Where to walk in the Falklands
By Martha Hales
Possessed of a windswept beauty that calls to mind the Scottish Isles, the Falklands archipelago is a true ‘back to nature’ destination, cast adrift in the Southern Ocean around 600 kilometres east of southern Patagonia. The clean air, wide skies and abundant wildlife are the major draws, and naturalists will rejoice at the many opportunities to escape human influence and find a little piece of untouched wilderness for themselves.
Perhaps you will find yours on one of the 778 mostly uninhabited islands, or taking in the view from a deserted, white sand beach. The colourful capital, Stanley, offers a convivial, British flavoured contrast to the rugged landscapes, while the wildlife brings a distinctly South American tone to this breathtaking setting. There is plenty to keep you busy in the Falkland Islands, especially if you are a keen birdwatcher, naturalist or hiker. We’ve put together this brief round-up of some of the hikes and highlights of the islands to inspire you to book your Falklands adventure today.
Lying 14 kilometres south of East Island - the main island where Stanley is located - Sea Lion Island is worth the effort required to reach it. One of the key factors that determines the presence or absence of abundant wildlife is rats. Rats came ashore on some islands from visiting boats, but not on all. The islands without rats are much more attractive to nesting birds, and Sea Lion Island is one such island.
You can walk anywhere on this island, and it is possible to circumnavigate it in a day as long as you are careful not to disturb the wildlife which includes sea lion, elephant seals, three different species of penguins, and a large king cormorant colony.
Walkers will delight in the rugged hills and ridges of Carcass island, and a hike to the high point at Mount Byng (213 metres) will reward with panoramic views over the island and beyond to the bays and straits. Alternatively, simpler walks include the path leading up to Stanley Hill, close to the settlement, or to Leopard Beach.
The terrain is often more easy going than on Sea Lion Island because the presence of sheep over the centuries has eliminated the giant tussock grass from some areas, and the wildlife is similarly impressive with seals, dolphins, penguins and numerous bird species all present.
One of the largest of the outlying ‘small islands’, there’s a variety of landscapes to explore on Weddell. This is a wild paradise with just 2 permanent inhabitants, and you will come across Gentoo penguins and Magellanic penguins as well as caracaras, cormorants, petrels, albatrosses and hawks. Striated caracaras are an unusually inquisitive bird, and they love to investigate and scavenge anything that piques their curiosity, so keep your personal belongings nearby! Walking on Weddell Island offers everything from a gentle stroll to Mark Point for a spot of beach-combing, to a challenging hike to Weddell Mountain where the views from 383 metres above sea level are fabulous on a clear day.
This island should be on any birder’s wish list, as the birdlife is particularly impressive, notably around the wetland habitats to the east of the island. Look for black necked swans and the elusive cinnamon teal, or head to the beaches where rockhopper penguins, Magellanic and gentoo penguins are commonly sighted in large numbers.
Imperial cormorants and black crowned night herons are also coastal inhabitants, whereas a number of species of grebes, geese, ducks and oystercatchers are usually present in the wetlands. Hikers will enjoy the challenge of the trio of peaks in the west, or the straightforward but rewarding trails around Ship Harbour Pond or Tamar Point.
The capital of the Falklands is no city, but it has a certain charm all of its own. Stretched alongside its harbour, this capital has the feel of an oversized village, yet it has a good range of facilities and some cultural attractions to boot.
The rooftops and exteriors of many of its buildings are painted in jaunty colours that wave a cheery welcome, and there is plenty to do in the vicinity. Take a 6.5 kilometre walk to the beautiful Gypsy Cove, an enticing white sand cove home to Magellanic penguins and a host of other birdlife. Other heritage hikes in the area take in memorials and battlefields from past conflicts, for example the route up Mount Tumbledown.
Make it happen
The Falklands is perfect for soul stirring hikes in search of wildlife among pristine landscapes. Let our local experts take the strain out of planning your bespoke Falklands itinerary, fill out our short enquiry form and they will be in touch. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.