Discoveries

A Must for Your Bucket List – the Faroe Islands

Word is getting out – the Faroe Islands are set to be the next big thing on the travel map. Lying 4° south of the official boundary of the Arctic Circle, this tiny nation is technically a semi-autonomous part of Denmark, but you’ll find it has more in common with Iceland or Norway – or the Scottish Islands for that matter. The scenery’s incredible, the people proud of their island traditions. Here’s why the Faroe Islands are a must for your bucket list.

Turf Everywhere

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If you’ve been to Iceland or Norway, you’ll know that roofing your home with turf isn’t a uniquely Faroese phenomenon. But what strikes you when you come to the Faroe Islands is just how prevalent this building style is. Turf roofs pop up everywhere, and I mean everywhere – even the Parliament buildings wear a hat of lush green grass.

As well as being ridiculously photogenic, the roofs are practical too, keeping the heat in during the winter. Watch out for sheep grazing on the roof – the energy-savvy alternative to mowing by machine. With plenty of cosy cafés and quirky boutiques selling sheepskins and delightful patterned knits, it’s easy to lose several hours (if not days) wandering the quiet lanes and backstreets of Tórshavn.

Rain is Your Friend

rain
While the Gulf Stream keeps Faroese winters mild rather than freezing, you’re still going to need to prepare for wet weather – even if you choose to visit in midsummer. Bring a raincoat but don’t even think about an umbrella as it’ll be blown inside out in no time given the strong winds that buffet the islands year-round. Don’t let such weather put you off the great outdoors, however. Every hillside turns into a picture-perfect waterfall after a shower; the grass grows thick and fast leaving everything verdant and splendidly camera-ready.

The pick of the bunch is delightful Saksun, where a graded path leads alongside the fjord to the ocean – fellow hikers are still a rare sight but you’ll have plenty of sheep for company. Birders are also blessed: take a boat trip from Vestmanna to see puffins, kittiwakes and guillemots clinging to the vertiginous cliffs from your sea level vantage point. If you really need to get inside and dry off, the SagaMuseum at Vestmanna is a gory yet enthralling place to spend the afternoon.

The Food is Challenging – But Delicious

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As you might expect, fish is a staple of the Faroese diet. The quayside in Torshavn hosts a regular fish market and tasting is encouraged. Dine at the atmospheric Barbara Fish House if you can’t (or don't want to) cook for yourself.

A short drive from the capital, by the side of a remote lake, you’ll find the first restaurant in the Faroe Islands to make it into the Michelin guide. It’s named KOKS, which in the Faroes translates as someone who fusses over something in pursuit of perfection. Thinly-sliced squares of whale blubber, salted gannet, razorbill Wellington, and fermented lamb tallow are all on the menu. Go with an open mind and from your first encounter at the restaurant’s hjallur – a kind of drying shed – to the moment you leave, your tastebuds will be working overtime.

Home hospitality is also big here – ask the Tourist Board to set you up with a host for heimablidni, and taste some authentic home-cooked food in someone’s private dining room.

You see, the Faroese do things a little differently, but that’s all part of the charm. The question is not if you’ll come, but when.

About the author: Julia Hammond | Freelance Travel Writer
Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

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