Faroe Islands – Føroyar

Famous for birdwatching, the Faroe Islands also offer catch-and-eat fishing and spectacular hiking.

Thrashed by the huge swells of the north Atlantic, the Faroe Islands (Føroyar) are on the frontier of Europe, midway between the coast of Scotland and Iceland. Almost devoid of trees (they can’t survive the constant winds) the archipelago is home to around 50,000 inhabitants, descendants of colonies that were established in the 8th century by Irish monks. Since 1948 the Faroe Islands have been a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, with their own government and legislative independence. Although Denmark is a member of the European Union, the Faroe Islands are not; a decision to remain out of the bloc is based on a need to protect its vast fishing resources from foreign vessels. The local fishing industry is the largest employer and makes up over 90% of the nation’s exports.

A balmy 3-11 Celsius, year-round

Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the temperatures in the Faroe Islands fluctuate between 3 – 11⁰C which makes the activities for tourists wanting a unique holiday experience available all year round. Hiking in the spectacular volcanic peaks and valleys or cycling the extensive road and tunnel networks on the islands are gaining popularity apart from the attraction that draws thousands of visitors to the islands each year: birdwatching.

Summer in particular is the high season for birdwatching in the Faroe Islands. The star of the show is undoubtedly the puffin. They’re just one of the 305 species have been recorded on the islands. Of these, around 50 species breed regularly on the islands and another 60 are regular visitors, while almost 200 of the recorded bird species are either scarce or rare visitors to the Faroe Islands.

But if you’re the more adventurous type you may want to take on the ultimate Faroese experience and launch yourself out on a fishing adventure in some of the planet’s most violent seas. For centuries the hardy islanders have forged an existence from the Atlantic no matter what the weather – so be prepared for seas that dwarf the boats rather than the gentle waves that lap the hulls of boats in warmer, calmer oceans.

Dine with locals

Still, the opportunity to do fly fishing in the Faroe Islands just about guarantees that you can eat whatever you are bound to catch, and then have it cooked by locals in their own homes.  Across most of the islands tourists can enjoy authentic and intimate dining experiences in people’s homes. These underground restaurants offer the opportunity to sample new food in personal environments that give diners a proper taste of Faroese culture. Rates are as little as DKK 330 (approx. €45) per person.

Getting to the Faroe Islands by air is the available from the national airline, Atlantic Airways, with  year-round direct flights from Denmark, Scotland, Iceland and Norway. There are also regular ferry connections to the Faroes Hirtshals in the north of Denmark and from Seyðisfjørður in Iceland, though the schedules vary according to season, and the weather forecast!