Nestled in the North Atlantic Ocean are eighteen majestically protruding islands, secluded from any other civilization by miles of water. A tour of these islands spoils travelers with wave-sculpted cliffs that form almost a mile of coastline. Small rural villages dot the landscape enticing any traveler to take a Faroe Islands cruise and come and experience this isolated world.
Influenced in part by Norwegian and Danish heritage, the Faroese have developed a culture very distinctly their own, complete with cuisine and arts based on the daily life of islanders generation after generation. Having developed their own language, flag, and legislative body, the Faroese are considered an autonomous self-governing community within Denmark. These islands boast multiple nesting areas for sea birds, and contain over 300 species in their tiny 540 square miles of land surface. They also claim virtually unlimited access to the abundant marine life available off the coasts for you to discover during your cruise of the Faroe Islands. The rich marine life also help to ensure the livelihood for those who have chosen to call the islands home. Each small village, including Torshavn, the capital metropolis area, offer a look at the traditions and values that have enabled the small population of less than 50,000 to build communities with strong familial ties.
When on a tour of this tiny region, one might enjoy fishing in the bay, hiking along the rocky terrain or searching for bird nests along the coastlines. However, interacting with the people, learning their culture, or witnessing one of the many village music festivals might prove to be the highlight of your trip to this small isolated wonder. Offering cool summers and fairly mild winters, the Faroe Islands are inviting to visitors year round. But come prepared to be enveloped in clouds blanketing the islands peaks. The majestic landscape views will truly take your breath away!
Enjoy the Culture of the Faroe Islands
Isolated in large part from the outside world, the Faroes have developed a culture that is uniquely their own. Evolving from the Scandinavian cultures of Norway, Iceland, and Denmark, the Faroese have developed their own unique cultures and even their own language. Faroese is the officially spoken language. During your Faroe Island trip you may also hear many Faroese also speak Danish and now English, which is taught in many city schools.
The Faroese population has throughout most of its history been spread out fairly evenly over the islands; the development of urbanized centers did not occur until the last few decades. Industrialization in the country has been decentralized for the most part, enabling the furtherance of the quiet rural culture that is so celebrated by those enjoying travel to the islands. Many peripheral areas with poor harbors are difficult to reach and are often separated from the rest of the country.
The entire population totals a little over 46,000, with the largest metropolitan area around the capital city of Torshavn containing about 18,800 residents. Torshavn is a popular destination for any trip to the Faroe Islands. According to statistics from 2004, roughly 80% of the people are members of the state church -- the Faroese People’s Church -- a form of Lutheranism.
Faroe Islands Tour: An Environmental Discovery
Created by multiple volcanic events, the Faroe Islands are built up layers of volcanic basalt and bands of re tuff, or compressed ash. During a trip to the region, you may notice that all the islands are tilted in the same way, with the eastern shores sloping down into the sea; the western coasts, with high rising cliffs, towering above the water’s edge. In the protected fjords and sounds are the gradually sloping shores where many of the towns and villages are located. Deep green pasturelands grow on multi-leveled basalt layers and rocky peaks protrude around them, giving the mountains an amazing layered look. The western and northern coasts face the bulk of the winter storms. Swells and ocean waves crash against the cliffs. Clouds lingering around the mountain peaks afford spectacular landscape views that appear to be from a mystical fantasy world. Seemingly so tiny, yet so vastly majestic, travelers on their Faroe Islands tour will find the islands a breathtaking sight to be held.
Enjoy the Local Cuisine on a Faroe Islands Tour
Faroese cuisine has developed largely out of necessity rather than artistry. Being so far removed from other countries to provide additional sources of food, the people on the Faroe Islands have developed a traditional diet based on the need to be self-sufficient with the resources readily available on the islands. Sheep from the fields, birds from the mountains, and fish and whale from the sea have become staples. Be sure to try some of the local dishes during your trip to the islands. Other foods, which can potentially be gleaned from the poor soils on the islands, are grass for cows, corn, and potatoes. Different methods for preserving and drying meats were introduced. During your tour of the Faroe Islands, it is still not uncommon to see fish or whale hanging out under the eaves of homes or for each home to contain a wooden shed, or hjallur, used for drying. Fish are considered the foundation of the daily diet, yet it is very difficult to find restaurants who serve it or even supermarkets selling it since this item is generally considered to be something one catches on their own. Another important staple is whale meat. When beaching a whale, the whole village will share the meat, providing food for a long time. Also used in the traditional local diet are seabirds, such as puffin and their eggs.
Rarely do people eat out, but when they do the chosen cuisine is usually Danish roast pork or some other international cuisine like Italian. Roasted lamb with potatoes and gravy is the traditional food served on special occasions or when guests visit. While on your Faroe Islands tour you may notice a European influence on the local cuisine; many leaving the islands to study cuisine abroad are returning to the Faroe Islands and bringing with them new ideas based on international cuisine varieties. Such examples include whale in prune sauce or stuffed puffin. Perhaps in the near future Faroese cuisine will begin to establish its presence in other European metropolitan areas.
Discovery the Faroe Islands’ Geography on an Adventure Cruise
The Faroe Islands – containing seventeen inhabited and one uninhabited islands – cover a mere 540 square miles, equal to eight times the size of Washington DC. The region is best explored on a Faroe Islands cruise. Located off the coast of northern Europe, between Scotland, Norway and Iceland, the islands are strategically located along a common trade route. The islands are bordered by 694 miles of coastline and do not share land boundaries with any other country. The terrain is very rugged and rocky with cliffs along most of the coast limiting habitation to the few coastal lowland areas. The highest elevation point is at Slaettarantindur at 2,894 ft. The islands contain no major lakes or rivers.
The History of the Faroe Islands
Spotted by St. Brendan and his monks while sailing past the jewel islands, the Faroes were first settled by these Irish monks late in the 6th century. The monks were most likely either seeking pagan souls they could save, or were in search of a peaceful refuge away from pirates and tyrants from the mainland. Large amounts of Viking settlers came to the islands in the 9th century, from whom the current population is largely descendant – during your travel to Faroe Islands you can still see the Viking influence on the region today. The Faroes converted to Christianity around the year 1000 when the King of Norway, Olaf Tryggvason claimed the islands. They officially became part of the Kingdon of Norway in 1035. The Kingdom of Norway formally joined the Kingdom of Denmark in 1380, and the Faroe Islands soon adopted Danish laws. In 1655 the Danish government allotted the Faroes to Christoffer von Gabel as a personal feudal estate, bringing oppressive rule and exploitation to the islanders until 1709 when the government relieved the von Gabel family of the islands. In 1814 the Treaty of Kiel separated the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark, within that agreement the Faroe Islands remained under Denmark’s control. The Danish government officially incorporated the Faroes into the legislature in 1849, offering them two seats in the House. Despite this representation, by the 1890’s many Faroese were expressing desires for home rule instead of inclusion in Denmark’s government. This sentiment never came to fruition due to the impact of British presence during WWII and the 1948 Act of Faroese Home Rule passed by Denmark, which changed the Faroe Island status from a county to a self-governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark.
On a tour of the islands, you will experience the flag and language that the Faroese developed independent from Denmark. They also formed their own legislative body refusing to join the European Union along with Denmark. The Faroese are given independence to decide their own affairs inasmuch as it does not affect Denmark. Denmark still controls and is responsible for insurance, banking, defense, foreign relations and justice. In return the Faroe Islands receive a large federal subsidy amounting to around 15% of their total budget. In recovery stages from a serious recession in the early 1990s that lead to a lot of emigration to Denmark, the Faroe economy is picking up again and cod fisheries are reaping profits. The increased popularity of Faroe Islands travel has also helped the local economy. Efforts and sentiment towards establishing independence have once again been revived, and we may see the formation of a new country in the upcoming years.
The Politics of Faroe Islands
Attaining a high degree of self-government in 1948, the Faroe Island political scene has increasingly taken control of most governmental matters from Denmark, excluding defense and foreign affairs. While national sentiment for independence has been a constantly re-surfacing issue over the last hundred years, the populous is fairly evenly split in their opinions on the issue. During your Faroe Islands travel you may also notice that there exist differences of opinions as to the methods of secession. Some residents prefer a unilateral and immediate declaration as opposed to those who prefer gradual separation with Denmark’s full consent.
Currently the executive branch consists of the chief of state. If you travel to the Faroe Islands today, the chief of state is Queen Margrethre II of Denmark who is represented in the Islands by Birgit Kleis and the head of government, Prime Minister Joannes Eidesgaard. The monarch is a hereditary position, while the prime minister is elected based on the majority party elected to the legislature. The unicameral legislature consists of a coalition formed by the Social Democratic, Union, and People’s parties, as well as a number of smaller parties. The Faroese Parliament, or Logting, holds 32 seats and members are elected to four-year terms by popular vote based on proportions from the seven constituencies. The Faroe Islanders also elect two representatives to serve in the Danish Parliament.
Faroe Islands Cruise: Plan for the Weather
The Faroe Islands are in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its climate, however, is much warmer than might be expected due to the warm Gulf Stream currents. The winters have short-lived snowfalls and are sunless, but average low temperatures remain surprisingly mild, reaching a little less than 35°F in January. The weather is often unpredictable, with moments of brilliant sunshine suddenly changing to fog or showers. Summer months are usually the most popular for a Faroe Islands cruise. The summers are more stable with average temperatures between 49°F to 56°F. Most of the year, summer included, is wet and usually overcast, foggy and windy.
Faroe Islands Wildlife
The Faroe Islands, or rather the waters around them, offer particularly rich environments for nesting birds. The islands draw in about 300 species of birds. A birdwatcher’s paradise, the Faroes harbor about 40 species of rare or irregularly visiting birds making a Faroe Islands tour a very popular destination for both the novice and experienced birder. With a good pair of binoculars one would expect to see guillemots, kittiwakes, colonies of puffins and petrels, and the gannet who travel long distances to nest in the Faroe summers. Boat trips to the various breeding spots on the islands are available.
A tour of the Faroe Islands is also an ideal destination for any avid fisherman. With river mouths containing scores of sea salmon, fjords filled with coalfish and cod, and the ocean harboring the large halibut, these tiny islands offer great opportunities to catch dinner. Using the resources the ocean provides, the atmosphere on these islands is amazingly relaxed. Local fishermen spending a quick half hour fishing for a meal for their family; rarely is more time needed to come away satisfied. Seldom casting more than a few meters into the water, the abundance of fish and marine wildlife help sustain the human population on these islands.