What (and Where) Are the Faroe Islands?

If you’re a nature lover who enjoys incredible landscapes, the Faroe Islands are for you. This secluded sanctuary is home to cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, and amazing mountains ready to be explored, all in one place. But what are these fascinating islands? And, more importantly, where are they so you can start booking flights?

Where Are They?

Aerial view of Faroe Island waterfall with mountains and storm clouds in background
Credit: Sergej Onyshko / Shutterstock

Where are the Faroe Islands? They must be close to Egypt, right? While “Faroe” might be homophonous to the word “pharaoh,” there’s no other connection between the two. In fact, they couldn’t be more different. Egypt is flat, hot, and sandy. The Faroe Islands are mountainous, cool, and in the middle of the ocean. They are located in the North Atlantic Ocean to the northwest of Scotland in between Iceland and Norway.

About the Islands

Winding paved road on the Faroe Islands, with rocky outcroppings and waterfalls in background
Credit: EyesTravelling / Shutterstock

The Faroe Islands, much like Greenland, are a self-governed territory of Denmark. They are made up of 18 separate islands covering 540 square miles, which is about half the size of Rhode Island. The largest island in the chain is only 145 square miles. Because of its small size, no matter where you are, the ocean is no more than three miles away.

Despite being so close to the Arctic, the average temperature in the winter remains above freezing at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The gulf stream pushes warm air from the Atlantic over the islands. While it may not be freezing, it will definitely be windy. Summer temperatures average around 55 degrees F, making it a comfortable, if slightly chilly, travel destination year-round. The cooler temperatures might actually be preferable considering the favorite pastimes in the Faroe Islands are outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking. In the summer, you can keep hiking well into the “night.” Since it’s so close to the Arctic Circle, the sun sets around 11:30pm.

The History of the Faroe Islands

Nordic dwellings dotting Faroe Islands countryside, with cliffs and clouds in background, Denmark
Credit: EyesTravelling / Shutterstock

Historians still aren’t sure which people first inhabited the islands, but they are sure that they got there around 300 CE based on archeological sites found throughout the islands. The first known settlers were Irish monks who traveled to the islands in the 6th century in search of seclusion to study religion. The sheep they brought along with them enjoyed the lush, grassy pastures. Today, sheep still roam the island and outnumber the people: Most of the grass on the island is maintained by sheep, not mowers.

Not long after the Irish, the Vikings traveled across the sea from Norway in the 800s. They began building settlements and established the first official government on the island. The Løgting, or Viking parliament, still exists today, making it the oldest parliament in the world.

Faroe Islands Today

Detailed landscape of Faroe Island cliffs with natural wildlife in foreground
Credit: Anette Andersen / Shutterstock

Today, about 50,000 people call the Faroe Islands home. Fishing is the most important industry on the islands, making up about 20% of the entire GDP and 90% of the total exports. Bakkafrost, a salmon farm in the Faroe Islands, is the eighth largest in the world.

The natural beauty and mild climate make the Faroe Islands a popular tourist destination for adventure-seekers, especially during the long summer days. Traveling around the islands is easy because there are very few people to congest roadways and attractions. There are only three traffic lights total, and they are all located in the capital city, Tórshavn. Only around 13,000 people live in Tórshavn, fewer than most colleges in the United States. Some of the homes in the Faroe Islands have grass roofs to help with insulation and repel rain, which provides a unique picture opportunity for visitors. Unsurprisingly, the grass on the roofs is frequently maintained by sheep!

The Faroe Islands are also one of the most environmentally conscious places in the world. Currently, about 50% of the islands’ electricity comes from renewable sources, and they plan on increasing that percentage to 100% by the year 2030.

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