|Anthem: Tú alfagra land mítt
Thou, my most beauteous land
(and largest city)
|Official language(s)||Faroese, Danish|
|Ethnic groups||91.7% Faroese
0.2 % Norwegian
|Government||Parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy|
|-||High Commissioner||Dan M. Knudsen|
|-||Prime Minister||Kaj Leo Johannesen|
|Autonomous constituent country
within the Kingdom of Denmark
|-||Unified with Norway[a]||1035|
|-||Ceded to Denmark[b]||14 January 1814|
|-||Home rule||1 April 1948|
|-||Total||1,399 km2 (180th)
540 sq mi
|-||January 2010 estimate||48,660  (205th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2001 estimate|
|-||Total||$1 billion (not ranked)|
|-||Per capita||$31,000 (not ranked)|
|GDP (nominal)||2009 estimate|
|-||Total||$2.3 billion (not ranked)|
|-||Per capita||$47,279 (not ranked)|
|HDI (2006)||0.943[c] (high) (15th)|
|Currency||Faroese króna[d] (
|-||Summer (DST)||EST (UTC+1)|
|a. ^ Danish monarchy reached the Faeroes in 1380 with the reign of Olav IV in Norway.
b. ^ The Faeroes, Greenland and Iceland were formally Norwegian possessions until 1814 despite 400 years of Danish monarchy beforehand.
The Faroe Islands, sometimes Faeroe Islands, Faroe(s), or Faeroes (Faroese: Føroyar, Danish: Færøerne) are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland.
The Faroe Islands have been an autonomous province of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948. Over the years, the Faroese have been granted control of most matters. Some areas still remain the responsibility of Denmark, such as military defence and foreign affairs.
The Faroe Islands were politically associated with Denmark in 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden, which gradually evolved into Danish control of the islands, but this association ceased in 1814. The islands are represented on the Nordic Council by the Danish delegation.
The early history of the Faroe Islands is not well known, although Gael hermits and monks from a Hiberno-Scottish mission are believed by some to have settled in the 6th century, introducing sheep and goats and the early Goidelic language to the islands; however this is just speculation. Saint Brendan, an Irish monastic saint, who is supposed to have lived around 484–578, is said to have visited the Faroe Islands on two or three occasions (512-530), naming two of the islands Sheep Island and Paradise Island of Birds.
Later (c. 650) Norsemen also settled the islands, bringing to the islands the Old Norse language which evolved into the modern Faroese language spoken today. The settlers are not thought to have come directly from Scandinavia, but rather they were Norse settlers from Shetland and Orkney, and Norse-Gaels from the areas surrounding the Irish Sea and Western Isles of Scotland. The old Gaelic name for the Faroe Islands Na Scigirí means the Skeggjar and probably refers to the Eyja-Skeggjar (Island-Beards), a nickname given to the island dwellers.
According to Færeyinga Saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled in the islands about the end of the 9th century. Early in the 11th century, Sigmundur Brestirson – whose clan had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands – escaped to Norway and was sent back to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway. He introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, which gradually evolved into Danish control of the islands. The Reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When the union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.
The trade monopoly in the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856 and the area has since then developed as a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was initially based on a struggle for the Faroese language and was thus culturally oriented, but after 1906 it was more and more politically oriented, with the foundation of the political parties of the Faroe Islands.
On 12 April 1940, the Faroes were occupied by British troops. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Second Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942-43 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 home-rule was introduced, with a high degree of local autonomy. The Faroes declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union) in 1973. The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the Republican Party.
The Faroese government holds executive power in local government affairs. The head of the government is called the Løgmaður (literally 'law person') or prime minister in English. Any other member of the cabinet is called a landsstýrismaður ('national committee man'). Today, elections are held in the municipalities, on a national level for the Løgting ('law assembly'), and for the Danish Folketing. For the Løgting elections there are seven electoral districts, each one comprising a sýsla, while Streymoy is divided into a northern and southern part (Tórshavn region).
The Faroe Islands have been under the control of Denmark since 1388. The Treaty of Kiel in 1814 terminated the Danish-Norwegian union and Norway came under the rule of the King of Sweden, while the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland remained possessions of Denmark. Subsequently, the Løgting was abolished in 1816, and the Faroe Islands were to be governed as an ordinary Danish amt (county), with the Amtmand as its head of government. In 1851 the Løgting was reinstated, but served mainly as an advisory body until 1948.
At the end of the Second World War some of the population favored independence from Denmark, and on 14 September 1946 a referendum was held on the question of secession. It was a consultative referendum: the parliament was not bound to follow the people's vote. This was the first time that the Faroese people had been asked whether they favored independence or wanted to continue as a part of the Danish kingdom. The result of the vote was a narrow majority in favor of secession, but the coalition in parliament could not reach agreement on how this outcome should be interpreted and implemented; and because of these irresoluble differences, the coalition fell apart. A parliamentary election was held just a few months later, in which the political parties that favored staying in the Danish kingdom increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition. Based on this, they chose to reject secession. Instead, a compromise was made and the Folketing passed a home-rule law, which came into effect in 1948. The Faroe Islands' status as a Danish amt was thereby brought to an end; the Faroe Islands were given a high degree of self-governance, supported by a substantial financial subsidy from Denmark.
At present the islanders are about evenly split between those favoring independence and those who prefer to continue as a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Within both camps there is a wide range of opinions. Of those who favor independence, some are in favor of an immediate unilateral declaration. Others see it as something to be attained gradually and with the full consent of the Danish government and the Danish nation. In the unionist camp there are also many who foresee and welcome a gradual increase in autonomy even while strong ties with Denmark are maintained.
As explicitly asserted by both Rome treaties, the Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union. Moreover, a protocol to the treaty of accession of Denmark to the European Communities stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties. Hence, Danish people living in the Faroes are not citizens of the European Union (although other EU nationals living there remain EU citizens). The Faroes are not covered by the Schengen free movement agreement, but there are no border checks when travelling between the Faroes and any Schengen country. (The Faroes have been part of the Nordic Passport Union since 1966, and since 2001 there have been no border checks between the Nordic countries and the rest of the Schengen area as part of the Schengen agreement.) 
Traditionally, there are also the six sýslur ("regions": Norðoyar, Eysturoy, Streymoy, Vágar, Sandoy and Suðuroy). Although today sýsla technically means "police district", the term is still commonly used to indicate a geographical region. In earlier times, each sýsla had its own ting (assembly), the so-called várting ("spring assembly").
The Faroe Islands are an island group consisting of 18 major islands about 655 kilometres (407 mi) off the coast of Northern Europe, between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between Iceland and Norway, the closest neighbours being the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. Its coordinates are .
The islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks; the coasts are mostly cliffs. The highest point is Slættaratindur, 882 metres (2,894 ft) above sea level. There are also areas below sea level.
Economic troubles caused by a collapse of the Faroese fishing industry in the early 1990s brought high unemployment rates of 10 to 15% in the mid 1990s. Unemployment decreased in the later 1990s, down to about 6% at the end of 1998. By June 2008 unemployment had declined to 1.1%, before rising to 3.4% in early 2009. Nevertheless, the almost total dependence on fishing and fish farming means that the economy remains extremely vulnerable. The Faroes and Greenland have refused to abide by quotas set by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which sets catch limits for each member. Petroleum found close to the Faroese area gives hope for deposits in the immediate area, which may provide a basis for sustained economic prosperity.
Since 2000, new information technology and business projects have been fostered in the Faroe Islands to attract new investment. The introduction of Burger King in Tórshavn was widely publicized and a sign of the globalization of Faroese culture. It is not yet known whether these projects will succeed in broadening the islands' economic base. The islands have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, but this should not necessarily be taken as a sign of a recovering economy, as many young students move to Denmark and other countries once they have left high school. This leaves a largely middle-aged and elderly population that may lack the skills and knowledge to fill newly developed positions on the Faroes. In 2008, the Faroes made a $52 million loan to Iceland, in the light of that country's banking woes.
Due to the rocky terrain and relatively small size of the Faroe Islands, its transportation system was not as extensive as in other places of the world. This situation has now changed, and the infrastructure has been developed extensively. Some 80% of the population of the islands is connected by tunnels through the mountains and between the islands, bridges and causeways which link the three largest islands and three other large islands to the northeast together, while the other two large islands to the south of the main area are connected to the main area with new fast ferries. There are good roads to every village in the islands, except for seven of the smaller islands, six of which only have one village.
Of the approximately 48,000 inhabitants of the Faroe Islands (16,921 private households (2004)), 98% are citizens of the Kingdom of Denmark, including Faroese, Danish and Greenlandic people. One can analyse the inhabitants by place of birth, as follows: born on the Faroes 91.7%, in Denmark 5.8% and in Greenland 0.3%. The largest group of foreigners is Icelanders, comprising 0.4% of the population, followed by Norwegians and Polish, each comprising 0.2%. Altogether, on the Faroe Islands there are people of 77 different nationalities.
Faroese is spoken in the entire area as a first language. It is not possible to say exactly how many people worldwide speak the Faroese language. This is for two reasons: first, many ethnic Faroese live in Denmark, and few who are born there return to the Faroes with their parents or as adults; second, there are some established Danish families in the Faroes who speak Danish at home.
The Faroese language is one of the least spoken of the Germanic languages. Faroese grammar as well as vocabulary is most similar to Icelandic and to the extinct language Old Norse. In contrast, spoken Faroese is very different from Icelandic and is closer to Norwegian dialects of the west coast of Norway. While Faroese is the main language in the islands, both Faroese and Danish are official languages.
Faroese language policy provides for the active creation of new terms in Faroese suitable for modern life.
If the first inhabitants of the Faroe Islands were Irish monks, then they must have lived as a very small group of settlers. Later, when the Vikings colonised the islands, there was a considerable increase in the population. However, it never exceeded 5,000 until the 18th century. Around 1349, about half of the islands' people died of the Black Death plague.
Only with the rise of the deep sea fishery (and thus independence from agriculture in the islands' harsh terrain) and with general progress in the health service was rapid population growth possible in the Faroes. Beginning in the 18th century, the population increased tenfold in 200 years.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the Faroe Islands entered a deep economic crisis leading to heavy emigration; however, this trend reversed in subsequent years to a net immigration.
The Faroese population is spread across most of the area; it was not until recent decades that significant urbanisation occurred. Industrialisation has been remarkably decentralised, and the area has therefore maintained quite a viable rural culture. Nevertheless, villages with poor harbour facilities have been the losers in the development from agriculture to fishing, and in the most peripheral agricultural areas, also known as the outer islands, there are scarcely any young people left. In recent decades, the village-based social structure has nevertheless been placed under pressure, giving way to a rise in interconnected "centres" that are better able to provide goods and services than the badly connected periphery. This means that shops and services are now relocating en masse from the villages into the centres, and slowly but steadily the Faroese population is concentrating in and around the centres.
In the 1990s the old national policy of developing the villages (Bygdamenning) was abandoned, and instead the government started a process of regional development (Økismenning). The term "region" referred to the large islands of the Faroes. Nevertheless the government was unable to press through the structural reform of merging the small rural municipalities in order to create sustainable, decentralised entities that could drive forward regional development. As regional development has been difficult on the administrative level, the government has instead made heavy investment in infrastructure, interconnecting the regions.
In general, it is growingly less valid to regard the Faroes as a society based on separate islands and regions. The huge investments in roads, bridges and sub-sea tunnels (see also Transportation in the Faroe Islands) have bound the islands together, creating a coherent economic and cultural sphere that covers almost 90% of the population. From this perspective it is reasonable to regard the Faroes as a dispersed city or even to refer to it as the Faroese Network City.
According to Færeyinga Saga, Sigmundur Brestisson brought Christianity to the islands in 999. However, archaeology at a site in Leirvík suggests that Celtic Christianity may have arrived 150 years earlier, or more. The Faroe Islands' Church Reformation was completed on 1 January 1540. According to official statistics from 2002, 84.1% of the Faroese population are members of the state church, the Faroese People's Church (Fólkakirkjan), a form of Lutheranism. Faroese members of the clergy who have had historical importance include V. U. Hammershaimb (1819-1909), Frederik Petersen (1853-1917) and, perhaps most significantly, Jákup Dahl (1878-1944), who had a great influence in ensuring that the Faroese language was spoken in the church instead of Danish.
In the late 1820s, the Christian Evangelical religious movement, the Plymouth Brethren, was established in England. In 1865, a member of this movement, William Gibson Sloan, travelled to the Faroes from Shetland. At the turn of the 19th century, the Faroese Plymouth Brethren numbered thirty. Today, approximately 10% of the Faroese population are members of the Open Brethren community (Brøðrasamkoman). About 5% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the charismatic movement. which started in the 1970s-1980s in the Faroe Islands. There are several charismatic churches around the islands, the largest of which, called Keldan (Spring Water), has about 400 to 450 members. The Adventists operate a private school in Tórshavn. Jehovah's Witnesses also number four congregations (approximately 80 to 100 members). The Roman Catholic congregation comprises approximately 170 members. The municipality of Tórshavn operates their old Franciscan school. There are also around fifteen Bahá'ís who meet at four different places. Unlike Denmark with Forn Sidr, the Faroes have no organised Ásatrú community, but there is a fair share of pagan lore, song and ritual performed in individuals' houses or in public spaces, rather than in church buildings.
The best known church buildings in the Faroe Islands include St. Olaf's Church and the Magnus Cathedral in Kirkjubøur; the Vesturkirkjan and the Maria Church, both of which are situated in Tórshavn; the church of Fámjin; the octagonal church in Haldarsvík; Christianskirkjan in Klaksvík and also the two pictured here.
In 1948, Victor Danielsen (Plymouth Brethren) completed the first Bible translation into Faroese from different modern languages. Jacob Dahl and Kristian Osvald Viderø (Fólkakirkjan) completed the second translation in 1961. The latter was translated from the original Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) into Faroese.
Culture of the Faroe Islands has its roots in the Nordic culture. The Faroe Islands were long isolated from the main cultural phases and movements that swept across parts of Europe. This means that they have maintained a great part of their traditional culture. The language spoken is Faroese and it is one of three insular Scandinavian languages descended from the Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavia in the Viking Age, the others being Icelandic and the extinct Norn, which is thought to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation in 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents. Although a rich spoken tradition survived, for 300 years the language was not written down. This means that all poems and stories were handed down orally. These works were split into the following divisions: sagnir (historical), ævintýr (stories) and kvæði (ballads), often set to music and the mediaeval chain dance). These were eventually written down in the 19th century.
The official celebration starts on the 29th, with the opening of the Faroese Parliament, a custom which dates back some 900 years. This begins with a service held in Tórshavn Cathedral; all members of parliament as well as civil and church officials walk to the cathedral in a procession. All of the parish ministers take turns giving the sermon. After the service, the procession returns to the parliament for the opening ceremony.
Other celebrations are marked by different kind of sports competitions, the rowing competition (in Tórshavn Harbour) being the most popular, art exhibitions, pop concerts, and the famous Faroese dance. The celebrations have many facets, and only a few are mentioned here.
People also mark the occasion by wearing the national Faroese dress.
The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands (in Faroese Norðurlandahúsið) is the most important cultural institution in the Faroes. Its aim is to support and promote Scandinavia and Faroese culture, locally and in the Nordic region. Erlendur Patursson (1913-1986), Faroese member of the Nordic Council, put forward the idea of a Nordic cultural house in the Faroe Islands. A Nordic competition for architects was held in 1977, in which 158 architects participated. Winners were Ola Steen from Norway and Kolbrún Ragnarsdóttir from Iceland. By staying true to folklore, the architects built the Nordic House to resemble an enchanted hill of elves. The house opened in Tórshavn in 1983. The Nordic House is a cultural organization under the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Nordic House is run by a steering committee of eight, of whom three are Faroese and five from other Nordic countries. There is also a local advisory body of fifteen members, representing Faroese cultural organizations. The House is managed by a director appointed by the steering committee for a four year term.
The Faroe Islands have a very active music scene. The islands have their own symphony orchestra, the classical ensemble Aldubáran and many different choirs; the most well-known being Havnarkórið. The most well-known Faroese composers are Sunleif Rasmussen and the Dane Kristian Blak. Blak is also head of the record company Tutl.
The first Faroese opera was by Sunleif Rasmussen. It is entitled Í Óðamansgarði (The Madman´s Garden), and it had its premiere on 12 October 2006, at the Nordic House. The opera is based on a short story by the writer William Heinesen.
The festival of contemporary and classical music, Summartónar, is held each summer. Large open-air music festivals for popular music with both local and international musicians participating are G! Festival in Gøta in July and Summarfestivalurin in Klaksvík in August.
Traditional Faroese food is mainly based on meat, seafood and potatoes and uses few fresh vegetables. Mutton is the basis of many meals, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjøt, well aged, wind-dried mutton which is quite chewy. The drying shed, known as a hjallur, is a standard feature in many Faroese homes, particularly in the small towns and villages. Other traditional foods are ræst kjøt (semi-dried mutton) and ræstur fiskur, matured fish. Another Faroese specialty is Grind og spik, pilot whale meat and blubber. (A parallel meat/fat dish made with offal is garnatálg). Well into the last century, meat and blubber from a pilot whale meant food for a long time. Fresh fish also features strongly in the traditional local diet, as do seabirds, such as Faroese puffins, and their eggs. Dried fish is also commonly eaten.
There is one brewery called Föroya Bjór, which has produced beer since 1888 with exports mainly to Iceland and Denmark.A local specialty is fredrikk, a special brew, made in Nólsoy. Hard alcohol like snaps is not allowed to be produced in the Faroe Islands, hence the Faroese aqua vit, Aqua Vita, is produced abroad.
Since the friendly British occupation, the Faroese have been fond of British food, in particular fish and chips and British-style chocolate such as Cadbury Dairy Milk which is found in many of the island's shops, whereas in Denmark this is scarce.
Whaling in the Faroe Islands has been practiced since 1584. It is regulated by Faroese authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission as there are disagreements about the Commission's legal authority to regulate small cetacean hunts. A couple of hundred long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melaena) are killed every couple of years, mainly during the summer. The hunts, called "grindadráp" in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organized on a community level; anyone can participate. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales slowly into a bay or to the bottom of a fjord.
Most Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture and history. Animal-rights groups criticize the hunt as being cruel and unnecessary, while the hunters claim in return that most journalists do not exhibit sufficient knowledge of the catch methods or its economic significance.
As of the end of November 2008, the chief medical officers of the Faroe Islands have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered fit for human consumption because of the levels of toxins in the whales.
The Faroe Islands compete in the biannual Island Games, which were hosted by the islands in 1989. 10 football teams contest the Faroe Islands Premier League Football, currently ranked 48th by UEFA's League coefficient. The Faroe Islands are a full member of UEFA and the Faroe Islands national football team competes in the UEFA European Football Championship. The Faroe Islands are also a full member of FIFA and the Faroe Islands national football team therefore also competes in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The Faroe Islands compete in the Paralympics, but have yet to make an appearance in the Olympics, where they compete as part of Denmark.
Lace knitting is a traditional handicraft. The most distinctive trait of Faroese lace shawls is the center back gusset shaping. Each shawl consists of two triangular side panels, a trapezoid-shaped back gusset, an edge treatment, and usually shoulder shaping.and the Grindaknívur
The climate is classed as Maritime Subarctic according to the (Köppen climate classification:Cfc). The overall character of the islands' climate is influenced by the strong warming influence of the Atlantic Ocean, which produces the North Atlantic Current. This, together with the remoteness of any sources of warm airflows, ensures that winters are mild (mean temperature 3.0 to 4.0°C) while summers are cool (mean temperature 9.5 to 10.5°C). The islands are windy, cloudy and cool throughout the year with over 260 annual rainy days. The islands lie in the path of depressions moving northeast and this means that strong winds and heavy rain are possible at all times of the year. Sunny days are rare and overcast days are common. Hurricane Faith struck the Faroe Islands on September 5 1996 with sustained winds still over 100 mph and only then did the storm cease to be a tropical system
The natural vegetation of the Faroe Islands is dominated by Arctic-alpine plants, wildflowers, grasses, moss and lichen. Most of the lowland area is grassland and some is heath, dominated by shrubby heathers, mainly Calluna vulgaris. Among the numerous herbaceous flora that occur in the Faroe Islands is the Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre.
The bird fauna of the Faroe Islands is dominated by sea-birds and birds attracted to open land like heather, probably due to the lack of woodland and other suitable habitats. Many species have developed special Faroese sub-species: Common Eider, European Starling, Winter Wren, Common Guillemot, and Black Guillemot. The Pied Raven was endemic to the Faroe Islands, but has now become extinct.
Only a few species of wild land mammals are found in the Faroe Islands today, all introduced by humans. Three species are thriving on the islands today: Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the House Mouse (Mus domesticus).
Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) are very common around the shorelines.
Several species of cetacean live in the waters around the Faroe Islands. Best known are the Long-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melaena), but the more exotic Killer whales (Orcinus orca) sometimes visit the Faroese fjords.
A collection of Faroese marine algae resulting from a survey sponsored by NATO, the British Museum (Natural History) and the Carlsberg Foundation, is preserved in the Ulster Museum (catalogue numbers: F3195—F3307). It is one of ten exsiccatae sets.
|Risin og Kellingin|
|Capital||Tórshavn, one of the smallest capitals in the world|
|Government||Self governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark|
|Currency||Danish krone (DKK), Faroese króna at par|
|Area||1,399 sq km|
|Population||47,246 (July 2006 est.)|
|Language||Faroese (derived from Old Norse), Danish. English; Nordic; widely spoken|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz (European plug)|
The Faroe or Faeroe Islands  (in Faroese Føroyar) are 18 islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway. The Islands are a self-governing island territory of Denmark, although they politically aim for higher independence. The Islands have a population of nearly 50.000 (48.290 march 2005), and a language and culture of their own. When visiting the Faroes you are never more than 5 km (3 miles) away from the ocean. The countryside is dominated by steep mountains and there are about 70,000 sheep and some 2 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.
The archipelago is composed of 18 islands covering 1399 km2 (545.3 sq miles) and is 113 km (70 miles) long and 75 km (47 miles) wide. 17 islands are inhabited, leaving just one uninhabited island, the smallest island, Lítla Dímum. The precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands. The islands are connected by tunnels, causeways, and a regular public ferry service.
The Faroe Islands consist of the following regions
Right until the late 19th century, people spent most of their lives in the same village. Towns didn’t start to appear until very late. For instance, the capital, Tórshavn, only counted about 100 inhabitants in 1900, whereas today the number has escalated into nearly 20.000. In the Faroe Islands the traditional village was to a certain extent self-sufficient. Historically there was a limit to how many families it could support. When the fishing industry took off in 1872, it was the beginning of the end for the traditional way of life in the small villages as fishing replaced farming and the growing population chose to settle in the fast growing towns instead.
Even so, today there are still over a hundred villages in the Faroe Islands. Nearly every single one of them is situated near the ocean, and to new visitors they all seem to be very much alike. The houses are either painted in bright colours or the traditional black, whilst the roofs are often turf covered. The buildings are usually built very close to each other, which is very cosy. Every village is surrounded by a cultivated infield, and surrounding it is the uncultivated outfield. In most places the sheep occupy the outfield troughout the whole year.
The Faroese tourist season is very short. It begins in May and ends by September. Most visitors come between July and August by far. If you would like to avoid the busiest season, it is best to visit the Faroes in late May or early June, although you shouldn’t expect raising temperatures during this period.
The main reasons why people tend to visit the islands are because of the nature and scenery. But the tranquillity of the islands also plays a major part. Bus rides, horse trekking, mountain hikes and boat trips are all ways to enjoy the magnificent wild green landscape. And the islands are undeniably beautiful: green, rugged and wind-swept.
Because the islands are so close to the Arctic Circle, the amount of daylight varies by season. The sun sets briefly each night in June, so there are several hours of twilight, before the sun comes back up again. During the winter there are no days of complete darkness, but about five hours of daylight.
The Faroe Islands' primary industry is the fishing industry and the islands have one of the smallest independent economic entities in the world. The fishing industry accounts for over 80% of the total export value of goods, which are mainly processed fish products and fish farming. Tourism is the second largest industry, followed by woollen and other manufactured products. The unemployment rate in the Faroes is extremely low.
The Faroes were colonised by Norwegians in the 9th century - according to history the first settler was Grímur Kamban, a Norwegian Viking who made his home in Funningur on Eysturoy in 825. The Faroese population has largely descended from these settlers. Recent DNA analyses have revealed that Y chromosomes, tracing male descent, are 87% Scandinavian. However, the studies also show that mitochondrial DNA, tracing female descent, is 84% Scottish or Irish. Today the population is 48.220 (1st March 2006). About 19,300 people live in the metropolitan area which comprises Tórshavn, Kirkjubøur, Velabastaður, Nólsoy, Hestur, Koltur, Hoyvík, Argir, Kaldbak, Kaldbaksbotnur, Kollafjørður, Signabøur and Oyrareingir. About 4,700 people live in Klaksvík, the second largest town in the islands. Faroese is the national language, it is rooted in Old Norse.
The Viking settlers established their own parliament called "ting" around 800. Local things were established in different parts of the islands. The main thing was established on Tinganes in Tórshavn. About the turn of the millennium the Faroes came under control of the Norwegian king. In 1380 the Faroes along with Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Greenland, came with Norway into a union with Denmark. At the end of the Napoleanic wars, by the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden, but kept the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. In 1816, two years later, the Faroes were made into a Danish County and the old parliament was abolished. The Danish Governor became the highest authority in the Faroes.
In 1849 the Danish parliamentary constitution was made to apply in the Faroe Islands. In 1852 the Faroese parliament was reinstated as a county council, but served mainly as an advisory power. The Danish governor presided at all meetings and was a co-opted member. At the same time the Faroes came to be represented at the Danish parliament. It should be stated that, although the Faroe Islands have recognised the Royal powers, they have never been a part of Denmark. Only the Danish kingdom.
During World War II, Denmark was being occupied by the Germans, while the Faroes had a friendly occupation by the British. During this time the Faroese parliament carried both the legislative and the fiscal responsibility. The Faroese people had a taste of self-government and a return to status quo seemed impossible.
After a referendum, which led to a very small majority voting for independence, in 1946 negotiations took place between the two countries and the outcome was the Home Rule Act in 1948. The Faroese were from then on responsible for most matters of government. The parliament can legislate on matters of local importance, and Danish laws can be rejected. The parliament has between twenty-seven and thirty-two members. The leader of the cabinet has the status of prime minister. The Faroes are still represented in the Danish parliament by two representatives. Also, since 1970 the Faroes have had independent status in the Nordic Council. Furthermore, the Faroes have their own flag (merkið). And unlike Denmark the islands are not a member of the EU and all trade is governed by special treaties.
The weather is maritime and quite unpredictable. It can change quickly and it varies extremely, from moments of brilliant sunshine to misty hill fog, to showers - there can be sunshine on one side of the mountain range, while it's raining on the other side. During the summer the islands are often overcast by summerfog. The Gulf Stream south of the islands tempers the climate. The harbors never freeze and the temperature in winter time is very moderate considering the high latitude. Snowfall occurs, but it is short-lived. The average temperature ranges from 3 C in the wintertime to 11 C during the summer, the temperature can be much higher, but the air is always fresh and clean no matter the season.
With their volcanic origin the 18 islands are rugged and rocky. The average height above sea level for the country is 300 m (982 ft). The highest peak, Slættaratindur, is 882 m (2883 ft) above sea level. There are 1100 km (687 miles) of coastline and at no time is one more than 5 km (3 miles) away from the ocean. Mountains and valleys mostly characterize the inner landscape. The faroese west coast is characterized by steep slopes and bird cliffs, that in the summertime are full of nesting seabirds such as puffins. Something that first meets the eye of a traveller is the lack of trees in the Faroes. The reason for this are the thousands of sheep that occupy the islands.
Be aware that summer fog is a problem when flying to the Faroes in the summer months. The planes can't land in this weather and will often divert to Iceland where you will stay until the weather clears. This also means that flights out of the Faroes can be disrupted too. Allow yourself a few days either side of your visit to the Faroes in case of flight delays.
Due to the recession, Smyril Line will NOT be operating to Scrabster or Bergen in 2009 or 2010. All passengers to/from the UK and Norway must now go via Denmark
Getting to the Faroes by boat takes longer than by plane but has the advantage of allowing you to take your own vehicle.
For people arriving by yachts, there are several harbors around the islands. The best are found in the capital Tórshavn, Klaksvík, Tvøroyri, Vágur, Vestmanna, Sørvágur, Miðvágur, Runavík, and Fuglafjørður.
The Faroe Islands are a small country and getting around is easy. All of the Islands are connected by a public transport system.
The two largest islands, Streymoy and Eysturoy, are connected by a bridge, Sundabrúgvin, or the Channel Bridge. Since 2002 a sub-sea tunnel connects the island of Vágar with Streymoy and since 2006 a sub-sea tunnel connects Borðoy to Eysturoy. These are toll tunnels and you have to pay when driving from Vágar to Streymoy and from Borðoy to Eysturoy. Road causeways connect Borðoy with Viðoy and Kunoy. The other main Islands Sandoy and Suðuroy have excellent car-ferry connections to Streymoy, making motoring in the Faroes easy and pleasant. Strandfaraskip Landsins, the Faroese public transport service, publishes an annual timetable (Ferðaætlan ) containing details of all ferry and bus schedules. It is available from the Passenger Terminal in Tórshavn, and all tourist information centres. When using a car ferry please note that it is not possible to make advanced bookings. You should be at the pier no later than 20 minutes before scheduled departure, and on Friday and Sunday evenings it is advisable to be ahead of time if you want to secure a place for the car.
Vehicles up to 3500 kg and up to 6 m, DKK 130. Vehicles between 6 and 12,5 m, DKK 350. You shouldn´t pay your fare any later than three days after using the sub sea tunnel. You may pay at any petrol station on the islands. Otherwise an invoice will be sent to the car owner.
The first motor road connecting two villages wasn’t built until 1916, and travellers were limited to mountain paths and rowing boats. Nevertheless, today driving is easy with an excellent 600-km network of well maintained tarmaced roads and tunnels. The density of cars is one of the highest in Europe.
The numerous road tunnels in the Faroe Islands mean that drivers of large vehicles must plan their routes by finding out in advance which tunnel they can enter. Driving is on the right and most road signs follow international standards. Headlights must be on when driving and the use of seat belts is required. The speed limit is 80 kph (50 mph) and 50 kph (30 mph) in the towns and villages. For cars with trailers, the speed limit is 50 kph and for caravans the speed limit is 60 kph. The consequences for speeding are severe.
Parking in the towns of Tórshavn, Klaksvík and Runavík is restricted. Parking discs must be displayed in the lower right hand corner of the front windscreen showing the time you parked your car. These display discs are available at no charge from banks and the tourist offices. There is a fine of DKK 200 for parking violations.
Passenger road transport is run by private companies, but is coordinated by a public body.
The inter-town bus system (Bygdaleiðir), has together with the public ferry company established a coherent and well-developed public transport system which takes in all settlements on the islands. This means that there are bus services to all places - maybe not often, but every day!
Bygdaleiðir´s buses are in the colour of blue. A schedule (Ferðaætlan) listing the various timetables for the inter-town buses (and ferries) may be purchased from the tourist office, as well as the central bus station near the harbour in Tórshavn. Transport is quite expensive, so check for student discount or multiple-ride-cards. Students as well as children and pensioners are eligible for discounts on fares provided they show a student or pensioner identity card. There is a four day travel card meant for tourists which is valid for all buses and ferries. It is well worth its price if you are planning to get around the islands by public transport.
The buses are equipped with radios. If you are planning to change buses, do tell the driver in advance, as he will make sure the other bus waits for you.
The capital Tórshavn offers a local bus service (Bussleiðin) with four routes that reach most area of the town which is free. The red coloured-buses operate every half-hour during the day through out the week and hourly on weekday evenings. The buses don´t operate on Saturday or on Sunday evening which can be inconvenient for tourists. Route maps and schedules may be obtained on the buses, at Kiosk Steinatún in the centre of town, or at Kunningarstovan, the local tourist information in Tórshavn.
You can splurge, and take a helicopter (or a cheaper ferry) to all the faraway places. - for example to Mykines, the picturesque island far west. Atlantic Airways offers a helicopter service to selected towns and villages throughout the Faroes. Contact Atlantic Airways directly at phone no. 341060. Booking is required. The service is intended for locals and as such tourists can only book one way of a journey but you can use the ferry and bus services to make the return journey.
The service may be affected by the weather -- a heavy overcast with low clouds, for example may cause the flights to be cancelled.
The native and official language of the Faroes is Faroese, which is a West Nordic or West Scandinavian language. It is one of three insular Scandinavian languages descended from the Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavia in the Viking Age, the others being Icelandic and the extinct Norn, which is presumed to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Speakers of modern Scandinavian languages such as Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic may be able to puzzle out the written language, though spoken Faroese is generally not mutually intelligible with these languages.
Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents. The islanders continued to use the language in ballads, folktales, and everyday life. This maintained a rich spoken tradition, but for 300 years the language was not written.
In 1854 ,Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb published a written standard for Modern Faroese that exists to this day. He produced an orthography consistent with a continuous written tradition extending back to Old Norse. The letter ð, for example, has no specific phonemes attached to it. Also, although the letter 'm' corresponds to the bilabial nasal as it does in English, it corresponds to the alveolar nasal (English 'm') in the dative ending -um (rhymes wth English room).
In 1937, Faroese replaced Danish as the official school language, in 1938 as church language, and in 1948 as national language by the Home Rule Act of the Faroes. Today, Danish is considered a foreign language, though it is a required subject for students from 3rd grade and up.
English is also widely spoken. Other Nordic languages are also understood.
The Faroese currency is the Danish crown (in Danish: den danske krone), abbreviated kr. But since the Faroe Islands are a self-governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroese government prints its own currency, the Króna, although Danish coins are used. The coins come in 25 and 50 oyra (one quarter and one half of a Króna, respectively), 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 króna. Paper notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 króna. the exchange value on notes is equivalent to the Danish crown, and there is no service charge on exchange, as Danish notes are equally acceptable as the Faroese króna throughout the country. Take care to withdraw as minimal an amount of Faroese currency as necessary, as it can be very difficult (or impossible) to exchange the currency outside of the Faroe Islands, even in Denmark.
You should note that almost everything in the Faroe Islands is expensive. All consumer sales include a 25% sales tax but displayed prices are legally required to include this, so they are always exact. If you are from outside the EU/Scandinavia you can have some of your sales tax refunded  when leaving the country.
Opening hours in the Faroes are longer than they used to be, but many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (usually at 2PM ) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays.
It is very modern to wear wool and woolen clothing on the Faroe Islands. You definitely will find trendy sweaters, jackets and (cheaper) hats and gloves. Check out the shops "Sirri" and "Guðrun og Guðrun".
Most traditional Faroese cuisine involves meat, either lamb or fish. The traditional Faroese kitchen mainly owes its food traditions to the archipelago´s harsh climate. This is due to the fact that in earlier days the food culture on the islands was not very extensive. It is hard to find a Faroese dish on the menu of a restaurant, but it is possible at certain restaurants and hotels.
Distinctive Faroese foods include:
There is an increased number of restaurants in Tórshavn (the capital), a few good ones are mentioned below. In general, though, there are very limited dining selections in Tórshavn. Outside Tórshavn, the quality and quantity of the restaurants declines greatly.
There is no McDonalds on the Faroes, but Burger King has arrived. In Tórshavn you can find fast food restaurants at the shopping centre SMS and City Burger is situated in the Town center.
All over the Faroes you will find gas-stations, Effo and Magn. Nearly every gas-station will serve fast-food, espescially sausages.
The legal drinking age in the Faroes is eighteen. These days there is only one brand of Faroese beer: Føroya Bjór. Alcoholic drinks are very expensive. Light beer may be purchased in shops and unlicensed restaurants and cafés. Stronger beer, wine and spirits can only be purchased in the Government Monopoly stores in major towns and in licensed restaurants, cafés and bars etc.
Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins, Hoyvíksvegur 51, FO-100 Tórshavn
Rúdrekkasøla Landsins Heiðavegur, FO-600 Saltangará
Rúdrekkasøla Landsins Bøgøta 38, FO-700 Klaksvík
Rúdrekkasøla Landsins á Mølini, FO-220 Skálavík
Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins Drelnes, FO-800 Tvøroyri
Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins Norðuri á heiðum, FO-370 Miðvágur
There are few bars and nightclubs outside of the capital. The bars in Tórshavn, are simple. Manhattan and Café Natúr are situated in the centre of Tórshavn. They both feature wooden interiors similar to English / Irish pubs, and have live music (usually in the form of a singer / guitarist) most nights. Another place is Cleopatra right in the town center which has a restaurant on the lower floor, with the main bar on the next floor up. The entrance to the bar is up some green felt stairs.
A popular nightclub is Rex, at third floor in the same building as "Havnar Bio", the cinema. Get there early, or you won't get in. It's very popular. You need to be 21 to get in.
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!
For a cozy and old fashioned cafe, go to the Western harbour "Vágsbotn" - just below Tórshavn Dome and have a cup of coffee at café Karlsborg. However, it isn´t open at regular hours. Other Cafés include the very popular Gallarí Jinx in the centre of Tórshavn and Baresso at the shoppingcenter SMS. Hvonn is one of the most popular places at night, keeping it sophisticated and clean, and also includes a brasserie.
The best hotels in Tórshavn:
Recommendable outside the capital
Prices vary slightly from around dkk 250 to dkk 300 per night/person for adults.
Here are some guesthouses in the capital, Tórshavn.
Guesthouses in Suðuroy.
The youth Hostels of the Faroes are spread across the islands. The limited geographical size of the Faroes ensures that the next Youth Hostel is always well within one day’s walking distance allowing visitors to travel from one Youth Hostel to the next one at will.
Accommodation is mostly in 2 to 6 rooms of limited size but of good standard. There are no dormitory accommodations at the Faroese Youth Hostels. Most of the Youth Hostels don´t have a regular reception with daily opening hours, so be sure to make arrangements with your host by e-mail or phone before arriving at the hostel.
Prices vary slightly around 130 to 160 DKK per night/person for adults. Variable discounts for children 2-11 years old. YHF members get a 20 DKK discount while groups get special discounts.
These are the seven Youth Hostels:
On the small islands you can find some nice guesthouses.
For further information, contact the local tourist information.
Unemployment is the lowest in Scandinavia and wages are high.
There are emergency wards at the hospital in Tórshavn, Klaksvík on Borðoy and Tvøroyri on Suðuroy. Doctors around the islands provide emergency assistance. A lot of hospital staff are residents of Denmark who spend periods on the Faroes to supplement the local health staff. The coast guard and Atlantic Airways have helicopters that may be used in emergencies. Police stations are found in most parts of the Country.
Citizens of the Nordic countries and the UK are covered by their own national health insurance. It is advisable for citizens of other countries to take out travel health insurance.
For breakdown and immediate help on the two larger islands Streymoy and Eysturoy, contact the Fire Station in Tórshavn, telephone number 302100. It is advisable to arrange for insurance coverage for your car to save you the worry of a spoilt holiday due to unexpected garage bills.
There is widespread cellular phone and Internet access.
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