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Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas)

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Volunteer Point King Penguins, Falkland Islands
Volunteer Point King Penguins

The Falkland Islands are a British Overseas Territory inhabited by about 3,000 British descendents.  The land is barren and barely able to support sheep grazing.  The economic base is founded on fishing and military.  There is also significant support from the production of wool and from cruise ship visits.  Recently, limited quantities of oil have been discovered off shore.  Once you leave the port town of Stanley, everything else is referred to as "Camp", which is an appropriate reflection of its isolation.  For more information on the Falklands, visit the Falkland Island Tourist Board web site.

When you witness firsthand how desolate and empty the Falkland Islands are, you will wonder why anyone wants to live there, let alone go to war over it.   The history of the Falklands occupation by the French, British, Americans and Argentines is not clear.  In 1982 Argentina decided to take back Las Malvinas (the Falklands) and a war with Britain ensued that included many lost lives on both sides through sunken naval vessels, air battles and infantry skirmishes.  The Argentine navy did poorly, but their air force almost defeated the British by nearly exhausting their munitions.  Today the Falklands are protected by the HMS Dauntless, a ship that cost Britain more than a billion dollars.  Many British citizens in the UK feel this is not a justified investment, but more than 99% of the population on the Falkland Islands want to remain British.

Christ Church Cathedral, Falkland Islands

Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley

Visas:

Cruise ship passengers leaving the same day do not require a visa.  For longer stays, check your specific country at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.

Currency:

The official currency is the British pound sterling (GBP).  Visitors will not be able to use any other currency.

Climate:

The climate of Falkland Islands is influenced by Antarctica and the South Atlantic, making it cool year round with temperatures rarely going below freezing.  At the height of summer in January and February, highs average 60 F (16 C) while lows average 45 F (7 C).  In winter, from June - August, average highs are 40 F (5 C) while lows average around freezing.  Precipitation is slightly higher in the summer months.  January through March are the best months to visit to the Falklands.

Transportation:

Most visitors arrive in the Falklands by cruise ship during the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere.  The anchoring location for ships is quite far from the pier and there is approximately a 40% chance that tendering will not be possible at all during a scheduled visit.  There are also rare cases where cruise ship tenders could not get back to the ship the same day and visitors were forced to overnight on the island.  As recently as 2013, marine workers have delayed cruise ships from departing for the Falklands from Argentina as a form of political protest.

Access by air is limited both by the isolation of being 300 miles off the mainland of South America and by the strained relationship with Argentina.  The Mount Pleasant Airport (MPN) is used by LAN Airlines, which offers weekly flights to Santiago via Punta Arenas, Chile.  There are monthly flights to Rio Gallegos in Argentina.  The British military has a base at Mount Pleasant with regular connections to the UK via Ascension Island.  The military flights allow some non military personnel on board.

Mount Pleasant is approximately 45 minutes from Stanley and a shuttle bus operates between these locations.

Burned out Argentine helicopter frame from Falklands War

Burned out Argentine helicopter frame from Falklands War

Things to see and do in the Falkland Islands:

  • Christ Church Cathedral - built in 1892 this is the southernmost Anglican Church in the world. In the gardens a statue of two jawbones from whales was erected in 1933 to commemorate the centennial of British rule. 

  • Victory Green - on the waterfront of Stanley is a park which displays the mizzenmast of the SS Great Britain, which was the first iron vessel with a screw propeller. 

  • Falklands Islands Museum & National Trust - most of the museum's collection is on display at the Historic Dockyard Museum on Ross Road between Victory Green and the 1982 Liberation Memorial. 

  • 1982 Liberation Memorial - commemorates defeat of Argentina in the 1982 war. It's located .6 miles west of the pier on the waterfront.

  • Government House - the governor is appointed by London and lives on the Ross Road waterfront .6 miles west of the pier. 

  • World War I Memorial - commemorates the defeat of the Germans in 1914. It's located .5 miles west of the pier on the Ross Road waterfront.

Boot Hill%2C Falkland Islands, Falkland Islands

Boot Hill

  • Cartmell Cottage - built in 1849 and included in the Falkland Islands Museum. It's located at 7 Pioneer Row and .6 miles south of the pier. 

  • Cross of the Sacrifice - the cross at Stanley Cemetery commemorates World War I & II veterans. 

  • Cape Pembroke Lighthouse - get the key from the Falklands Museum and head to the lighthouse 8 miles east of the pier. 

Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley

Penguins:

The Falkland Islands have four varieties of penguins: Gentoo, Magellanic, Rockhopper and King.

  • There is a large colony of King Penguins at Volunteer Point near Stanley.  To access "Volunteers", a team of 4x4s is required to travel through the bogs and pull each other out, if necessary.  There are 4 major companies running tours when cruise ships are in town, but there is little difference between them.  They all use privately owned local 4x4s to create multiple convoys to the penguins.  This makes each vehicle a unique encounter with a local Falkland Islander.  Each 4x4 typically carries one passenger up front and 3 in the back.  Cruise lines don't always offer an excursion to Volunteer Point, because the off roading is so rough and many tourists aren't up for the excitement of being towed out of the mud.  The trip takes more than 2 hours one way and is extremely bumpy for the last hour of off roading.  The penguin colony is located entirely on Johnson's Harbour Farm and the number of vehicles per day is restricted by the owner.  King Penguins do not live on the mainland of South America or in Antarctica.  There prefer islands near Antarctica such as the Falklands and South Georgia.  They breed in November or January and don't make any form of nest.  The eggs are balanced on top of their feet and are insulated by their fur.  They huddle together for protection from the wind.  The young are great big balls of brown fur that do no resemble their majestic parents in any way.  Check out Take That Vacation's recommendation of Estancia Excursions and view our slideshow of the Kings that we saw in late December of 2015.  Read about our trip to Volunteer Point in our forum too.

King Penguin pair, Falkland Islands

King Penguins, Volunteer Point

  • Bluff Cove Lagoon - a poplar tourist destination for penguin viewing 25 minutes from Stanley by 4x4.   The main penguin population at Bluff cove is about 3,000 Gentoos, but there are a few Magellanic and Kings too.  The penguins are located on private land belonging to Bluff Cove Farm.

  • Gypsy Cove - 300 pairs of Magellanic penguins on Yorke Bay, 4 miles northeast of the pier. 

  • Rockhopper Penguin Colony at Murrell Farm - access these unique penguins by a combination of 4x4 and minibus. 

  • In addition to penguins, the Falklands also have black-browed albatross, southern giant petrels, Orca killer whales, sea lions, elephant seals and Patagonian foxes.

Young furry Kings, Falkland Islands

Adolescent King Penguins look nothing like their parents, Volunteer Point

  • Boot Hill - on Darwin Road in the Camp, west of Stanley.  Leave one boot if you are staying and two if you are leaving the Falklands.

  • Fitzroy and Port Pleasant - see memorials to the Welsh Guards & Royal Fleet Auxiliary 30 miles southwest of the pier. The Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram were bombed by the Argentines here.

  • Long Island Farm - observe sheep farm operations at a farm an hour from Stanley.

  • Fishing - Brown trout and sea trout have been introduced to the Falklands.  Zebra trout are endemic but nearly extinct.  The fishing season runs from the 1st of September to the 30th of April and no license is required.  Much of the fishing is on private lands and permission must be requested in order to fish.  Refer to the Falkland Islands Tourist Board fishing page.

Savor the Tastes of the Falklands:

  • Smoko - afternoon tea with cakes and biscuits.

  • Local brown trout, Atlantic rock and sea trout.

  • Diddle Dee Berry - jam.

  • British fish and chips.

Falkland Island Tour Companies:

Hotels in the Falkland Islands:


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