The hike to lake Sørvágsvatn (also known as Leitisvatn and Vatnið) is another Faroese classic. In fact, alongside the village of Gásadalur and Mulafossur waterfall, Sørvágsvatn is probably the main attraction on Vágar island.
The hike itself is fairly straightforward, nor is it too demanding. It is, though, exceptionally rewarding, thanks to the stunning beauty of the scenery.
That said, the weather may slightly taint the ease of the hike, so be especially mindful if it’s rainy and/or windy the day before you go or the actual day of the hike (see recommendations at the bottom of the post).
Remember how, when I talked about the trip to Gjógv, I casually mentioned ‘how lucky we were with the weather’ when we got to the viewing spot near Norðradalur?
Well, the next morning (the day of the hike) it was a very different story: rain, mist, thick, grey clouds and, needless to say, the wildest wind blowing.
The hike begins in Miðvágur, a tiny village near Sandavágur. If you’re coming from Sandavágur, keep walking till you see a white church on the left-hand side of the road, and turn left just after the church. There’s also a ‘Trælanípa/Bøsdalafossur’ sign on the corner, so you can’t go wrong. It’s 4 km from there. The road is soon replaced by a narrow path, and then by a trail that goes uphill.
It’s not long till you reach the gate to the outfield, which you find on your right. Before turning right, though, you want to take a good look to your left, where you can get a glimpse of the free-standing rock called Trøllkonufingur (or ‘Witch’s Finger’) in the distance. (For details on Trøllkonufingur, head over to the next post!)
Once you’ve crossed the gate to the outfield, it’s easy: there’s only one trail, so just keep going. It runs all along the mountain slope, parallel to the lake, but at higher ground.
The lake view is truly spectacular. Give it a few minutes, and it appears almost instantly on the horizon in all its magnificence. The view expands all the way up to the ocean, where the two peaks called Ritubergsnøva (to the left) and Borgarheyggjur (to the right) form something akin to a curtain drawn upside down.
The promontory that marks the southern end of Sørvágsvatn, called Trælanípa, is a 142-metre-high cliff that overlooks the ocean. It is also known as Slave Mountain, because in Viking times slaves that weren’t able to work hard enough were promptly pushed off the top.
At some point, when you’re closer to the ocean, the trail forks. Coincidentally, that point is marked by a breathtaking viewing spot and a bench, so you’ll know when you get there.
If you head left, you will reach the top of Trælanípa, while if you stick to the right, you will get to the point where, if you look right, you will have the most spectacular view right before your eyes: the lake, the rocky border at its south-western end, the cliffs falling precipitously into the ocean, the ocean itself, and Bøsdalafossur waterfall, which carries the lake into the sea.
To return to the beginning of the trail you can either go back the way you came from or take the trail by the lake shore. It’s not that intuitive to access, because there is no intelligible trail going down the mountain slope toward the shore.
Or maybe it’s we who failed to spot it, due to the poor visibility and the heavy rain. We eventually trotted down the slope at some nondescript point on the way back.
There’s no clearly visible path by the lake shore either, in fact. So just make sure you keep to the shore the whole time, and you won’t go wrong.
You will walk past a few, sparse boathouses. Here and there, you will find yourself walking on narrow stretches of black sand – which, by the way, are so beautiful, I’d never seen black beaches.
The view is mesmerising, to say the least. If you look back toward the southern end of the lake, you will still see it in all its vastness from a different, equally privileged, vantage point.
At the very end of the trail (and in order to leave the outfield), you will have to literally walk through a walled sheep shelter. A bit further on, you’ll be back on the main road, ready to cross through Miðvágur and on to Sandavágur again.
Allow me just a few extra recommendations.
1. If the weather is bad, be super extra careful, and don’t venture on unless you feel 100% safe. The terrain is mostly grassy, so it gets boggy very easily when it rains. Plus, fog and mist can further reduce visibility. Plus, the wind can blow very hard, and that, coupled with slippery rocks and, again, poor visibility, might make it more difficult to hike on in some especially windswept areas.
When we hiked to Sørvágsvatn, the terrible weather made it hard for us to get close to the rocky area between the lake and the ocean, and impossible to reach the very top of Trælanípa.
A few other hikers we bumped into along the way did make it to the top, despite the wind, so it’s entirely up to you! Just be super careful up there: there are no rocks to use as handholds along the way. We tried twice, but the wind was too strong, and we simply didn’t feel safe enough.
2. All of the above, needless to say, also implies that you wear the right clothes the whole time. In particular, hiking boots and a waterproof jacket are mandatory. It gets very muddy by the shore, and making a false step may result not only in unexpected sinking knee-deep into the mud (true story! My right hiking boot will never return to its original colour), but also in a potential fall.
3. Seabirds always form an integral part of the Faroese landscape. Sørvágsvatn is no exception. Despite the horrendous weather, we did have our good share of free birdwatching. In particular, you’re likely to see dozens of seagulls flying about near Trælanípa, and funny-looking oystercatchers wandering about like they’re deep in thought. (Their resemblance with Poirot always strikes me as uncanny, yet palpable.)
As for the rest, brace yourself. The stunning beauty of nature might blow you away even harder than the strongest winds.