Atlantic Archipelago – A week in the Faroe Islands

We passed gigantic cliffs that suddenly dropped into the ocean as strong winds smashed into our faces which made us squint. We were sailing aboard MS Norröna, the largest passenger ferry in the Faroe Islands. The ship had departed from Seyðisfjörður in Eastern Iceland the night before and was bound for Hirtshals, Denamrk after a short stop in the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn, the capital of the Faore Islands and our destination, grew near as the shipped rocked back and forth. As I stared into the distance, forgetting how cold I was, I thought about how long I had been wanting to visit the Faroe Islands and couldn’t believe I was finally here. Most people had never heard of it, and that was a good thing. The self-governing territory is part of the Kingdom of Denmark and has a population of around 50,000. As the ship pulled into the harbour we made our way below deck and grabbed our bags. After the ship’s massive ramp lowered, a customs official inspected our passports and wished us well.

It was 9 am and and a light rain fell as we made our way to the hotel, which kindly let us check-in 5 hours early. It was winter after all, which meant most hotels were empty as the harsh weather made the Faroe Islands a less appealing destination for the average traveller. But for us it was exactly why we were here. We grabbed our cameras and set off on foot to explore Tórshavn. Suddenly sunlight broke through from the dark threatening clouds as we walked down quiet residential streets with amazing views to the sea. Out of nowhere, and while the sun was still shining, we were battered by stinging frozen rain. I had never experienced anything like it. It wasn’t snow and it wasn’t hail, it was literally frozen rain and continued for about 15 minutes. We eventually stumbled upon a quiet Irish Pub close to the harbour and settled in drinking while discussing past times and memories.

As the ales were flowing the sun soon disappeared, daylight didn’t last long as we were right in the middle of winter. Soon it began to snow and strong howling winds followed. The snow seemed to be blowing in every direction and became heavier and heavier. It felt like it was midnight but was only around 5 in the afternoon. Soon groups of snow-covered and bearded sailors began streaming in and started drinking and singing karaoke. We spoke of adventures to come as we watched the wild weather and drank the local beer. The storm only seemed to become more severe as we struggled to find our way back to the hotel. Cars skidded about as the snow piled up on the narrow and steep roads. We were picking up our own hire car tomorrow morning and were hoping the roads weren’t going to be closed.

As we woke up we hurried to the window to see if the storm had stopped. It had, and a strong orange glow appeared on the horizon. The streets were covered in snow and it was quite difficult to walk. We made our way to the rental dealership and enjoyed some beautiful sights as the sun slowly rose. “I didn’t think you were coming”, said the manager at the dealership. He told us it had been the heaviest snowfall in quite some time and that many roads would be closed. Nothing was going to get in the way of our adventure and we brushed his concerns aside. We were given a Suzuki SX4 which luckily, was larger then what we had originally booked.

The streets were mayhem, the roads had not been ploughed and most cars were not able to make it up the small hills that were everywhere in the tiny capital city. I felt like a rally driver as I revved and drifted our car around the tight streets trying to maintain enough momentum to make it up each hill. There were a few close calls and luckily we had paid for comprehensive insurance with no excess. We loaded our bags into the car and set off. The main roads in and out of town had all been ploughed and I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road as we passed absolutely breathtaking scenery.

A narrow winding road through a valley took us to the small village of Saksun. We passed curious herds of sheep which stood still on the frozen landscape. At the end of the road a small cluster of houses and a farm met us as we parked our car and began to explore. A little stone wall surrounded a small church with a grass roof that looked over an inlet which led in from the sea. We stood and admired the peace and stillness as the sky seemed to change from blue to grey every few minutes.

We could have stood here all day, but winter daylight isn’t as patient as us. We wished Saksun farewell and continued back down the narrow winding road that had brought us here. Our next destination was the small and isolated village of Tjørnuvík. The road was cut into the sides of massive cliffs hugged by the most blue and threatening seas we had ever laid our eyes upon. The road was icy and we tried to drive carefully as we were distracted by the snow-covered peaks that dropped into the sea in the distance.

As we rounded a sharp bend we found ourselves looking down onto a cluster of houses in the distance. Surrounded by steep impassible mountains and at the end of a wide inlet, the waves rolled in and crashed on the dark sands of a small beach in front of the village. We drove down a steep single-lane road as we wondered how people could possibly pass their time in such a remote and small village surrounded by nothing. As we made it to the bottom we noticed herds of sheep high atop the sides of the mountains but didn’t see a human soul in sight. As we looked out at the breathtaking setting and the waves crashing against the snow-covered cliffs, we realised that this is truly a place where peace and tranquility can be found and enjoyed for as long as one desires.

Continued in Part 2…



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