Hiking in the Faroe Islands

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck

Not so long ago, access to and from the small village of Gásadalur was only via a strenuous route through the highest mountains on the island of Vágar. It was the last town in the Faroes to be connected by road until a tunnel was blasted through the mountain in 2004. With a striking waterfall at the base of the town, it has since become one of the hallmarks of the Faroe Islands. We visited it twice to capture it in different conditions, but I personally could not help but be drawn instead to the surrounding peaks. With a day left to spare in our itinerary, we spoke to a guide from a previous excursion about taking that arduous old postal route. He insisted that it was his favourite trails for hiking in the Faroe Islands, but was also concerned for our safety.

“I have seen your walking skills,” he said to me. “I think you should only do that hike if you have walking sticks.”

Ouch. I thought I had the whole left-foot-then-right-foot thing down pat. (Or maybe it should be right-foot-then-left-foot? I am so confused.)

I did appreciate his blunt honesty though – I fully acknowledge my own klutziness and the fact that any hike in the Faroes should not be taken lightly. With few signed paths to guide hikers and weather that can turn brutal in a moment, each needs to be taken with care.

Sound daunting? Maybe a bit. But that is what adventure is all about, and each of these excursions are also undeniably worth every effort.

Mykines

Another hallmark of the Faroe Islands, we say with confidence that this island offered the most stunning hiking we’ve ever done. Consider also that access to the island is only possible by boat or helicopter, and a trip to Mykines becomes a truly unforgettable outing.

Head due west from town to hit the lighthouse, walking through fields shared with sheep, down steep steps along a cliffside, and across a bridge through a narrow strait teeming with bird life. This is an excellent place to see puffins when puffins are there – unfortunately low herring populations mean that they haven’t returned for the past two years.

“I’ve seen your walking skills,” he said to me. “I think you should only do that hike if you have walking sticks.”
Mykines Lighthouse

The destination!

Mykines
Farthest Point West on the Faroe Islands

Steep Hike Mykines

Gjógv

This was our first hike in the Faroes, and it gave us an astounding introduction.

In the northern part of the village is a gorge, walking along the outer bank of it will lead you up a sheep path that will give spectacular views back onto the neighbourhood. The going is slow with every few steps offering a photo op as waves crash below and white mist creeps up the cliff. We continued up until we got to a closed gate with a sign written in Faroese. Estimating that it was a private property sign we didn’t continue on. We later found out that we could have continued on past the gate. It did mean private, but everybody ignores that and continues on their way up the cliff.

Gjógv Hike

Near the starting point, above the gorge.

Path to Gjógv

Gjøgv view

Our first views of Gjógv

No Entry

Keep Out?

Saksun

A journey to the top of Streynoy island led us to Saksun. After parking the car we headed straight down the path towards the water, having read that it was possible to reach the sea. Immediately to our right was a huge veil-like waterfall ending in the lake at the bottom of the valley. The path led us along the western shore and we eventually made it to the black sand beach at the bottom.

Along this beach we never felt quite so alone and desolate anywhere else on the islands – the chill of howling winds dug deep while we stepped over partially decomposed animal bones. After exploring more of the beach we contemplated continuing on around the corner to get a glimpse of the North Atlantic, but the wind bit so fierce that we opted instead to make our way back to our car.

Saksun
Saksun Beach
Bones at Saksun

Kalsoy

We’ve already told this story about Kalsoy Faroe Islands. We made an attempt to reach the lighthouse at Kallur on the island of Kalsoy but lack of directions, extremely soggy conditions and the threat of more rain were the excuses we gave for not finding it.

Granted we did make the most of our day by exploring other parts of the island. But reaching this lighthouse is one of many reasons we are vowing to return to these islands.

Hike on Kalsoy

Kirkjubøur

Why drive to this important cultural spot when you can walk 7km over a mountain to it? Our destination was the small village of Kirkjubøur, the spiritual center of the Faroese society in the Middle Ages, and we were led by a local guide directly up one side of the mountain and down the other to get there. Along the way we passed cairns (pyramids of stones built to guide the way), and rocks carefully arranged as “speakers chair” and used as a meeting place for the Faroese over a century ago. Wind and fog prevented us lingering for long on the hill.

Hike to Kirkjubøur
Kirkjubøur

Sørvágsvatn

Beguiling images online brought us to this destination. Twice. A miscommunication with our guide meant that we actually walked right past the desired spot the first time, and so we knew we must return as our days wound down. Walking up a specific cliff would give us the perspective of the largest lake in the Faroes as an infinity pool, and that shot was not one we were going to miss.

To start, find the “old houses by the biggest lake” (you really do need no further instructions then that). Walk along the east side of it and trek as far as you can go to see a waterfall cascade over the edge into the sea below. On the way back, climb up the highest cliff to get the infinity perspective looking back. The whole trip should take 3-4 hours.

Hike at Sørvágsvatn
Rest at Sørvágsvatn
Waterfall at Sørvágsvatn
Infinity Pool at Sørvágsvatn
Sørvágsvatn Cliffs

More Tips for Hiking in the Faroe Islands

There are a few things to keep in mind when venturing out.

1. Tell somebody what your plans are. Nobody will probably know you are gone and most likely you will not see too many other people on your hike. If something goes wrong at least somebody might have an idea where you might be.

2. Be prepared. Bring extra clothing, food and water. Weather can change very quickly and people have been known to get caught in storms.

3. Don’t expect there to be a map or even a path. Your shoes will get soaked (waterproof is recommended) and they will be caked in mud and sheep shit. Basically everywhere on the islands is a walking path. Don’t be afraid to explore, but be aware of your surroundings.

4. Don’t get too close to the edge. There is a rock on top of Mykines which is a memorial to those who have gone over the edge. There are usually no guard rails to prevent this.

5. It is recommended to bring a partner. Everyone likes their quiet time, and even I like to climb mountains on my own. But this is one destination where having someone else there to keep our limits in check certainly helps. Again, if anything should go wrong (and it can) having a second person there will always help.

For more tips and information on hiking in the Islands, this is an excellent resource.

Where To Stay

High-end Hotel Foroyar is about a 5-10 minute drive from the Tórshavn city center, but the distance provides fantastic views over the city, harbor, and islands!

Check reviews | Book this hotel

Mid-range
Hotel Hafina is located in the Tórshavn city center, and according to the reviews has amazing views and great food!

Check reviews | Book this hotel

Budget Guesthouse Marknagil is great for budget-seekers. This guesthouse is 30 minutes from town but provides everything needed to have a wonderful stay on the Faroe Islands.

Check reviews | Book this hotel

Gjaargardur Guesthouse in Gjogv has fantastic food and an equally amazing view! One guest called it “the only but the best place in town.”

Check reviews | Book this hotel

Our trip was courtesy of Visit Faroe Islands. As always, all opinions are our own.

35 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Angela Carberry
    July 6 2015

    In view of their policy regarding the slaughter of the pilot whales it’s unlikely I’d ever visit this area although the scenery is fantastic.

    • July 6 2015

      Hello Angela, I can appreciate your opinion on this matter, but I just want to say a couple of things about it.

      I know that the photos that emerge after the grind are horrific, but I hope you have done (or do) some research about what actually goes on. We are not experts by any means, but we have read a lot about it, and for us it is definitely not such a clear cut issue.

      Also, if we were to boycott every country where there were animal rights issues, we couldn’t go to Japan or Iceland for the same reasons, we wouldn’t visit any country where there are the popular “swim with dolphins” programs (which is a lot of countries), and we also couldn’t visit our home country or the USA for the horrendous ways that they treat cattle and other animals raised for human consumption (which is horrendous and way worse than the whale situation). And so on and so on! I am sure that no country is immune or innocent – thus we don’t believe boycotting to be the answer.

      • July 12 2015

        I had never heard of the grind before so went searching for information. This article written by organizers of the grind shows why boycotting would never work.

        I am in agreement with you – it is not a clear cut issue
        Natalie recently posted..8 of the Best Museums in Istanbul

    • Aaron
      June 11 2016

      Oh god just shut up you idiot

  • July 6 2015

    Seriously – that first photo is messing with my head! Such a great shot. This Faroe Islands look incredible.
    CAm recently posted..What we’ve been up to lately… Vegas, Tough Mudder and future travel plans

    • July 6 2015

      The are astounding Cam! The most beautiful place we have ever been!

      • Alessandro
        July 10 2016

        Hi Dalene, even better than Iceland? We’re heading to Faroe, but don’t know exactly what to expect…

        • July 10 2016

          You know what, we liked it better than Iceland. However the weather for us in Iceland was absolutely crap, so that made a difference. The big bonus to the Faroe Islands is that the scenery is similar, but it’s not near as touristy. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

  • Carolyn Chang
    July 6 2015

    I just started reading your blogs, I enjoy all of your posts. I especially liked the blog on Ann Arbor & Detroit, I’m from Dearborn.
    I liked reading about the Faroe Islands, it looks very peaceful and scenic. Your writing and photographs helped take me there, I hope to visit one day. Keep up the great blog posts, I enjoy them.

    • July 6 2015

      Thank you so much Carolyn! And welcome to the blog. 🙂

  • July 6 2015

    Your beautiful photos really capture the Faroe Islands. I was there a few years back for a couple of days as we journeyed from Iceland to Denmark. It was an amazing stopover. Loved the grass roofs and the unspoiled beauty of the place. It really is unworldly. Sorry you didn’t see puffins. They are adorable.
    Tag Along Deb recently posted..How to get a SIM card in Bangaluru, India

    • July 6 2015

      Thankfully we’ve managed to see puffins before. But it is sad they aren’t there right now, I hope they make it back!

  • July 7 2015

    It looks amazing! One place I’d actually voluntarily go on a hike.

    (Also, I totally feel better about my own abysmal hiking skills now. Haha.)
    Amanda recently posted..The Place Everyone Will Tell You to Visit in Spain

  • July 8 2015

    Beautiful and truly wanderlust inspiring — per usual. 🙂 Prior to starting to travel seriously and longterm I had never been on a hike — nature walks yes, but serious hiking no. After the first on in Siberia I was hooked, and now Faroe is on the top of the list. In terms of safety — I assume there is no cell phone reception so if you are in trouble, there is no immediate communication?
    Jenia recently posted..Hipster Beautiful Budapest

    • July 9 2015

      In most places we had at least connection to be able to call, but just not data to look up info. 🙂

  • I have to admit that we don’t have any plans to visit the Faroe Islands; I was just reading this to drool over the beautiful photos and day dream about a hiking trip. Hmmm. Maybe we will have some plans to visit the Faroe Islands one day after all. Seeing puffins has always been a dream of mine….
    Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out recently posted..Jumping Manta Rays! Photos from Puerto Escondido, Mexico

  • Wow – Jealous with capital J! The company I work for also sells trips to the Faroe Islands so occasionally I see colleagues coming back from their studytrips with the most amazing pictures … they told me about the scary trail as well, would be so much fun to try. Looking forward to reading more about these unique places in the world!
    antonette – we12travel recently posted..Pinterest: this is how you do it!

  • July 12 2015

    What fabulous hiking! That Gjogv hike along the sea coast looks quite special. Stunning evocative photos… And there are so few people on the Faroe Islands – it must have felt quite strange in our otherwise crowded planet…
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..Bears at Joffre Lakes?

  • July 13 2015

    It looks like the best bits of Denmark and Ireland thrown into a pot, topped off with a bit of magic and a side of sheep and—voila!—you’ve got the Faroe Islands.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..What to Do When the Airline Loses Your Luggage

  • August 8 2015

    Hello there! We’re making a quick trip to the Faroes (2.5 days). What would you top not-miss destinations be? Would love to know if you preferred Kolsoy or Mykines? We will have a car!

    Thanks so much!

    • August 10 2015

      Ooh! That is a tough decision. Mykines is kind of a MUST DO – the helicopter ride itself is worth the trip (and very inexpensive). So I would give the nod to Mykines, but definitely also do Kalsoy if you can. Oh, and Gjogv. 🙂

      • August 10 2015

        THANKS so much! Can you do Mykines in one day? Figuring out the helicopters is confusing and I can’t seem to find any that do a day return.

        Really appreciate the advice!

  • I can’t wait to visit this place. The Faroe Islands have been on my radar. Your photos are amazing!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..PHOTOS: Patterns and textures in the Bangalore Palace

  • April 1 2016

    So gorgeous!! I never really considered the Faroe Islands until seeing all your amazing stories and photography
    Jade Johnston recently posted..10 Photos That Will Take You To Cambodia

  • Max Farrens
    April 13 2016

    Hi! I am about to head to the Faroes for a week after a stay in Iceland. I was wondering if I could ask some questions/get advice about things to do, places to stay, ways to get around, etc?

    Thanks! (also these photos are stunning!!!)

  • August 23 2016

    Just stumbled across you blog as I was looking for hiking information about the Faroe Islands – I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before! Definitely seems like a great place outside of mainstream Denmark to do some exploring. You think hiring a guide is essential for traveling here?
    Ron Robbins recently posted..Top Things to do & Attractions in Puerto Rico

  • December 16 2016

    hey Dalene,

    maybe I’ve overlooked but in which season did you went? I’m also looking for a trail I can’t walk let’s say around 100 k, 5 or 6 days. Can’t find a signed trail.

    greets, Bart

    • December 16 2016

      Hi Bart – we went in mid-May. Sorry I can’t help you re. such a trek, but I would suggest checking in with the tourism office and I am sure they can help you!

  • February 13 2017

    So thankful to have landed on this article. We will be going to Faroe Islands in late June so I’m kind of hoping to have almost a similar experience yours. The photos are beautiful by the way. Thanks.
    Sherman recently posted..Garmin Echo 550c Fishfinder Review

  • May 15 2017

    Wonderful, breathtaking pictures! I have never seen anything like Sørvágsvatn before. Your picture of the lake above the ocean is something to behold. I can see the thousands of years of history, the forces of nature that made the Islands the way they are.
    Some of the pictures remind me of Scotland.

  • George
    June 5 2017

    I hoped to get some advice about the Faroe islands.
    As Its not your average holiday destination lol It almost feels like a well kept secret..

    The main issue I am having is, what time of the year to visit??? Do I focus on going spring/summer making the most of the long days when hiking is easier, or visiting in the autumn/winter when the Faroe islands are snow covered and a little more picturesque, with chances of northern lights sightings.

    I get the impression there might not be enough activities to do, so maybe I should keep the trip short, maybe 2/3days..
    My basic idea is to visit Copenhagen for 2 nights, then flying onwards to the Faroe islands, and renting a car to get about.

    I really appreciate some help.

    George

  • November 28 2017

    What incredible photos, I love how remote and isolated they look. We plan to follow in your footsteps in the near future, what an adventure. Thanks for sharing!
    Bee recently posted..Surviving a Plane Crash in the Jungle… Like a Boss

  • Melissa
    December 12 2017

    Hi! Beautiful pictures! What month were you there?

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