One of the most photogenic places in the Faroe Islands was forever transformed at the start of this century.
Gásadalur, for its entire existence, was only accessible via boat, hike, or helicopter. On this incredibly remote set of islands, a village of a dozen or so people had managed to make itself even more disconnected.
A tunnel carved through rock and a new tarmac road, completed in 2004, changed all this, and opened up Gásadalur in a whole new manner of ways.
With the increasing numbers of intrepid travellers making their way to the Faroe Islands, the secret was soon out about this magical village, nestled between two imposing hills, which looks out onto the grey sea from atop a beautiful hidden waterfall. Now, the previously isolated Gásadalur is high on everyone’s list of things to do in the Faroe Islands as it’s possible to simply drive through the tunnel, park up, take a photo, and leave.
Although we were on a 7 day road trip in the Faroe Islands, we decided that we wanted to discover Gásadalur in the ways of the distant and not so distant past - by hiking the ‘old postman’s trail’ over the mountains one morning.
Why’s it called that? Well, until that road existed, the postie would walk this route three times a week (and probably much quicker than any of us!)
Here’s our guide on the hike from Bøur to Gásadalur waterfall, including the route, essentials to know, and tips on not getting lost!
The Gásadalur Hike Essentials
Distance | 5 miles (round-trip)
Time | 3 .5 - 4.5 hours (round-trip)
Difficulty | With steep and unsteady climbs and descents, you need to have a decent level of fitness, whilst it is quite easy to lose the path if you’re inexperienced at hiking (and if the weather is against you). Do not hike in poor visibility and poor weather conditions (which we did).
Alternative | If you would prefer to do a guided hike tour with a Faroese photographer, then visit here.
Equipment | See end of post
Hike Start Point
It’s essential to have a car to reach the start point for the hike - unless you are staying in Sørvágur, Bøur, or by the airport, and are content to walk or try to get a ride.
From Vagar Airport, take the road towards nearby Sørvágur, and pass through this village. Continue along this road towards the village of Bøur, which you will see on your left hand side with its pretty collection of grass roof houses by the water. A little further along this road and you will eventually come towards the tunnel entrance - DO NOT GO INTO THE TUNNEL! Instead, the road entrance for the hike can be found on the left hand side just before (100 metres or so) the final bend which takes you into the tunnel.
At the time we visited, there was no signpost for this entrance, so it is easy to miss the narrow dirt path on your left.
Take the path for 250 metres or so in your car, and you’ll eventually see a clearing where it’s safe to park and there’s a small sign detailing the hike start point and history.
The Postman’s Path
We started our hike at 9 a.m., and we were the only souls on the route (except for friendly groups of sheep hanging out on the hillside). This is to be expected on this hike, but the quite terrible weather was also a factor in our solitude. The ferry to Mykines had actually been cancelled that morning (this happens a lot!), and so there was thick fog, drizzle, and little light.
For the steep ascent, which includes steps in close proximity to vertiginous drops to the sea, the terrain is grass and the very narrow trail is marked by small wooden markers. Simply follow this trail, saying hello to the sheep as you climb, and watch your ankles as it would be very easy to roll one at this stage. And, if you start to get too close to the edge for your own comfort, then that’s means you’ve likely lost the trail and started following a sheep path or similarly faint marking through the grass!
After this first stage of the hike, the path flattens out considerably and affords you (we imagine) some great views; for us, the visibility was non-existent due to the notorious Faroese fog which had descended. Thankfully, given that the postman, coffin carriers, and priests had used this trail many-a-time in all seasons, help was at hand in the shape of cairns dotted along.
These piles of stones, also used frequently in Scotland, would emerge as distant shadows before us at regular intervals, meaning we had something to walk towards and guide us along the pathway through the fog - without these, we likely would have had to turn back. Indeed, on the return leg of our hike (along the same route) we lost both the path and cairns in the fog, and became completely disoriented. For ten terrifying minutes we sat there unable to see anything or work out which faint trail was the correct one to take us back to the car!
So please take the Faroese fog seriously and do not set off for a hike if the visibility is bad.
Thankfully, our offline Google map of the Faroe Islands included this specific Gásadalur Hike trail, and showed us exactly where to go.
Anyway, as you continue along the flat part of the trail along the top of Gásadalsbrekkan hill, you will come to the next stage of the hike: the view over the village of Gásadalur and the descent.
Alas, we only had a glimpse of this incredible vista due to the deteriorating weather conditions, but we know that on a clear day it is one of the absolute best in the Faroe Islands.
The path down to Gásadalur is more treacherous than any other section of the hiking trail. Steep, with various switchbacks, and almost exclusively on mud and slippy loose rocks, we both fell a couple of times despite our hiking experience. Make sure you approach with caution!
The descent will bring you down to the 2004 road and you can feel entitled to wear a smug look on your face to show everyone who arrived by the car that you made it to Gásadalur the old-school way! On approach to the village, you will find the short path to the beautiful múlafossur - and it’s from here you find the vantage point to enjoy one of the most well-known views in the Faroe Islands with the waterfall, the village, and the hill in the background. Note that certain people venture down to the rocks via an old staircase (there’s a clear sign which tells you not to), and we do not recommend doing this.
To head back to your car, you have two options:
1) Repeat the hike in reverse, like we did.
2) Hitchhike to get a ride back to your car - this is a visitor hotspot so there is usually a steady enough flow of vehicles coming and going from the car park in the village or near the waterfall.
3) Walk through the tunnel to return to your car - we absolutely do not recommend this option (for obvious reasons), but if you are left with no alternative option and the conditions / time make hiking impossible or dangerous, this may be your last resort.
Know Before You Go
With the road now opening up the previously hidden village of Gásadalur to everyone, the crescendo of this hike is certainly less magical than it once would have been. However, access via the road does also mean that only the intrepid and curious will take this old trail, and therefore won’t have to share it with very many others.
As with all hikes in the Faroe Islands, it is imperative that you prepare for all weather conditions, with thick fog and strong winds being a particular risk. We would recommend scheduling 5-6 hours for this hike, including time for photos, rest stops, and poor conditions underfoot; this will of course be considerably shorter if you hitchhike instead of walking back. If it is foggy on the morning of your hike, then it is likely best to reschedule.
We managed it in the thick fog, although there were some hairy moments when we got lost on the way back; the weather also meant some of the best views on this hike were simply non-existent.
On a clearer day, we imagine this would be simply breathtaking.
You will need to bring
| Good hiking shoes. Seriously, absolutely do not attempt this hike is a pair of trainers - to do so would be beyond stupid! Ideally hiking boots as opposed to hiking shoes as well (Andrew really missed the ankle support on this hike).
| Charged Phone + google maps download. As evidenced by our ten minutes lost and alone in the fog, an offline version of Google maps could mean the difference between and embarrassing encounter with a rescue helicopter and getting back down independently!
Or, of course, you could go old-school with a physical map, if you’re that way inclined. Always pack a head torch for hikes in the Faroes too for safety.
| Layers. We stripped off and on so many times during this hike - turns out a strenuous uphill climb in thick fog can leave your rather sweaty - and the high winds require a hood and beanie! To be honest, it was so chilly at one point, we wished we had gloves. Our Merino wool base layers were essential!
| Waterproof Jacket. It rains an awful lot in the Faroes - those colourful waterproof jackets are not just for posing in photos, they are a must-have item for any hike here. We’re big fans of our North Face jackets.
Hiking Poles | We did the hike without these, but if you have bad knees or would prefer a little support on the challenging ascents and descents which are very common on a number of Faroese hikes, then it’s sensible to bring a set. For our recent trip to South America, we bought these lightweight, collapsible set of travel hiking poles which were great.
| Snacks + Water. We actually didn’t think this hike would take nearly as long as it did, so we were mighty happy to have taken a few energy bars and full bottles of water (refillable water bottles, of course).
| Leave no footprints - remember to respect the location, and discard of any litter appropriately.