There is almost nothing to do in Mykines, yet I longed to spend much more time there. It’s a fair bit of effort to get there, including at least one ferry. Oh, and you might get stuck on the island. I secretly wished we would.
So where’s the magic? What makes this place so amazing? I don’t really know, but I do know it’s not just one thing.
It’s the village, which looks like a movie set.
It’s the dramatic view back down toward the village, which seems like it settled at the bottom of this valley after rolling around for a while.
It’s the breathtaking scenery that literally surrounds you.
It’s the puffins.
Those photogenic, fascinating puffins, who don’t have hollow bones and seem as if they can barely fly.
Those industrious puffins, who try their landings over and over again, and look like they’re panicking each time.
Those curious puffins, who reward the patient and very still birdwatcher with a once in a lifetime up close visit.
But I loved Mykines before I saw trudged up to see the puffins. Hike up the hills of the lush green land, and you’ll soon be alone in nature.
It’s hard to explain the charm of this place. Only 10 people live on Mykines year-round, though that number swells to a hundred or two hundred during the summer. Most of those are tourists, but some are locals who summer here. (More locals used to live here. But like everywhere else on the Faroe Islands, people are moving to the capital area at the expense of every other region.)
When you’re on the island, it feels like you’re part of a special club. The limited number of people who made it out to Mykines today.
One caveat: We had stunningly perfect weather. Aside from 2 minutes of drizzle while we waited for our ferry ride back to reality, it was clear all day, and sunny until mid afternoon. If it’s raining all day, some of the magic of this place will likely be lost.
Planning your trip to Mykines
There are only two ways to get to and from Mykines: Ferry and helicopter. And taking the helicopter requires careful planning, some determination, and maybe a small bit of luck. We’ll cover the helicopter in a future post, but here’s the summary: The helicopter only takes 12 people, and only flies a few times a week. And you can only book a week in advance, since it’s really meant for locals. Check the schedule and book at Atlantic Airways.
So most people will take the ferry to Mykines and the ferry back. Be sure to book tickets well in advance. Here’s the ferry you’ll be riding:
The ferry port is in Sørvágur, about 2km from the Vagar airport. The terminology is a little tricky here. Vagar is the island, and Sørvágur is a town on Vagar Island.
You can get to the ferry by bus, or by taxi, or as part of a guided tour. (I opted for the last option, and traveled with MM Tours— it makes life much easier!) If you choose to travel by bus, the 300 bus is what you want. The bus schedule is typically coordinated with ferry trips.
Make sure you’re getting a bus that starts or ends at “Bakki.” The pickup / dropoff location is at the Effo gas station, which is just a minute or so walk from the ferry terminal. The English timetable above just says “Bakki” which is confusing. But the Faroese version of the bus schedule specifically says that buses with the superscript 3) stop by the Effo station.
The ferry only runs from May 1 – August 31 (well, and also 10 days in October during a fall holiday / sheep shearing.)
As you board the ferry, you’ll be asked to pay the new 250 DKK ($37 US, €33 per person fee if you plan to hike outside of the village. This fee has increased dramatically for 2020; in 2019, it was 100 DKK. You can also pay on the ferry web site. Children 7-15 are half price, and 6 and under are free. If you booked a package tour, this was likely included. More on that later.
You will get a numbered ticket when you board the ferry. Save this– they will be collected at the end of the ferry ride back.
The boat is a little bigger than it looks. Capacity is around 80, though some of those people will be stuck downstairs. I say stuck because I strongly prefer to be outside. It minimizes seasickness and maximizes views. But the lower deck is pretty nice:
At the far back of that lower deck you will find coffee, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, juice boxes and sweets for sale. There is an honor box, so make sure you have some Danish / Faroese coins if you want anything. Coffee and hot chocolate cost a very reasonable 10 DKK ($1.50 US, €1.35.) Most sweets are also 10 DKK.
The ride took about 45 minutes. On the way, you’ll pass some smaller islands and get a fantastic view of Mykines as it gets closer and closer.
The ferry travels the length of the island to get to the ferry port, which is on the far west side. Once it’s time to disembark, watch your step! On the trip back home, two men grabbed one elbow each and lifted every person onto the boat. They didn’t quite lift me off my feet, but they were a very forceful insurance policy.
You are greeted by … steps. Lots and lots of steps.
Head right, toward the village. You don’t have to have a guide, but you may be offered one once you climb the steps. Keep an eye out for updated rules here. As of right now there is “[a] recommendation (though not a demand) for everyone walking through the Ramsar area and to the lighthouse to be [accompanied] by a certified guide.” Ramsar is a natural area protected by the government; this includes the slopes, sea cliffs, and ocean regions where the birds are.
Before you get to the village you’ll see an information sign with a map of the hiking paths. When we were there in late July, a handwritten sign was taped to the map: “Path [number] 5 closed due to too slippery”
Path number 5 is the famous lighthouse path, with narrow bridge crossings and puffins galore. The official story is that the path was too slippery. The unofficial story is that because of the tourists, the puffins were too scared to go into their burrows and feed their young, so the landowner opted to close the path. Don’t scare the puffins! Move calmly and quietly, and don’t play the game of seeing how close you can get before you scare the puffins away.
I believe the path has re-opened as of mid-August 2019.
Some tourists were very disappointed that the lighthouse path was closed; it certainly is a beautiful lighthouse.
I haven’t done the path, so I don’t know what I was missing. But we still did plenty of hiking and saw plenty of puffins. And now that I think about it, maybe our puffin viewing was better because of it? Path 5 is closed at a very specific point:
But you can still walk up the hill, which is the start of this hike. And at the top we encountered tons of puffins … and very few other people.
And that’s your agenda for the day. Hike to wherever you’d like, as long as you pay the fee. Some people hiked up to Eingilskahús, the English House, which is a historical lookout point. Then hike up the hill toward the lighthouse path to hang out with the puffins.
After you’ve had your fill of hiking, head to the village. There are public bathrooms here, along with one café and one store. The store did not seem to have set hours; it was open around 14:00 when we arrived and closed around 18:00 when we returned from hiking.
The café has coffee, ice cream, cakes, drinks, and some meals. The meal options are fish soup, a hamburger, and hot dogs. Prices seem reasonable given it’s not easy to get food out here; the hamburger was 50 DKK ($7.50 US, €6.70). If the main dining area is full, there is a large seating area downstairs.
The store is down a narrow street; look for the simple sign that says “shop”. Inside you’ll find snacks and souvenirs, though I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to shop here, unless you need some snacks.
Getting stuck on Mykines
A few times a year, the water is too rough for the ferry to sail. Sometimes this can go on for several days. If you weren’t able to make it to Mykines, then your ferry trip will be cancelled, and your payments will be refunded. If you did make it to Mykines, then you are very much stuck. This is unlikely to happen to you, but it does happen.
Don’t book your Mykines trip the day before you leave the Faroe Islands, and hope for the best. And if you get stuck, write it off as an adventure rather than an inconvenience!
The MM Tours option
MM Tours is a fairly new tour guide company, run by 2 brothers from the Faroe Islands. They offer a premium tour to Mykines, and handle everything. It’s worth considering if you want to splurge a little.
MM will drive you from Tórshavn and take you to the ferry port. They’ll take care of ferry tickets, the hiking fee, lunch, dinner, and a guide.
Lunch will be a good quality boxes lunch. But dinner will be in a local’s house with homemade, Faroese food. The dinner won’t be as fancy as some other options to dine with a Faroese local, but those dinners cost half as much (or more) as the entire 10-hour trip with MM (which includes ferry tickets, hiking fees, transportation, lunch, and more.)
This may or may not be true, but I also feel like the tour offers a little bit of travel insurance. If you end up stranded on Mykines, MM and your local host are going to make sure you have a place to stay for the night!
Whether you go on a tour or make arrangements yourself, try to get to Mykines. It will likely be the highlight of your summer trip to the Faroe Islands … weather permitting.