The Falkland Islands are a United Kingdom territory consisting of more than 700 islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. History buffs know this place as a war zone in the 1982 conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom. But traveling to the Falklands just to see the capital, Stanley, would certainly be an oversight. These windswept islands are one of the world’s premier wildlife-viewing destinations, a paradise for birders and nature photographers. Whether you get to see the Falklands on an expedition cruise or as an independent traveler, here are the top attractions not to be missed:
While visiting the capital is probably included in any travel itinerary to the Falklands, you should consider putting aside at least a day to really get a feel for the city and its charming way of life. The colorful buildings line up to create a village-sized little town, but the different architectural styles of the British heritage to create a diverse look. Attractions within pleasant walking distance along the waterfront promenade include the Falkland Islands Museum, the governor’s house, various war memorials, quality gift shops, and charming pubs. Dramatic views of shipwreck sites can be seen from the harbor.
Worth mentioning as a separate attraction, the iconic Christ Church Cathedral is a must-see in Stanley, whatever your beliefs are. The most southerly Anglican cathedral in the world, the church was consecrated in 1892 by the first Bishop of the Falkland Islands. The building is complete with an impressive Whalebone Arch, constructed from the jawbones of blue whales. Inside you will see artifacts with stories of the island live, 19th century stained glass windows, and an Irish pipe organ.
Located just 6.5 kilometers from Stanley, Gypsy Cove is the most accessible wildlife site from the capital. This place is considered a national nature reserve, and for a good reason. White sandy beaches are frequented by numerous bird species, including the endemic Falklands flightless steamer duck. Bird lovers can also check off black-crowned night herons, rock cormorants, oystercatchers, upland and kelp geese. For a more popular species, you can spot Magellanic penguins, making underground burrows in the tussac grass by the seashore and making their distinctive braying sounds.
On our Falklands – South Georgia – Antarctica cruise, a visit to Gypsy cove is a hopeful addition to the itinerary if the weather conditions allow. They are usually calm as the bay is sheltered from prevailing winds. Gypsy Cove is a 15-minute drive by car or bus from Stanley if traveling on your own.
West Point is an island located off the north-west tip of West Falkland, the second-largest island of the Falklands where Stanley is located. Originally named Albatross Island, West Point is one of the world’s most important bird areas, home to thousands of nesting black-browed albatross, rockhopper penguins, and imperial cormorants. Sea lions, fur seals, whales and dolphins can be encountered at the beach and in the coastal waters. The landscape is varied – from dramatic sandstone cliffs to low-lying areas of tussac grass greens. The highest point of the Falklands, Cliff Mountain, is a bonus to the other sites.
The second-largest offshore island, Saunders is named after a British admiral of the Royal Navy. Here you can see four different penguin species sharing the beaches – Gentoo, Magellanic, rockhopper and a small colony of kings. Along the coast is the so-called “rockhopper shower”, where birds line up for a cleanse under the falling stream.
Large albatross colonies, inviting white stretches of sand, great hiking opportunities and panoramic vistas – Saunders Island has something to satisfy any traveler or cruise passenger.
Now you know which spots to make room for when planning a trip to the Falklands. Better yet, take a look at our longer Antarctic itineraries for an included visit to of all of the top attractions the Falkland Islands have to offer.