Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands by CC user stignygaard on Flickr Introduction Located in the midst of the rough seas of the North Atlantic, the stunning Faroe Islands are home to 50,000 hardy souls that have spent over 1,000 years teasing out a living from the sea and from the meadowlands that feed their herds of sheep. While many continue to live year to year in this manner, more islanders are making a life by showing outsiders their achingly beautiful land. Formed from volcanic activity eons ago, and veiled in a carpet of green by the nearly constant bouts of rainfall that buffet it year round, the peaks, waterfalls, cliffs, and charming villages of this fairytale island chain are slowly being discovered by the traveling public at large. While high prices have kept the hordes at bay up to the present, be sure to see this land for yourself soon, as it can only get more popular as the years go by.

Currency: Faroese króna

Languages: Faroese, Danish. English

Historic Tinganes, Torshavn by CC user davidstanleytravel on Flickr What To Do Start your time in the Faroe Islands by exploring Tórshavn, the biggest town and capital of this windswept archipelago. Walking the streets of this chilly yet charming city, you’ll find restaurants that offer not just native Faroese cuisine, but international offerings as well, boutiques, museums and a cute cathedral. Before you head out into the rural hinterland that surrounds the capital, take time to poke around Tinganes, which is a neighborhood that contains the oldest structures in the city, as well as the Ting, which is considered to be one of the oldest parliament buildings in the world that is still being actively used in its intended function. Admire all the buildings with sod roofs, kept brilliantly green by the near continuous rainfall that falls here throughout the year (when the sun comes out in the Faroe Islands, relish it, as it might not be back during the rest of your time here). The tone around this place is so laid back, you might run into the prime minister during your visit. If you do, don’t be shy … shake his hand and revel in the novelty of a place where you can meet a head of state in such an impromptu fashion without being taken out by any security forces. If the relative urbanity of Tórshavn isn’t what you came to the Faroe Islands to experience, you can get in touch with this place’s rural roots by heading to Kirkjubour. In this small village, there are many aspects of this corner of the world that will make you pinch yourself, as you’ll feel like you have been dropped into the midst of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but the most impressive point of interest here is Olavskirkjan, or St Olav’s Church. Built in the 12th century, it is the only place of worship left in the islands that is still standing from when it was constructed in the Middle Ages, though the interior is decidedly pragmatic and minimalist in its decoration. Another religious site of note here is the remains of the Magnus Cathedral, which was started in 1300 by a Faroese bishop but was never completed. There are plans to finish the job using the plans from which the first stones were laid, but a serious effort to do so has yet to materialize as of this writing. Finally, this village is also home to Kirkjubøargarður, a farmhouse which is the oldest continually inhabited wooden structure in the world. Within is a museum that details the history of this remote sheep herding and fishing community, but the Patursson Family, which has lived here since 1550, stills resides within a portion of the property, so please be respectful during your visit here. Gásadalur by CC user stignygaard on Flickr

Despite being located in the midst of the stormy north Atlantic between Norway, Scotland and Iceland, and having a challenging topography of rugged volcanic mountains, the government of the Faroe Islands have been dedicated to ensuring that its populace is connected to each other, no matter how small or remote its various settlements may be.

This point will be driven home if you happen to take the Gasadalur Tunnel to the hamlet of the same name on the west coast of the island of Vágar. With a population of only 18 souls, a similar project to link a tiny outport like Gasadalur might not happen in other parts of the world, but because of this project, people are beginning to move to this region again.

Aside from all open land available for farming, it is also situated close to a waterfall that travelers have been clamoring to see ever since a killer photo of it was snapped some time ago.

Tvøst og Spik by CC user arne-list on FlickrWhat To Eat Due to the island’s location in the subarctic, Faroese cuisine will likely not appeal greatly to lovers of vegetables, but for those that love meat and seafood, and have a healthy sense of adventure, this corner of the culinary corner has plenty to offer. Start with Skerpikjøt, a type of mutton that is prepared by hanging sheep shanks or legs in a special drying shack for up to nine months. As you might imagine, it has quite the pungent smell after being left that long, but being exposed to cold weather in the final stage usually kills the worst of it. Served on rye bread in the form of an open-faced sandwich, you’ll earn respect from the locals if you join them in eating this uniquely Faroese meal. Another dish you should seek out is Tvøst og spik, which is a plate that consists of the meat of a pilot whale, along with blubber and potatoes on the side. While this may seem objectionable, it is a vital part of Faroese heritage, as hunting these beasts of the deep helped residents here survive in a land where growing seasons are very short to non-existent in the years before global supply chains existed. That being said, the choice of whether to indulge or not is 100% up to you; many locals in the present day will understand your hesitance, and others still will agree with your stance on this contentious issue. Finally, those looking for dessert should seek out a bowl of rose hip soup. Made from the fruit produced by wild roses after the petals wilt off the plant, this dessert is prepared by boiling the berries until the they are soft. After this, they are blended until smooth, forming the base of the soup. Try it with some ice cream or some almond biscuits!

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