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How the Remote Faroe Islands Make a Case for Slow Travel

A view of Tinganes, the historic center of Torshavn.

Visit Faroe Islands

Far-flung destinations, home-grown hospitality – and the occasional house concert.

The sod-roofed houses and red-steepled church of Mikladalur, a rural hamlet in the Faroe Islands, peek past coastal hills toward the windswept North Atlantic. It’s a landscape of startling beauty. But Margret Heldarskard, 31, who was born and raised there, says her hometown is facing a crisis. “I know one other person my age,” she says. “It’s one of those villages that might die out – though hopefully not.” 

Heldarskard is feeling hopeful lately. In recent years, thanks to growing tourism in rural parts of the tiny archipelago, the Faroes have earned quiet renown among travelers seeking authentic connections. “It’s the best thing that’s happened to these islands,” Heldarskard says, describing an economic path for young Faroese, like her, to return to their rural communities. After studying and working abroad, Heldarskard moved home two years ago to open Café Edge at the cusp of a soaring cliff. She now spends summers sourcing cheese and vegetables from local farmers and cooking and serving meals – along with her famous rhubarb lemonade – to neighbors and travelers.

Bour, a tiny village on Vagar, one of 18 islands in the archipelago.

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She’s not alone. “Many young people are moving back or staying in these really remote villages, because now there are opportunities with tourism,” explains Marta Karadottir, public relations manager for Visit Faroe Islands. Indeed, dispersed tourism has blossomed across the archipelago, which comprises 18 mountainous isles, one of which is uninhabited, situated between Iceland and the Shetland Islands. The tiny nation’s 50,000-or-so inhabitants fall under Danish sovereignty but speak their own language and practice their own customs.

Now, some Faroese are opening their homes and kitchens hoping to share the local experience with visitors. “The only thing you need to do as a traveler is maybe stay a little bit longer, visit places in the outskirts, and go into that beautiful restaurant that’s run by a local farmer,” Karadottir says.

Views from the Northern Islands.

Visit Faroe Islands

Tour operators can help travelers discover these homegrown endeavors. “We really encourage people to get out of the main towns,” says Satu Vanska-Westgarth, co-owner of 50 Degrees North, whose nine-day self-guided driving tours take visitors deep into rural areas. The company builds connections between guests and locals by going the extra mile – securing tickets to traditional music performances held in private houses, for example. “You actually get a feeling of what it is to live there or be a part of that community,” she says. 

To provide an even better sense of community, the Faroes’ latest tourism endeavor, heimablidni (home hospitality), invites travelers into locals’ homes to dine with them for an evening. On Luxury Beyond’s private four-day islands exploration, visitors may opt to try heimablidni: “The locals in the Faroe Islands are very friendly, very open,” explains Kristin Valdimarsdottir, Luxury Beyond’s chief executive for the region. “You’re part of a family experience – you feel that you’ve had a special talk with someone who has shared something of his life.” 

One of her favorite destinations is a small farm, Hanusarstova, just 20 minutes outside the capital city, Torshavn. There, Luxury Beyond books private dinners hosted by fifth-generation Faroese farmer Harriet Olafsdottir Av Gordum and her husband, John Petursson Av Gordum, who live in a nineteenth-century house that they renovated.  

Traffic jam in Kalsoy.

Visit Faroe Islands

“They have a small sheep farm, but they couldn’t live just from the sheep,” Valdimarsdottir says, explaining that travelers help make up the difference. Today, sheep graze the family’s sod roof, and chickens wander their yard, which extends to oceanside cliffs. Travelers visit the property, dine with the owners, and occasionally stick around for live music. 

If that level of travel intimacy catches some visitors off guard, insiders see it differently: To them, it’s a way to shield the region from the harms of overtourism. After all, the Faroe Islands’ authenticity is what draws travelers in the first place, says Helga Kristin Oskarsdottir, who crafts bespoke trips for Nordic Luxury. “It’s unique to have this small community with its own language and culture,” she says. “It feels untouched. That’s the beauty of it.” 

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