The remote island of Mykines has some of the most iconic sites and experiences the Faroe Islands have to offer. So what’s here? Well there’s a tiny, colourful but rundown village, far removed from tourism and the rest of the world; huge cliff faces with lush green pastures; one of the most beautiful lighthouses you’ll ever see, and thousands of seabirds. It doesn’t really get more Faroese than this. Sold yet? What if I told you that most of the seabirds here are puffins who go about life within an arm’s reach of you?
Walking around hundreds of puffins in such a stunning location is really something. I loved every minute of being there, including the crazy rough boat journey to get there, from which you get unique views of the neighbouring islands and the ridiculously beautiful village of Gasadalur.
And to get onto terra firma on a rough day in Mykines you’re going to have to take a well-timed jump. Everthing’s an adventure when going here, but don’t worry – there’ll be a Faroese man or two to help you.
My only regret is that I spent just one day there. I didn’t realise beforehand but there’s actually a little guesthouse on the island, called Kristianshús. Spending the night there and seeing the sun set or rise must surely be magical.
Best things to do in Mykines
Making the 2.2km walk to the lighthouse
I’ll confess: this is my joint favourite lighthouse in the world (along with the lighthouse of Kallur on Kalsoy Island – also in the Faroes). Sitting in the greenest grass you can imagine, surrounded by the noise of the roaring Atlantic and chattering seabirds, you can see the dark spikey shapes of the other islands looming in one direction and open water in the other. It feels like the edge of the world. And sitting on this edge is a red and white lighthouse, as it has been for 100 years. I am in love with this place.
Meeting thousands of seabirds, particularly puffins
Over 100,000 birds use Mykines as their breeding site. In addition to puffins – which you are guaranteed to see in their hundreds during summer – Mykines is home to fulmars, shearwaters, storm petrels, gannets, shags, kittiwakes and guillemots. A bird lover’s paradise.
Exploring one of the most remote villages in Europe – the village of Mykines
Most people head straight up towards the lighthouse but it’s well worth spending a bit of time wandering around this beautiful ghost town, which takes shabby-chic to a whole new level. Of the 40 houses here only 6 are inhabited permanently, with only 11 permanent residents. Most have now moved to the main islands for work during the last 40 years (on the other hand, 1200 sheep call this island home). It’s unassuming and beautiful.
Eating some traditional Faroese food at the local cafe
After a fair amount of walking that is likely to involve you getting soaked, huddling up in this little cafe with a huge bowl of traditional Faroese fish soup is the perfect way to warm up and end the day.
To see what else the Faroe Islands have to offer check out my video Best of the Faroe Islands
How to get to Mykines
On a clear day you can see Mykines from the town of Sørvagur, where a boat makes the 45-minute journey to the island twice a day. There’s a little ticket office by a jetty a fair walk down from the beginning of the docks, though it doesn’t always appear to be open. You can book tickets here.
Warning: The currents and waves are notoriously strong around Mykines – I went on a “calmer” day and couldn’t even stand up! – so it’s quite possible that the boat will be cancelled due to bad weather. Mine was cancelled on the first attempt. Come here at the beginning of your stay so that if it is cancelled you can have a try at it another day (it’s worth it!). Outside of summer the boat journeys become much less frequent and even less reliable.
I’ve read a few stories of people having their return journey cancelled, too – another reason to try do this early in your time there!
You can also get there by helicopter. A government subsidised helicopter, no less, meaning that it’s not even expensive (under £20 each). But don’t count on being able to do this: it can get cancelled too, there aren’t many seats going and they book up very quickly. It’s definitely worth a try, though. The helicopter leaves from the airport (which is on the outskirts of Sørvagur), and you can book it here. You can also fly to other parts of the island.
Generally the boat/helicopter leaves at about 10am and the return boat comes at about 4pm (the helicopter will only take you to the island – you’ll need to get the boat back).
What to bring
The weather is pretty crazy in the Faroe Islands. I mean, it’s much worse than England and that’s saying something. So firstly bring a raincoat (NOT an umbrella – the wind will make light work of it!), and preferably waterproof trousers and a cover for your backpack. One of those big plastic ponchos will do if nothing else. Then you’ll want a couple of layers underneath as the weather can be anything from cool to near enough freezing!
The main track is well marked (I can’t say the same for the rest of the hikes in the Faroe Islands), so you don’t need to worry about maps or GPS for the main track. Bring walking boots or shoes/trainers with good grip; there are a few steep and slippery sections where you’ll appreciate having good footwear, but overall there’s nothing much to worry about.
There’s a little cafe on the island that rustles up some great food and sandwiches, but it’s still an idea to bring some snacks and water of your own.
And finally: bring your camera!
How to reach the lighthouse and puffins
It’s very easy to see the puffins on Mykines – as soon as you get out of the village they’re pretty much everywhere. From the back of the village is a steep track that leads up a grassy hill and veers to the left. It’s signposted at the bottom and is pretty much the steepest bit. From here you just follow the track all the way to the lighthouse, crossing puffins’ nests and a bridge between the main island and the islet of Mykineshólmur that the lighthouse is on. There’s a huge gannet population down on rocks beyond the lighthouse too.
At a guess I’d say it takes about an hour to get from the village of Mykines to the lighthouse at the end of the island, but I couldn’t tell you for sure – I took hours because I was too busy photographing the puffins! It’s not a very long track (2.2km one way) but give yourself lots of time to look at everything. If you’re late for the boat back and jog it takes about 25 minutes!!
UPDATE: In order to preserve the wildlife on the island you now have to pay a small fee of 100DKK to do the hike to the lighthouse and see the puffins. A number of websites encourage you to hire a guide, though this doesn’t appear to be obligatory. Head to the Faroe Island’s official tourist website to find out more.
I would rate the track to the lighthouse as quite easy, and definitely one of the easiest I did in the Faroe Islands. It’s short, easy to follow, with a few steep or slippery bits here and there. With an exception or two, though, most of the steep bits have rocky steps and a rope/fence to follow. In my opinion anyone with reasonable mobility and fitness could do it. And the great thing is that the puffin nests start very close to the town, so you can avoid the more precarious bits and still see lots of them.
This track is the busiest in the Faroes by a long shot (on the other hikes I didn’t see more than four people), with a good hundred people on the track in summer. But it’s still nothing compared to European standards and it’s a big enough area that everyone can spread out.
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