Mykines is the westernmost of all the Faroe Islands, famous 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 boat and helicopter, Mykines is a popular day trip from Vágar. Of course, we decided to spend a day and explore this small island ourselves.
Getting to Mykines is easy. In summer, both ferry and helicopter can take you there. During winter months, when the Atlantic Ocean gets rough, the ferry does not operate. The only option then 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. It also ensures that helicopter pilots have enough practice and experience to perform search and rescue operations whenever necessary.
Since both ferry and helicopter cost about the same, it’s no wonder that a helicopter ride to Mykines is very popular among tourists. Bear in mind though that you can only use the helicopter to fly one way on any given day. It is not allowed to book a return flight on the same day. Unless you want to stay overnight, you would need to use 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 reserve well in advance. We tried to buy the tickets two weeks prior, and all the flights were already fully booked. So instead we ended up just taking a ferry both ways.
Turns out, this wasn’t 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. If you don’t want to take a long hike there described in my last post, this is really the only alternative to see them up close. Not sure if it’s a usual routine or we just got lucky (might be 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 through the small straight between Drangarnir and Vágar. That offered 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. The island is mainly famous for 2 things: its puffin colony and a small lighthouse on the far west side of Mykineshólmur (a small islet just offshore of Mykines and connected to it by a short bridge). The good news is you can do both at the same time. Just follow the trail to the lighthouse and you’ll see plenty of birds along the way.
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 it slow. It took us two and a half hours to walk all the way to the lighthouse. Of course, we did stop a lot to take images, shoot video, and observe the birds. I’m pretty confident it is doable 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, nesting all along the path. What’s great is that Mykines puffins don’t pay much attention 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 a wildlife photographer but still, I was able to capture some photos that I’m very happy with. It’s really that easy.
Keep in mind though that the puffins only live on Mykines 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. However, 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 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. You’re supposed to purchase a ticket for it in the local tourist office. You will find it 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 bought 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 made it to the lighthouse and back just in time to catch the ferry back. After that, we even had enough time left to have a coffee in the village cafe before that. We didn’t rush, but I would suggest keeping an eye on the watch. If you get carried away photographing the birds and run out of time, you’ll 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.
If you want to know more about Mykines and its puffins, make sure to also check the Youtube video I’ve put together about this incredible place: