Where to go

The Falkland Islands

A fascinating and picturesque archipelago brimming with seabirds and wildlife...

Elephant seal - Falkland Islands
© Polar Latitudes

Located 296 miles east of southern Argentina, the Falklands are comprised of over 700 islands and are famed for their rare mix of wildlife, brought by the cold, nutrient rich waters of the Falkland Current, which flow north past the islands.

The Falklands are most famous for their enormous population of seabirds, which feed at sea and come to the Falklands’ white sandy beaches, tussac covered fields, and rocky cliff tops to nest. The millions of petrels, prions, albatrosses, gulls, geese, ducks and cormorants, which inhabit the islands, dwarf the islands’ meager human population of 4000.

Steeple Jason Island, for example, is home to the largest colony of black-browed albatrosses in the world, New Island hosts the largest breeding colony of thin-billed prions on earth and the cat and rat free, Carcass Island, provides a protected environment for small bird species including the endemic Cobb’s Wren. As if this wasn’t enough, the islands offer the chance to spot five different types of penguins including gentoo, king, macaroni, Magellanic and rockhopper penguins.

The waters around the Falklands are equally as fascinating. Home to a variety of marine mammals; playful purple-finned Commerson’s dolphins frolic in the harbor of West Point Island while Killer whales regularly patrol the shores of Sea Lion Island. Huge blubbery southern elephant seals line the beaches of Sea Lion Island, which they use as a breeding site, while stocky South American fur seals line the rocky shorelines of the western islands.

Although there is evidence to say that the first visitors to the Falkland Islands were Yahgan Indians from Tierra del Fuego, the islands were officially ‘discovered’ by European settlers in the 1500s. The first permanent colony wasn’t established until 1764 by the French, in East Falkland and in 1765, by the British, in West Falkland.

The Spanish then took over from the French in 1767; later abandoning the islands and leading the way for Argentina to assert its claim to the islands as Spain’s successor. Since then the Falklands have remained the subject of a long sovereignty dispute between Britain and Argentina which culminated in the 1892 War in which hundreds of soldiers died.

Once having been an important outpost for the sealing and whaling industries, today the Falklands’ main sources of income come from fishing, tourism and agriculture. A governor appointed by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office administers the islands; meanwhile the eight-member elected Legislative Council takes care of most internal matters affecting the islands.

Most of the longer cruises to Antarctica will take in the Falkland Islands, either departing from Punta Arenas in Chile or Ushuaia or Puerto Madryn in Argentina.

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    At a glance…Falkland Islands

  • Size: 4700 sq miles
  • Location: 296 miles east of southern Argentina
  • Recommended time: 4 to 7 nights
  • Time to visit: October to March
  • Go here for: Wildlife, photography and adventure
  • Further reading...

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    Our top five hotel recommendations for The Falkland Islands in 2017/18:

    1. Akademik Ioffe

      Akademik Ioffe

      Originally designed for polar research, the Akademik Ioffe is a modern and comfortable expeditionary-style cruise boat. Stable and ice-strengthened it is well equipped for manoeuvring through ice-filled waters and tackling the Drake Passage. The key selling points for this boat are the attentive... More...

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      5
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      4
    2. Akademik Sergey Vavilov © Ira Meyer

      Akademik Sergey Vavilov

      Originally built as a Russian research ship designed for polar research, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov has been refurbished into a modern expedition cruise vessel. Stable, quiet and ice-strengthened, the ship is perfect for exploring Antarctic waters. The main selling points of this ship are the wide... More...

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      5
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      4
    3. Hebridean Sky

      Hebridean Sky

      The best small luxury-expedition boat in its category, the Hebridean Sky has some of the best facilities, one of the top passenger to crew ratios and all suite accommodation, making it a great choice for those looking for an adventurous cruise without compromising on elegance and on-board comforts... More...

      Our rating:
      5
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      4
    4. Sea Adventurer

      Sea Adventurer

      The Sea Adventurer is a comfortable and classically styled ice-strengthened expedition ship offering a range of different itineraries, including fly and cruise itineraries. Somewhere between the Ocean Nova and the Hebridean Sky, the Sea Adventurer is a good option for those looking for a mix of... More...

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      5
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      4
    5. Explorer Suite

      Silver Explorer

      The Silver Explorer is the most luxurious of Antarctica cruise ships, with exceptional personalised service, spacious accommodation, a first-class restaurant and a fantastic on board expedition team.

      Our rating:
      5
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      5