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The Faroe Islands: The Sheep Islands

 

To—rshavn's harbor, Faroe Islands
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To—rshavn’s harbor, Faroe Islands

The eighteen volcanic islands between Scotland and Iceland that comprise the Faroe Islands were formed millions of years ago have remained largely undisturbed by the outside world. The residents are descendents of Vikings who arrived in longships over a thousand years ago in search of new uninhabited land. Today, the Faroe Islands are a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Fishing is the major industry. Sheep roam freely, top-quality water-repellent woolen goods are produced, and eider feathers are gathered. The bird cliffs and variety of species are renowned.

During our Voyage of the Vikings cruise aboard Holland America’s Maasdam we docked in the colorful harbor of the capital, Tórshavn, named for the powerful Norse god Thor. Since it was never consumed by fire like other European cities, its carefully preserved bright turf roofed wooden buildings that date back as far as the 14th century still stand. We browsed the fish markets and shopped at Sirri, a chic designer woolen clothing store favored by the royal family.

Torshavn, Faroe Islands
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turf roofed house, Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Shore excursions are offered to the countryside to Viking ruins, cultural centers, a farm and woolen mill, and a woodcarving shop. Public buses provide inexpensive options for a scenic ride.

Outside the city is a rugged landscape with panoramic vistas at every turn. The islands were formed millions of years ago by an undersea volcanic eruption, creating steep basalt slopes and deep chasms. Water gushes down verdant hillsides and cliffs, creating waterfalls made more dramatic by the frequent rain.

 

Back onboard, we dressed for formal night. We crossed the Arctic Circle, approaching Akureyri, Iceland from the north.

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