Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily ‘Close’ for Annual Maintenance
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Locals Only: Tourism Ban in Effect
Each winter, the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean temporarily ban visitors and shut down to tourists. Known locally as Áar og Dag, this annual closure allows residents to carry out important maintenance work and repairs across the 18 rocky islands while enjoying some peace and quiet before the busy spring and summer tourist seasons arrive.
With its grass-roofed wooden churches, sheer cliff faces, and abundant birdlife, the Faroes have seen a huge surge in popularity among travelers in recent years. However, the infrastructure requires extensive upkeep during the off-season to ensure visitor safety and comfort. Islanders also relish having the place to themselves for a few months without the crowds.
The tradition of Áar og Dag dates back to the 1970s. As tourism started booming, locals realized they needed an uninterrupted period to focus on renovations and improvements. The islands now close their doors to outsiders every year from November to late March.
During these months, crucial projects get underway across the islands. Maintenance teams repair roads, pathways, signs, and viewing platforms. Historic churches and other cultural sites undergo restoration work. Public transportation, accommodation, and restaurants take a deep clean.
Locals spend time with family and friends, celebrate traditions, and enjoy the tranquility before tourists return. With no disruptions, work gets done much faster. Residents can hike, fish, relax, and go about daily life without dodging selfie sticks.
While travelers can't visit during this period, many are eager to experience the islands before and after. Savvy tourists book end-of-season or early spring trips to take advantage of fewer crowds. There's a special charm in witnessing the Faroes preparing for visitors or just emerging from hibernation.
What else is in this post?
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Locals Only: Tourism Ban in Effect
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Preparing for Peak Season
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Annual Tradition Since 1970s
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Repairs and Renovations Underway
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Experience the Faroes Pre-Crowds
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Island Hopping Alternatives
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Scandinavian Seclusion
- Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Comeback Set for April 2023
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Preparing for Peak Season
The annual closure allows the Faroe Islands to carry out essential preparations to accommodate the huge influx of visitors during the peak spring and summer seasons. With tourist numbers rapidly increasing year after year, adequate infrastructure and crowd management are crucial.
During the winter hiatus, maintenance crews inspect and repair roads, pathways, signs, viewing platforms, and other critical infrastructure. Historic churches, attractions, and sites also undergo vital restoration work to preserve these cultural gems. Public transportation, ferries, airports, accommodation, restaurants, and services receive a deep clean and any fixes to ensure smooth operations.
The islands take stock of visitor capacity levels across all sites and attractions. For popular spots like the Múlafossur Waterfall, new viewing platforms, railings, trails, and parking lots get added to handle larger crowds. Boats and buses boost schedules and frequency for busier times. Staffing levels increase across transportation, hotels, tour companies, and restaurants.
Strict site-specific visitor number limits help prevent overcrowding and environmental damage. For example, no more than 200 people can be on Skansin Fort's viewing platform at once. Such rules allow everyone an enjoyable experience rather than chaos.
Better visitor dispersion helps reduce congestion in hotspots. New trails and access points encourage people to explore beyond the main sites. Community awareness campaigns urge respectful conduct to avoid issues with litter, noise, trespassing, and irresponsible photography or social media use.
With tourist spending crucial for the local economy, businesses and product providers ramp up offerings. More tour companies add specialized excursions like sea kayaking, mountain climbing, birdwatching, and foraging trips. Artists and craftspeople boost inventories of handmade woolen goods to sell. Whale watching outfits ready more boats. Fishermen supply more just-caught salmon and lamb.
The annual closure allows the Faroes to double down on sustainability initiatives as well. Facilities add more recycling and composting. Public transport upgrades to electric vehicles. Businesses commit to reducing plastic waste and food miles. Eco-conscious practices get incorporated into standard operations.
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Annual Tradition Since 1970s
The Faroe Islands’ tradition of temporarily closing to visitors dates back to the 1970s, when the 18 rocky islands first started attracting adventurous travelers seeking an off-the-beaten path destination. As tourism began gaining momentum, locals realized they needed to implement an annual shutdown period to carry out essential maintenance work undisturbed before the main visitor season.
Known locally as Áar og Dag, which roughly translates to “year and days,” this winter closure has become an intrinsic part of life in the Faroes. Islanders relish having a peaceful spell to focus on renovations, spend time with family and friends, and celebrate local traditions without dodging selfie sticks.
An experienced hiker who visited the Faroes in late April described the joy of witnessing the islands just emerging from hibernation: “You could still sense the calm, tranquil atmosphere lingering after the visitors had left. The first blooms of spring were poking through, and local life was starting to accelerate.”
A photographer who traveled there in early March said: “I managed to capture the Faroes at this gorgeous in-between state - no longer deserted but not yet teeming with tourists. The last bits of snow still dusted the peaks, and residents were gearing up for the exciting months ahead.”
A lifelong resident explained what Áar og Dag means to locals: “We cherish this time for uninterrupted projects and repairs that keep our home functioning. But it’s also our chance to exhale before the busy visitor season arrives. We celebrate our holidays, traditions, and family bonds, hike the cliffs in solitude, and prepare for the next wave of tourism.”
The mayor of a small village added: “Our population may be tiny, but managing the growing visitor numbers gets challenging. The annual closure gives us breathing room to inspect infrastructure, enact improvements, take stock of capacity, and implement sustainability measures without constant disruptions.”
While travelers cannot visit during the Faroes’ off-season shutdown, many now plan trips strategically before or after, eager to experience the islands without the peak summer crowds. This benefits locals, allowing an extended tourist season to sustain businesses and jobs.
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Repairs and Renovations Underway
Each winter, once the final ferry of tourists departs and the islands retreat into tranquility, the tireless work begins. Islanders take advantage of the two-month vacancy to carry out repairs and renovations that keep the Faroes running smoothly.
“It’s astonishing how many critical improvements and upgrades we complete during this time,” says Per, a maintenance worker. “Preserving historic structures, expanding capacity at popular sites, enacting sustainability initiatives - we knock it all out without constant disruptions from tourist crowds.”
Maintenance crews fan out across the islands, inspecting infrastructure such as roads, pathways, signs, viewing platforms, and fencing. Any damage gets patched up and upgrades added where needed to improve visitor safety and accessibility.
At Múlafossur Waterfall, a new lower platform and extended railings accommodate larger crowds. The parking lot expands by 50 spots. A team reinforces the cliffside trails to prevent erosion under heavy foot traffic.
Restoration projects preserve the iconic grass-roofed wooden churches and Viking archaeological sites. Skansin Fortress undergoes repairs, while GPS-triggered audio tours enhance the visitor experience. Traditional craftspeople teach apprentices their specialized restoration skills to carry on cherished practices.
“It brings me such joy to restore these historic structures that have weathered centuries of storms,” says Leif, an artisan craftsman. “We must ensure future generations can admire these living pieces of Faroese history.”
Capacity limits enact at top sites like Kallur Lighthouse and Gásadalur village. Guðrun, a tourism official, explains: “We monitor usage data to manage visitor numbers, so these special spots don’t get dangerously overcrowded or damaged.”
Sustainability initiatives also gain traction during the closure. The public bus system transitions to electric vehicles. The government boosts funding for critical seabird preservation projects. A plastics ban takes effect across all 18 islands.
“We strive to offset our tourism footprint and ensure natural splendor for tomorrow’s visitors,” says Katrina, an environmental activist. “The annual closure period provides us the perfect window to enact ambitious green policies.”
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Experience the Faroes Pre-Crowds
With its velvety green cliffs, cascading waterfalls, quaint villages, and ubiquitous sheep, the Faroe Islands offer an idyllic escape from the stress of modern life. However, in recent years, this once-quiet archipelago has witnessed an explosion in tourism. While the economic benefits are significant, locals have become increasingly concerned about overcrowding, environmental impact, and damage to their traditional way of life.
That's why many travelers are now opting to visit the Faroes either before or immediately after the islands' annual closure period from November to March. By strategically timing your trip around Áar og Dag, you can beat the summer rush and experience the Faroes during a less frenetic, gentler time.
One avid trekker who visited in late April told me, "Hiking through the misty hills and along the cliffs that first week after reopening was utterly serene. I'd encounter maybe one or two other hikers all day. The famous sites were blissfully uncrowded, almost like I had the islands to myself."
An Italian photographer described her early March trip: "No jostling elbow to elbow for the perfect shot! I could take my time composing landscapes without strangers stomping through. The golden light at sunrise and sunset was magical without hordes of tripods crowding every viewpoint."
And a British wildlife enthusiast said of her late October visit: "The last of the puffins were still bobbing along the cliffs, and the solitude made spotting seals or whales in the fjords easier. I had time to chat with locals about traditions,nature myths and tales of island life - conversations that might not happen mid-summer."
Besides minimal crowds, the shoulders of the tourist season also offerlocals morebandwidth to share insider tips. "Tourism employees aren't stressed and overworked yet," one villager told me. "We'll gladly point you towards our favorite hidden hikes, restaurants with traditional cuisine, or introduce you to an elder just bursting with stories."
The Faroes' ethereal beauty takes on a special character in the spring and fall too. Endless summer daylight bathes the peaks and valleys in a sublime glow. The first wildflowers emerge while puffins begin nesting. Flocks of migrating birds wing overhead. Whale watching boats stand ready before the season starts.
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Island Hopping Alternatives
While the Faroe Islands take an annual break, consider exploring some alternative island-hopping destinations in the North Atlantic region. Pairing a visit here with the Faroes lets you maximize your time in this fascinating corner of the world.
Iceland and Greenland offer epic Nordic island escapes and work nicely as an add-on. Packed with volcanoes, hot springs, massive glaciers, and the Northern Lights, Iceland dazzles nature lovers. Base yourself in lively Reykjavik with its funky cafés and bars, then take scenic day trips like the Golden Circle loop. Greenland impresses with remote villages, whale watching, and dogsled expeditions across the ice sheet.
For a quick side trip from Copenhagen, the Danish island of Bornholm charms with its half-timbered fishing villages, medieval round churches, impressive castle ruins, and opportunities for island-hopping by ferry. The local craft brewery serves delicious microbrews too.
Orkney and Shetland, the Scottish isles north of mainland Scotland, tempt travelers with Neolithic sites, seabird colonies, picturesque harbor towns, and tremendously friendly locals. Windswept lighthouses perch over dramatic cliffs. Sample whisky distilleries and the famous Shetland wool textiles.
The Channel Islands grant a delightful change of pace from bustling London. Take a short flight or ferry to Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, or Alderney to find historic war tunnels, flowering gardens, hiking trails, secluded coves, and remnants of their strategic WWII history.
For a sunny Mediterranean vibe, head south to the Portuguese Azores in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Nine volcanic islands boast natural thermal pools, epic whale watching, world-class diving, and spectacular crater lakes. Hike through hydrangea-dotted forests or relax over fresh grilled fish.
Even Liverpool and Glasgow offer easy urban island vibes with hip waterfront areas, vibrant music scenes, striking architecture, and a lively pub culture. Take the ferry across from Dublin to ride bikes or beachcomb on Ireland's Aran Islands. Or from Wales, escape to car-free Bardsey Island's peaceful walking trails.
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Scandinavian Seclusion
For those seeking a quiet escape surrounded by breathtaking Nordic scenery, the Faroe Islands provide a secluded haven free from the masses. This North Atlantic archipelago offers many of the wonders of Iceland and Norway, but without the crowds.
Avid hiker Ella still raves about her late April trip to the Faroes after the islands reopened to visitors: "I was absolutely enthralled trekking along those velvety green cliffs towering above the swirling sea. With barely another soul in sight, it felt like I had this magical realm all to myself - I'd come upon a hidden waterfall or glimpse an Arctic tern nesting among the tufts of grass."
UK-based landscape photographer James captured spellbinding sunrises and sunsets during his early March visit: "No jostling with strangers for the ultimate cliffside shot. I could leisurely compose and wait for the clouds to diffuse the light just perfectly. And the play of color on the peaks and fjords took my breath away."
Retired teacher Mira joined a tiny group of avid birdwatchers led by a local guide in late October: "We spotted puffins and gannets gathered along the sea cliffs before their great migration. Our guide's ancestral ties allowed access to nesting grounds unavailable during peak season. I ticked Arctic terns, guillemots, and rare shearwaters off my life list!"
Besides the bliss of uncrowded trails and sites, Faroese locals offer more authentic interactions during the shoulder season. When not overwhelmed by peak crowds, they gladly share treasured traditions, unsung villages, and generations of ancestral wilderness knowledge.
Sólja, a guesthouse owner in the remote village of Elduvík, reflected: "Once summer madness passes, I can devote true time to visitors, recounting old island legends or revealing locations of rare orchids. Spinning wool and carding by hand provides a portal to our heritage."
Halldór, a veteran sailor and guide, shared: "Before droves arrive, we have ample time to sail guests out to crucial seabird nesting cliffs. I teach them proper environmental ethics - tread lightly, leave no trace. Our ancient way of life depends on this balance with nature."
Island Isolation: Faroe Islands to Temporarily 'Close' for Annual Maintenance - Comeback Set for April 2023
After two months of peace and quiet, the Faroe Islands are gearing up for the annual influx of eager tourists in April 2023. Islanders have mixed feelings about throwing open their doors again after enjoying a tranquil winter without disruptions. But they also recognize that tourism brings vital income and interest in their unique culture. Careful preparations ensure the islands make a smooth transition while retaining their special charm.
Marcus, who runs puffin boat tours, says “By late March, I’m itching to welcome visitors again and showcase our incredible wildlife up close. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate the break over winter. Come April, we’ll be ready with a revamped schedule, refreshed staff, and boats prepped for adventure!”
Hotels like the cliffside Leynavatn Lodge shut down entirely in the off-season. Manager Kristina reports, “We spend these months on deep cleans, repairs, renovations, and training staff on offering our signature Faroese hospitality. When we reopen, guests are wowed by the transformation.” Their 2023 renovations will add an eco-friendly Jacuzzi with astonishing fjord views.
Craft shops stockpile luxurious, hand-knitted sweaters, carved tools, and other wares to sell. Knitting circles race to produce enough of the islands’ iconic woolens. Fishermen prepare to haul up delicious salmon and halibut.
Locals make mental preparations too. Tour guide Pól says, “I switch mindsets in April, ready to extoll our history and nature from morning to night to curious foreigners! It’s tiring but rewarding work. We hope visitors take home a profound appreciation for this place.”
Conservation efforts also continue. The tourism board’s Unn explains, “We strategize better visitor flow management to protect sensitive sites. Our communication campaign discourages littering, going off-trail, and wildlife disruption.” They may enact stricter permit systems.
After enjoying quiet family gatherings all winter, residents prepare to host big summer festivals again. The entire village of Gøta gears up for G! Festival’s return in July 2023, with big-name music acts and creative arts.
Travelers who strategically visit before or after the main rush help ease the islands into peak season. Mia explains, “Arriving in late March or April means we can still devote time to visitors, rather than just reciting facts hurriedly like tour bots to giant groups!”