Mykines Island: Bird Kingdom of the Faroe Islands
It was early on a Tuesday morning, and it was one of my last days in the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands are a ancient volcanic archipelago in the northern portion of the Atlantic Ocean. While they were volcanic, there is no more volcanic activity on these islands. It is a territory of Denmark and can be found in between Norway and Iceland. The map gallery below will better explain the location of the Faroe Islands and the individual islands.
This was one of the day's I was looking forward to for a long time. It would be a lengthy day of hiking around the western most island of the Faroe Islands chain, known as Mykines Island. The goal for this day was to spend many hours observing and taking photographs of what the island is most famous for, it's bird population. More specifically, the goofy and awkward looking Puffins!
Like the Faroe Islands, Mykines Island is a unique island all in its own as well. It is thought to be one of the oldest islands of the Faroe Islands chain, and as of right now, it is estimated that the island has 6 people who are year round residents. There are also no official roads on the island or tunnels that connect to it, unlike most of the other islands in the Faroes. The only mode of travel on this island for visitors is by foot! The only village is Mykines which is named after the island. Mykines is located on the western side of the island.
There are only two ways to reach Mykines Island as a tourist. Your only options are taking the ferry or using the Faroe Island's subsidized helicopter transportation. I wouldn't be surprised that if popularity trends of visiting the Faroe Islands continue for another year or two, the cheap helicopter option will no longer be an option.
I departed from the small town of Sørvágur. The ferry launch can be found near the docks on the southwestern portion of the town. The ferry ride was crowded and quite cold. I couldn't help but have the memory of the first Jurassic Park pop up in my mind when approaching the island. More specifically, the scene where the helicopter approaches Jurassic Park from the sea. Approaching Mykines Island by way of the ferry is basically the same, right?! Cue the Jurassic Park theme music! If only I took the helicopter to Mykines, it would be pretty much identical. The island looks like a looming giant as you approach from Vágar Island. I was excited! Finally, my dream to see the awkward but adorable puffins was coming true.
It should be known for those who wish to travel here that flights and ferries are often cancelled due to weather conditions. It is definitely a extreme weather area as it is frequently quite windy, cold, and waves can be quite vicious. If visiting this island is important, make sure to plan several days in your itinerary to attempt to travel here, with back up plans in case transportation is cancelled for the day.
Arrival on Mykines
Once you arrive, the excitement begins. The unloading zone for the ferry is tucked into a small little inlet, surrounded by cliffs and large rocks. There is little room for maneuverability for the ferry. Once departing the ferry, you will proceed up several staircases and then enter the outskirts of Mykines. From there, you will see a long grass path that leads up to the ridgeline of the island. This path will bring you to the western most portions of the island, and to the home of thousands and thousands of birds. When you reach the top, you will likely begin to see your first close up glimpses of Puffins and many other birds that call this island their home.
From here, you can continue on along the ridge line as it reaches out further west. The further west you go along the island, the more birds you will come across. On the sides of the island, and the hollowed out cliffs, you will find bird colonies and nests. There will be plenty of Puffins even hanging out in the steep grassy hills along side the ridge resting in the sun, eating,, or perhaps even enjoying the magnificent views as well.
I spent about 8 hours on this portion of the island taking photos, relaxing, and admiring the wildlife on this solitary island.
There is plenty to see and do while you are here, but it definitely a wildlife admirer and photographer paradise. The scenery is unreal, and the bird population is impossible to avoid. Thousands and thousands of birds chill and fly around the cliffs of these islands.
This is likely the biggest attraction for traveling to this western most island of the Faroe Islands. Yes, there are awesome, jaw dropping landscapes to admire, a cool remote village, and tons of other bird wildlife too. If you are going to Mykines Island to see Puffins, generally April through mid August is the best time, as this is when they are nesting. The remainder of the year, they are often at sea for months at a time.
Puffins are curious birds, but they still can be quite shy. They will likely let you get relatively close, but they will fly away if you get too close. During the nesting season, avoid hiking and crashing through a nesting area as this may disturb them and scare them away from their young. If you are doing photography, it would be suggested to bring a good telescopic lens and a tripod!
To learn more about these cool sea-faring birds, click the link to this informational webpage on puffins. Below is a larger gallery of photos of Puffins doing Puffin things.
Things to know in advance
The following are some hints that could be helpful for you if you plan on traveling to Mykines Island.
As mentioned before, there are only two ways to reach the island. Links were provided to the websites where you can arrange for transportation to get here. From what I recall, I believe the ferry ride was about $30-40ish round trip. I could be wrong on this as I can no longer find my receipt.
Book in advance, and give yourself several different days to make it here. Transportation is frequently cancelled due to poor weather and ocean conditions.
It would be smart to bring food and water with you. The island does have a few shops and cafes that are generally open every day. But it would be smart to have these things with you prior to departing in case they are closed.
Clothing versatility that would work for both warm, cold, windy, and rainy weather would be appropriate. If your foolish like me, waterproof clothing would be important for the ferry ride as well. Good hiking shoes with good traction are important. If it is wet out, it can be quite slippery. Overall, the hike to the lighthouse on the western portion of the island is moderate, but there are some steep portions.
Sunblock and sunglasses could be a life saver here. I definitely either got sunburn or windburn, or a combination of the two!
If you are a photographer, bring plenty of batteries, memory cards, and a tripod. I took well over 1,500 photos during my short stay here. The photo opportunities are endless.
Know that it could be a possibility that you get stuck on the island overnight. There are accommodations available in case this happens. I believe there was even a few houses on Airbnb! A overnight stay on this wonderful, overall undeveloped island wouldn't be the worst thing to happen, that's for sure. Unless, you fly out the next morning.....
There is a fee to visit the island during the popular months of the year which is the beginning of May through the end of August. The fee is a little over $10 USD. This fee goes to benefit the island and the preservation of it as a bird sanctuary.
For more information in regards to Mykines, or even the Faroe Islands, check out this link from the Faroe Island's official travel website.
Practice the leave no trace philosophy of hiking and camping. This a small, secluded island. Don't litter. Leave it in the same condition that you found it in. Don't ruin the natural beauty this island has to offer by leaving lots of trash.
On the way out, or the way back in can be a great time for some photo opportunities from the ferry of surrounding landscapes. Be warned though. I made the mistake of heading to the bow of the ferry with rough waters. I thought overall it would be dry. I was wrong. I got absolutely drenched with basically freezing Arctic ocean water (I know its technically the Atlantic, but it was very cold!). I was freezing and miserable. Every splash of icy cold water when the ferry crashed into a wave, was a shock to my system, and it happened often. It was to the point that I was unable to even bother taking photos. Fear not, if this worries you, they do open the bottom portion of the ferry when there is rough waters.
Mykines island is a no brainer for a spot to visit if you ever make your way out to the not so well known Faroe Islands. To purposely skip over Mykines Island would be a shame. It is an experience that every visitor to the Faroes should have! I will never forget the long day I spent enjoying the sights and abundance of birds that inhabit this remote island.
Mykines Island is definitely a place for bird enthusiasts, adventurers, photographers to check out!
Keep an eye out on my blog for more articles on the wonderful Faroe Islands and even more photography from this 5 day adventure I had exploring the beautiful landscapes these islands had to offer.
For more information on the Faroe Islands and Mykines Island, I recommend checking out the following website, Guide to the Faroe Islands, for more information from a local!