Introduction

An archipelago composed of 18 islands located in the heart of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands lie approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. Along with Denmark proper and Greenland, the Faroe Islands are a part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Since 1948, the Faroe Islands have been an autonomous province of Denmark. While the Faroes have taken control of most matters over the years, some areas like military defense, foreign affairs and law still remain the responsibility of Denmark. Thus, there remains the desire and political aim for higher independence.

Traditionally, the Faroe Islands have close traditional ties to Iceland, Norway, Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides and Greenland. The archipelago was politically detached from Norway in 1814. The Faroes are represented in the Nordic Council as a part of the Danish delegation.

The countryside is dominated by steep mountains and is home to about 70,000 sheep and some two million pairs of seabirds, including the largest colony of storm petrels in the world. Most visitors to the islands come between early July and late August when the weather is fairest.

People

Ethnic Faroese, Norse and Celtic descents comprise the vast majority of the population. Based on recent DNA analyses, 87% of the male descent is Scandinavian, while 84% of female descent is Scottish / Irish.

Based on birthplace, origins of the inhabitants are as follows: 91.7% were born on the Faroes, 5.8% in Denmark, and 0.3% in Greenland. The largest group of foreigners is Icelanders comprising 0.4% of the population, followed by Norwegians and Polish, each comprising 0.2%. Altogether, there are people from 77 different nationalities on the Faroe Islands.

Based on birthplace, origins of the inhabitants are as follows: 91.7% were born on the Faroes, 5.8% in Denmark, and 0.3% in Greenland. The largest group of foreigners is Icelanders comprising 0.4% of the population, followed by Norwegians and Polish, each comprising 0.2%. Altogether, there are people from 77 different nationalities on the Faroe Islands.

The small islands do not possess any truly large cities. The capital city of Tórshavn is the largest city with only 20,000 residents. Most of the other major places are technically large towns. Klavsv?k is the main industrial city. Hoyv?k, located north of Tórshavn has become basically a suburb. Tvřroyri is the largest city on Sudđuroy, while Runav?k is the largest on Eysturoy. Fuglafjřrđur has a cultural center that has become a major cultural attraction in Eysturoy.

Geography

With a total land area of 540 square miles, it has no major lakes or rivers. The coastline is nearly 700 miles long and there is no land boundary with any country. Lítla Dímun is the only island that is uninhabited.

Rugged and rocky with some low peaks, the islands’ coasts are mostly bordered by cliffs. The highest point is Slćttaratindur at 2,893 feet above sea level. There are also areas below sea level. Mountains and valleys characterize the inner landscape.

The Faroe Islands are dominated by tholeiitic basalt lava that was part of the great Thulean Plateau during the Paleogene period. The west coast is characterized by steep slopes and bird cliffs. Faroes lack trees due to the thousands of sheep that occupy the islands.

History

Gael hermits and monks from a Hiberno-Scottish mission settled in the sixth century, introducing sheep and oats and the early Goidelic language to the islands. Around AD 650, the Vikings came with the Old Norse language that evolved into the modern Faroese language.

Norwegian control of the islands continued up to the year 138. Then, Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark. When the union was dissolved in 1814, Denmark retained control.

From 1856 when trade monopoly was abolished, the area developed to become a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. While the national awakening from 1888 was culturally oriented, it shifted to more and more political orientation.

When Nazi Germany invaded Denmark in April 1940, British troops occupied the islands in order to strengthen British control of the North Atlantic. Denmark regained control of the islands after the war. In 1973, the Faroes declined joining Denmark to enter the European Community.

Famous Attractions

In 2007, the National Geographic (National Geographic Traveler and National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations) rated the Faroe Islands as the most appealing destination in the world.

Faroe Islands is the “Birdwatchers’ Paradise.” During the long days of summer, the many cliffs on the northern and western coasts of the islands teem with huge flocks of birds. Cold arctic currents merge with the warm Gulf Stream in the waters off the Faroes, resulting in a particularly rich food environment for the nesting birds. Ornithologists have identified approximately 300 species of birds in the Faroes. Of these, 40 species are common breeding birds and about 40 are rare or irregular visitors.

The most interesting lakes and small rivers for trout fishing are on the islands of Streymoy, Eysturoy, Vágar and Sandoy.

Salmon fishing is a complete science in itself and can be pursued on the coast and in the large lakes. The fjords and shores on Streymoy and Eysturoy are popular places as is Sandur on Sandoy.

Nightlife

Tórshavn, the capital, is also the center of entertainment whether during the day or in the evening. There are some excellent restaurants there. One of these is the Glasstovan at Hotel Fřroyar. From the restaurant there is an excellent view over Tórshavn. Their cuisine offers Faroese specialties as well as international cuisine. Gourmet is the finest restaurant on the Faroes. While in the town center, you may want to visit Merlot. For a nice, small Italian restaurant, check out Toscana. If you are in the mood for Chinese food, be sure to patronize Nan. And for great sushi, don't miss Etika.

There are few bars and nightclubs outside of Tórshavn. Manhattan and Café Natúr are situated in the center of Tórshavn. They both feature wooden interiors similar to English/Irish pubs and have live music most nights. Another place is Cleopatra right in the town center. A popular nightclub is Rex, on the third floor in the same building as "Havnar Bio," the cinema. Get there early, or you won't get in. It's very popular.

For young people the nightclub Eclipse is a popular place to visit. It is the same as in most European cities. You have to be eighteen to get in, and you shouldn't be older than 25!

Culture

Nordic culture has figured heavily into the culture of the Faroe Islands. Additionally, because of the geographic isolation of the Islands from the rest of Europe, most of the cultural movements or trends of the continent were missed on the Faroe Islands. As a result, it was able to preserve a pure culture that is traditionally Faroese.

The spoken language Faroese is one of three Scandinavian languages that came down from Old Norse that would have been spoken in Viking days. The other two were Icelandic and the now extinct Norn. The Faroese language was spelled similarly to Icelandic and Norwegian, but with the Reformation of 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in official documents, schools and churches. Therefore, for 300 years, (because the language could not be recorded), all the poems, stories, history and folklore were passed down orally. These were eventually recorded during the 1800s.

Music plays a big part of life on the Faroe Islands. They have their own symphony orchestra, an opera company and classical ensembles and choirs. Every summer there is a large festival of both contemporary and classical music.

Cuisine

Hearty foods such as seafood, meat, potatoes and vegetables make up most of the Faroese meals. Mutton is especially popular and drying it into a chewy form is considered a treat. It is standard for most homes to have a drying shed to accomplish this. Two types of dried mutton are skerpikjřt and rćst kjřt with the difference being the degree of drying that the mutton has reached.

Another specialty is Grind og spik, which is pilot whale meat and blubber. For centuries, the Island residents knew that a pilot whale would provide food for a long time. Fresh and dried fish are also very common.

The Faroe Islands are also home to a brewery called Föroya Bjór that has existed since 1888. It produces a beer that is enjoyed on the Islands and that is exported to Iceland and Denmark.

Since the British occupation, the Faroese have adopted a couple of British favorites. These would include fish and chips and chocolate like Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate.