Photo Of The Day: Early Morning On The Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands are a bit too remote to be on many people’s bucket list and that’s a shame. Halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the windy north Atlantic, they offer a rugged beauty equal to any adventure travel destination.

This shot from user kanelstrand from Gadling’s Flickr pool was taken early one morning after some rain. The mixture of light and shadow, the deep color of the sea and of course the rainbow give you an idea of the allure of these distant islands.

That lonely little lighthouse shows that, indeed, some people really live here. In fact, about 50,000 people do in an autonomous nation under the Danish Realm. Amazingly, the islands were first settled by Irish and Scottish Christian hermits way back in the sixth century. St. Brendan may have visited on his fabled trip to America, followed by the Vikings. The modern Faroese are a tough people of mixed Scandinavian and Scottish descent who are proud of the life they’ve carved out of a harsh yet alluring corner of the world.

Want to see more? Check out this Faroe Islands photo set!

10 Alternatives To The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are well known for their endemic wildlife, unique flora and strong ecological philosophy. However, the destination isn’t the only place in the world to experience an unparalleled natural setting. In fact, islands in Asia, South America, Europe and even the continent of Antarctica all feature one-of-a-kind encounters for those interested in seeing something new in the outdoors.

Scuba dive one of the most diverse coral reefs in the world in Vanuatu, relax on pristine white beaches on Brazil‘s Fernando de Noronha and witness the hundreds of sunbathing sea lions on Kangaroo Island in Australia. These are just a few of the experiences to be had in these worthwhile destinations.

For a more visual idea of these Galapagos alternatives, check out the gallery below.


[Image above via Jessie on a Journey. Gallery images via Big Stock, mariemon, Hairworm]

St. Brendan: Did An Irish Monk Come To America Before Columbus?

Today is St. Brendan’s feast day. To the Irish, St. Brendan needs no introduction. For those less fortunate in their birth, let me tell you that he may have been Ireland’s first adventure traveler.

Saint Brendan was an Irish holy man who lived from 484 to 577 AD. Little is known about his life, and even his entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia is rather short. What we do know about him mostly comes from a strange tale called “the Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator,” written down in the ninth century and rewritten with various changes in several later manuscripts.

It’s an account of a seven-year journey he and his followers took across the Atlantic, where they met Judas sitting on a rock, landed on what they thought was an island only to discover it was a sea monster, were tempted by a mermaid, and saw many other strange and wondrous sights. They got into lots of danger, not the least from some pesky devils, but the good Saint Brendan used his holy might to see them through.

They eventually landed on the fabled Isle of the Blessed far to the west of Ireland. This is what has attracted the attention of some historians. Could the fantastic tale hide the truth that the Irish came to America a thousand years before Columbus?

Sadly, there’s no real evidence for that. While several eager researchers with more imagination than methodology have claimed they’ve found ancient Irish script or that places like Mystery Hill are Irish settlements, their claims fall down under scrutiny.

But, as believers like to say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and there are some tantalizing clues that hint the Irish really did journey across the sea in the early Middle Ages. It’s firmly established that Irish monks settled in the Faroe Islands in the sixth century. The Faroes are about halfway between Scotland and Iceland. Viking sagas record that when they first went to settle Iceland in the late ninth century, they found Irish monks there. There are also vague references in the Viking sagas and in medieval archives in Hanover hinting that Irish monks made it to Greenland too.

%Gallery-155425%From Greenland, of course, it’s not much of a jump to North America. The monks wanted to live far away from the evils of the world and were willing to cross the ocean to do so.

How did they sail all that distance? In tough little boats called currachs, made of a wickerwork frame with hides stretched over it. One would think these soft boats with no keel wouldn’t last two minutes in the open ocean, but British adventurer Tim Severin proved it could be done. In 1976, he and his crew sailed a reconstruction of a medieval currach on the very route I’ve described. The boat, christened Brendan, was 36 feet long, had two masts, and was made with tanned ox hides sealed with wool grease and tied together with more than two miles of leather thongs. While Brendan says sailing it was like “skidding across the waves like a tea tray,” the team did make it 4,500 miles across the ocean. His book on the adventure, “The Brendan Voyage,” is a cracking good read.

Although Severin proved the Irish could have made it to America, it doesn’t mean they did. Severin had the advantage of modern nautical charts and sailed confident in the knowledge that there was indeed land where he was headed. So until archaeologists dig up a medieval Irish church in North America, it looks like St. Brendan’s voyage will remain a mystery.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Faroe Islands photo set

The Faroe Islands is a country tucked away in the Norwegian Sea. Located about halfway between Scotland and Iceland, this country is beautiful, but small. With only 540 square miles and a population of nearly 50,000, this self-governing Danish destination is thick with history and easy on the eyes. I haven’t been to this country nor do I currently have plans to go–but I hope that changes soon. Let’s just say I have plans to make plans.

Flickr user Spumador (Andrea Ricordi), a clearly talented photographer, uploaded an eye-catching photo set from his summer 2011 trip to the Faroe Islands. These moving photos have now given me incentive enough to research this country further and travel there as soon as I possibly can. Perhaps this Faroe Islands photo set will offer similar inspiration to you.

Five unusual destinations from London

London is incredibly well served as a transit hub. Collectively, London airports see more traffic than any other cluster of city airports in Europe. An impressively broad network of routes connects the city’s airports to destinations across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. For anyone predisposed to travel, this range of destinations is inspiring.

Many of the world’s most visited destinations are served from London, some along multiple routes. Many others are less well known. Among these are the following five truly unusual destinations.

1. Ascension Island. This Atlantic Ocean island, hundreds of miles south of the Equator and well over one thousand miles from the African and South American coasts, hosts a joint US/UK air force military base and a European Space Agency tracking station. It is also home to one of the world’s very few GPS ground antennas. To fly to Ascension Island, hop aboard a military plane bound for the Falkland Islands at Brize Norton Royal Air Force base in Oxfordshire, west of London. Upon arrival, laze about on the knockout beach above.

2. Hassi Messaoud, Algeria. Monarch flies to the inland oil town of Hassi Messaoud in Ouargla Province from London-Gatwick, though you have to book your ticket through Jet Air. This route is designed to ferry oil company workers to and fro, and you can expect to shell out just over £1050 for a round trip ticket. While this is most definitely not standard tourist territory, it might just be the ticket for oil industry hobbyists, of which there are no doubt a handful. Somewhere.

3. Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. Atlantic Airways, the Faroese national carrier, flies between London Stansted and the Faroe Islands from early June through early September. The Faroes, which lie north of Scotland, are a truly glorious (if extremely expensive) summer destination for whale watching, hiking, fishing, and birdwatching.

4. Sylhet, Bangladesh. Most of the UK’s Bangladeshi population has ancestral ties to Bangladesh’s Sylhet region. It’s not surprising then that there are links between London and the region’s biggest city, also named Sylhet. Connections are provided by United Airways (BD) (not to be confused with US carrier United) and Biman Bangladesh. United’s route stops in Dubai and Dhaka along the way; the Biman Bangladesh link is flown via Dubai. The region, known as Sylhet Division, is verdant and lush and full of tea plantations.

5. Sion, Switzerland. This tiny airport in the canton of Valais is served by just two airlines. From mid-December through April, an airline called Snowjet operated by Titan Airways connects Sion and London Stansted. Sion is 45 minutes by road from Verbier, the most stylish of Switzerland’s Four Valleys ski towns.

[Image of Ascension Island: Drew Avery | Flickr]