The Faroe Islands (or Faeroe Islands, Faroes, Faeroes) are a group of autonomous islands in northern Europe that are part of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroe Islands administrate all aspects of governance, except for foreign affairs, laws, and defense – three areas they rely on Denmark to handle.
The Faroe Islands consist of 18 total islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, located halfway between Norway and Iceland. The islands’ closest neighbors are the northern isles of Scotland. The Faroes’ landscape is primarily rocky peaks, mostly of lower altitudes. The highest peak on the islands, in fact, is a mere 880 meters (2890 feet). Much of the coasts are famously dominated by picturesque sea cliffs, including some of the highest in Europe and the world. The height of these sea cliffs means there are scarcely any coastal beaches. The interior is also rugged, making roadbuilding very difficult. There are also no major lakes or rivers in the islands.
Most tourists are Europeans who come to see the dramatic sea cliffs and rugged landscape scenery the Faroe Islands have to offer. The islands are also a major outdoor destination.
Visitors enjoy hiking the many trails that traverse through the craggy terrains and peaks. There are four different designated walking routes, some of the ancient and dating back to an era when there weren’t any roads.
Sailing is also a popular endeavor, especially during the summer when the weather is accommodating almost every day. In recent years, Vestmanna has become a major sailing destination. This island features bird cliffs, gorges, grottoes, and narrow channels that can be sailed through.
Fishing is another draw. The Faroe Islands have coasts, as well as minor lakes and streams that teem with brown trout, salmon, and sea trout. Popular fishing lakes and rivers include Sandoy, Vagar, Streymoy, and Eysturoy.
The Faroe Islands are a birdwatcher’s paradise. More than 300 species of birds, including 40 “rare” birds, soar along the sea cliffs of the Faroes. Many of them migrate from the south between the months of May and July. Watch for overgrown hummingbirds, cliff-nesting guillemots, and colonies of puffins and various gannets.
The Faroe Islands enjoy cool summers and mild winters thanks to the Gulf Stream, which tempers the islands’ climate, which would otherwise be blistering cold given its high latitude. The downside is that the islands are often overcast and hit by fog and heavy winds.
The Faroe Islands were originally settled by Irish monks around 500 AD. The Vikings later conquered the islands. They brought the Old Norse language, which has evolved into the modern Faroese language.
In the 9th century, Norwegian settlers immigrated to the islands to escape the autocratic rule of Harald I of Norway. In the 11th century, Norway conquered the islands and controlled them until 1380 when Norway unified with Denmark. When the union between Norway and Denmark ended in 1814, cntrol of the islands was passed over to Denmark under the Treaty of Kiel. During the 19th and 20th century, the Faroe Islands developed into a fishing nation. Unfortunately, the industry collapsed during the 1990s, but the islands have made efforts to diversify into other industries, including tourism. Today, the islands are not part of the European Union and support for independence from Denmark is on the rise.