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Six Things You Might Not Know About the Faroe Islands

Discover six fascinating facts about the Faroe Islands, a remote archipelago between Norway, Iceland, and Scotland. Known for its stunning landscapes and rich history, the Faroes offer an unforgettable journey off the beaten path.

Until relatively recently, the Faroe Islands remained a bit of an enigma to the rest of the world. This remote archipelago sits between Norway, Iceland, and Scotland and has not been the easiest place to get to. But since the boom of visual storytelling online (I’m looking at you, Instagram), the Faroe Islands have positively blown up. We get it. It’s a spectacular place.

When you’re this far off the grid, the land tends to be as wild as you imagine. Here, huge cliffs jut out from the sea, with green mountains and colourful villages that look straight out of a fairytale. To say the Faroes are picturesque doesn’t do it justice.

Life here revolves around the sea, particularly fishing. In many ways, time moves slowly here, still harkening back to the days of the Norse. To experience the Faroes by sea on our Scotland, The Faroe Islands, and Iceland: North Atlantic Saga expedition lets you follow in the wake of the Vikings in a hidden part of the world. From a rich and diverse history to awe-inspiring bird cliffs to more waterfalls than you can imagine, a trip here will be unforgettable. Here are some things you might not know about the Faroe Islands.

mulafossur waterfall faroe islands

© Liz Carlson

1. 70% of the land is two hundred metres above sea level

Comprised of eighteen main islands, the Faroe Isands boast dramatic scenery with steep rocky cliffs topped with green grass as far as you can see. Volcanic in origin, nowadays, the landscape of the Faroes is defined as thick-tiered basalt formations. No trees. It’s far too windy and wild for trees to cling to life here. Only a few hardy survivors planted by settlers can be spotted in sheltered places like downtown Tórshavn, the capital.

In fact, 70% of the land around the Faroes sits over two hundred metres above sea level. These abundant, steep sea cliffs are perfect for bird colonies and great views. Birdwatching here is just incredible, and we often see many fulmars, gannets, kittiwakes, storm petrels, and, of course, a ton of puffins.

skua bird faroe islands

© Liz Carlson

2. Skua is the only Faroese word in English

The Faroese language comes from extinct Old Norse and is related to other Scandinavian languages. It is spoken by all here, though many Faroese people speak great English and Danish. Unique and obscure, it’s pretty incredible that one Faroese word has managed to prevail globally— skua. Skuas are large predatory seabirds, and you can often find the great skua circling in the winds around the Faroes, harassing other birds for their fish. However, it’s not the national bird—that honour belongs to the oystercatcher.

boats in the harbour faroe islands

© Liz Carlson

3. The Faroes are still tight with Denmark

The Faroe Islands have been part of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1380 and self-governing since 1948. Denmark does subsidize a part of the gross domestic product of the Faroes these days, and they also look after certain sectors like justice, defense, and foreign affairs. Danish is taught in schools and is widely spoken here. There is some talk of independence, but it’s pretty much evenly split down the middle when it comes to separating from the motherland.

faroe islands flags

© Liz Carlson

4. Irish, not Vikings, likely first settled the Faroes

Norse history and the Faroes are very much intertwined, with Vikings settling here in the ninth century. The Faroese language derives from the Old Norse, but new archaeological evidence has emerged in recent years that tells a different story. Burnt barley and grains, along with sheep DNA, have been discovered dating hundreds of years earlier, both only possible because of humans. There are also Celtic grave markers and place names around the Faroes, suggesting the earlier settlers came from Britain. Combined evidence from manuscripts of the travelling Irish monks around the sixth century suggests that the Vikings weren’t the first to arrive and settle the Faroes.

grass roof buildings faroe islands

© Liz Carlson

5. It’s the land of grass roof houses and colourful homes

Like other places in Scandinavia and the Arctic, many of the homes around the Faroe Islands are brightly coloured, perhaps to stand in contrast to often moody weather. Others are more traditional black, harkening back to a time when houses were covered in tar to keep the heat in. Many houses and buildings today have turf roofs, a tradition dating back over a millennium used again for insulation and protection against the rain.

fresh seafood meal faroe islands

© Liz Carlson

6. Fishing is life

97% of the exports from the Faroe Islands are from fishing. It’s the most important industry here and dominates every aspect of life. In fact, most of the nation depends on fish farming, particularly salmon, and you’ll see evidence of these farms dotted around various bays in the Faroes.

Many of the meals are fish-based, and you’ll often see lines of fish hanging out to air-dry and age all over the Faroes. However, the national dish is fermented lamb. Ræst is the fermentation process used in the Faroes for fish and lamb, where they are dry-aged outdoors in a particular way.

About the Author

Liz Carlson

Liz Carlson

Expedition Team

Liz runs one of the biggest travel blogs in the world, Young Adventuress. She is American but has been based in the mountains of Wānaka, New Zealand for the past decade. She is a writer and photographer, focusing on solo female travel, wildlife, and our connection to nature.