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Isolated by virus, Faroe Islands offer virtual tours

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Copenhagen (AFP)

The Faroe Islands had planned to close to tourists for a weekend this April to protect its fragile ecosystem.

However, isolated due to the pandemic, the Danish archipelago is now offering people a chance to discover the islands with virtual tours online.

"We do these tours for people who were supposed to come to the Faroe Islands and visit now and had to cancel their tours. This is kind of our way of giving them the experience they otherwise would have had, (but) through our eyes, ears and body," Kristina Sandberg Joensen, one of the virtual guides working for the Faroese tourism office, told AFP.

The self-governing territory in the North Atlantic, which has 187 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, closed its borders in mid-March.

In order to visit the islands virtually, "tourists" take in the stunning views on their phone or computer free of charge as their guide explores the local landscape in real time, either on foot, on horseback or at sea.

Each tourist can even control the direction their guide takes for 60 seconds, using on-screen joystick controls.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 people have taken part in virtual tours since they started on April 15, the tourism office said.

Known for its high cliffs, dramatic waterfalls and open expanses, the archipelago of 1,400 square kilometres (540 square miles) is home to 50,000 people and 80,000 sheep spread out over 18 islands.

Some 110,000 tourists visited the Faroe Islands in 2018, with their numbers increasing by 10 percent per year the past five years.

The archipelago had originally planned to close its main tourism sites on April 18 and 19, asking only a select number of volunteers to come help clean up the local ecosystem.

The operation has instead been postponed until September because of the coronavirus crisis.

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