The Vestmanna Bird Cliffs – Best Bird-watching in the Faroe Islands

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Bird-Watchers Paradise in Vestmanna

Disembarking off of the ferry from Iceland, we had no idea what to expect in the far-flung Faroes except for a beautiful landscape and abundant bird-watching opportunities.  We couldn’t go to a set of islands and not take a bird-watching tour, so one of the first things we did is get a map and drive to Vestmanna bird cliffs.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

The Vestmanna Bird Cliffs Boat Tour

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

To sign up and pay for the Vestmann Cliff boat tour, you must go to the visitor’s center.  We hadn’t made reservations and found out that sometimes it can be difficult to get a seat.  The cruise ships land at Klaksvik and the Vestmann Cliffs is one of their excursions.  Wouldn’t you know it, the day we were there the cruise ship had garnered most of the seats.  Luckily when traveling as a pair, we were able to squeeze in with one other lone traveler and a bunch of cruise ship passengers.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

Have you been to the northern Atlantic?  It can get stormy pretty quick.  There had been some rain showers already, and fog was clinging to the hillsides as we made our way to Vestmanna so we worried that the boat would be canceled and it almost was, but amidst a misty rain we all boarded and had a quick safety talk before sailing the pristine inlets and contours of the fjord that separates two of the eighteen Faroese islands, Streymoy and Vágar.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

As a protected water, the ride was smooth and all of us on board were excited to be able to see puffins.  The Vestmanna Cliffs are home to many species of birds including skuas, kittiwakes, fulmars, shags, petrels, and guillemots, but all of them together don’t hold the imagination as the colorful puffin.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

Having lived in Alaska for eight year, we have seen many puffins, but they are so much fun to watch.  While flying it looks like their wings are twisted like with a rubber band and are let go so that they go in circles.  Also, did you know that a male puffin grows his colorful beak covering each spring and sheds it after the mating season?  Puffins are just fascinating creatures, and we were definitely among those that wanted to get a glimpse of them nesting in the cliffs.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

A surprise for us is when we were shown some ropes hanging from the cliffs.  What were they for?  To hunt for puffins.  The Faroese eat puffin, but not as much today as in the past.  At the National Museum of the Faroes there is an old black and white photo depicting a man who had at least twenty of the birds hanging from his belt.  He had to keep his hands free in order to climb back up the cliff.

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With the weather not really cooperating, the fog was low, and the waves were a little choppy making it difficult to spot any birds.  Some other types of birds such as gulls and guillemots were nesting on the cliffs, but the only puffins we spotted were in groups floating on the water.

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The boat ride lasted about two hours, and we learned a quite a few interesting things about the fishing industry in the Faroes.  Understandably it is the largest percentage of income for these hardy people living so far from major distribution channels.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

Practical Information:

Vestmanna is easy to get to from Tórshavn or from Klaksvik.  Even though they are all on different islands, they are connected by tunnels.  From Tórshavn, it is only about a half hour drive, and from Klaksvik a little over an hour.

The cost of the tour is about U.S. $43.00, depending on the rate for Danish Kroner.

As I mentioned before, it’s a good idea to make reservations before arriving in the Faroe Islands to ensure the day you would like to go on the boat tour, it is available.

The Vestmanna Information Center is a great stop, because not only do you take the tours off of their dock, there is a nice restaurant right there that serves up a pretty good lunch.

There is plenty to do, but traveling is a little different that other places. For tips and hints check out Faroe Islands Travel: Everything You Need To Know.

Vestmanna Cliffs Bird Watching

Photography:

The scenery through the fjords is absolutely breath-taking, and you are so close to the shore that landscape photos are no problem.  However, if you want to take good photos of birds, you will need to have a long lens.  I had my 400 mm lens, and it still really was not close enough.

The boats hold about 20 people, so there are a lot of folks vying for the edge to get a clear view.  Only one man had a selfie-stick, and he was able to take photos the entire way, not dependent on which side the boat was facing.

Are you an avid bird watcher?  Would you ever consider the Faroe Islands?

 

 

About the Author

Corinne Vail is a world traveler, writer, photographer, speaker, and teacher. Looking for the quirky and unusual as well as the best food around the world, she has traveled all her life. She’s lived in Turkey, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands and visited over 90 countries with her family. Learn more about Corinne and Reflections Enroute on the About page.

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52 Comments

  1. I would love to see a Puffin. Interesting, and beautiful photos. I know that difficulty on a tour boat, plus it’s hard to get such good shots with a long lens on a moving boat.

  2. Very interesting! The Northern Atlantic always holds this addictive mystique to me… I would love to go to the Faroes! I guess the best thing is just not to have any weather expectations so you’re not disappointed. That’s so cool you took a ferry there from Iceland, wow.

  3. The landscape in the Faroes is breathtaking. I’m not patient enough for birdwatching, I did however have to do proper birdwatching once and I got to see puffins. They are adorable.

  4. I miss having the sweet puffin as our school mascot (Iceland)! Can’t wait to see where you’ll go bird watching next!

    1. Roaming, I know. Really, I challenge someone to show me a person that can resist the cuteness of those little guys. Puffins are so darn cool! And thanks!

    1. Amy, We cannot gush enough about our experience in the Faroes. I guess since we didn’t know what to expect, it was easy to be completely smitten by its friendliness and beauty!

  5. Faroe island has been on my list for a while, not just for the bird watching! I went to Iceland in 2014 so hopefully Faroes is next!!!

  6. Oh those puffins are adorable. I am going on my first bird tour in Boquete, Panama in a few weeks. Definitely not leaving until I see the famous quetzal.

  7. We’re not really that into birds, but this post is making us re-think that!! I would go on the tour just to see those beautiful rocks, and those birds are cute! Love the puffins

  8. Those cliffs are beautiful. The closest I came to bird watching was on a boat in Doubtful Sound in NZ! There were a ton of albatross birds. These birds in your post are lovely!

    1. Alli, We were never really much into birds before we lived in Alaska, but it’s so hard not to pay attention to the abundance of wildlife there that now we’re pretty hooked.

  9. I have been hearing some great things about the Faroe Islands. We love wildlife and this sounds like a wonderful tour to take. We did the puffin tour in Iceland and it was so interesting and fun to watch them.

  10. I never thought I would enjoy bird watching until right here at home in Trinidad I was taken by visiting friends who were avid bird watchers. I was impressed so much so I’ve been twice so this would definitely be up my alley. Lovely post. There is so much more to bird watching in the Faroe Islands that it’s even moreso on my bucketlist. In Summer though! 🙂

  11. oh wow! I’d love to see a puffin for real! Lucky you, for getting so close to them! But the weather does sound a bit iffy!

  12. Looks like a fascinating place… Been getting more and more into birds as the countries pile up, though they’ve still never been a major driver for any sort of excursion… but at this rate, they will be soon… and the Faroe Islands may just be the first stop, those Puffins are awesome!

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