I had mixed feelings about travelling to the Faroe Islands.
On one hand, I was über excited to be heading to the dramatic and other-worldly landscapes that I had heard so many positive things about, but on the other hand, I didn’t feel great about visiting a country that has some very questionable traditions.
The Grindadráp is a longheld Faroese tradition which typically occurs during the summer months and involves the slaughter of around 1000 pilot whales and several species of dolphins.
If you have ever seen photographs of fjords turning an unmistakably bloody shade of red and the bodies of lifeless whales littering black sand beaches, then these were likely taken in the Faroes.
The Faroese people maintain that the Grindadráp is an important part of their cultural traditions and heritage, and that eating whale meat has been a part of Faroese life for generations.
This is an argument that I actually do understand.
I do not object to eating whale meat, provided that the hunting is done sustainably, and unfortunately, this is where I believe the Faroes go wrong.
Lets take a moment to compare the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Both countries have similar populations, with the Faroe Islands being home to around 49,000 people and Greenland home to around 56,000 as per census estimates from 2017. Both countries have long histories of hunting and consuming whale meat, but their practices are remarkably different.
In 2015, the entire nation of Greenland hunted a grand total of 158 whales across all species. In 2013, the smaller Faroese nation hunted a total of 1,103 pilot whales, and the exact number for all other species is unknown. To me, those numbers just don’t add up.
With such similar population numbers and taking into account that Greenlandic people are much more likely to live in extremely remote settlements in which whale hunting is absolutely imperative for survival, it makes no sense that a much more Western and developed country like the Faroes should need to kill almost seven times as many whales.
Personally, I think the act of driving whales to the shore to be slaughtered is an incredibly cruel and stressful way to kill, and I think the number of whales and dolphins killed in the Faroes is excessive to say the least. My unease that stems from my disagreement with the Grindadráp had successfully kept me at bay for a long time, but the landscapes of the Faroes kept drawing me back in.
So, I decided to visit in late October, a period in which such mass whaling events would not take place, and honestly, I am definitely glad to have gone. I still completely disagree with the Grindadráp, but I also do not believe in boycotting an entire country based on the actions of a few, so with that, we hopped on an Atlantic Airways flight from Edinburgh to Vagar and within a few short hours, we had arrived in the Faroes.
Our first stop was the Faroese capital of Tórshavn. With a population of around 13,000 people, this isn’t the smallest capital city that I’ve ever been to (that award goes to Nuuk in Greenland) but it is certainly little!
With turf roofed houses everywhere you turn, colourful wooden buildings and a gorgeous harbour – the city is undeniably cute, but personally, I didn’t feel super excited about exploring it. I had come to the Faroes to see as much beautiful nature as possible, and I was far more excited about getting out and about!
However, we did find Brell Cafe during our wanderings, which served such good coffee that we returned on numerous occasions and willingly spent $12 each time on a latte!
Streymoy is the largest of all the Faroese islands, and it is also the most populated by far. It is home to the capital of Tórshavn (above) as well as numerous other photo-worthy spots such as Nesvík, Sund and Fossá waterfall (keep scrolling).
This next series of shots are random pictures taken at unknown locations whilst driving around the island.
If you are a lover of waterfalls (and honestly, who isn’t?!) then you will absolutely adore Fossá! I must admit, I had been most excited to see Gásaladur waterfall, but Fossá was a truly stunning surprise.
This double sectioned waterfall cascades down an amazing 140m and as an added bonus, is literally right next to one of Streymoy’s main roads!
I absolutely adored photographing this waterfall, which made nearly going arse up on the slippery rocks about 50 times absolutely worth it! I was able to capture these next photographs without a tripod due to my little Olympus baby’s incredible stabilisation technology, but cameras who can’t do this would definitely need a tripod to get that ‘soft’ effect.
The northernmost town on the island of Streymoy, Tjørnuvík is home to only 60 or so inhabitants, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in true majestic-ness! As you approach the town, the enormous mountains and black sand beach that surrounds the tiny cluster of houses is sure to take your breath away.
Viðoy is the northernmost island of the Faroe Islands and like most of the islands, is well connected by tunnels. We travelled to Viðoy with the sole purpose of visiting the church at Viðareiði, but simply driving around the island was pretty gorgeous too.
Viðareiði is a little bit special. It isn’t just located on the northernmost Faroese island, it is the absolute northernmost settlement in the country! With a population of around 350 people, this tiny town doesn’t have much to offer, except some absolutely stunning views of its seaside church.
We arrived at Múli pretty much as soon as some unbelievably wild weather rolled in. The road to this town is unsealed, and in good weather our 2×2 definitely wouldn’t have had trouble, but on this particular day the wind was so strong that our car was being shaken seriously hard! We made the executive decision that since the road was unsealed and has very little leeway if we were to slide that it would be safer to give this one a miss.
I still did manage to get a beautiful shot of the town, as well as some pictures which truly captured the wild weather.
In all our time in the Faroes, we only managed to get one day of blue skies and clear weather. We used the bulk of this day to hike around Lake Sørvágsvatn (stay tuned to the next blog for a truly incredible hike) but we also did manage to get to the postcard worthy spot of Gásaladur.
Potentially the most photographed spot in all of the Faroe Islands, this waterfall is popular for a damn good reason – it’s simply breathtaking.
Our time in the Faroes was a bit of a mixed bag. We had some serious highs and couple of definite lows. Visiting in shoulder season did mean that there were less tourists around than in the height of summer, but the unrelenting rain definitely did impede our explorations.
I think I will return to the Faroes, but next time I will aim to do so in the winter. Not only do I think that the landscapes would be even more picturesque under a blanket of snow, but I also think the snow would be less hindering than the rain.
Getting to the Faroe Islands: We flew with Atlantic Airways which services daily routes to Copenhagen, twice weekly connections to Edinburgh and regular routes to Reykjavik
Car Hire: We hired a small 2×2 through 62°N, the largest vehicle provider in the Faroe Islands
Turf House AirBnB: We spent five nights in this fabulous AirBnB, click here to get a discount on your first stay with AirBnB!
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: You should expect bad weather and hopefully get at least 1-2 days reprieve from the Faroese rain!