Sadly, after our trip to Viðareiði, it was time to head back to our Airbnb in Svínáir, have one last night gazing over the Sundini Sound while enjoying the late night sun, and then pack up and head off to the airport (a journey of multiple bridges and tunnels). Our last stop before the airport was heading into nearby Sørvágur to fill up the tank on the rental car, and that brings me nicely to a last little topic on Faroese dining: Gas Stations. One mildly frustrating aspect as a tourist is that the Faroes still follow old-school European shopping hours. By that, I mean that that most everything closes implausibly early, despite the late summer sun. So evening hours for businesses are pretty rate, and most everything much more limited on Saturday. On Sunday, a substantial fraction of places are closed. Add into that, aside from the major towns (Tórshavn and Klaksvík), most of the towns don’t have much in the way of retail, grocery, or light sundries. But that doesn’t mean that people do without. Like Iceland, there’s one common institution that that is there to serve you when most everything else is closed, or you need some food when no other restaurant is to be found. That’s the gas station.
On our last full day in the Faroes, we drove to the north end of Esturoy so we could climb up Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroes (albeit just 2890 ft). While we had some tremendous views on our way up, we soon found ourselves encased in thick clouds and decided to descend and use our last day exploring a few of the villages in the Faroes that we hadn’t already visited. So we soon found ourselves in the far Northeast corner of the islands, enjoying the pleasant village of Viðareiði. The village is quite picturesque, lying on a narrow isthmus on the island of Viðoy connecting two fairly impressive mountains (by Faroes standards), Malinsfjall to the south, and Villingdalsfjall which includes Cape Enniberg, the second highest sea cliff in Europe at 754 meters (2,474 ft). Alas, the same weather that caused us to turn around on Slættaratindur also kept us from attempting Villingdalsfjall. So instead, we enjoyed the views from the village, explored the church and graveyard, and then wandered over to the restaurant. Restaurant? Yes, unlike most of the remote villages, Viðareiði actually has a rather nice restaurant, Matstovan hjá Elisabeth (roughly translates as “Elisabeth’s Dining Room”)
Our next excursion in the Faroe Islands was taking a ferry to the Island of Kalsoy. A rugged, steep island in the middle of the Northern Faroes, Kalsoy is lightly populated and is one of the more picturesque locations, with a series of idyllic valleys (connected by even more tunnels), and the stunningly cute village of Trøllanes on the north end. It’s also the locale for a phenomenally scenic hike, the hike from Trøllanes up to Kallur Lighthouse, where you get a stunning panorama of five islands (Viðoy, Kunoy, Kalsoy itself, Eysturoy, and Streymoy). This was one of the finest views I’ve had anywhere (and one of the most-photographed views of the Faroes). Afterward, we took the ferry back to Klaksvik, the second-largest city in the Faroes. While it’s a sizeable settlement, and definitely more of a “city” than most of the little villages, the options are still a bit limited for restaurants, with the choices being listed on one hand. After enjoying a pair of beers at Roykstovan (a charming little pub just down from the Föroya Bjór brewery), their menu mostly focuses on burgers, and we were wanting something different. So instead we walked a block down the street, finding Big Stan Pizza and Grill.
After we got back from Mykines, we did some more exploring around Streymoy and ended up back in Tórshavn for dinner. From 1940 to 1948 the Faroe Islands were under British rule, since the British pre-emptively “invaded” after Denmark fell to the Germans to protect the islands from also falling into German hands. While that occupation was shorter than the American occupation (and later post-war NATO presence), the British occupation did leave a lot of little bits of evidence all around the Faroes. Old foundations of observations posts in the mountains. Artillery pieces on the hill over Tórshavn’s harbor. The airport itself was originally built by the British (with its locations chosen since it was well-protected from naval bombardment). And, on a cultural front, a love for fish and chips. One of the better places in the Faroe Islands to get “Fiskur v. Kipsi” is called “Fish and Chips” (again, the Faroese tendency towards relatively simple names for places).
As I mentioned in my discussion on self-catering, there are a certain number of star attractions in the Faroes that every first time visitor should really check out. Probably the best one is Mykines, the westernmost island. The island is only lightly inhabited, with a single village (also called Mykines), that’s a cluster of about 40 houses, most of which are only vacation houses now. And some of the best bird nesting grounds in the world, especially for puffins. But getting there is fun; it’s one of the few islands that’s not reachable by road. Your options are the twice-a-day ferry from Sørvágur (that books up well in advance) or helicopter from Vagar airport. Both are subject to cancellation due to high winds (indeed, helicopter flights were canceled most of the time we were out there), or high waves. They also warn you to bring some cash, basic toiletries, and patience, since it’s not unknown for people to get stranded for days at a time on Mykines due to helicopter and ferry cancelations (the author of my guidebook got caught out there for 7 days, and there’s an entire Danish novel and miniseries about a minister whose wife left him while he was stranded for two weeks on Mykines). It’s truly a fabulous place. The village is isolated and almost a small world unto itself. The hike out to the Lighthouse is a truly iconic hike with some great views. And even better, the hike goes through some of the densest bird nesting grounds in the Atlantic, with literally millions of puffins, gannets, fulmar, kittiwakes, and other island birds. But after the hike, we sauntered back to the village, and while the weather was favorable for our return to the mainland via boat, our return trip wasn’t for another two hours, so we decided to get lunch. Well, with a permanent population of 11, Kristianshus (“Christian’s House”) is almost the entirety of commerce (and government) for the village, serving as the hotel, restaurant, and, well, whatever else is needed in the village.
“Faroese Cuisine” isn’t generally one of the well-known cuisines in Europe. But the Faroe Islands do have one restaurant that’s frequently mentioned as an actual culinary destination, with regular mentions in such publications as The New York Times, The Guardian, and even The Economist! That place is Koks. Located in a converted house overlooking the scenic village of Kirkjubøur, Koks is a fine dining restaurant that, like many others, prides themselves in local ingredients and traditions. It’s just that here, chef Poul Andrias Ziska is using the local ingredients and traditions of the Faroes, which are quite interesting indeed.
While we generally had a great time in the Faroe Islands, especially on the culinary front, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the broader Faroe Island dining scene from a tourist’s perspective. The Faroe Islands themselves are rather small (about 60,000 permanent inhabitants), and aside from the occasional festival or special event (the Klaksvik Summer Festival or the 2015 Solar Eclipse being good examples), aside from Tórshavn (which gets the occasional cruise ship and regular stops by the Smyril Line ferry between Denmark and Iceland), the tourism amenities drop off precipitously once you leave Tórshavn (with a minor exception for Klaskvik, the second largest town). Indeed, there are quite a few towns where the dining options, and heck, even the food options like stores, are limited. So it’s always important to plan ahead a bit.
At the end of our first full day exploring the Faroe Islands (including some stunningly awesome sea cliffs), we found ourselves back in Tórshavn for dinner. When trying to figure out which option to try for dinner (unlike most of the rest of the Faroes, Tórshavn has a reasonably good selection of good restaurants), one of the options was “sushi”. And, since one of the ever-present sights while driving through the many fjords of the Faroes is the giant, circular aquaculture pens, I figured this would be a good opportunity to try some of the salmon. With that in mind, we decided to tryout out Etika, the only actual sushi restaurant in the Faroe Islands.
After finally settling into our hostel late at night and having a pleasant nights’ rest despite the still significant light level for 62 degrees of latitude in July, the next morning we awoke and start out exploring the greater Tórshavn area in earnest. We soon found ourselves downtown, exploring the particularly nice harbor area, and, once businesses started opening for the morning, checking out one place located right on the waterfront: Kaffihúsið. (As an aside, I’ll mention that, once you start to learn the translations for various names, you learn that the Faroese seem to like rather simple names for places and businesses. Kaffihúsið means… “Coffee House”).
Continuing the Offbeat Eats tradition of going places that are, well, offbeat, our goal this year was to finally visit the Faroe Islands. Originally coming up on our radar during the trip to Iceland, a few simple google image searches quickly found that, while most Americans had never actually heard of the Faroes, they are a wonderland of hiking and puffin-watching. So after a few years of planning, this year we finally did our trip, so after a short layover in Iceland, we boarded a plane at the Reykjavik Domestic Airport (walking distance from downtown), and, without any customs or immigration, and a very pleasant flight on Atlantic Airways involving two shockingly short runways, we soon found ourselves arriving at Vagar Airport at 8pm local time. The timing of our flight from Reykjavik to Vagar was pretty lousy: by the time we got our luggage, got our rental car, and drove the tunnels and fjords to get to Torshavn, it was 9:55 pm, and pretty much all the dining options in Tórshavn on a Monday night were closed. Except for the restaurant in the adjacent 4 star hotel, Gras, which was nice enough to let two slightly disheveled travelers eat at the dinner buffet that had technically closed at 9:30.