There’s been a boom of cruise ship visits to the Falkland Islands in recent years. Calling at Stanley, the southernmost capital in the world, the ships tend to be en route to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and South American ports; many world cruises make a stop at Stanley, too.
Situated 400 miles off the south-eastern tip of South America and made up of two large islands and over 740 smaller islands, the Falklands is a UK Overseas Territory. Despite being well-known for the 1982 conflict with Argentina, the Falklands are now hitting the headlines for their world-class wildlife, natural beauty and laid-back island charm.
The Falklands offer much to the visitor: stunning white sandy beaches, historic sites and wildlife galore. Whether you’re looking for adventure or seeking quieter pleasures, this is a great place to escape and unwind.
Home to colourful houses and a picturesque Cathedral, Stanley, on East Falkland has a population of around 2,000 and is easily explored on foot. The main attractions are within walking distance of the public jetty, where tenders drop off cruise passengers, and town tours are also on offer. The fascinating museum shows how Falklands life has changed over time, while the maritime history is visible in more than 20 wrecks; a boat tour around the harbour looking at the wrecks is a popular excursion.
To many, the Falkland Islands are known as the Penguin Islands, and are the ultimate place to get a view of huge numbers of these creatures. With their comical waddling, naughty expressions and agility in the ocean or clumsiness on land, they bring the vast and absorbing landscape alive. You can even get close to them as they haven’t learnt to fear humans. Watch gentoo penguins playing in the surf at Bluff Cove or delight in the king penguins, with their tailored coats of grey and white, at Volunteer Point. Both of these wildlife destinations can be easily reached on day trips from Stanley – everything outside the capital is known locally as ‘camp’. Not only is this a chance to get off the beaten track, but also to join a variety of tours, including farm visits.
The Islands, however, aren’t just about penguins – there’s a multitude of other wildlife to discover, from sea lions to elephant seals, and 80% of the world’s black-browed albatross population, the flightless steamer duck and rock cormorant, to name a few.
Stanley is no exception – upland geese are regularly seen strutting along grassy areas and pathways, while looking skyward you might spot the largest and most common birds of prey – the dramatic looking turkey vulture – and along the harbour wall you’ll see southern giant petrels. You might catch sight of dolphins playing near the water’s edge, or even a seal or sea lion swimming in the shallow waters. This is a paradise for anyone who has the remotest interest in photography.
Most cruise passengers opt to wander around Stanley on foot, to hike the wide open countryside, go fishing or join a tour – visitors can book tours from either their ship or at the Jetty Visitor Centre. Stanley is the only major settlement, although roads lead to other settlements around the islands.
The cruise season runs from October to April, during the Falklands Islands’ summer. On average, the Falklands are cooler than London in the summer, but warmer in the winter and they enjoy more hours of sunshine and less rainfall than the UK. Summer is a wonderful time, with long daylight hours and an average temperature of 15°C. The weather can be changeable so pack good walking shoes and layers.
The local currency is the Falkland Islands pound (£FK), which has the same value as the British pound. The British pound is also acceptable as legal tender, and many shops, hotels and restaurants in Stanley will also accept US dollars and euros in cash. It’s advisable to confirm your payment method before purchase.
Falklands hosts pride themselves on serving organic foods and local specialities – natural produce is promoted Island-wide. Excellent local seafood includes mussels, oysters, scallops and snow crab as well as local seatrout and Atlantic rock cod, or there’s the squid caught in deep waters or the Patagonian toothfish. Organic meat also features heavily on the menus – lamb, upland goose pate, beef, and mutton, are served with locally grown vegetables.