On my recent trip to the Faroes I was excited to visit the island of Mykines, famous for its huge colony of sea birds. Even more exciting was the prospect of heading to the island by helicopter. Unless you live on a remote island, or are ridiculously wealthy, helicopter rides will always carry a high novelty value. The trip from the Faroe Islands’ airport on the island of Vagar to the westernmost island of Mykines takes around 45 minutes by boat but only 8 minutes on the regular helicopter service which links the two islands.
The Faroe Islands weather being what it is, I didn’t take it for granted that our helicopter would fly at all. From our breakfast table at the airport hotel, a 5-minute walk along a grassy footpath from the terminal, we could see the Atlantic Ocean and the island of Mykines, some three or four miles away. One moment it was ablaze with the morning sunshine and a few minutes later it had disappeared behind a heavy black cloud, only to reappear again a short while later.
At the airport there were no concerns about the weather. “As long as the pilot can see the water there’s no problem,” we were reassured. 8 of us had gathered by the duty free shop and a few minutes before departure a man in a boiler suit called us over. Instead of going through security we were boarded onto a minibus and driven out across the tarmac to the waiting helicopter.
It’s a tight squeeze for 8 people, even when two of the passengers are children, and I was immediately glad that this wouldn’t be a long flight. We were instructed to put on headphones (helicopters are even noisier on the inside than from the outside) and a few minutes later we were off, first hovering steadily a few feet above the main runway and then, nose dipped, shooting off towards the sea.
Those by the windows snapped away as the views opened up in front of us. We followed the narrow inlet of Sørvágsfjørður, passing over tiny villages, a natural sea arch and the narrow winding road that links the more remote corners of Vagar. Then we were over open water, the clouds high enough that we didn’t have to hover at a perilously (for me at least) low altitude. And then it was all over: we skirted the coast of Mykines, the island’s few houses popped into view and we landed on the helipad, a minute’s walk from the centre of the village. The rotors didn’t stop as we stepped off onto the grass, and as soon as the last passenger had left the helicopter was off again, making a low pass over the village before turning back for the short trip to the airport.
The day on Mykines was fabulous and the puffin sightings were an absolute treat (more on those in another post soon). But for a thrilling way to start a day out, there are few more exciting options than a helicopter ride over the Faroe Islands’ magical landscapes.
by Andy Jarosz