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Faroe Islands Declare a Weekend of TLC and Voluntourism

A group of volcanic outcroppings in the North Atlantic, halfway between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands are known for their dramatic scenery including rugged cliffs, sea caves and dramatic waterfalls.

The islands are also home to abundant birdlife, a population of 50,000 Faroese people and not to be overlooked, their 80,000 sheep.

All in all, a fairly bucolic place to visit.

But even such idyllic and untrodden destinations need a little extra TLC from time to time. To that end, the Faroe Islands have just announced that for one weekend this spring, in celebration of Earth Day, tourism will be put on pause.

The goal of the time out is to help keep the remote, green islands pristine.

While the Faroe Islands currently (and happily) have no overtourism problems, the fragile natural environment in a few popular tourist locations has felt the effects of an increase in visitors, according to a recent statement from Visit Faroe Islands. These areas need a helping hand to ensure they remain preserved and sustainable, said the agency.

Gasadalur village and its iconic waterfall, Vagar, Faroe Islands, Denmark. Long exposure. (photo via miroslav_1 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Thus, the plan has been hatched to close the islands for maintenance and open them for voluntourism over the weekend of April 26 and 27. And if all goes well, this effort will be repeated and expanded in future years.

Only those prepared to work with locals over the maintenance weekend will be allowed to visit. A total of 100 visitors will be able to sign up to volunteer with a local Faroese crew.

Here’s the bonus: In return for providing such services to the country, the voluntourists will be gifted both accommodation and food over the three-night preservation period by the Faroese.

Maintenance projects will take place on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. On Saturday night there will be a celebratory meal for all those who have joined forces to help—Faroese and overseas visitors alike. Volunteers can also choose to extend their trip to the Faroe Islands should they wish to do so.

The work will include creating walking paths in well-trodden areas, constructing viewpoints that help preserve nature and birdlife sanctuaries and erecting signs that help with wayfinding. The projects will be of varying difficulty levels, meaning volunteers do not need to be highly skilled. A willingness to assist is the only criteria, said the statement.

“We are delighted that more and more people are discovering how special our islands are—our scenery, our unique way of life, our food and our people,” says Guorio Hojgaard, director of Visit Faroe Islands. “You can find peace and quiet wherever you go, even in our lively capital city, Torshavn.”

The Faroe Islands has seen about a 10 percent growth in tourists in recent years and, while the country welcomes visitors with open arms, it wants to ensure that over-tourism never becomes an issue.

“For us, tourism is not all about the numbers,” Hojgaard added. “We welcome visitors to the islands each year, but we also have a responsibility to our community and to our beautiful environment, and our aims are to preserve and protect it, ensuring sustainable and responsible growth.”

Faroes’ Prime Minister, Aksel Johannesen, has joined the campaign by inviting volunteers to lend a helping hand.

Closed for maintenance, open for voluntourism – Official Statement by Prime Minister from Visit Faroe Islands on Vimeo.

The campaign will work with local villagers and farmers to identify several areas where some TLC will help to preserve the infrastructure, paving the way for a sustainable future for the islands.

The Faroese are hoping their new project will inspire other countries to follow suit, creating their own “maintenance crews,” and encouraging tourists to help in whatever way is needed to preserve a destination.

For more information or to sign up to be part of the Maintenance Crew, visit preservefaroeislands.com.

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