Cruising Denmark's Vestmanna Cliffs

by Ronald Miller

Ronald's view of the Vestmanna Cliffs on his shore excursion
Ronald's view of the Vestmanna Cliffs on his shore excursion

This September, while we were at anchor in the harbor of Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark, on an Iceland & Norway cruise, our tour of the day was by no doubt THE MOST SPECTACULAR of ANY tour I’ve had on ANY of my 34 previous cruises!

After tendering ashore from Grand Princess in midmorning, we went by bus from the moderately sized town of Tórshavn up to the northern part of this Faroe Island (Streymoy – one of 18), to the small port village of Vestmanna where we boarded a good-sized launch for our “Cruising of the Vestmanna Cliffs.” We wisely chose to sit on the upper, open deck despite the cold wind and threat of rain, and are we glad that we did.

Our cruise proceeded past several fish pens where salmon, primarily, are “farmed,” and the large fish were jumping wildly, much to our delight.

Then we passed near very steep hillsides on which multitudes of sheep were precariously grazing. I concluded that instead of grass on these hillsides they were using Velcro to keep the sheep “attached” to the steep hillside.

Seriously, the problem of sheep venturing too close to the rugged shoreline and falling into the surf, and being unable to climb back up, is of constant concern, partially addressed by short sections of fencing along such precipitous edges along the slopes.

Farther on we came upon increasingly steep, sheer cliffs, soaring upwards to over 600 meters, formed by volcanic activity eons ago. If you have toured the Na Pali Coast on Kauai, Hawaii, you will have a “partial” feeling of the immensity and verticality of these cliffs that are inhabited by scores of wild birds. Unfortunately for us, most of these nesting birds had departed for the year but we did get to see many, many puffins (sea parrots). The water near the base of these cliffs is a beautiful, medium turquoise blue and is, of course, very deep – even at the water’s edge.

Several times our boat would enter what looked like a large cut in the rocks extending far into the mountain, surrounded by towering spires, and the boat guide’s narration would reverberate from the surfaces.   Those of us on the top deck were required to wear bright yellow hard hats in case of any falling debris. (None did!)

The farther we proceeded up the coast the more spectacular became these towering rock spires. Our last entrance into one of the “cracks” mentioned above found many seals or sea lions playing in the calm waters inside, and our exit was by a different route, this time passing through a huge arch in one of the rocks. I quickly ran out of superlatives to express this awesome experience! I had NO IDEA that such raw, rugged beauty was in store for us when I randomly booked this Europe cruise.

When it was time to finally head back to the dock at Vestmanna, our return was much more rapid, farther out from the cliffs, and the strong winds were blessedly shielded by our earmuffs, scarves, and watch caps – besides our heavy coats and gloves. Those inside on the lower deck had no idea of the splendor and grandeur that they had missed; our outside discomfort was well worth the sensation of looking directly upward at these towering citadels of rock. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!