Mykines is the westernmost of all the Faroe Islands and is widely known for its population of seabirds, especially puffins, and a hiking trail leading to the lighthouse and offering nice views of the island’s picturesque shoreline. Connected to the rest of the Faroe Islands by both boat and helicopter, it makes for a popular day trip from Vágar, so during our visit to Faroes we decided to spend a day exploring this small island.
Getting to Mykines is easy. In summer, both ferry and helicopter can take you there. During winter months, as the Atlantic Ocean gets rough, the ferry does not operate and the only option is the helicopter. You are probably thinking that taking a flight to Mykines is going to be crazy expensive, but it’s not. In fact, it costs only 145 DKK as I’m writing this, which is less than 20 EUR. The reason it’s so cheap is that the Faroese government heavily subsidizes the rides to make traveling between islands easier while at the same time ensuring that helicopter pilots have enough practice and experience to perform search and rescue operations whenever necessary.
Obviously, with both ferry and helicopter costing about the same, it comes as no wonder that booking a helicopter ride to get to Mykines is very popular among tourists. Bear in mind though that you can only use helicopter to fly one way on any given day an it is not allowed to book a return flight on the same day. So unless you decide to stay overnight, you would need to combine both ferry and the flight for a day trip to Mykines. This is quite confusing and not at all obvious, so refer to this nice article for more details. Even so, the helicopter option is hugely popular and gets sold out really quickly, so book well in advance. We bought our tickets two weeks prior to being there and all the flights were already fully booked, so we ended up just taking a ferry both ways.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The ferry ride is only 45 minutes long and is quite pleasant. More importantly, the ferry sails right past the islets of Drangarnir and Tindhólmur. So if you don’t want to take a long hike there that I described in my last post, this is really the best alternative to get to see them up close. Not sure if it’s a usual routine or we just got lucky (might the latter), but on our way back the captain of the ferry decided to take a detour and sail on the other side of Tindhólmur and then through the small straight between Drangarnir and Vágar. That offered really beautiful views comparable with the ones you get from hiking there, though only for a brief few moments.
I would even say it’s worth taking the ferry just for that but of course Mykines itself has a lot more to offer. Most people come here to see the puffins, which the island is famous for, or do the hike leading all the way to the lighthouse on the far west side of Mykineshólmur (a small islet just off shore of Mykines and connected to it by a short bridge). Luckily you can do both at the same time – there’s plenty of birds to see all along the hike.
In summer, the earliest ferry will get you to Mykines at 11:05, while the latest boat back departs at 17:00. You can check the schedule here. This gives you roughly six hours to spend on the island before heading back. That’s plenty of time to do the hike even if you take is slow. It took us two and a half hours to walk all the way to the lighthouse and we did stop a lot to take images, shoot video and observe the birds. I’m pretty confident the hike can easily be done in about 40 minutes or so if you just keep pushing.
There’s really no need for that though. The hike is beautiful and there’s plenty of opportunities to observe the puffins. Those birds are literally everywhere. They nest all along the path and are quite used to human presence, so you can really get quite close without scaring them off. I still suggest to take a long lens, but you don’t need a huge zoom. 70 to 200 mm should be perfectly fine and guarantee you some great images. I’m not at all a wildlife photographer but even so I managed to capture some photos that I’m really happy with. It’s really that easy.
Keep in mind though that puffins are only there during the summer months. Come autumn they head into the open ocean leaving the island quite deserted. We visited Mykines in mid-August and all the birds were still there, but if you’re there the island closer to September, your mileage may vary. That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit Mykines in autumn or spring. As I said, the hike is quite beautiful in its own right and will still be a pleasant experience (weather permitting, obviously). However, puffins really steal the show and I wholeheartedly recommend coming in summer.
One last thing to note about the trail is that it’s actually a toll hike and you’re supposed to purchase a ticket for it in the local tourist office located in the village up the hill as soon as you disembark from the ferry. There’s a sign at the start of the path that makes it quite clear. It’s a fairly recent regulation that was allegedly put in place to help keep the route in order. The price is 100 Faroese krona per person (13.50 EUR as I’m writing this) and in my opinion it’s really quite steep for a walking trail. However, even though we bough the tickets, we found out that nobody is ever checking them, so it’s really up to you whether to do so or not.
We got to the lighthouse and back just in time to catch the ferry back and even have a coffee in the village cafe before that. We didn’t rush, but I would suggest keeping an eye on the watch – it is quite easy to get carried away photographing the birds and then run out of time and have to head back before reaching the lighthouse. The path offers some beautiful views of the cliffs and the ocean and it would definitely be a great pity to miss out on those.