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The Faroe Islands Will “Close” Again to All but 100 Volunteers—and You Could Be 1 of Them

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In 2020, volunteers will be able to work on projects like repairing the hiking trail at the top of Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands.

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In 2020, volunteers will be able to work on projects like repairing the hiking trail at the top of Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands.

After the success of the inaugural “Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism” pilot project, the Faroe Islands is seeking another 100 people to help make tourism in the remote archipelago more sustainable.

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The Faroe Islands are famously home to more sheep than people. But considering that tourism to the remote island archipelago southeast of Iceland has increased 10 percent a year over the past five years, it’s no surprise that the government is more concerned about the overpopulation of tourists than sheep.

To make sure the islands don’t begin to suffer the effects of overtourism, the Faroe Islands has decided to close some of its most popular tourism sites once again from April 16 to 17, 2020, to complete various maintenance projects to make travel more sustainable throughout the country. Following the success of the pilot Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism project in April 2019, the Faroe Islands government will welcome another 100 voluntourists to help out with the projects—and you could be among them.

In exchange for their work, the 100 volunteers will have room and board covered—including a celebratory dinner on Friday night with locals—plus transportation around the island. But this isn’t an entirely free trip.

Volunteers this year helped expand infrastructure at popular sites like the famous “hanging lake” in Miðvágur.

How to apply

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After visitfaroeislands.com experienced a DDoS attack on the initial sign-up date, Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the registration process has changed slightly. Starting at 10 a.m. EST on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, you’ll have 24 hours to register your personal information at visitfaroeislands.com. At that point, 100 people will be randomly chosen from those who signed up (more than 3,500 people applied for the inaugural program). Visit Faroe Islands will contact those 100 lucky people by email on November 18 with a link to book a flight from Copenhagen on Atlantic Airways, the national airline of the Faroe Islands, for 1,666 Danish krones (US$245). If any of those people don’t book that flight within 24 hours of receiving the email, another person will be randomly chosen to join the maintenance crew until all 100 slots are filled.

Volunteers will need to be available for two full days of work on April 16 and 17, 2020, so you’ll have to arrive by at least April 15 and leave on or after April 18 to participate. Volunteers are welcome to travel around the country on their own before and after the official program dates, as well.

In addition to the Atlantic Airways flight between Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands, volunteers will also be responsible for paying their own fare to Copenhagen. At press time, a Google Flights search shows that flights from New York to Copenhagen during the week of the volunteer program cost in the mid-$300s for British Airways and Finnair flights with layovers. Nonstop SAS flights cost in the low $800s.

In 2019, volunteers built a new route to the puffin colonies on Mykines island.

What the volunteers will do

Those who secure a spot on the upcoming 2020 trip will participate in 1 of 14 different projects throughout the islands. Volunteers will get to work at places like Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands, to help make the last stretch of the hike safer for climbers. Other projects will include repairing hiking paths that have eroded over the years.

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Some of the first projects in 2019 included building new paths for hikers and expanding the infrastructure and signage at popular destinations like the “hanging lake” in Miðvágur and the island of Mykines, where you can visit puffin colonies. 

Volunteers will be expected to use hammers, wheelbarrows, and shovels during the projects, but no special skills are necessary to participate.

To sign up, visit visitfaroeislands.com/closed.

This article originally appeared online on February 20, 2019; it was updated on November 11, 2019, and again on November 13, 2019, to include current information.

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