The island of Vágar is, in a sense, the Faroese ‘window to the world’. It is home to the only international airport in the Faroe Islands, originally built by the British during World War II, at the time of their ‘friendly occupation’. The location of the airfield is the only flat and sufficiently broad area in the middle part of the archipelago. Located just outside the Vágar Airport is Vatnasoyrar, the only settlement in the Faroe Islands without sea access. Its landlocked situation is compensated by access to the largest lake in the Faroes, known as both Sørvágsvatn and Leitisvatn. Curiously, the former name is used by people living in Sørvágur and the latter by those living in Miðvágur, who call the land surrounding their town ‘Leiti’.
Abandoned villages on Vágar
Geographically isolated as they are, the Faroe Islands have been going through the same social processes as anywhere else in the world. The most noticeable of them is the growing urbanisation. Its Faroese version is primarily about changing lifestyles and access to infrastructure is increasingly at the heart of that. Consequently, remote areas cut off from transport links become deserted and abandoned settlements become symbols of social change. And they turn into unique tourist destinations in this fascinating archipelago.
The most famous abandoned village on Vágar is Slættanes, easy to be spotted from onboard a tourist boatthat runs along the cliffs of Vestmannabjørgini. A seasoned traveller’s eye will notice modern-looking houses that emerge soon after leaving the bay of Vestmanna and are not to be found on most travel maps. It was first settled in 1835. Slættanes, at its prime, was home to about 130 people. It had a school and a small post office. Sea-crossing services to Vestmanna, a town on the other side of the Vestmannasund strait, were operated for a while. Electricity never reached the village and no linking road was built; it was too far away from other settlements on Vágar.
Last residents left in 1965 but the houses that stayed behind have continued to be tended to ever since. Slættanes is a special place for travellers. And it is not only because of the eerie atmosphere engulfing the deserted village. It is thought to be among the most beautifully located settlements in the Faroe Islands. However, the village should not be a destination in itself. The definite must-see is the trails that lead you there. The most exciting hike starts in Gásadalur. Intense and demanding as it is, it is totally rewarding. A wise thing to do is to use a local guide who will not let you stray or get lost and who can arrange for a sleepover at one of the abandoned houses.
When talking about abandoned villages on Vágar, one cannot forget the picturesque village of Víkar close to the Gásadalur–Slættanes trail. The first settlers arrived there from Gásadalur in 1833. No road was ever set out in the rugged mountainous terrain to connect the two villages, the only link being a narrow path winding up Árnafjall, the highest mountain on Vágar. Poor transport conditions certainly played a role in the exodus but were not the immediate cause of the abandonment. The history of Víkar turned out to be short lived because of a sea disaster that claimed the lives of most of the village’s male fishing population. Left alone, the surviving women and children deserted the village and returned to Gásadalur in 1914. Two houses have remained until today under the care of their owners, just as those in Slættanes have, and they are sometimes accessible to tourists.
Places to see on Vágar
Where to stay on Vágar
The choice of accommodation is fairly limited on Vágar. Hotel Vágar by the Airport is an option for demanding and well-off travellers. Standard and superior twin/double rooms are available at rocket high prices. The only reasonable place to stay on Vágar is Giljanes Hostel or ‘á Giljanesi’ located between Sandavágur and Miðvágur close to the bay shore. The standard is typically hostel-like with 2-bed and 4-bed rooms. Facilities include a common kitchen and a sizeable living room. Prices have recently gone way up and start from DKK 190.
Tel.: 00298 33 34 65