When it comes to visiting the Faroe Islands, there’s one lake that will, without fail, crop up on almost every visitor’s itinerary – Sørvágsvatn. Surrounded by rugged cliffs, this lake appears to float high above the ocean, an intriguing optical illusion that thrust it into the spotlight and cemented it as one the most popular places to visit in the Faroes.
You may be surprised to learn then that just a few short kilometres away lies the far less visited Fjallavatn, the Faroe Islands’ other lake, which is perhaps even more impressive.
Rolling meadows, a hidden black sand beach, a thunderous waterfall and the quintessential Faroese cliff line rising from the ocean set the scene for an epic day of hiking.
Looking for an easy but offbeat day hike in the Faroe Islands? Fjallavatn is an excellent choice!
* This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you. *
The 13 km return hike to Fjallavatn begins beyond Vatnsoyrar, a tiny village opposite the northern point of Sørvágsvatn.
Take the signed road to the right when heading towards the airport and continue on for a short way until the road begins to deteriorate and a small parking bay emerges on the right of the road.
From here, it’s time to set off on foot along the lonely rubble road that winds through the grassy wilderness of Vagar.
Arriving here in early April, a light layer of snow still dusted the upper mountain peaks that tumbled toward the sweeping golden valley. The inky expanse of Fjallavatn sprawled across the basin, its grassy banks speckled by a handful of pretty countryside cabins.
Before long, the dirt track will fizzle out beside an icy river that you’ll need to cross. The boulders are fairly large and easy to jump across but, and this probably goes without saying, you do not want to fall in!
As with so many hikes in the Faroe Islands, from here there’s no clear trail, just a few rambling sheep paths cutting through tufts of grass and a general hope that you’re heading in the right direction.
If the weather is clear, simply continue toward the edge of the lake and follow the shore around to the left until you reach the far end of the lake. The ground is rather uneven and boggy in parts as smaller streams trickle into the lake so you’ll probably find yourself zigzagging as you make your way across the tussocks. Better that then losing your boot to ankle-deep mud in any case.
At the far end of the lake, the landscapes open up to reveal a spectacular scene of angular peaks rising sharply from the wild ocean and a relentless stream of waves crashing against the hidden black beach below. Seabirds whirl overhead and a tidy mosaic of tended farmlands can just be made out in the distance. Marked by pair of dilapidated buildings below the cliffs, this small area indicates the curious abandoned village of Víkar.
You’ll also encounter the thunderous roar of Reipsáfossur as it tumbles in torrents toward the ocean amidst a halo of misty spray, the final journey from Fjallavatn to the heaving Atlantic.
It’s a wildly impressive scene, rugged and remote, and certainly one of the most beautiful views in the Faroe Islands.
I didn’t have long to enjoy it though as the notorious Faroese weather quickly took a turn for the worse. Thick clouds raced along the dramatic cliffs concealing the distant peaks from view and it wasn’t long before the crash of the waves and waterfall were obliterated by the howling winds of an incoming storm.
I hunkered down behind a small hillside trying to wait it out, knowing full well that Faroese weather can change in a matter of minutes, but as the fierce winds turned to horizontal sleet and a flurry of fresh snow began to paint the rolling landscapes a delicate white, I decided it was time to call it a day and scurry back to the car.
Battling through the wind and boggy grasslands now covered in snow, I arrived back to the car with my cheeks battered raw from the sleet and my laces frozen together as the temperatures continued to plummet.
A stark reminder that the weather in these remote islands has a mind of its own and it always pays to be prepared.
For those that fair a little better in the weather department, there is a longer and more challenging route that continues on to Gásadalur up an incredibly steep trail over the pass. To tackle this extra section, be sure to account for a few extra hours of hiking time and you’ll need to organise a way to pick up your car from the starting point of the hike.
This hike took about 4 hours, with an extra hour added on for breaks and taking photographs along the way. The rough weather and snow on the ground made the return trip incredibly slow, so under better conditions, I’d imagine you’d be able to complete it far quicker.
Weather | Spend any amount of time in the Faroe Islands and you’ll quickly realise the weather is an unpredictable beast. When it comes to hiking, this can pose a serious threat, especially when soaring sea cliffs and thick fog are involved. Check the forecast (even if it’s not all that accurate) and keep a close eye on the weather if things look set to turn. And with that in mind…
Clothing | They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. I like to think there’s some weather that even great clothes can’t make any better, but it definitely pays to be prepared. Always, always take a rain jacket and a warm base layer, even if the weather seems relatively clear. Waterproof hiking boots are also essential for this hike and anywhere in the Faroes really where the grass is usually thick with water. These lightweight gore-tex boots from SCARPA are my favourites.
Take a map | Even though this trail isn’t marked on Google Maps or even my favourite hiking app, Maps.Me, it’s definitely worthwhile taking a map anyway in case of bad weather or to monitor your progress. For offline maps, be sure to download it before setting out.
Get an early start | Given the tricky terrain, bad weather can quickly turn this relatively easy hike into a bit of a blunder through the wilderness and really hamper your speed. Even though it’s only 13km and can ordinarily be completed in around 3 or so hours, be sure to leave with plenty of extra time to get there and back.
Budget travellers and those not travelling by car will be glad to know that one of the Faroe Islands’ only hostels, Giljanes Hostel, is just nearby. Facilities are fairly basic but there is a large guest kitchen and lounge area and prices are very affordable by Faroese standards. Check rates and availability here.
Otherwise, there are a number of options available in the nearby villages of Sørvágur, Miðvágur and Sandavágur. Check the available options for Vagar here.
The tiny capital certainly has the best range of accommodation, as well as plenty of dining options which are sorely lacking elsewhere in the Faroe Islands. If you’re travelling by car, I’d suggest staying near the city.
Hotel Føroyar is an excellent mid-range choice boasting spectacular views from its perch above town. The sumptuous buffet breakfast is exceptional and rooms are modern and spacious. Check rates and availability here.
Rental Car | Most visitors will be travelling by car which is definitely the easiest way to begin the hike. Beyond the village, the paved road quickly becomes a dirt track which eventually deteriorates into a vague rocky trail. Drive carefully and don’t take your rental vehicle anywhere you shouldn’t. When parking, also make sure your car is well off the road and not in one of the small side bays used for passing cars on the single track road.
Bus | As the starting point of the hike is fairly out of the way, it’s not all that easy to reach by public transport. The best option is to take bus 300 which travels between Sørvágur and Tórshavn via the airport almost every hour on weekdays (less frequently on weekends). Beginning the hike from the airport would add around 4km to the hike each way. Check the current timetable here.
Tour | Not all that experienced as a hiker or keen to take the more challenging route over to Gásadalur? A hiking tour might be the best way to go. Check options for hiking tours here or create a customised itinerary.