White sands, vast horizons and unfettered access to wildlife
Surrounded by the fertile seas of the South Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles east of Argentinian Patagonia, the Falkland Islands are a true haven for wildlife enthusiasts who want nothing other than to escape to rugged shores with fresh sea breezes... The archipelago's hundreds of islands and islets are scattered with sheep farms and (most famously) abundant birdlife. There are numerous penguin colonies to wander amongst - you will find king, gentoo, rockhopper, magellanic and macaroni penguins - and the wild shores are also home to 70% of the world's population of black-browed albatrosses, known locally as ‘mollymawks’. Take to the seas to spot whales and dolphins, explore Stanley and admire the distinctive architecture, dip into museums to learn about the 1982 Falklands War as well as the natural history, and most of all just enjoy the spectacular scenery that surrounds you.
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Top three things to do in the Falkland Islands
There are many wonderful experiences to be had on these remote islands. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top three things to do in the Falklands.
Learn about the 1982 Falklands War
You would be forgiven for forgetting that these peaceful islands were once the centre of a politically-heated war between Great Britain and Argentina, but as you explore the islands you will spot remnants of this bitter exchange. Discreet memorials and wrecked battle ships can be seen scattered across the archipelago and The Historic Dockyard Museum in Stanley has (amongst others) a wonderfully informative exhibit to fill you in on the subject.
Wander amongst the wildlife
One of the main attractions of the Falkland Islands is that you have unfettered access to the wildlife that calls the archipelago home. Visit Pebble Island to wander through the penguin colonies, admire albatrosses on West Point Island, and head to Sea Lion Island to spot elephant seals and southern sea lions basking on the sands. From November to late December keep your eyes peeled for the killer whale pods that lurk in the shallows by the seal colonies...
Grab your net and rod and go fishing
With such bountiful seas, the Falklands are a fantastic destination for the keen fisherman (or woman!). With the help of our local experts, set off to the best estuaries and rivers, each of which are chosen due to water levels or fishing conditions at the time of your visit, and enjoy the wilderness and fresh air as you fish.
Lesser-known things to do in the Falkland Islands
While there are many well-known things to do in the Falkland Islands, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative adventure.
Step back in time…
Anticipate so much more than shipping artefacts and relics at Stanley’s Historic Dockyard Museum. It provides an engrossing glimpse into the Falklands’ maritime, social and Antarctic exploration-linked past. Temporary shows span the centuries, and traditional island life is recreated through children’s bone toys, farming tools, a peat stove and a mechanical jukebox from the late 1800s. The island life of old is brought to life, and you’ll leave educated about the Falklands’ economic mainstay, the fishing industry. Darwin would be delighted with the museum’s rocks, fossil timelines and taxidermy.
Military memories and cemeteries
There’s no escaping the vestiges of war in the Falklands, fought between Britain and Argentina in 1982, and both sides have their own poignant war memorials. The Argentine Military Cemetery comprises a collection of crosses atop a hilltop, commemorating the more than 230 soldiers who died in battle. The Buenos Aires’ government refused to allow their remains to be flown back to Argentina, contending that they were already on home soil. The small number of British graves are found at the Blue Beach Military Cemetery, many having been repatriated to the UK.
Falklands Totem Pole
A quirky photo opportunity awaits at what’s known as the Falklands Totem Pole. The tradition began just after 1982, when peace-keeping British soldiers stationed on the islands nailed signs for their hometowns on to a pole. This has since escalated with multi-coloured road signs pointing to myriad destinations around the planet. If keen to add your home town’s mark, you might need to do a bit of advanced planning.
When is the best time to go to the Falkland Islands?
The best time to go to the Falkland Islands is from late October to April. The summer months of November to February have the best weather and are prime nesting time for the archipelago's many bird colonies and young seals and sea lions can be seen. October is the main breeding time for the wildlife, and from mid-November through December, pods of killer whales can be seen hunting in the shallow waters near the seal colonies - an exciting spectacle for any wildlife enthusiast. Expect some windy conditions year-round and pack a waterproof jacket regardless of the season you are visiting. Visiting from May to September is generally not recommended due to the wet and windy conditions.
Insider tips from our trusted local experts
Being local, our experts have an extensive knowledge of the secrets to experiencing the Falkland Islands. Here are a few of their top tips - ask them for other recommendations when you enquire to ensure you have the most in-depth experience whilst on holiday!
Bring the binoculars
Ornithologists: prepare for a busy holiday for birdwatching heaven is as good as guaranteed during your stay. As Darwin discovered in the 1800s, the islands have an abundance of species, with over 225 types of bird. A stand-out location is Weddell Island, the archipelago’s third largest, where over 50 species have been identified. Weddell even has a bird-watching checklist to print off in advance, so brush off the binoculars and long camera lenses – they’re about to get put through their paces.
Weaving, wool and woodwork
Wind is a fact of life on these southerly isles, beneath the huge and often brooding skies as captured by Algernon Asprey’s landscapes. If the weather gets boisterous, indoor diversions in the capital, Stanley, come to the rescue. Crafting and artistic pursuits are popular pastimes, with outdoor and indoor art workshops available so you can create your own masterpiece. Traditional skills like woodcraft, leather work and horn work are still very much alive, and wool crafts including felting and dyeing can be practiced at the Spinners and Weavers Guild. For a serious selection of handicrafts, time your visit to coincide with the Falklands’ annual Craft Fair.
Mutton chops for breakfast
With so many sheep on the islands – over 160 per capita – it is no real surprise that mutton chops are a breakfast item. Succulently slow-cooked meat is a Falklands speciality, as are fresh-caught fish from trout to toothfish (Patagonian Sea Bass). Unique to the Islands is the ‘smoko’ – plates with teetering towers of cakes, cookies and homemade bakes, traditionally rustled up and carried down for those disembarking boats in the harbour. Teaberry and the delightfully named diddle-dee berry are often baked into buns or squished into jams. Other quintessential flavours of the Falklands are squid, upland goose pâté, washed down with a tipple from the Falkland Beerworks.
Interesting facts about the Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are a fascinating place. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
- The Falkland Islands comprise two main land masses alongside over 770 satellite islands. It’s a British independent overseas territory with its own currency.
- The Islands’ economy relies heavily on tourism, income from fishing permits and agriculture. Sheep are the farming mainstay; there are over 160 sheep per person.
- Of a population of around 3,400 people, nearly 2,500 live in Stanley and many are descendants of earlier Welsh and Scottish immigrants.
- Like a snapshot of times gone by, locals on the Falkland Islands can seem more British than contemporary Brits themselves, their language and cultural quirks apparently frozen in time.
- In a 2013 referendum, 99.8% of the vote was in favour of remaining a British overseas territory.
- Five species of penguin live on the islands – King, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni and Magellanic. The fittingly named Penguin News is the Islands’ only weekly newspaper.
What to read before you go to the Falkland Islands
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to the Falkland Islands, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'A Little Piece of England: My Adventures as Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands' by Andrew Gurr
Gurr was browsing the Sunday Times ads when he spotted an advert, applied and secured himself a new job. The role? Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands Government. A Little Piece of England details the five years he spent in this curious and quirky position. Affably written and immensely perceptive, Gurr’s memoir is entertaining, poignant and appreciative of his time on these wind-whipped islands some 13,000km from home.
'The Battle for the Falklands' by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins
What really happened on the Falkland Islands? One of the strangest wars in recent British history – in which 28,000 British soldiers were sent to fight for this tiny fragment of Empire – it has been described as ‘two bald men fighting over a comb’. This enlightening read covers the preamble, the reality and the chequered aftermath of the battle. A definitive book on the Falklands’ War, the authors’ informed analysis and war reportage have received high praise.
'A Field Guide to the Wildlife of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia' by Ian J. Strange
Illustrating the penguins, birds and wildlife of these southerly isles, this is the go-to guide for those keen to grasp the breadth of natural life across the Falkland archipelago. Author, Strange, is an active campaigner for the protection and preservation of the Falklands and also owns one of the Islands’ largest nature reserves.
'Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World' by Nell Stevens
In the frozen Falklands, a would-be writer struggles to craft her debut novel...but this witty memoir is the unintentional result instead. After winning an all-expenses paid writing fellowship, Stevens chooses Bleaker Island to push her novel’s word-count to completion but the Falklands, their inhabitants, her poor internet connection and the penguins contrive to get in the way. Memoir meets travelogue in this winning narrative.
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