Guide to Vestmanna – Historical Treasure and Alluring Nature
Which sights are popular in Vestmanna? Are there cafés and restaurants in the village? Which kind of tourist attractions can be found in Vestmanna? And how do I get to Vestmanna from Tórshavn? Find your answers here.
The village Vestmanna lies north on the largest island in the Faroe Islands, Streymoy. There is road connection to most of the islands and villages. It takes half an hour to drive from Vagar Airport to Vestmanna, and you will drive half an hour to reach Tórshavn from Vestmanna.
Vágar island guards Vestmanna from the moody dark ocean and the village has always been one of the best natural harbours in the Faroe Islands. The village has for centuries been named Vestmannahavn, directly translated to Vestmannaharbour, or as it was written in the Middle Ages, Vestmannahöfn.
- Find Fishing Tours in Vestmanna here
There is no doubt that the name Vestmanna originates from westmen. The Norwegian Viking excursions went mostly to the west and to the West Land, which was the collective name that Vikings gave all countries in the west.
Most journeys from Norway went to Britain and Ireland and the Norwegians came across different people here, which they called westmen. The people in Vestmanna might therefore be the second or third generation of Northerner, which married Scotsmen, Irishmen or people on the nearby islands.
Historically Vestmanna has been a traditional farming village. People have made a living out of sheep, milk from cattle, fishing and birding. The outfields in Vestmanna includes a vast area from the village Saksun with its recognisable landscape and distinctive old turf houses.
Here in deep valleys between rugged basalt hills and dense bluish mountains, the people of Vestmanna have stayed in lodging cottages when they went on either bird hunt or climbed the grass-covered steep cliffs to drive sheep into sheepfolds.
In their minds, they met Irish munks named Papi or Christian munks. These munks lived here in ancient times. At the edge of a sea cliff there are two narrow sloping ledges named Paparøkur or the Papa ledges where, according to legend, munks devoted their vocation call as a recluse living their solitary life in nature.
Vestmanna is most likely an example of a Faroese village which from the first settlement until later in the Viking age or early in the Middle Ages changed from being a recidence with only a few houses and a church or chapel to become a village with several districts, today grown together into the village Vestmanna. The oldest settlement in Vestmanna is from the 11th century. This is a farmyard near the church where remains and objects have helped determine the age of the site.
Another excavation is found further up the village where several houses have been grouped next to each other. This settlement dates back to the Early Middle Ages or the Viking age.
Pirates are coming
The first settlers in Vestmanna lived by the sea. However, the fear of pirates made people settle up the hillside away from the harbour so they had a better view and could more easily run away into the mountains when danger was near.
Pirates have hugely affected Vestmanna. There are several places near Vestmanna named after piracy incidens. During the summer period, the people in Vestmanna used to watch for pirates from lookouts.
- See also: Vacation Packages in Faroe Islands
Two pirate ships were caught in Vetsmanna by the authorities in May 1615. Eight pirates where hanged in gallows and the rest where taken as prisoners. After two weeks in the mountains, the people of Vestmanna could return to the village.
In the 18th century there were 125 people living in Vestmanna. The population today is near 1250 people and people now live by the sea as well as fairly high up in the village. The local development was kick-started when the trade monopoly was abolished in 1856. Soon after there were 10 shops in the village and several fishing vessels.
Progressive menn grew up in Vestmanna pushing forward the establishment of businesses, telephone connection and electricity from water power. This also became the foundation of trawlers and the growing fishing industry, which became the main industry in the village. Now there are also other industries as well as an upper secondary school and tourism.
Vestmanna has been a sports village since 1927 when the traditional Faroese boat race was introduced in the village. Now there are racing boats in several sizes and age groups. The old Faroese boat is still being built with the same shape as the traditional wooden fishing boat.
Handball has been the most popular sport. The local sports club VÍF was found in 1939 and is among the most winning clubs in the Faroe Islands.
Nature in Vestmanna
The nature in Vestmanna is beautiful and enchanting. Here you will find mountains and valleys, streams and lakes. The development of water power around Vestmanna resulted in a great road system that can take you high up in the nearby mountains.
Each summer you can go fishing from Vestmanna between the islands Streymoy and Vágar with the company Blástein. These tours are popular among travellers to the Faroe Islands.
Vestmanna is best known for its bird cliffs only a short boat ride from the village. Vestmannabjørgini is one of the most beautiful pearls in the islands. The locals have been been sailing north from Vestmanna to experience the impressive sheer sea cliffs for centuries. Here you will see steep, grass-covered bird cliffs, towering sea-stacks, and a rich bird life when joining a boat tour by the company Skúvadal.
- See also: Tours to Vestmanna Sea Cliffs
The cliffs on the west side of the northern part of Streymoy island are different from the rest of the cliffs in the Faroe Islands. Besides perpendicular cliffs reaching several hundred metres up in the air, you will also see lots of unspoiled nature.
You will experience the diverse sight of bird cliffs, green terraces where sheep are grassing, fascinating upright peaks, gorges, ravines and free-standing rock formations with narrow straits. This colourful scenery attracts people from all around the world while birds are bragging and entertaining everywhere around you.
The Vestmanna Sea Cliffs are more enthralling than you can ever imagine. This is why this natural wonder is on many travellers’ bucket lists.
Vestmannabjørgini have had a great deal of importance for the locals. Sheep on the steep hill sides have provided the people of Vestmanna with lamb meat and the locals have also utilised the meat from sea-birds living at sea and on sea-stacks and by the shoreline.
Now the cliffs of Vestmanna are solely a tourist attraction. You can still spot sheep grassing here but now it is a refreshing adrenalin-packed leisure-time activity for the locals strengthening the social relations in the village.
The old culture is also kept alive in the mountain cottages where men stay for the night as a part of driving the sheep to the fold. This is one of the highlights of the year for the locals.
The old tradition of bird catching in the cliffs has been abandoned. The birds are still there as a vivid reminder of nature’s magnificent beauty. Nature here is not only sheer and green but you will also get really close to clefts, gorges and sometimes also seals. Enjoy the slim straits and stunning sea-stacks where you can look directly into the eyes of guillemots and kittiwakes nesting on rock ledges in the bird cliffs.
The past will also come close to you while you sail in a boat in this natural masterpiece as you are told stories about achievements in the old days when vestmenningar, as the locals are called, were tending sheep in these immense cliffs and precipitous terrain.
Travellers are always happy when returning from a boat trip to Vestmannabjørgini. Among the highlights is when the boat sails along caves and through dark grottos. Tourists are in the seventh heaven when they see a puffin. Expect there to be pufffins here.
The people of Vestmanna are kind, they are not in a hurry and they stop and want to talk. Travellers are always welcome. There are more than 100 beds for travellers in Vestmanna besides the best wind protected campsite in the Faroe Islands, a food shop as well as restaurants and cafés.
Are you planning to visit Vestmanna while in the Faroe Islands? Start out by browsing the widest selection of things to do and see in the Faroe Islands.