Hiking to Gasadalur: the old postal route

For the most dramatic entrance to one of the world’s most beautiful villages, hiking to Gasadalur via the old postal route is something not to be missed. Unless the weather’s bad (a common occurrence in the Faroe Islands), in which case it becomes slightly suicidal! Let’s get stuck in with the details.

 

INTRODUCTION
Until about ten years ago, when a tunnel was built through the mountain, Gasadalur used to be the most isolated village in the Faroe Islands. Inaccessible by sea, it’s at the base of a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides, and oh my is it stunning. I’ve never seen a place like it.

So before the tunnel was built people would reach Gasadalur by a path that crossed over the lowest and flattest point of the mountains, which happens to be a stone’s throw away from the edge and the ocean below. And the postman would use this path three times a week, come rain or shine (which is how it got its name). Those men deserve some kind of medal.

 

hiking to gasadalur

 

FINDING THE START
I had a bit of trouble finding the start of the track, but I got there in the end! So on the side of the mountain facing Bøur follow the main road until you’re close to the tunnel that goes through the mountain (after a bend to the left). You’ll soon see a dirt track to the left, turn down it, carry on down it and you should see a little signpost marking the start point. There’s enough space to park cars too. The track is easier to find on the Gasadalur side; follow the road up towards the tunnel and around some hairpins, and a little signpost will be on your right near the side of the road, close to the tunnel.

 

OUT ON THE TRACK
I attempted to do this hike twice. The first time the weather was terrible with fierce winds and sharp prickly rain. And perhaps worst of all was how the wind was pushing me towards the edge, which sported at least a 200m drop to the ocean just several meters away. It proved too much for me that time and I had turned back.

Hiking rest

The second time, with 13 days of experience in the Faroe Islands to hand, I felt a lot more confident about my situation. There was no wind this time, and the rain was so light as to be unnoticeable. I had also learnt a very valuable lesson; when it got too foggy just sit and wait.

Hiking to Gasadalur is one of the most challenging routes in the Faroe Islands, according to my guide book. And worryingly my guidebook had altogether underestimated how difficult the hikes were; an easy Faroese hike was quite different to its English equivalent. And with the defeat of my first attempt hanging over me I had been questioning whether I really should try to walk up that mountain again.

I didn’t have a car so had decided to walk from Sørvágur, where I was staying. I could see the mountain and its mood changed by the hour. Sometimes it looked straightforward and inviting, others it looked like a dark nightmare. On the morning I planned to go it looked somewhere in between.

It was calm and cloudy when I reached Bøur. It’s an easy walk from Sorvagur along the side of the road. Some cars passed me, and it would be very easy to hitchhike if need be. I explored its tiny streets and little black sand beach, which are very pretty, but I didn’t stay for long – my mind was focused only on the mountain.

To gasadalur Bøur
The view back to Bøur
To gasadalur Tindhólmur
Tindhólmur as seen from Bøur
To gasadalur Tindhólmur
The craggy top of Tindhólmur

 

Route to Gasadalur-1 LR

After following the road a while longer I reached the beginning. The clouds had started to break and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day.

The ascent was steep going but it felt secure, and I had kept a healthy distance away from the edge. It wasn’t long before the clouds started to close in on me, though. It was gorgeous to watch, but in a few minutes more I could see nothing.

To gasadalur2-3 LR

To gasadalur2-5 LR

I sat in happy resignation for an unknown amount of time, wondering what the world looked like beyond the clouds and also admiring how it looked in front of me. I then noticed three silhouettes pass me. People! Hiking! This was the first time I had seen anyone on any of the routes I had done except for one. The clouds still hadn’t cleared much, but if they could do it then so could I. Plus I could just follow them. I set off again….

To gasadalur2-1-2 LR

Within moments I didn’t even know where I had come from as I hauled myself up higher, but so long as I kept my course as straight as possible then the edge would be a safe distance away. This didn’t stop it from feeling a little suicidal, though.

As this feeling started to get the better of me a dark shape emerged through the fog. It was a cairn! The first I had seen on this route. Okay, one step at a time; if just reached it then I could decide what to do next. It didn’t take long, and once there I noticed a path running alongside it – an actual path! – the only one I had seen on my hikes in the Faroes (though it turns out there’s a path to follow right from the beginning of the hike but I hadn’t spotted it!).

The land had also levelled out and I walked leisurely along. Cairns appeared regularly out of the fog. It seemed like no coincidence that one would appear just as I lost sight of the previous one. Up there it was deathly quiet, my steps loud, cumbersome, and out of place. But soon the voices grew louder again.

Gasadalur route-1 LR

Having walked through the fog for some time, I was not at all prepared for what I was about to see:

Gasadalur mountain panorama complete LR

“Oh my god” is my phrase of the Faroe Islands. I’ve never been to a place where I just stopped in my tracks and uttered or even shouted it quite so many times. And this view was one of the best of all.

In many ways I would have been happy to turn around and make my way back (as the people I had followed did), but I knew how beautiful Gasadalur was and I couldn’t wait to see it any longer. The way down was undoubtedly steep, but I could see the same path snaking along. A path was child’s play, of course.

It wasn’t. It was steep and rocky, with lots of loose stones that slid from under my feet. I used my tripod as a walking stick and remembered that patience was everything; I had too much camera equipment on my back to risk doing anything brash.

Gasadalur route sheep cairns-1 LR

Progress was slow and steady, but eventually the rocks turned to grass and the steep sides flattened out. Finally I hit the ground, right next to a sign about the route. Rapture! I had to take a photo.

Gasadalur route signs-1 LR

Gasadalur route house-1 LR

Gasadalur is even more beautiful in real life than in the photos, which can never truly give you the sense of calm and scale of the valley. Small numbers of tourists consistently came and left quite quickly. I spent a long time there messing around with different exposures and compositions…

Gasadalur panorama 4 complete - SH

And before long, the sun came out, sending shafts of light across the land. Just “oh my god”.

Gasadalur blend-3b LR

Gasadlur village portrait-1 LR

Gasadalur route mountain view 2-1-2 LR
The view back up the Old Postal Route

The clouds burnt away entirely and the evening was beautiful. It couldn’t have been any more perfect. I didn’t have the energy to walk back over the mountain that evening, even though I knew the view would be amazing. So I hitchhiked through the tunnel that links Gasadalur to the rest of the world with a fellow hiker.

I got off near Bøur. I dipped my toes in that familiar cold dark water and watched the sun sink behind the mountains. Pure bliss. I thought of all the places in the world, including those that were considerably hotter, sunnier and drier, and knew that there was nowhere else I would have rather been.

Step in the abyss-1-3 LR

Step in the abyss-1-2 LR

The water did wonders for my tired feet (which had by this point endured seven days of hiking), and I dawdled back towards Sørvágur. During this time I was treated to probably the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen, and indeed the first sunset I had seen in the Faroes.

Mykines sunset-1 LR
Sunset across the island of Mykines
tindholmur sunset-1 LR

Being so far north, this sunset lasted for hours. The colours gradually changed from warm oranges to cool blues and purples, and the light slowly faded. I felt like I was walking through a dream – it was simply out of this world.

Mykines sunset-1-4 LR
I got back to my B&B at about 11.30pm, and by the side of the mountain I had climbed hours before there was still a brilliant orange glow. I had a feeling that this glow would remain on the horizon all night.

 

THE VERDICT
Hiking to Gasadalur was nothing short of stunning. Reaching the top and looking over the edge of the mountain to see the village below was such a thrilling experience. I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful it is! And then Gasadalur itself is something out of a fairy tale.

I did the hike in June and July and saw a total of four people – so you’re likely to have the whole thing to yourself, too. For such a short hike it really doesn’t get better, and it was one of my favourite in the Faroe Islands. Vertigo suffers may struggle at points and the weather is very likely to ruin your plans, but don’t give up because it’s absolutely worth it.

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