The Puffins of Mykines in the Faroe Islands

Puffins on Mykines, Faroe Islands
Before I begin gushing profusely over puffins, puffins and more adorable puffins, I’ll start with a little background information about the Faroe Islands.

Comprising of 18 islands, the Faroes are owned by Denmark but geographically closer to Scotland and Iceland. They are also visually reminiscent of both these countries so that might give you a better idea of what to expect. If you’re a die-hard fan of Iceland like myself then the likelihood of feeling a similar way about the Faroes need not to be questioned!

By any standards, the Faroes are undeniably beautiful – wild, remote and windswept. Deep valleys absent of trees, craggy inlets, towering cliffs and often bizarre angular mountains reveal a landscape shaped by volcanic activity and ever-changing weather. Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, you’re never more than 3-miles away from the sea.

Mykines

This is a place that particularly appeals to people who love being outdoors and close to nature, and there’s nowhere on the Faroes that can quite trump the breathtaking scenery that can be seen from Mykines, the westernmost of all the islands and only accessible by boat or helicopter.

Surprisingly, travelling by helicopter is more affordable than you’d imagine, a one-way ticket from Torshavn to Mykines will set you back less than £15. That’s not a bad price to pay when you consider the average price of hopping in a helicopter would usually set you back over £100 in most countries.

The reason for this affordability boils down to the locals. The helicopters are used as a mode of transportation for residents and the price doesn’t get pimped up for tourists who wish to follow suit. In other words, a helicopter is not seen as a frivolous holiday activity but rather an essential means of transportation for local commuters. There are no cars on the island.

I was tempted to get the helicopter to Mykines but I was advised by a young woman in Torshavn Tourist Information Centre to take the boat. The helicopters go less frequently and the spaces fill up really quickly so the best guarantee of reaching Mykines is to get the boat she told me.

We listened to her advice, and she booked the tickets on our behalf.

It was a choppy 50-minutes boat journey from Sorvagur on Vagar nearby the airport to Mykines, and due to my susceptibility to motion sickness I could not have got off the boat any quicker than I did. But if anything can cure an unsettled stomach it’s filling your lungs with fresh Scandinavian air, feeling an upsurge of wind pushing against your stride, and most of all, clapping eyes on this other-worldly landscape.

Visiting Mykines

Just looking out at the cliffs I could see birds flying everywhere, big and small ones, black and white ones, all kinds of species. Along the cliffside bird colonies could be seen as white clusters which were likely to be herring gulls.

Mykines, Faroe islands

There’s only one small boat, carrying approximately 50 people departing to the island everyday in the summer so this means we, humans, do not overcrowd this special island. An island where only 12 people live (!).

Boat to Mykines, Faroe Islands

Mykines, Faroe Islands

Puffins on Mykines, Faroe Islands

Though the birdlife is extremely rich and varied on Mykines, the main reason why I wanted to go was to see puffins (Lundin in Faroese). It is reportedly the best island on the Faroes to see them from. This proved to be true. As I hiked further up and away from the sea where the boat had docked, puffins began to emerge from behind the veil of thick fog surrounding the island, my ability to spot them aided by their colourful beaks.

Puffin Colony, Mykines, Faroe Islands

But there were times when the fog would pass and I’d be able to see them much more clearly.

Puffins on Faroe Islands

Due to the uneven surfaces and rock formations I would suggest taking a hiking stick if you can. Sometimes the paths can get pretty precarious, if not muddy and slippery…

During the summer months, hundreds of thousands of puffins flock to the island where they dig nesting burrows inside steep, grassy slopes. This came as a big revelation to me as I never knew it was in a bird’s nature to burrow tunnels in the soil like woodland creatures do.

I know it might sound very naive but I thought all birds built their own nest from nearby resources such as twigs, but then it dawned on me – the Faroes don’t have trees so that’s not possible.

I found out something else about puffins – did you know baby puffins are called pufflings? How cute is that?!

They live pretty long lives too, usually 20 years or more. Spending time on land during the summer whilst they breed and the rest of the time they’re bobbing up and down in the ocean far away from land.

For me, this is why I travel, to open my eyes to what is beyond my usual everyday life and provide a deeper interest in the subjects I encounter. I’ve never taken a huge interest in the life of birds but now I’m ready to buy my first pair of binoculars! It was a shame I didn’t have any for my trip so I really suggest you do, these incredible birds are such a pleasure to watch.

Puffins on Mykines

Puffins on Mykines island

Puffins, faroe islands Seeing these all these birds is an experience I’ll never forget. These last photos give you an impression of how densely populated some of the areas are with puffins.

Puffins on Mykines

Puffins on Mykines, Faroe Islands

Further reading: Travel Guide to the Faroe Islands – Everything You Need to Know.

Would you like to see Puffins in the wild?



A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.


'The Puffins of Mykines in the Faroe Islands' have 34 comments

  1. August 13, 2015 @ 8:12 pm MarkG

    Look’s like an interesting place. Although pilot whales may disagree.

    Reply

    • August 19, 2015 @ 5:58 pm Shing Yoong

      It is an interesting place, and the topic of whaling in the Faroes is worth more than a throwaway comment so I’ll be writing more about it in my next blog post.

      Reply

  2. August 13, 2015 @ 9:57 pm Van (@snowintromso)

    Thank you so much for writing about the Faroese in another context than the whale hunt! Am sick of people not understanding Northerners way of life…. anyway, beautiful pictures! Now I want to visit the Faroese even more! And how cool would it be to live on an island like that?!!

    Reply

    • August 19, 2015 @ 6:48 pm Shing Yoong

      Glad you appreciate seeing and hearing more about the Faroes other than the whale hunt Van! You are quite right, most people are not willing to even try and learn more about Northerners way of life before forming an educated opinion, instead they prefer to hurl abuse at an incredibly isolated island who use traditional methods of obtaining food.

      Reply

  3. August 14, 2015 @ 4:02 am Jacqueline

    Those little guys are so cute! I just want to squeeze them. My heart squeezed at the picture of them looking right at you! I wouldn’t mind being one of the 12 people who live here…but what on earth do they do??

    Reply

    • August 19, 2015 @ 7:15 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi Jacqueline! They made my heart implode too, such beautiful creatures, and what a pleasure to watch! I’d love to experience life on Mykines too. There are two very small guest houses on the island which I presume are owned by those who live there. One thing is for sure – everyone knows each other!!

      Reply

  4. August 14, 2015 @ 4:19 am CL (RealGunners)

    You know, when I saw your posts on Facebook, up till the beginning of this blog post, I thought you went to that bunch of English ruled islands off the coast of Argentina. I was confused when you said they are closer to Scotland and Ireland and owned by Denmark. Turns out I have mistaken Faroe Islands and Falkland Islands.

    Those puffins, I don’t suppose they are a distant relative to the penguins? They look very much like penguins, at least the Madagascar cartoon version! 😀

    Reply

    • August 19, 2015 @ 7:20 pm Shing Yoong

      Haha I’m happy to read this post was a bit of a geography lesson for you 😀

      It’s funny you make that comparison as I kept saying the same thing. A quick google tells me despite the similarities, puffins and penguins are not related!

      Reply

  5. August 14, 2015 @ 2:24 pm Elizabeth @ Something Saturdays

    Wow, just came across your blog and the Faroe Islands look amazing! They actually remind me of Newfoundland, where I’m from, although those cliffs may be even more dramatic! So picturesque. We also have quite a few puffins in Newfoundland – I’ve actually seen them on some great whale/bird boat tours of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve – and the landscape is fairly similar. I have to admit that was also surprised to find out that puffins burrow into the sides of cliffs – I had no idea!

    Reply

    • August 22, 2015 @ 1:11 pm Shing Yoong

      I recently discovered that the Atlantic puffin is the provincial bird of Newfoundland! As a result it’s now on my radar and I’d love to visit, especially now I’ve seen pictures of Witless Bay Ecological Reserve!

      Reply

  6. August 15, 2015 @ 11:08 am Eleanor

    Looks amazing! Shame about the fog, although it sorta sets quite well in the dramatic landscape! Love puffins too, they are so pretty!

    Reply

    • August 22, 2015 @ 6:57 pm Shing Yoong

      Thanks Eleanor, I think fog is part of the Faroes, you can’t expect to visit without it hah! Aren’t the puffins just utterly adorable?

      Reply

  7. August 15, 2015 @ 11:19 am Richard

    Some cracking photos! Did you eat puffin out there? I saw it on the menu in Reykjavik a lot and was curious, but how could I eat a puffling’s parent?

    Reply

    • August 23, 2015 @ 12:41 pm Shing Yoong

      Ahhh no, I didn’t eat any, though I heard from another guy out there that they taste more like red meat.

      Reply

  8. August 17, 2015 @ 8:54 pm Victoria@ The British Berliner

    ‘Love the post. The puffins look so cute and remind me of my childhood. As in puffin books LOL!
    I would love to go to the Faroe Islands as it would be great for hiking and looks very pretty and peaceful. I love Scotland and have been to the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Islay and the Isle of Arran. We tried to go to the Orkney Islands but we were arrived 1 day after the ferry season had closed….!

    Reply

    • August 23, 2015 @ 12:43 pm Shing Yoong

      Haha were you little bookworm Victoria? So cute!

      The Faroe Islands are beautiful, and definitely the place to be for nature and walking enthusiasts.

      Reply

  9. August 22, 2015 @ 8:56 pm Jen

    The Faroe Islands look beautiful and all but OH MY GOD THE PUFFINS. They are adorable. Beautiful pictures – thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    • August 23, 2015 @ 12:52 pm Shing Yoong

      The puffins were definitely a highlight of my trip to the Faroes Jen!

      Reply

  10. August 26, 2015 @ 2:01 am Freddie

    Oh gorgeous pictures! The puffins are stunning little things, aren’t they!?

    Reply

    • August 27, 2015 @ 8:38 pm Shing Yoong

      Stunning, precious, beautiful, adorable, delightful, the list goes on! 🙂

      Reply

  11. September 2, 2015 @ 8:03 pm Saria

    Those puffin photos are awesome, they are so damn adorable! I’ve actually just returned from a trip to the Faroe Islands myself (from August 21st until August 29th), but Mykines is one of the few places I didn’t get to visit unfortunately 🙁 Hope to go back there someday, it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen (together with Norway and Iceland). Didn’t see any puffins, but all these sheep made me happy too. Thanks for sharing your experiences, they were interesting to read. Same goes to your stories from Japan, it’s been my top travel fantasy and I’m finally going to go there in November! 🙂

    Reply

    • September 3, 2015 @ 10:53 am Shing Yoong

      Hi Saria, I’m happy to hear you fell in love with the Faroes too! I feel the same way, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been as well, and it reminded me of Iceland in many ways. Did you use Torshavn as your base? Mykines is a good reason to go again 😉

      Hehe, I loved all the sheep, they definitely rule the roads, huh?

      Have an amazing time in Japan, it’s such an incredible place and not somewhere that can be easily summed up – everywhere is so different! If you would like any tips or anything, don’t hesitate to ask!

      Reply

  12. October 3, 2015 @ 6:04 am Ashley @ MarriedWanderlustLove

    I am in love with Faroe Islands. I have been wanting to go there for several years after I came across an article on yahoo about places that look like a fairytale. I will get there one day! I also absolutely adore and am obsessed with puffins. I saw them 5 years ago in Maine at a bird sanctuary. I fell in love and look for any chance now when I travel in their migratory area to see them!

    Reply

    • October 12, 2015 @ 5:55 pm Shing Yoong

      Hello Ashley, I hope you manage to get to the Faroe Islands soon! I’m obsessed with puffins too, I never imagined I’d see so many!

      Reply

  13. October 12, 2015 @ 4:40 am Paul

    Great post!
    I am planning to go to the Faroe Islands next summer. Mykines is on the top of my list.
    I saw in another blog post (http://www.hecktictravels.com/hiking-faroe-islands) that there were no puffins on Mykines because of low herring populations. Is this true? That would be a major, major bummer.
    Did you go this past August (2015)? Did the locals say anything about having fewer puffins recently? This is very important to me and my wife!
    I would appreciate any insights. Thank you in advance.

    Reply

    • October 12, 2015 @ 5:53 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi Paul!

      Yes, I visited August 2015 and there were LOADS of puffins, far more than I imagined there would be in fact. I’ll upload a few more photos so you can get a better impression of the volume. I looked at the blog post you sent me and I can only say that they must have been misinformed. I think they went before the end of May which would result in them not seeing anything as the birds will not have arrived for breeding season then.

      Whilst it’s true the number of birds have decreased in recent years, there are still HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of them! If you want to ensure that you’ll see them then I suggest you go in July or the beginning-middle of August to be certain.

      Seeing all these puffins on Mykines really was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to ask. You might also find some useful information in this post: http://www.theculturemap.com/travel-guide-to-faroe-islands/

      Reply

      • October 12, 2015 @ 9:18 pm Paul

        Hi Shing,
        Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I will definitely factor in your advice as I plan. Puffins are my wife’s favorite bird. Not seeing them after traveling all the way to the Faroe Islands would be disastrous!
        I happened to find your website by Googling Mykines. I will definitely be following your blogs!
        Thanks again,
        Paul

        Reply

  14. January 24, 2016 @ 5:00 pm Dave

    Hi Shing. I can see the date you posted this, but can you please confirm the date you took these pictures – was it that date? I ask because we are considering visiting the Faroe Islands in the summer and don’t want to arrive too late to see the puffins! Thanks.

    Reply

    • January 24, 2016 @ 8:56 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi Dave, these photos were taken at the beginning of August so you can be rest assured that you’ll see puffins as long as you go to Mykines (via boat or helicopter which is a surprisingly affordable mode of transport on the Faroes). If you want to be certain to see them I would say go anytime between the end of June to the beginning-middle of August. Have a wonderful time and if you have anymore questions don’t hesitate to ask!

      Reply

      • January 25, 2016 @ 9:04 am Dave

        Hi Shing. Many thanks for your comprehensive reply – it’s greatly appreciated. We’re definitely going to go this summer (having fallen in love with both Iceland and the Shetland Islands – the Faroes are a must!) and your comments will help us decide the best time. We have a potential booking at the end of July and wanted as much information as possible, to decide whether we could go, and still get to the puffins in time! Your comments would imply that if we hot-footed it out at the start of August and went straight to Mykines, we should be fine, which is a great help. Happy travelling and thanks again!

        Reply

        • January 25, 2016 @ 12:15 pm Shing Yoong

          Yey super pleased to hear you’ll be going! If you love Iceland and Scotland then you should unquestionably feel the same way about the Faroes.

          The end of July to the beginning of August is a perfect time to go! Yes, that’s correct, when you arrive I recommend heading straight to the Information Centre at Torshavn where they’ll book the boat trip for you, and I also think they can book a helicopter ride on your behalf but I’m not certain about that since I opted for the boat ride. Alternatively you can also book on the internet.

          There’s only one boat in and out of Mykines a day so if you want more time to go hiking, you can also book accommodation on the island for a night. Since my objective was to see the puffins I just went for the day, but after realising how beautiful Mykines really is, I probably would have liked a night so I could do more walking (it’s the most beautiful island on the Faroes in my humble opinion). The accommodation is simple but you should still have a comfortable sleep.

          Happy travels!

          Reply

  15. November 19, 2016 @ 10:31 pm Eran

    Hi,
    Great photos! I’d rally love to see these puffins too 🙂
    When were these pictures taken (month)? Any chance you know if end of May is a good time to see them?
    Thanks so much!

    Reply

    • November 23, 2016 @ 11:38 am Shing Yoong

      Hi Eran, these photos were taken at the beginning of August, if you want to be certain that you’ll see puffins in the Faroe Islands you should aim to go between June – mid August, and head to the island of Mykines. You might be able to see them in May but I don’t think it’s guaranteed….

      Reply

  16. May 5, 2017 @ 6:26 am Hay is going to the Faroe Islands to talk about Tasmanian Poetry! – Pete Hay Writer

    […] Image: 2016 Shing Lin Yoong, THE PUFFINS OF MYKINES IN THE FAROE ISLANDS. […]

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