Faroe Islands - Gjógv

Faroe Islands: country guide

We have been seeing a lot of photos from Faroe Islands from some of the Instagrammers we’ve been following for a while so it didn’t take us long to find a destination for our wedding anniversary trip.

Note: To celebrate our wedding anniversaries, Kwasi and I have agreed to some ground rules:

  1. We will always be in a different country (i.e.: not in France where we got married, not in Sweden where we celebrate anniversary number one, not in Hungary where we celebrated number two)
  2. We will celebrate in style either in a great restaurant or a great event
  3. We will not buy each other presents.

Getting to Faroe Islands

We booked tickets with Atlantic Airways from Reykjavik to Vagar, the only airport in the islands. Atlantic is the only airline bringing passengers to the Faroe Islands and they only have three airplanes.

The airport is very small but really nice. They have a few car rental agencies, one cafe, one shop and one information point.

Faroe Islands - Typical landscape
Typical landscape of Faroe Islands

Getting around the Faroe Islands

I would really recommend booking your own transport, i.e. renting a car. We went with Avis, but saw a Faroese travel agency that seemed quite good too: 62°N. We ended up with the smallest car (a Kia Picanto) and I would recommend going for one of two categories above that. The roads are really good but they are barely flat and let me just say the Picanto didn’t do really well when we had to go up!

We used sub-sea tunnels, bridges and ferries to go from one island to the next and everything was very smooth.

Sub-sea tunnels are not cheap. It’s about £15 return. You don’t have to pay at the entrance, cameras scan your licence plate and keep a record. For people with their own cars, they have to pay at a petrol station. For people with car rentals, the fees will be added to your final bill.

Some tunnels only have a single road and they will tell you in advance which side has priority so you know if you have to move to the side to give way to other cars.

Faroe Islands - Sheep shelter
Sheep shelter on the hike to Drangarnir

 

Where to sleep in Faroe Islands

I’ll tell you what we’ve done but if I were to do it again I would do it differently. We booked an Airbnb flat, one of the best we’ve ever stayed in actually. The flat was the basement of a house located in Hoyvik, just outside Tórshavn, the capital, on the Streymoy island. We used it as our base and everyday we would go to other islands and come back int he evening.

The reason why I would do it differently is sub-sea tunnels. You have to pay each time you use one and you have to use them. So I would plan better and make sure to avoid the sub-sea tunnels.

Faroe Islands - Kirkjubøur
Kirkjubøur

What to see/do in the Faroe Islands

We had about four days in total in the Faroe Islands and we made a list of the key things we wanted to see. Most of the attractions require hiking and I really enjoyed that.

Vágar

  1. SørvágsvatnAs soon as we picked up the car from the Airport, we drove to a small parking lot to start our first hike. We walk on one side of the famous lake to reach some cliffs. this is where you can see the lake as if it was floating over the ocean. This was a very easy hike (so easy we did it twice!) and there is a clear path hikers can follow. You can park. On the main road, turn onto the road by the church in Miðvágur. From there, follow the signs to “Trælanípa/Bøsdalafossur” until you reach a parting spot. Go through the gate and walk along the gravel path until there isn’t one clear path but many smaller ones. We went on top of Trælanípa (turning left) for the views of the lake and to Bøsdalafossur (turning right) to see the lake falling into the ocean.
    Faroe Islands - Turf-roofed sheep shelters around Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn
    Turf-roofed sheep shelters around Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn

     

    Faroe Islands - Turf-roofed sheep shelters around Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn
    Turf-roofed sheep shelters around Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn

     

    Faroe Islands - Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn
    Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn

     

    Faroe Islands - Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn
    Cliffs of Sørvágsvatn

     

    Faroe Islands - Sørvágsvatn
    Sørvágsvatn


  2. GásadalurGásadalur is home to the beautiful waterfall Múlafossur. I love the fact that before a tunnel opened in 2005, you could only get to the village by foot, boat or helicopter. We reached the village by car and parked right near the waterfall, nice and easy.
    Faroe Islands - Múlafossur
    Múlafossur Waterfall, Gásadalur

     

    Faroe Islands - Múlafossur
    Múlafossur Waterfall, Gásadalur



  3. Drangarnir, Tindhólmur 

    I hope people who want to hike to the rock formation Drangarnir will read this post as I didn’t find any information before going. There is a rough path taking you all the way so please follow it and don’t do like us, making it up and ending up at the top of a mountain, only to find out, we had to go all the way down.There are no signs but a tiny path, probably started by sheep, will lead you to the rocks. It will take you about two hours in total to get there, and another two to come back. It’s not a difficult hike (i.e. not steep) but you will walk close to the cliffs and water sometimes and it will take about 5 hours of your day in total.The path starts from the Sørvágur harbour, on the south side of Sørvágsfjørður. Keep walking until you reach a sheep herding structure, open the gate (don’t forget to close it after you) and stick to the grassy path. Make sure you walk not too far from the water, as this will make your hiker easier and shorter. After a good 45 minutes, you will reach Selvik bay, a beach with a couple of sheep shelters. Keep walking along the fjord and you’ll find the path again. It will take you to  the bottom of a waterfall, formed by the tiny river Lamba. There, you’ll see another sheep shelter. Cross the waterfall, find the path again and soon you’ll reach the lighthouse of Múlin. Once you’re at the lighthouse, you’ll be able to see Drangarnir, Tindhólmur, Gasholmur and even Mykines in the distance. It’s another 20 minutes until you’re face-to-face with Drangarnir.

    Faroe Islands - Drangarnir and Tindhólmur
    Drangarnir and Tindhólmur, Mykines in the background

     

    Faroe Islands - Drangarnir
    Drangarnir

     

    Faroe Islands - Drangarnir
    Drangarnir

    Here’s a very rough map to help future hikers. Don’t try to cut across, there are mountains and really steep places, which make the hike longer and more painful. Trust me, we tried!

Streymoy

  1. FossáFossá is the highest waterfall in the Faroe Islands. It is right near the main road and is actually not that impressive up close. The best views are on the other side of the narrow Sundini channel, on Eysturoy.
    Faroe Islands - Fossá
    Fossá

     

    Faroe Islands - Fossá
    Fossá

     

    Faroe Islands - Fossá
    Fossá as seen from Eysturoy

     

  2. TjørnuvíkOnce we had seen Fossá, we decided to keep driving on the scenic route to see where it would take us.  We ended up in picturesque Tjørnuvík, the northernmost village of the island. We parked the car and went on to the beach. Once we got there two shepherd dogs came to play fetch. We played for a while and then flew the drone over the beach. From there, we could see the two giant rocky formations of Risin and Kellingin near Eysturoy island.
    Faroe Islands - Risin and Kellingin viewed from Tjørnuvík
    Risin and Kellingin viewed from Tjørnuvík

     

  3. KirkjubøurKirkjubøur is the southernmost village on Streymoy and the village is an historically important location. There we visited three main attractions: Roykstovan, the 900 year-old farmhouse, the Ólavskirkja church and the Magnus Cathedral. This is also where Koks, the restaurant where we celebrated our anniversary, is now located.
    Faroe Islands - Kirkjubøur
    Kirkjubøur

     

    Faroe Islands - Kirkjubøur
    Magnus Cathedral, Kirkjubøur

     

    Faroe Islands - Kirkjubøur
    Kirkjubøur church

     

    Faroe Islands - Kirkjubøur
    Inside Kirkjubøur church

     

    Faroe Islands - Kirkjubøur
    Kirkjubøur

     

  4. TórshavnWe didn’t really plan on visiting Tórshavn but because we had a 14-hour delay with our outbound flight, we thought we would see what the capital was all about. We had gone to the city one night for dinner at Barbara. Our interest got picked when we saw the cluster of old wooden houses and the small cobbled streets but we didn’t have time to properly visit. with this delay, we had a chance to see more.

    The city is named after the god of lightning and thunder, Thor. What a cool name!
    We walked to the old town and wandered the narrow winding lanes and passageways, taking photos of the old wooden houses.  We walked past Tinganes, the flat rocky outcrop that divide the capital two harbours.We also had a quick look around undir Bryggjubakka, where we saw fishermen sell their morning catch and some really cute coloured houses.Finally, we toured the shopping street of Niels Finsensgøta and supported the local economy 🙂

    Faroe Islands - Tórshavn
    Old Tórshavn

     

    Faroe Islands - Tinganes
    Tinganes wooden house

     

    Faroe Islands - turf-roofed houses
    Turf-roofed houses of Tórshavn

Eysturoy

  1. Risin and KellinginWe loved the legend behind these two rocks.Once upon a time, an Icelandic chief witch sent a giant and his wife, a witch, to the Faroe Islands to steal the islands and bring them back to Iceland.  They decided to tie a rope around a mountain called Eiðiskollur, and pull the Faroe Islands towards Iceland. Like all creatures of the night, the giant and the witch knew they had to hide before the sun came up, for fear of being turned into stone. This particular night, they were so pre-occupied with their task that they failed to notice the first beams of sunlight appearing on the dark horizon. Inevitably, they were turned into stone. Ever since, the giant and the witch have stood, staring westward, longing for their home country.We tried to hike from Eiði  to see them but we stumbled upon puffins on a cliff and couldn’t go further so we turned around. The best place to see them is from Tjørnuvík, if you have a clear day.
    Faroe Islands - Risin and Kellingin
    Risin and Kellingin

     

  2. GjógvGjógv is the northermost village of Eysturoy and is named after the sea-filled gorge that runs from the village and the ocean. There are a few paths to get the best views of the gorge. The setting of the village (mountains all around) make this a great spot in the Faroe Islands.
    Faroe Islands - Gjógv
    Gjógv

     

    Faroe Islands - Gjógv
    Gjógv

     

  3. FunningurThe road to get to the village of Funningur is absolutely spectacular. I don’t skate but if I did I sure would want to skate down all the way to the village. The main attraction there is the turf-roofed church, which is located right on the edge of the water.
    Faroe Islands - Road to Funningur
    Road to Funningur

     

    Faroe Islands - Turf-roofed house in Funningur
    Turf-roofed house in Funningur

     

  4. SlættaratindurTowering at 880m, Slættaratindur is the tallest mountain of the Faroe Islands. We parked our car at Eiðisskarð, the pass between Eiði and Funningur. There we went over the fence and started climbing, it’s very steep right from the start! There isn’t a set path but all you have to do is climb in a straight line until you reach a gravel path, 45 minutes later. Make sure to stop to enjoy the breathtaking views. I recommend it now because it’s not guarantee you’ll see anything at the top. Once the path stops, all you have to do is climb a pile of stones and you’re there. I ended up being in the clouds and not seeing further than my feet but the hike was really nice.
    Faroe Islands - Views from Slættaratindur
    Views from Slættaratindur

     

    Faroe Islands - Views from Slættaratindur
    Views from Slættaratindur

     

    Faroe Islands - Views from Slættaratindur
    Views from Slættaratindur

     

    Faroe Islands - Slættaratindur
    Made it to the top – Slættaratindur

Kalsoy

  1. Kallur lighthouseTo reach Kalsoy we drove to the island of Bordoy and caught the ferry from Klaksvik. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs about 200DKK. Once you disembark, there is only one road on Kalso and you have to go under four tunnels to reach Trøllanes, the last village and the start of the hike to Kallur lighthouse.We spoke to a local right before boarding the boat and he said there is a small road turning right about halfway under the fourth tunnel and only locals go . He told us it’s a nice place with nice views and local families go there for picnics. Our sense of adventure kicked in and we thought it would be great to give it a go. It was true, after driving halfway under the tunnel, without any sign, we saw a smaller tunnel heading right so we went. It was a little bit surreal to take a turn in a tunnel but we were rewarded with great views in this valley. We didn’t linger too long as we have to make our way to Trøllanes, hike to the Kallur lighthouse and back, and drive back to the harbour to reach the last ferry back (6.30pm).
    Faroe Islands - Kunoy seen from Kalsoy
    Kunoy seen from Kalsoy



    We parked the car in the small village of Trøllanes and headed west until we reached the fence. There we found a wooden red gate, which you have to open (and close) to start the hike. We easily found a path and easily reached the lighthouse within 30 minutes. There are two smaller paths from there, one taking up the cliff and the second one (not for the faint-hearted) to get cool views of the huge cliff and the lighthouse at the same time. We went back the same way we came and managed to catch our ferry back.

    Faroe Islands - Hiking in Kalsoy
    Hiking in Kalsoy

     

    Faroe Islands - Kallur lighthouse
    Kallur lighthouse
    Faroe Islands - Kallur lighthouse
    Kallur lighthouse

     

    Faroe Islands - Kallur lighthouse
    Kallur lighthouse

Where to eat on the Faroe Islands

Most of our meals consisted of sandwiches made in the car or pasta cooked in our Hoyvik flat. However, we came to the islands with a booking to the only michelin-starred restaurant Koks to celebrate our wedding anniversary and we also enjoyed a candle-lit dinner at fish restaurant Barbara.

Faroe Islands - Ræstur fiskur
Ræstur fiskur: air-dried fermented fish

 

Barbara

Barbara is a Spanish inspired tapas fish house, using very fresh local produce. Kwasi went for the tasting menu and I ordered three tapas. To go with our meal, we ordered the local brew Föroya Bjór.

Faroe Islands - Barbara restaurant
Table and menu at Barbara

 

Faroe Islands - Barbara restaurant
Table at Barbara

 

Faroe Islands - Barbara restaurant
Horse mussels and Föroya Bjór

 

Faroes Islands - Barbara restaurant
Tapas dishes at Barbara

 

Koks

One of the rules of our anniversary trip is to celebrate in a fancy restaurant, Koks was our only option in the Faroe Islands and we couldn’t be happier about it. We drove to Kirkjubøur and our 7.30pm booking was perfect timing. We had the best sunset and our table overlooking the water was the perfect place to admire it. At Koks, there is no menu, everybody is served the same thing, a tasting menu of 17 dishes made with fresh local produce.

Here’s a list of our dishes:

  1. Sea urchin with lemon juice and pickled parsley stems
  2. Cod skin sandwich filled with fulmar (local sea bird) egg white, whale blabber and parsley
  3. Poached limpet (seasnails) dropped in pea and lemon foam flavoured with smoked cod roe
  4. Pan-fried and turf smoked langoustine with pine needles
  5. Ræst (3-month wind dried and fermented) lamb glazed with lamb jus, parsley, fermented cabbage and horseradish on rye bread with symbolic flour worms
  6. Skerpikjøt (6-month fermented) lamb with dried reindeer lichen, cream of fermented dehydrated and rehydrated mushroom with lingonberries, served with sea truffle (seaweed)
  7. Grated fermented cod fish with fermented lamb gut sauce served on cheese cookie
  8. Palette cleansing rhubarb compote in nasturtium leaves
  9. Tartare of halibut with fresh cheese, cucumber, baked buckwheat and topped with watercress
  10. Turnip, roasted seaweed sauce, lovage and brown butter
  11. Raw 120-year old Mahogany clam, served with emulsion of sea sandwort, foraged herbs, clam juices and dill
  12. Bacalao (cod) with blue mussel and parsley sauce
  13. Pan-fried whale heart, chopped and mixed with burnt beetroot, elderberries and rose petals, pepper and angelica shoots
  14. Pan-fried lamb back served with carrots, lamb sauce with wild thyme and green gooseberries
  15. Redflower currant and sorrel sorbet
  16. Yoghurt flavoured topped with blueberries, crystallised chocolate and dulse seaweed
  17. Sweets to coffee: Góðarað (cardamom sweet cookie) with rhubarb compote, angelica and chocolate with blueberry and thyme

 

Koks - Sea urchin with lemon juice and pickled parsley stems
Sea urchin with lemon juice and pickled parsley stems

 

KOKS - Cod skin sandwich filled with fulmar (local sea bird) egg white, whale blabber and parsley
Cod skin sandwich filled with fulmar (local sea bird) egg white, whale blabber and parsley

 

KOKS - Pan-fried and turf smoked langoustine with pine needles
Pan-fried and turf smoked langoustine with pine needles

 

KOKS - Ræst (3-month wind dried and fermented) lamb glazed with lamb jus, parsley, fermented cabbage and horseradish on rye bread with symbolic flour worms
Ræst (3-month wind dried and fermented) lamb glazed with lamb jus, parsley, fermented cabbage and horseradish on rye bread with symbolic flour worms

 

Skerpikjøt (6-month fermented) lamb with dried reindeer lichen, cream of fermented dehydrated and rehydrated mushroom with lingonberries, served with sea truffle (seaweed)
Skerpikjøt (6-month fermented) lamb with dried reindeer lichen, cream of fermented dehydrated and rehydrated mushroom with lingonberries, served with sea truffle (seaweed)

 

KOKS - Grated fermented cod fish with fermented lamb gut sauce served on cheese cookie
Grated fermented cod fish with fermented lamb gut sauce served on cheese cookie

 

KOKS - Palette cleansing rhubarb compote in nasturtium leaves
Palette cleansing rhubarb compote in nasturtium leaves

 

KOKS - Tartare of halibut with fresh cheese, cucumber, baked buckwheat and topped with watercress
Tartare of halibut with fresh cheese, cucumber, baked buckwheat and topped with watercress

 

KOKS - Turnip, roasted seaweed sauce, lovage and brown butter
Turnip, roasted seaweed sauce, lovage and brown butter

 

KOKS - Raw 120-year old Mahogany clam, served with emulsion of sea sandwort, foraged herbs, clam juices and dill
Raw 120-year old Mahogany clam, served with emulsion of sea sandwort, foraged herbs, clam juices and dill

 

And for the amateur of wines, I wasn’t driving so had the privilege of getting the wine pairing:

  1. NV “Langitude” Larmandier – Bernier Champagne, France (dishes 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Sercial 1999, D’Oliveiras Madeira, Portugal (dishes 4, 5, 6 and 7)
  3. Pinot Bianco “Vorberg” 2014, Kellerei Terlan, Alto Adige, Italy (dish 9)
  4. Montagny 1er cru 2014, J.M. Boillot, Bourgogne, France (dish 10)
  5. Verdejo 2015, Belondrade y Lurton Rueda, Spain (dishes 11 and 12)
  6. Pinot Noir “Unter den Terrassen” 2012, Umathum Burgenland, Austria (dishes 13 and 14)
  7. Riesling Spatlese “Bernkasteler Badstube” 2006, S.A Prum Mosel, Germany (dishes 15, 16 an 17)

They also serve a juice pairing menu but Kwasi opted for a glass of Montagny 1er cru instead.

It was an incredible menu, which took about three hours to get through. I have really enjoyed the seafood and the fresh herbs. I’m also glad to have tried the results of the different Faroese conservation techniques.

What to shop the Faroe Islands

This is not the destination that has great arts and crafts like Morocco but knowing that you get the tax back when you leave the country makes shopping there even more satisfying. the Faroe Islands are not technically part of the European Union so you can claim tax back at the airport.

So I decided to go for something made locally with local “ingredients” a woolly jumper with Faroese patterns.  The same one Sarah Lund wears in The Killing. I didn’t really know when I bought it from Gudrun & Gudrun.

And for the philatelists out there, the Faroese stamps are apparently quite rare. Probably because of the size of the country but also because they can use Danish stamps.

Faroe Islands - Saksun
Little wooden house overlooking the lagoon in Saksun

Now we’ve seen the Faroe Islands in summer, vibrant green, we’d like to come and experience them in the cold, white winter. Watch this space…