The Falkland Islands are home to some of the rarest beauty in the world. This Southern archipelago, also known simply as the Falklands, is made up of over 700 islands in total, most of which remain untouched by human presence. However, the few that are inhabited welcome visitors with open arms. There, you’ll find locals that are keen to share their hidden gem in the Southern Atlantic Ocean with those that make the journey.
So where should you go if you want to discover the magic of the Falkland Islands for yourself?
After an amazing holiday in the Islas Malvinas earlier this year, there’s one thing I can say for sure – no two islands are the same.
Here are my Falkland Island recommendations – get ready to plan your itinerary!
Which Islands Should I Visit on the Falklands?
With so many islands to discover, it makes sense to explore beyond the two major settlements on East & West Falkland. But before you plan your holiday, there are a few things to take into account. Firstly, only around seven of the outer islands offer accommodation for visitors. Others are accessible only by cruise ship or day trips on a boat. Secondly, every island offers a unique experience. If time is limited, or you want to focus on a specific interest during your holiday (birding, hiking etc) it’s important to know which islands are best suited to your desires.
At 63,000 acres, Weddell Island is the largest of the Falkland’s outer islands. The undulating hills and shrub-covered plains play host to a diverse wildlife, including a few interesting introduced species! Weddell Island is home to a small herd of reindeer and is one of the few islands with a resident population of Patagonian grey foxes.
Like most of the islands, penguins can also be found frolicking around the shorelines. Gentoo penguin colonies are a common sight and Magellanic penguins dig burrows in the soft peaty earth. Marine mammals are also at home on Weddell, with sea lions resting underneath the tussock, while dolphins play in the bays.
Birding. Despite the debatable threat the foxes pose, bird life thrives on Weddell Island. I was on the island for a little more than 24 hours and still managed to lay my eyes on 25 different species! In recent years, a whopping 54 species of birds have been spotted by the island’s only permanent residents, Jane & Martin.
Where to Stay:
The Weddell Island Lodge offers two comfortable self-contained apartments for visitors to relax in. And your hosts Jane & Martin will make sure your stay on Weddell is a memorable one!
What to Do:
Brandish a pair of binoculars for some of the best bird watching in the world. Wander the countryside in search of a roaming reindeer. Spot sea lion pups among the shallows. And climb Mt Weddell for 360-degree views of the island.
Pebble Island offers a bucolic contrast between sandy beaches, rocky mountain ranges, grassy plains and shallow wetlands. It’s also where you can find the semi-precious stones the island took its name from. The island is rife with more than 40 species of bird life – officially marking it as an important bird area. Here you’ll find Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni & Magellanic penguins, as well as the imperial cormorant, waterfowl and black-necked swans.
These days, Pebble Island is home to a small farming community. But the tranquil landscape defies its turbulent past. Pebble Island played a starring role in the Falklands War when Argentinian forces established a small airbase on the island that was subsequently raided by SAS troopers on the 14th May 1982.
War History. Driving around Pebble Island, you can still find relics from the war lying undisturbed on the ground. The jagged remains of an Argentinean Dagger C-437 look ominous against the agrarian landscape, while memorials to both Argentine and British lives lost pepper the land.
Where to Stay:
Pebble Lodge is the homely, comfortable accommodation on Pebble Island. The lodge is run by a Falklands local, Riki, who doubles as your tour driver. Make sure you stay long enough to enjoy the amazing food his resident chef prepares for guests of the lodge.
What to Do:
Hunt for the iconic spherical pebbles on the islands’ western beaches. Watch rockhoppers expertly climb the steep cliff faces. Hear the cacophony caused by the large Gentoo colonies. Visit Elephant Beach – the longest beach in the Falklands!
Sea Lion Island
Sea Lion Island is probably the most popular island for visitors to the Falkland Islands (outside of East Falkland). At just over 5 miles long and a smidge more than a mile wide, it is an excellent place to explore by foot. And it packs a huge punch in its petite frame! One of the only islands without any livestock farming, and completely free of predators, it’s a true sanctuary for wildlife.
Three species of penguins and countless other birds inhabit sea lion island. Seals and sea lions line the shores, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot the orcas known to swim offshore preying on young seal pups.
Spotting elephant seals. Sea Lion Island is home to the Falkland’s largest elephant seal breeding site. The best time to visit is around the third week of October – the peak of the breeding season – when up to 1800 seals can be found on the beaches.
Where to Stay:
On Sea Lion Island, stay at the strategically positioned Sea Lion Lodge where you have fantastic views from every window! One of the Falkland Island’s premier lodges, it’s well placed for accommodating larger groups of visitors.
What to Do:
Walk the entire perimeter of the island. Watch elephant seals battling for mating privileges on the beach. Go whale watching without having to leave the shore. Relax with a drink in the lodge’s lounge while watching penguins from the comfort of your couch!
Ask any local which is their favourite of the Falkland’s outer islands and you’ll often hear the same name, Carcass Island. Whether this is for the stunning scenery, because it’s one of the few islands with trees, or because the lodge’s chef makes the most amazing morning tea spread, I could never be sure!
Despite the rather grim sounding name, the island was actually named after the HMS Carcass – a vessel that surveyed the island in 1766. Carcass Island is a popular cruise port and true nature lover’s paradise. Teeming with wildlife, it’s home to a rich array of bird life including Gentoo and Magellanic penguins, and the infamous cheeky caracara. Elephant seals can also be found at the aptly named ‘Elephant Flats’.
Walking. Although there are no official trails, Carcass Island is a fantastic place to hike around. Suitable for all levels, the rolling landscape is easy enough to traverse while offering spectacular views over Byron Sound and beyond.
Where to Stay:
On Carcass Island, you can stay at the McGill’s lodge accommodation. The newly refurbished rooms are spacious and comfortable. And you won’t want to leave after sampling the famous smoko!
What to Do:
Climb up to the rock sculptures on ram paddock hill. Watch penguins surfing in the shallow waters of Dyke Bay. Stay a little longer and take a day trip to West Point Island to see its resident black-browed albatross colony.
How To Get Around the Falkland Islands
Transport to the outer islands from East Falkland, and between the islands of the Falklands is made easy with the local government air service, FIGAS.
FIGAS operate on demand and their fleet of small passenger planes make for an enjoyable, unique and convenient way to explore the islands.
Falkland Island Tourism – Are the Islands Worth Seeing?
With so many great islands to explore in the Falklands, there’s no doubt that you’ll have an unforgettable experience wherever you go.
So, whether you’re visiting the Falkland Islands for their remarkable scenery, unique and diverse bird life, to remember those fallen in the war, or to hike the amazing coastlines (or all of the above) you’ll find what you’re looking for, and more!