Visiting the Falkland Islands
300 miles off the coast of Argentina is a small multitude of islands, known to the Argentine people as Las Islas Malvinas and to the rest of the world as the Falklands. Despite Argentina's repeated claims, these islands have been under British authority and settlement since 1833, home to spectacular wildlife and a modest economy based on agriculture, fishing, and tourism.
Wildlife on the Falklands
In comparison to the small human population, the Falklands are teeming with a variety of species. Between the various islands, you can find five different species of penguins, six species of trout, albatrosses, and ducks, and a cornucopia of marine life, including whales, seals, sea lions, and dolphins. If you spend enough time near the coastline, you might even fortunate enough to sight a whale in the distance. However, a long history of whale-hunting has reduced the population near the islands.
Climate and Terrain
Despite being close to South America, the Falklands are more Arctic than tropical, subject to very strong and cold winds throughout the year. You'll also find rain more often in the southeast and even snow. But oddly enough, visitors in the summertime will need plenty of sunscreens as the Falklands are caught under the hole in the ozone layer surrounding the Antarctic. This is why most tourists usually come between November and March, being better prepared for winter (and more likely used to the chill if they're from the UK).
Travel and Culture
Travelers usually arrive by cruise ship or by plane, with the latter ending up at Mount Pleasant Airport in East Falkland. Most transit between the islands is conducted by plane or by boat, which requires a reservation in advance. For those interested in visiting the countryside, Land Rovers are available for rent from either the Falkland Islands Company or Stanley Services. On the furthest edge of East Falkland is Stanley, the capital city. This settlement is often the main hub for tourists visiting the islands, with great accommodations like the Malvina House Hotel and Miller's Guest House. English is the official language of the Falklands, though you might find a few locals who know Spanish. Because of the islands' loyalty to the UK, British customs and culture are prevalent. The local currency is tied to the British pound, while the cuisine mostly consists of English staples like fish and chips, roast beef, and tea (with a handful of dishes influenced by the islands' South American neighbors). This also means that most people from the UK are the largest percentage of tourists to the area, though visitors from Argentina and other parts of the world are not unheard of.
Respecting the Locals
Ever since the Falklands War in 1982, the local English population has been deeply conservative about their territory, so it's not a wise idea to bring up or challenge them about Argentina's politics or people. It's also advisable to ask for permission before setting foot on the private property and to respect the local wildlife by never feeding, touching, or blocking any animals you encounter during your trip.