The fantastic and forgotten Faroe Islands are a simple short flight from Denmark, Norway, Iceland and even the UK but they are so far off the general tourist map that few people ever actually make it here. It’s a real shame because this 18 island jigsaw puzzle of an island nation is well worth the effort and cost of getting here. Adrift in the frothing swells of the North Atlantic, the Faroes are littered with little foot paths leading to enormous and well engineered connecting tunnels while sheep by the thousands just stand around and eat grass. Multicolored cottages, turf roofed houses and churches dot the landscape of this land that time forgot. Almost I should say, because anywhere you go on the islands your mobile will never lose service, even in the boats to see the amazing Vestmanna Bird Cliffs.
Vestmanna is a beautiful 45 minute drive or so from the capital Torshavn but a world away in terms of facilities…relatively speaking of course. Every guidebook and Internet post I had read said the Vestmanna cliffs were a do not miss and for once, everyone was correct. They were truly awesome and jaw dropping. I say that as a very experienced and jaded traveler. One who was floored by the natural beauty of the cliffs I saw yesterday. I love when that happens-it makes it all worthwhile!
The bus dropped me off right at the boat dock and I headed onto the boat as one of only two native English speakers. The Viking looking guide was a super cool Faroese guy who was perfect because he didn’t talk too much; didn’t spit out useless information; answered questions in perfect English when I asked and was actually pretty funny. That definitely was a positive contribution to the overall experience.
Once we reached the cliffs after going past all the salmon farms and sheep eating seaweed at the water, it became a different world. We were surrounded by 200-600 meter sheer cliffs going straight up in the air with native birds circling about the whole time. The cliffs were mesmerizing and the boat tactically weaved in and out of the narrow chasms that formed throughout the years. It was truly awesome. I was left speechless and just snapping photos left and right while making myself dizzy staring straight up while the boat was being carried around the water.
Some of the formations of rocks as you can see are the result of break offs thousands of years ago. We are left with amazing formations and breeding grounds for the infamous puffin birds that breed on the Faroes in the summer time. Unfortunately for me, I missed the season which ended in early August and apparently this was the worst turnout for puffins in recent memory. I don’t pretend to be much of a bird watcher but the puffins are pretty cute and the word itself is fun to say. The best thing about the puffins are that the baby puffins are called pufflings!
Riding the boat and getting in the water is the best way to see the Faroes. Driving is the second best way and I didn’t rent a car which if I ever go back I will next time. However, I met a really nice and interesting guy on the boat named Mark from New York State who had a car and graciously gave me a lift back to Torshavn and also to the airport.
The capital Torshavn is essentially the business and cultural hub of the Faroes. Cosmopolitan it is not, however, pleasant it is. I stayed at the Hotel Torshavn which had a spectacular location right in the center of town right off the main harbor. The rooms were way overpriced for the smallness and the quality but it is Scandinavia and nowhere on Earth is more expensive so you must take it in stride for what it is.
Walking around the charming streets is like walking through a small neighborhood in Norway, Sweden or Iceland. The main old town area of Tinganes is very pleasant and features the parliament building (above) which is a turf covered red roof building and has great views of the harbor and some churches. There is also a small shopping street and even a small mall. Aside from a bowling alley, the national stadium, where they play their Euro Cup qualifiers-for which they’ve never qualified and a few small parks-that’s pretty much it for Torshavn as far as sights go.
It is also has some restaurants and bars in the hotels and even a sushi place that claims to have the freshest salmon sushi around. I didn’t eat there because the prices were exorbitant and even more so was that they were having a sushi photo shoot when I popped in. It had the place shut down! Food photo shoots are very odd and I felt retarded for watching the few minutes I did.
The only place I went to other than the hotel restaurant and the pizza place near the bus station was Café Natur (above) which is the “raucous” pub in town by the harbor. There is nothing raucous about it and the people in there are incredibly well behaved and quiet. I was there Wednesday night for a pub quiz night. I was excited and entered because I love those things but was slightly miffed when it turned out to be in Faroese. That severely hurt my chances and I am sure I finished dead last. It was still fun though and I was off to sleep soon thereafter a few local brews called Foroyar Bjor…or something like that!
The Faroe people were wonderful and very genuine. They seemed more Norwegian to me than Danish but regardless they have Viking blood like the rest of the area. I will always remember my time here as unique and special. It is not a place to move to but it is a great place to hang for a few days. It is a kind of Iceland meets New Zealand meets Norway meets the moon! It is unique for sure and has some of the best natural cliffs I have ever seen. It’s worth the trip to see it for yourself! Not to mention the harrowing landings at the very small airstrip through the thick fog only about 50 feet off the ground at most times.
I am off to Iceland for the weekend meeting two good friends, then back to London for a day then back home! I am hoping that they have a sports bar in Reykjavik where I can watch both the opening Sunday in the NFL plus the US Open final which looks like another Federer/Nadal showdown (hopefully as Federer has to get through Djokovic first) and of course Miami/Ohio State on Saturday. I seriously hate Ohio State…and Notre Dame for that matter who I hope lose to Michigan, especially because it’ll piss my best friend Dennis off. Hopefully it works out!
The Faroe Islands
September 10, 2010 by 6 Comments