Faroe Islands

Overview

Introduction

The Faroe Islands, an autonomous area under Danish administration, lie between Iceland and Norway, about 800 mi/1,290 km northwest of Copenhagen. Although there are many islands in the group, only 18 are inhabited, with a total population of about 49,000. The islands are accessible by air from Denmark and Iceland or by ferry from Iceland, Denmark, Norway or the Shetlands in Scotland.

Rugged green mountains, fjords and countless waterfalls compose this natural wonderland. Other attractions include medieval churches, fishing villages, old farmhouses and sheep. We love it there: It's not the least bit touristy, the people are friendly (you'll find yourself engaged in long talks with the local fishermen), it's fairly modern and it has a distinctive atmosphere. The light, which constantly changes, is extraordinary. The islands are known for their linguistic diversity, as every little bygd (settlement) has its own dialect.

We especially enjoyed the towns of Gjogv, Kirkjubo, Torshavn (the capital city), Tjornuvik (wide, windswept beach) and Saksun (set on the hillside above a tidal lake). Be prepared for sudden changes in its relatively mild climate.

The islands are steeped in folklore: One story details a giant and a witch who were both turned to stone when they tried to drag the Faroe Islands to Iceland; now, these stone figures can be seen right outside the town of Gjogv. The Faroese take pride in their tradition and Viking-inflected heritage, which includes kvaedir, a traditional song similar to a ballad, accompanied by dance—some songs have more than 800 verses. It's definitely worth sitting in on the experience, if you have the chance.

Modern technology has made its way to the islands, but the Faroese continue to lead simple, rather traditional lives, fishing and herding sheep as they have for centuries. They are a friendly and welcoming people, and the younger generations tend to have a good handle on English. Keep in mind, when talking with the Faroese, that whale-hunting is part of their livelihood, as well as their heritage, and they do not take too kindly to opposing opinions on the issue.

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