The Árnafjørður – Toftaskarð – Katlarnir circuit trail is an adventurous hike on Borðoy Island in the Faroe Islands.
Starting in the village of Árnafjørður, the trail leads northeast to Svartidalur valley and then climbs up steep crags to Toftaskarð pass.
The trail continues west and eventually drops down a steep mountainside via Uppi á Gjógv pass. Next, the trail heads to Katlarnir, the historic gathering place for the ancient Thing of the Northern Isles. From here, the trail continues southwest and loops back down to Árnafjørður.
By far, this was the most exciting and difficult hike we did during our trip. It was challenging because the trail wasn’t completely marked (as of August 2022). Since this is a trail promoted by Visit Faroe Islands, we informed them that it was difficult to follow. So, hopefully, they’ll invest some resources in making this excellent trail more accessible.
I have detailed our route to the best of my ability. But, to be candid, we were often confused about where to go, even with this trail description and following Maps.me.
GPS is vital. You can download GPX files from the link above. Click on the map icon and the downloadable files are just below the map.
Note: In the trail description, the stats given are 2:30 hours. That’s grossly inaccurate. It takes 4 hours minimum to hike the full circuit.
Árnafjørður -Toftaskarð – Katlarnir Hiking Trail, Borðoy Island
- Where: Borðoy Island
- Trailhead: Árnafjørður Church | Google Maps
- Distance: 7.7 km circuit
- Time Needed: 4 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 560 meters
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Minimum Elevation: 19 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 508 meters
- Hiking Fee: None
- Where to Stay in Klaksvík: Romantic Klaksvik apartment (midrange), Spacious City Center Home by the Sea (midrange), or Panorama boathouse (luxury)
- Where to Stay in Tórshavn: Hilton Garden Inn Faroe Islands (midrange-luxury), Hotel Brandan (luxury), Havgrím Seaside Hotel 1948 (luxury)
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Árnafjørður -Toftaskarð – Katlarnir Hiking Map
How to Get to Árnafjørður
Árnafjørður is located on the east side of Borðoy Island.
From Klaksvík, drive north along route 70. When the road divides, stay right. Drive through the single-lane Árnafjarðartunnilin tunnel, which is operated by a traffic light during the day.
When you emerge from the tunnel, make a sharp right and drive down to Árnafjørður village. Don’t drive through the second tunnel: Hvannasundtunnilin.
Árnafjørður -Toftaskarð – Katlarnir Trail Description
Árnafjørður to Toftaskarð Pass (1:30 hours)
From the car park at the church in Árnafjørður village, follow the main road into town. Just before house #23 (Viðurbyrgi 23), the trail leads up the field to a fence.
There are rocks strategically placed on both sides of the fence to help you cross.
After crossing the fence to the outfield, continue hiking straight up the field.
As you ascend, aim for the eastern shoulder of Tólvmarkaknúkur – the pyramid-shaped mountain directly ahead.
The path continues east towards Svartidalur valley, traversing grassy, heather slopes.
When you get to Svartidalur valley, the trail turns north.
The ascent continues up the west (“left”) side of the valley, initially clinging to the slopes of Tólvmarkaknúkur.
The terrain gets increasingly rugged and difficult to follow. There are a few scattered cairns, but not many.
The trail climbs up a few vertical crags to reach the upper part of the valley. Some scrambling is needed.
When you reach the upper valley, cross the stream and follow the old wooden utility poles (not in use).
Ascend another crag to get to Toftaskarð pass.
The Toftaskarð mountain pass connects Norðtoftir village with Árnafjørður village.
Hvannasund Strait Viewpoint
Hike in the direction of Norðtoftir for a few minutes, until you have a brilliant view of the Hvannasund strait and the island of Vidoy.
The path is rugged and unstable because of the loose rocks. Extra caution is needed.
Toftaskarð Pass to Uppi á Gjógv Pass (40 minutes)
With your back towards Krúnufjall mountain, continue west. The trail continues to widely loop around Tólvmarkaknúkur mountain.
This part of the hike is far easier. The trail is mostly level and there are more cairns to follow.
Maintaining the same direction, cross the tussock, rock-studded plateau.
Eventually the cairns will lead to Uppi á Gjógv pass, which is your gateway back to Árnafjørður.
Uppi á Gjógv Pass to Katlarnir (30 minutes)
The trail abruptly descends over the craggy pass. It feels like you’re tipping over the edge of the mountain.
The path continues steeply downhill in a westerly direction, amidst a field of boulders, towards Katlarnir. At this point, Katlarnir looks like another high valley bisected by cascades.
Árnafjørður and the fjord are visible below (on your left).
Continue crossing the boulder-studded slopes.
Look for the short wooden posts.
Descend more crags and cross several streams to reach Katlarnir, the location of the ancient thingstead (governing assembly) of the Northern Isles. For centuries, this local parliament met here to pass sentences on various disputes and crimes.
This historic place is marked with a large boulder called Tingsteinurin, which means “moot boulder” or “Thing stone.”
Katlarnir to Árnafjørður (1 hour)
The trail follows the contours of the mountain, curving southwest.
Just beyond a stream, there’s a fence.
You have to cross this fence, even though there’s no gate.
To find out where to cross, look for the cairn just beyond the fence. Trace the path back to the fence and you should see rocks stacked on both sides of the fence to aid crossing (just like in the very beginning of the hike).
The views of the fjord are wonderful.
Keep following the cairns.
The path is supposed to lead up to Áarskarð pass through an area called Niðari Snæhjalli. We didn’t quite make it to the pass. I think we maintained the same level gradient, instead of hiking uphill.
We intersected with the trail for the descent down to the village.
A series of cairns lead you to the start of the steep and slippery Ovarustígar trail, or Uppi í Jørnunum trail, which is secured with iron railings.
After the secured passage, cairns and poles guide you downhill.
Eventually, you’ll drop down to the road after navigating through another steep, boulder-ridden passage.
A metal gate welcomes you back to civilization. We followed the road back to the village.
Where to Stay near Árnafjørður
Klaksvík, Borðoy Island
Klaksvík, located on Borðoy island, is the second largest town in the Faroe Islands. Klaksvík is the best base for exploring the Northern Isles. We recommend staying here for 2 nights, so that you can hike up to Klakkur, visit Kallur Lighthouse on Kalsoy Island, and hike to Villingardalsfjall on Viðoy Island.
Midrange | The welcoming and cozy Romantic Klaksvik apartment is a one-bedroom apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, living room, garden, and private parking. The apartment is walking distance to the Kalsoy ferry.
Midrange | Spacious City Center Home by the Sea is located in the heart of Klaksvík, close to Fríða Kaffihús, tourist office, Kalsoy ferry terminal, and grocery store. This roomy and bright 3-bedroom apartment has a fully-equipped kitchen (with dishwasher and microwave), a washing machine, balcony, and free parking.
Top Choice – Luxury | Set along Klaksvík bay, Panorama boathouse stands out with its crisp, modern aesthetic, new furnishings, and idyllic setting. This beautifully converted boathouse has 3 bedrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, a washing machine, a spacious dining area, and a living room.
Look for accommodation in Klaksvík.
Tórshavn, Streymoy Island
Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, is located on Streymoy Island. Not surprisingly, it’s also the largest and liveliest city in the Faroes, with the highest concentration of accommodations, restaurants, and bars.
Many travelers decide to base themselves in Tórshavn for the full duration of their trip and take day trips to Saksun and Tjørnuvík, Vágar Island (Múlafossur Waterfall and Trælanípa Cliff Trail to the Floating Lake), Eysturoy Island (Gjogv Village and Hvíthamar Viewpoint), and the Northern Isles.
From Tórshavn, you can also take ferries to Nólsoy Island, Sandoy Island, and Suðuroy Island.
TOP CHOICE – Midrange-Luxury | Hilton Garden Inn Faroe Islands is a fresh-faced hotel set in a quiet location, 1.6 km from the city center (20 minute walk, or 4 minutes drive). Stay here for the impeccably-designed rooms with comfortable beds, the on-site restaurant and bar, great breakfast buffet, and fitness center. Free on-site parking.
Luxury | Hotel Brandan is a 4-star hotel with quiet rooms, an on-site restaurant, a fitness center, a sauna, and on-site parking. Guests love the breakfast and the hotel bar, which serves local craft beers. The hotel is located 1.4 km from the city center (15 minute walk, or 3 minute drive).
Luxury | Havgrím Seaside Hotel 1948 is a boutique hotel set on the seashore, walking distance to the city center (10 minutes). A fantastic breakfast is included. Free parking is available on-site. Guests can also enjoy the garden hot tub facing the sea.
Luxury | Traditional Faroese house in Tórshavns city center is a 4-bedroom turf-roofed house with stylish, renovated interiors, two bathrooms, and a well-equipped kitchen. Free on-site parking. 3 nights minimum stay.
More Charming Holiday Homes: Cosy house in the heart of Tórshavn (Á Reyni) and Luxurious House in Downtown Tórshavn
City Center Apartments: City center, Tórshavn (2-bedroom apartment), Central apartment in Tórshavn (1-bedroom apartment), Penthouse Apartment in Downtown Tórshavn (3-bedroom/5 people apartment)
Look for accommodation in Tórshavn.
Faroe Islands Travel Essentials
Faroe Islands Rental Car
The most practical way to travel between destinations in the Faroe Islands is with your own car. Plan your trip with our Faroe Islands road trip itinerary.
We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals in the Faroe Islands. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.
You can also book a complete self drive vacation package, which includes accommodation, car rental, and various guided day tours:
- Epic 8 Day Summer Self Drive Tour of Faroe Islands
- Unforgettable 10 Day Self Drive Tour of Faroe Islands with Top Attractions
Adventurous Faroe Islands Tours
- Panoramic 6 Hour Tour to Mount Slættaratindur: hike to the summit of Mount Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroes. This guided tour starts in Tórshavn.
- Wild 8 hour Hike to Cape Enniberg: hike to Mount Villingardalsfjall and onwards to Cape Enniberg (only possible with a guide), one of the highest promontories in the world, on Viðoy Island. This guided excursion starts in Tórshavn.
- Kayaking to Drangarnir: 2:30 hour kayak tour of the Drangarnir sea arch starting in the village of Bøur on Vágar Island.
- Exclusive 3 Hour Tindhólmur Tour: 3 hour boat trip and tour of the uninhabited islet of Tindhólmur, starting in Sørvágur harbor on Vágar Island.
- Exciting 2 Hour Combined Boat Tour and Hike to Drangarnir Sea Arch: 2 hour tour starting in Sørvágur harbor on Vágar Island.
- Hike from Mikladalur to Trøllanes: 8 hour guided hike on Kalsoy Island starting in Klaksvík, Borðoy Island.
Faroe Islands Guided Day Trips
Here are some popular guided day trips starting and ending in Tórshavn.
- The Northern Islands and Tjørnuvík: 9 hour guided tour of the Northern Isles.
- Up Close 10 Hour Puffin Tour to Mykinnes: 10 hour guided tour of Mykines Island.
- Popular 7.5 Hour Vestmanna Bird Cliffs & Múlafossur Waterfall Tour: 7:30 hour guided tour including a boat tour of Vestmanna cliffs.
- Fantastic 8 hour Sakusn, Tjørnuvík, and Gjógv Tour: 8 hour guided tour of Northern Streymoy and Northern Esyturoy.
- Incredible 8 hour Guided Tour to Kalsoy & Kallur Lighthouse: 8 hour guided tour of Kallur Island.
Outdoor Photographer Gear
- Camera Body: Sony Alpha a6400
- Mid-range Zoom Lens: Tamron 17-70mm 2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
- Wide angle Zoom Lens: Sony – E 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide-angle Zoom Lens
- Backpack Camera Clip: Peak Design Camera Clip
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More Faroe Islands Travel Guides
Read Best Hikes in the Faroe Islands for a summary of the top hiking trails across the archipelago. Our favorite Faroe Islands hiking trails (north to south):
- Villingardalsfjall Hike, Viðoy Island
- Árnafjørður – Toftaskarð – Katlarnir Circuit Trail, Borðoy Island
- Klakkur Hike, Borðoy Island
- Kallur Lighthouse Hike, Kalsoy Island
- Hvíthamar Viewpoint Hike, Eysturoy Island
- Saksun to Tjørnuvík Hike, Streymoy Island
- Múlafossur Waterfall and Gásadalur Hike, Vágar Island
- Lake Sørvágsvatn and Trælanípa Cliff Hike (Floating Lake Viewpoint), Vágar Island
- Ásmundarstakkur Hike, Suðuroy Island
- Hvannhagi and Lake Hvannavatn, Suðuroy Island