Most tours that take you to Antarctica leave the tip of Argentina (Ushuaia) and go straight south to the Antarctic Peninsula and then come right back. For a much richer experience, find a tour that heads east to the Falkland Islands and then onto South Georgia Island before venturing south to Antarctica. We did our journey with Quark Expeditions.
Where are the Falkland Islands?
Located 480 km off the east coast of Argentina, The Falklands is an archipelago of about 740 islands and is a British Territory. In 1982, the Argentinians invaded these neighbouring islands to lay claim to them. Britain was “not amused”. After a “conflict” that lasted 74 days and cost over 900 lives, the British reclaimed their remote colony.
Today, The Falklands, as well as the nearby Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Island are all considered to be British colonies.
The Falklands is remote and sparsely populated. There are fewer than 3000 permanent residents and about 2400 of them are in Port Stanley, the capital.
What is there to see in The Falkland Islands?
The Falklands contain a rich diversity of wildlife in an undisturbed and primal environment. There are miles and miles of rocky crags with birds nesting and squawking as well as pristine white sandy beaches. The remoteness of these islands means that it takes a special effort to get there – but if you are a lover of wildlife and raw, breathtaking landscapes, you must add it to your bucket list!
After a day and a half at sea aboard the Quark Adventurer, and yes, we were “rockin’ and rollin”, our first day in the Falklands had us doing a 2 km trek through barren and rolling fields (think rural Scotland) to arrive at a path on the edge of a cliff containing a “rookery” shared by Rockhopper penguins and Black-browed Albatross. The Falklands Islands have 65% of the world’s black-browed albatross. They sit on a 6” high chimney made of mud where they build their nests.
While the albatross were busy incubating their eggs, the penguins were busy collecting (and stealing) grass and moss for their nests. These little guys are so cute – hopping from rock to rock (hence the name) with their comical gaits.
The 5 penguin species common to the Falkland Islands incude: the King, The Gentoo, the Macaroni, the Rockhopper and the Magellanic. As well as 200 species of birds, the Falkland Islands have dolphins, whales, elephant seals and sea lions.
The Only “City” in The Falkland Islands
Port Stanley, also known simply as Stanley, was officially designated a “city” in June of 2022. The economy is based on supplying fishing licenses as well as agriculture and tourism. There are at least 160 sheep for every person in the Falklands!
The day we were in Stanley marked an auspicious anniversary of the end of the war with Argentina. Princess Anne was there to commemorate the occasion.
The town has a post office, a pub, a church, (of course), and a few residential streets. Stanley definitely feels like a British town – with the famous “red phone booths” and red mail boxes. There is an arch of whale rib bones decorating the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral.
The local newspaper is called “The Penguin” and for good reason – the Islands are said to have more that 500,000 breeding pairs of penguins.
We stopped in to the Globe Tavern to have a pint and a fish & chips lunch, forgetting for a time that we were actually 14 hours south of Great Britain!
About 20 minutes by bus from the town of Stanley, we were back to the breath-taking wilderness that these islands are known for. Gypsy Cove has some pristine white-sand beaches with Magellanic penguins nesting.
Interesting fact, there are no native trees in the Falklands, it is simply too windy. the topography consists of plains, grass, gorse, bush, craggy hills and mountains.
We spent 2 days at the Falkland Islands – just the right amount of time for a hike, bird watching, checking out the town and the different bays and beaches.
The Falkland Islands were a fabulous addition to our itinerary on the way to Antarctica. Don’t miss them!
Next stop: SOUTH GEORGIA ISLAND
Read about where we set sail from: USHUAIA, ARGENTINA.
Check out our trip to IGUAZU FALLS, ARGENTINA
Check out Colin’s blog post Wildlife in Antarctica – a Photographer’s Dream!