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Trip Report Faroe Islands June 2016

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A few months ago I made some comments here about doing a trip to the Faroe Islands. One other poster asked me to make a trip report since there aren't many about the Faroes.

I went on an organized multiday tour to the Faroe Islands with a Swedish budget travel company. Like with all tour companies it's important to remember that "you get what you pay for", but I've travelled with their sister company four times and have never had any serious complaints.

The Faroe Islands are a self-governing nation within the Kingdom of Denmark. It's not part of the EU, even if Denmark is. There are eighteen islands, but I only saw a few of them.

Why did I chose the Faroe Islands? A combination of reasons. It looked interesting on the tour company website. I wanted a smaller place to relax in, not a big city. I had no other plans that seemed more interesting. And looking at the beautiful nature pictures on the Internet made me want to see some of those places in real life.

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    Day 1:

    We were flying from Copenhagen Airport, which is large and slightly confusing. It didn't help that my documents said I should go to Terminal 2 and the electronic signs said Terminal 3. I checked in, using a machine. Then the signs said nothing about where to leave checked luggage. I finally asked a woman in a uniform and was told that the bag should be left at the manned SAS desks. The sign at the start of that line had a list of half a dozen airlines, but not Atlantic Airways.

    A light meal with drinks was served on the plane, without extra cost. According to later information the airline is going to stop serving "free" meals soon. Landing would have been on time, but there was a slight problem. We were told that the wind had messed up the landing, so the plane had to go back up and try again. More confusing than frightening, actually.

    Vagar Airport is small. Really small. I didn't have time to look around on arrival, since we had to rush out to the bus immediately after picking up our bags. This bus was specially hired for our group.

    We had a guide from Scandorama, plus a local guide named Hilda and a local driver. Hilda was responsible for us during the day and the Swedish guide during evenings. Since there were never any serious problems (at least none that I heard about) the Swedish guide had very little to do.

    We stopped at Gasadalur to walk around and look at the waterfall. It was beautiful, but looked much smaller than I'd expected from pictures on the Internet. Maybe it would have looked bigger if we'd been closer, but I'm not sure how to get closer. Possibly by boat.

    Then we had to go back past the airport to get to Torshavn. The underwater tunnel may sound interesting, but it was boring.




    Day 2

    We were picked up by Hilda at nine. First we did a long walk. We saw Tinganes, the outside of the Cathedral, the shopping street and some pretty nature. The walk ended at an art museum. Entry cost was included and we stayed there for about 45 minutes. Some of the paintings in the permanent exhibition were nice. The temporary exhibition was some sort of modern art and looked really weird.

    The bus picked us up and drove us to the Nordic House for lunch. We didn't have much time to look around there after. Then we drove to the National Museum, entry cost included, and stayed there an hour. Finally we drove back to the hotel and had the rest of the afternoon free.

    I went for a walk. I needed to find a mailbox. I quickly realized that the distances that had seemed so far this morning were actually quite short.

    The Tourist Information building, in an old bookshop, will mail postcards for tourists. I later discovered that the hotel can do it, too.

    I found the SMS shopping centre. It's not very big. I didn't have time to really look around, but it has a lot of clothes shops, a book shop, at least one electronic shop, an apothecary and a foodstore with lots of other things in it. The food prices are higher than at home, but I guess that's because most of it has to be imported by air or boat.

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    Day 3: Vestmanna and Kvivik

    We were picked up by Hilda and the bus at nine and drove to Vestmanna.

    A boat, Silja Star, took us out on a trip to see the birdcliffs. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the right time of year to see a lot of Puffins. According to Hilda they were laying on their eggs. I did see a couple of them and lots of other birds. Someone claimed to have seen a seal, but I missed it somehow. I used binoculars, specially bought for this trip, and they made a big difference in what I could see.

    The weather was wonderful. I suspect that rain and bad winds could have turned the boat trip really bad. But we were really lucky and it was close to perfect. I would recommend bringing gloves if you plan to hold binoculars or a camera for most of the trip. There is a covered and warm space on the boat, but you can't see much from in there.

    Our second stop of the day was at Kvivik to look at Viking ruins. Honestly, not much to see.

    We returned to Torshavn early afternoon.

    I took a walk up to the Skansin fort. It's small and the buildings were closed, but it was possible to walk around outside. The views from it were nice.



    Day 4: Saksun, Tjörnuvik and Kirkjuböur.

    The wonderful summer weather had run off somewhere else.

    We were picked up by Hilda and the bus at nine and drove to Saksun. There is a small church and an old farmhouse that has been turned into a museum. The views on the walk from the bus parkinglot to the church are beautiful. The church is small and nice. The farmhouse museum has a lot of old things to look at.

    Note: If you want to buy any of the postcards sold at the farmhouse you need to bring cash.

    Next stop was Tjörnuvik. A local man came into the bus to tell us about how some old graves were found. Then he sang part of a religious song. We did not get to see the inside of the church there since it was being used at the time.

    It was cold and windy. We were supposed to walk around and eat a packed lunch. Most of us sat in the nice and warm bus. There was a very nice view out over the water and we could see Risin and Kellingin in the distance. There were also public toilets where the bus had parked.

    At Kirkjuböur we did get to see the inside of the church. Then we walked over to see the so-called Cathedral. It's a ruin. According to Hilda they aren't sure if it was ever a complete church. After that we had coffee in a farmhouse museum, Roykstovan, that had a lot of old things to look at.

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    Day 5: Gjogv, Göta, Navia shop and Garðahúsið

    Where did the nice weather go?

    We were picked up by Hilda and the bus at nine. We had four short photostops on the way to Gjogv.

    In Gjogv we walked around a bit. The views were really pretty and we saw some birds.

    After lunch, at Gjaargardur Guesthouse in Gjogv, we drove to Göta where we saw another church. I was getting a bit tired of churches, actually. Then we drove to Toftir and the Navia shop there. Sigh. Well, no one actually forces you to buy anything in the shop. I think some members of the group didn't even go inside the shop.

    Last stop for the day was Garðahúsið. It's an ordinary house that has been turned into a cafe. We had coffee and cookies there. The garden was nice to look at with many small paths to follow.


    When we got back to Torshavn Hilda said goodbye.


    Day 6

    The flight was in the afternoon. We had free time during the morning to walk around and do any last minute shopping. That would have been much better if it hadn't been raining.

    Since the airport is small it was easy to find the desk where you get stamps for the tax free receipts and the desk where you turn the receipts in. They're on opposite sides of the room, but I think it's less than fifty meters to walk. I chose to get the refund on my card, so it will take about a month to get it. Some of the others got theirs in cash, but I think there was a slight percentage cost if you do it that way.

    I checked in with one of the machines. Another member of the group told me, on the plane, that he had to check in at the desk because the machine wouldn't accept his passport. Weird. The machine didn't even ask for my passport. I didn't have to show my passport when going through security or boarding either.

    Landing in Copenhagen there wasn't a passport check either. The walk to baggage claim took forever. The wait for our bags felt like hours, but probably wasn't. And that's where the Faroe trip ended, according to the tour company. Getting back across the border to Sweden was our own problem.

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    Additional notes:

    Hotel:

    We stayed at Hotel Hafnia in Torshavn five nights. The hotel has been doing some renovations, but some rooms are still unchanged and a bit worn. Including mine. Oh, well, at least it was clean. The window faced the Church and there was very little noise.

    There is a panorama view from the top floor. Naturally, it was closed due to to a meeting on the day I went up to look. But other members of the group said the view was fantastic.

    The free WiFi worked perfectly in my second floor room. It did not work very well in the dining room. It did work when sitting on the bus right outside the hotel.



    Food:

    I'm not what some people call a foodie. I want food to taste good, but I'm not willing to pay large amounts for it. I'd rather eat in a small cafe than in an expensive restaurant.

    For this trip the meals were included. That means tour group average budget food. Perfectly acceptable, with one slight exception, on this trip.

    Breakfast was included at the hotel. There was a large selection of things. Both cold and warm. I don't usually eat a lot at breakfast, but I did this time. Very nice.

    Lunch was included on four days, six if you count the airplane meals. Soup at Nordic House and Vestmanna on the second and third days. A packed sandwich on the fourth day and a plate with mixed things in Gjogv on the fifth day. The packed sandwich was a bad idea. Maybe it would have been ok if the weather had been nicer, but most of us sat in the bus and the filling dripped everywhere. On the other hand, the soup at Nordic House may have been the best tasting meal on the entire trip. The soup at Vestmanna wasn't even half as good.

    We ate four dinners at Hotel Hafnia, all included in the tour. That means it probably wasn't the best food in the hotel. But it tasted fine and the portions were large. We had salmon the first night, some sort of steak the second night, another steak the third night and lamb the fourth night. All meals had potatoes and very little vegetables. The final dinner was at Restaurant 11 and was another steak.



    Transportation:

    Flights were on Atlantic Airways. No problems, unless you count the incident at landing. The seats did not have individual screens, but the flight was only a couple of hours.

    We had a large tour bus that picked us up at the hotel, drove us around and then dropped us off at the hotel in the afternoon. The driver was also willing to drop people off at the shopping centre when we got back to Torshavn in the afternoons. The bus was perhaps a bit large for our group, but anyone who wanted a window seat could get it. The driver was very good at getting through some extremely narrow spaces. Some of the roads clearly aren't built for two large vehicles to pass each other. Some roads probably weren't built for a single large vehicle, either. And no one has managed to teach the sheep how to behave in traffic, so they sometimes run across the road without warning. Please, use seatbelts.

    I saw some local buses, but I never used them. Torshavn is small enough that a healthy person can walk to most things. And there really wasn't any time for more distant solo excursions.



    Language:

    Acccording to Hilda most Faroese are multilingual. Danish is close enough to Swedish that I had very little trouble understanding what people were saying. A few times I talked to people in English, because they took one look at me and started the conversation in English. I did overhear some conversations in Faroese and couldn't understand any of it.



    Non-EU stuff - Internet and Taxfree:

    We were warned that since the Faroe Islands are not part of EU the cost for using mobile Internet is still very high. I'd heard about it before and bought a package with 50 MB for 95 SEK. In combination with the hotel's free WiFi it was more than enough. Much better than the truly horrifying non-package price of 40 SEK for a single MB.

    Since the Faroe Islands are not part of the EU it is possible for an EU citizen to buy taxfree goods. It is important to get proper receipts. There was mention of being able to get money back at the Tourist Information office, but the ones who went there to ask were told that this is only for those travelling on boats. People who fly have to get their money back at the airport.



    The Swedish border ID checks:

    For anyone who wants to know, there are people checking ID before you can go aboard a train over to Sweden. Then there is another ID check at Hyllie station in Malmö. But on a later trip across there was no ID check when arriving at Malmö central station. Weird.

    The constant ID checks do add a few minutes to the trip across. I'm sure it drives the commuters crazy. But I only stayed in the area a few days to play tourist so it didn't feel too bad.



    Conclusions:

    The Faroe Islands are small and have a small population. If you want big city life and shopping you will be dissapointed. If you want to lie on a sunny beach you will also be dissapointed. If you want beautiful nature and relaxation you may enjoy it if the weather cooperates. The museums are tiny. There seems to be cute little churches in every tiny village.

    The absolute highlight for me was the boat trip at Vestmanna.

    I was satisfied with my trip. But the Faroe Islands probably won't go on my list of places I want to go back to. Life is short and I have a hundred new places I want to see.

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    bilboburgler: No. And I certainly wouldn't have wanted to. Actually, the only time it was mentioned at all was by another tourist. I did see a painting that was supposed to be about it in a museum.

    It's the sort of thing that sounds horrible. But, the fact is that all animal slaughter sounds horrible. And I still eat meat. And fish.

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    I was one of those who wanted a trip report, and this is excellent!

    Since you announced your plans, a young Scottish friend went to play Rugby or run in a marathon or one of those kinds of things against the locals and stayed on for a visit. He had the rain that you happily missed, but the photos were gorgeous.

    He remembers the beer the way you remembered food. Together it is a nice picture?

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    thursdaysd: The tour was in Swedish, since it was a Swedish tour company. Hilda, the local tour guide, spoke almost perfect Swedish.

    There are local buses, but I did not use them. I don't know how well they would work for tourists. But there are also local organized daytours and I think most of those are in English. There were brochures with ads about them at the hotel and the Tourist information office.

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    Communication from Sea Shepherd Today, 1 hour ago.

    by Captain Paul Watson: The Slaughter of Pilot Whales in the Faroes is Happening Now!

    The Barbarians of the Ferocious Islands are at this moment stalking and harassing a pod of 30 - 50 Pilot whales. They were spotted at Eiðinum near Svinoy and the boats were seen driving them South towards Hvannasund.

    The killing on the beach has begun. It is happening now. The screams of dying Pilot whales are echoing across the water and a scarlet stain is spreading out into the cold water of the Fjord.

    Sea Shepherd boats and crews have been barred from entry in the Faroe Islands as the Danish government exercises full support for an atrocity that is illegal in Danish waters.

    Sea Shepherd's campaign this year is to pursue a legal complaint in the European Union Parliament and to promote the boycott of Faroese farm raised salmon and other fish products.

    The Faroes have three large salmon farm companies - Hidden Fjord, Bakkanfrost and Marine Harvest. Two weeks ago I sent questions to all three companies asking if they will confirm reports that pilot whale and dolphin meat is being fed to farm raised salmon. I have not received a denial or a confirmation from many of the three although I have received many angry messages from some Faroese telling us to leave the companies alone because they provide jobs.

    These companies raise salmon in the same waters that Pilot whales and dolphins are slaughtered and therefore we have called this years campaign Operation Bloody Fjords.

    The Faroese dolphin butchers have the full weight of the Danish government, police and and Navy on their side and although physical ly prevented from intervention this summer, we can still strike out through legal and economic channels with the message that eating Faroese salmon means killing and eating the Pilot whales.

    We need to tell the world that Faroese farmed raised salmon is associated with the killing of Pilot whales and dolphins. People who eat salmon should always ask in Sushi bars, restaurants and markets if the salmon comes from the Faroes and if so to not eat it and to advise the establishment not to serve it.

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