If you imagine the Falkland Islands to be insignificant specks of land fought over in a well-publicised war, think again. The land mass is huge – some 4700 square miles, yet with a tiny permanent population of just under 3000 people. Proudly self-governing yet fiercely British, the Falkland Islanders are among the most interesting people you will ever encounter, thriving despite their isolation and disputed political status.
Before the 1982 war, the Falkland Islands suffered poverty and deprivation. Now they are a magnet for the most adventurous world travellers, and with the possible discovery of oil offshore set to become the richest nation on earth. Almost three-quarters of islanders live in the capital of Stanley, which is surprisingly lively and cosmopolitan given its modest size.
There are more than 30 shops in Stanley, with many focusing on passengers from visiting cruise ships – so you will be able to choose from a fascinating range of local handicrafts as a memento of your visit. Christ Church Cathedral, with its enormous arch made from the jawbones of a whale, is a must-see and has become famous throughout the Southern Hemisphere and beyond.
Whilst in Stanley, be sure to visit the Falkland Islands Museum, with extensive information about the 1982 conflict, the islands’ broader history and the unique local flora and fauna. Then take a short taxi ride to Gypsy Cove – just outside the town – where you might be able to spot the local population of penguins who share these magical islands with humans and countless sheep.
Small enough to walk around yet large enough to retain your interest, Stanley is a fascinating place to visit. If you’re lucky, you may get chatting to the locals over a good lunch of the freshest lamb, or a convivial drink in a cosy bar. Their tales of island life before, during and after war are certain to enthral you, giving you a privileged glimpse into everyday life in one of the world’s most remote, isolated and closely knit communities.