Torshavn, Faroe Islands

A distant outpost of Denmark, the Faroe Islands suddenly appear out of the misty North Atlantic, nearly 200 miles from the nearest landfall. Of the twenty-two islands in the group, seventeen are inhabited, with a population of 17,000 residing in the capital city of Torshavn. Irish monks discovered the islands in the 8th century and became the first settlers, only to be driven out by Viking explorers a century later. The traditions and legends of their Viking forefathers are kept alive in a language so close to old Norse that Faroe Islanders can still read the ancient texts inscribed centuries ago. The name Faroe comes from faereyjar, the Old Norse word meaning "Sheep Islands." With thousands of sheep dotting the hillsides, the name remains apt today. While sheep are important to the economy, the real wealth of the islands comes from the fishing industry. A fleet of over 300 trawlers and line-fishing boats bring in an average annual haul of 245,000 tons of cod and herring. Ultra-modern processing and freezing plants do the job of getting the product to market in the most efficient manner.