The crowd was clapping. First tentatively, with only couple of the passengers initiating their appreciation for the flight crew, with more and more people joining in as the relief washed over us.
Moments before the plane had lost altitude as we approached the international and only airport, Vagar, in the Faroe Islands. I saw a sliver of sea basking in the August sun, and then everything outside disappeared into the thick cover of clouds. Soon after I was gripping Anne Marit’s hand with embarrassed smile on my face. I glanced over to Kate’s direction and saw that she was hanging on to Anne Marit’s right hand from the aisle seat. Our plane rocked and shuddered, up and down, then from side to side. I was counting the rows to the closest exit. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Seeing the world and firm land appear again from under the cloud cover brought momentarily comfort, although the closeness of the deep green and steep hillside, what seemed at most a few meters off the tip of the wing, offered little reassurance.
And it was with that shaky, bumpy and rough approach we hit the runaway somewhat smoothly a few minutes later, and rolled right next to the airport terminal.
“Does that happen often?” I asked from one of the smiling flight attendants, as we exited from the rear door and I could already feel the force of the cool Atlantic wind on my face.
“Yes, this is normal, in the winter it gets worse though” they laughed.
We had arrived to the Faroe Islands. And I bet it was only us, the tourists, clapping on that plane. For the rest, this was normal.
It is hard to describe the feeling of arriving in a new place with only a hint of an idea of what you will do, come across, and whom to meet in the coming weeks. Us three, we had planned this trip well in advance, and Visit Faroe Islands was kind enough to fly us over, arm us with public transportation travel cards and arrange a few nights’ accommodation along the way in some of the destinations we thought about exploring. Other than that, we had and have a list of places that sound interesting, stack of images linked from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook that look like worth exploring, and an empty schedule looking to be filled out with ferries, buses and maybe few helicopter flights here and there as we start exploring these 18 islands located in the stormiest part of the Atlantic, north from Scotland and right in between Iceland and Norway.
For me, Faroe Islands has long been a destination so close, but so far. As an autonomous country within Denmark, they have some of the same Nordic values and customs as us Finns do, but apart from that, what do these 50,000 people do out here, on these small islands? We were hoping to find out, together with discovering some killer views, hikes and bike rides.
“Most enigmatic of the 18 Faroe Islands”
“Undoubtedly one of the prettiest villages in the Faroes”
(From Bradt guide to Faroe Islands by James Proctor)
It is probably not the best idea to start your journey from the place that is praised as the most enigmatic and pretty. But August was drawing to a close and with the arrival of autumn, the daily ferry to Mykines was about to start its winter break. We did not want to rely on the helicopter rides that might, or might not get us there and back in September, and so we went for it. Even if there was a chance that it was going to be downhill from there on.
At this stage I can not yet say if Mykines was the best of the best, but it sure was fantastic. Most people come to Mykines from Torshavn, the capital, on a quick day trip and hike up to the Mykineshólmur and Faroes’ most westerly lighthouse, taking in the puffins, gannets, fulmars and the 30 or so other bird species on the way before heading back to the city. We, on the other hand, arrived in the evening with a couple of other passengers on board, and started the journey to the lighthouse with just the sheep and thousands of birds accompanying us as we set to witness the sun setting somewhere beyond the seas.
The village itself, hosting 10-12 inhabitants (don’t ask, didn’t get an explanation to what that exactly means!) and only eight full-time dwellers in the winter, was just as pretty and cozy as described in the guide-book. Me, who doesn’t “do guidebooks”, have read and reread that book from front to back so much so that Anne Marit and Kate are tired of hearing me quoting the book, but yes, Mykines was pretty.
Whether we have already seen the best of the best of the Faroes on our first few days on these islands is left to see, but I hope that this adventure hasn’t quite reached its peak yet. After arriving here on Saturday, we have now filled the calendar with some definite stopping points and few maybes. Over here, where the rest of the world seems very distant, travel plans are dictated by the quickly changing weather. Maybe the fog will rise and the helicopters fly. Maybe the sea will calm down and the ferries run.
And maybe we have another two weeks of fantastic views and stories to tell ahead of us!
For those wondering where exactly we have been and how to get there, keep reading on…
How to get to the Faroe Islands
The Faroes are easy to reach by Atlantic Airways from Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Bergen or Reykjavik. Alternatively you can take the Smyril Line M/S Norrøna from Hirtshals in Denmark to Torshavn, and even continue to Seyðisfjørður in Iceland.
How to get to Mykines
In the summer months between May and August, catch the ferry from Sørvág to Mykines (two daily sailings, weather allowing). You can book online at mykines.fo. Payment on board by cash, 60kr each way, the travel cards are not valid on the Mykines crossing. You can also fly to Mykines by helicopter, see the schedule and rates on on the Atlantic Airways page.
Apparently the weather can be very fickle, and it is best not to travel to Mykines right before you are planning to leave the country, in case you get stranded in the west for a day or two. Or a week!
Where to Stay on Mykines
If you want to avoid most of the crowds, I would recommend staying on the island, although this is where it gets tricky. You have two accommodation options; The Yellow House, of which I know nothing as it was closed when we got there, and Kristianshús. Kristianshús is the place most would know about as they host the village’s only café/restaurant. However, because of a slightly odd welcome, dirty rooms and a not-so-distant memories of stories of bedbugs we had read on Tripadvisor, we did not have the most pleasant stay and changed our plans of staying on the island for a few days to hike, to just one night before fleeing back to the bigger islands.
What to Do on Mykines
Hike hike hike. Observe the birds. Take in the views. Drink a cup of hot tea.
What else would you want to do with views like this!
Images: Kate Cornfield & Satu Vänskä-Westgarth