to visit the puffin colonies of Mykines.
If you like adventure and travelling to places off the classic traveller map we cannot recommend the Faroe Islands enough, they are just a wonderfully safe and easy place to travel whilst being wild and intense at the same time.
Have you ever been to the Faroe Islands? If not, have we tempted you?!