The Faroe Islands is, among other things, an outstanding place for hiking. There are a number of hiking routes on the islands, and in this article I would like to talk about perhaps the most famous one – the hike to Trælanípa. Located on the island of Vagar, this hike is both undemanding, easily accessible and incredibly beautiful, making it a popular choice for tourists and locals alike.
The hike starts at the town of Miðvágur and goes along the largest lake on the Faroe Islands called Sørvágsvatn (or Leitisvatn, depending on who you ask – apparently people living on the different shores of the lake can’t reach an agreement on this). If you are by car, there is actually a small parking lot a little further out of town that you can drive to. The road leading up to it is a dirt road in a pretty bad shape, but if you drive slowly and carefully, you’ll be perfectly fine.
The path, which is well marked and perfectly visible, will eventually lead you all the way to the famous cliff of Trælanípa. The entire hike is just under 3 kilometers, most of it pretty even, so you can easily be done with it in about 40 minutes. That is, unless you stop for photos of course. And, trust me, you will, a lot.
The scenery is beautiful all along the way, but the view of the lake from the top is what really makes this hike special. It is absolutely fabulous and is perhaps one of the most iconic and recognizable views from the entire Faroe Islands. From here it appears as if the lake is practically hovering over the ocean, high above the waves. Huge cliffs descending into the waters far below seem hundreds of meters high. The views of Vagar, Streymoy and Sandoy far on the horizon are nothing but breathtaking.
Be extremely careful though. Although in reality the height is just an optical illusion and the lake is really only about 30 meters above the ocean level, it is still a very long way down if you lose your balance. There are no protective barriers of any kind and you are free to come to the very edge of the cliff and literally look down at the ocean far beneath. Probably not the best idea if you are prone to dizziness. And even if you aren’t, please step very carefully nonetheless. It is all too compelling to try and grab a photo from the edge of the cliff (I know because I did!) and the ground can be quite slippery here, especially after the rain. And if you fall, you die.
To that end, Trælanípa actually translates as “The Slave Mountain” and as the legend goes, during viking times the slaves who grew too old or too weak to serve their masters were brought here and pushed off the cliff to their ultimate doom. Whether that’s actually true or not, one can only guess, but I can definitely imagine that being the case. Well, at least they got to enjoy these breathtaking vistas in their final moments.
A photo tip – bring the widest lens that you have here. The cliffs are massive and it’s really hard to get them into the frame. Even with 15mm on my crop body in some cases I had to resort to making multiple images and stitching them together later. Also, don’t be put off by the bad weather. Even though we were there during the warm sunny day, I get the feeling, it is one of those locations that would actually benefit from the grim conditions and dramatic dark skies. Obviously, bring tripod, so that you can capture some long exposure shots of the waterfall and the ocean, and most importantly leave yourself some time to explore. Apart from obvious iconic shots there are plenty of compelling compositions on the way.
Once you’re done with the cliff, make sure to go down back to the lake from the other side to reach the waterfall of Bøsdalafossur. Essentially, that’s the water from the lake falling into the ocean below. When the stream isn’t too strong, you may cross it and climb the rocks on the opposite shore. When we were there in August, doing that was not a problem at all, as there wasn’t much water. If the current is strong though – as may well be the case after heavy rain – it’s not a big deal, as the best views of the waterfall in my experience are from the Trælanípa side anyway.
The whole place is just awe-inspiring very and humbling. We started the hike around 2.30pm, hoping we would get enough time to explore, get back and drive to Gasadalur for sunset. Instead we ended up spending an entire afternoon on the location because we were so impressed and fascinated. Enough is to say that along with a hike to Drangarnir, which I will cover in my next post, for me Trælanípa is the most memorable place from my entire visit and if I ever get back, that would the first place I’ll go to.
For more details and to really get the feel of the place, I invite you to watch my YouTube video about the island of Vagar, where I talk about this hike, a hike to Drangarnir and a few other places on Vagar that are well worth visiting.