The Falklands are a remote island group in the South Atlantic, about 300 miles east of South America's Patagonian coast. They cover about 4,700 square miles -- roughly the size of Connecticut or half the size of Wales. The landscape is harsh and windswept, boggy and treeless.
The islands are a British Overseas Territory but Argentina claims sovereignty and invaded the islands, which it refers to as Las Malvinas, in 1982. The resultant Falklands War lasted 74 days -- from April 2, with the invasion of South Georgia, until the Argentine surrender on June 14. Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2 and P&O's Canberra were among the merchant vessels drafted in as a troop carrier and hospital ship. In total, 255 British military personnel, 649 Argentines, and three Falkland Islanders were killed during the conflict. Argentina still maintains its claims to the islands and a garrison of about 1,300 U.K. military personnel and civil servants is stationed there. In a referendum held in March 2013, 99.8 percent of voters declared they wished to remain under British rule.
The island receives about 40 visits a year from medium and large-sized cruise ships and is on the itineraries of a number of smaller expedition vessels. The five-month season runs from early November to the end of March. Ships anchor some way off shore and tender passengers to a jetty in Port Stanley. High winds and rough seas can occasionally prevent landings. It comes as little surprise to learn that the harbour and surrounding waters contain more 19th century shipwrecks than anywhere else in the world -- 20 are visible from the town at low tide.Cruise ship excursion teams are anxious to warn passengers not to stray from well-trodden paths because of unexploded mines left over from 1982, though here have been no recorded cases of any civilians being injured by mines.
Penguins: All visiting ships will offer excursions to visit penguin rookeries and trips are also bookable at the visitor centre. The Falklands are home to five separate species of penguin -- Gentoo, King, Magellanic, the striking crested Rockhopper, and the rarely-seen Macaroni penguin. The Gypsy Cove reserve is just a short taxi ride away; visiting Bluff Cove is a longer journey by 4WD vehicle.
The Historic Dockyard Museum: opened for the first time in 2014, is within easy walking distance of the jetty and incorporates three of the oldest buildings in Stanley, erected in the 1840s and rescued from years of neglect. The main exhibits focus on social history, maritime history, the 1982 conflict, natural history and a pioneering exhibition on Antarctic history. The RT station -- telling the evolution of radio and telecommunications in the Falklands -- has also been relocated to the site. The RT hut was a lifeline to 'Camp' (the local term for everything outside Stanley) in the 1900s, providing links to Stanley for teachers to give lessons, doctors to give medical advice, and in 1982 for school children to update their parents that they were safe. (Check address and phone number; open Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4p.m. at weekends from November to March. Admission £3 (free for under 16s).
Christ Church Cathedral: the southernmost cathedral in the world, with a distinctive whalebone arch in the grounds. Consecrated in 1892, the church is featured on Falkland's banknotes and its rather plain interior contains poignant memorials to men who died in the 1982 conflict. (Ross Road).
Cape Pembroke: Visiting for a second time? A half-day walk takes the intrepid visitor to Cape Pembroke and its 19th century lighthouse. The area is occupied by many bird species, including albatross, grebes, hawks, petrels, Magellanic snipe, Falkland pipit, and peregrine falcons.Fishing: Sea trout were introduced to the Falklands 50 years ago and the tourist board can arrange fishing expeditions to remote estuaries. Locals are allowed to catch and keep up to six fish a day; visitors are not allowed to take their catch back to the ships, and must use barbless hooks so their fish can be released harmlessly.
On Foot: The town of Stanley is easily walkable. Free maps and guides are available from the visitor centre in a number of languages. There are several shops and cafes within yards, and a stroll along Ross Road takes visitors to the cathedral and further to the Standard Chartered Bank. On the promenade is displayed the mizzen mast from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's steamship Great Britain, which from 1845 to 1854 was the longest passenger ship in the world. The ship ended its working life when it was scuttled in the Falklands in 1937. It was rescued in 1970 and is now a tourist attraction in Bristol, England.
Taxis: are available from the visitor centre; a tour of Stanley and a short way out of town costs about £20 ($30).
Malvina House Hotel: Despite its name, this has no Argentine connections; it is claimed to be a Scots Gaelic name, after Malvina Nathalia Felton, whose father John James Felton who built the original building. The fine dining restaurant uses the best fresh local ingredients. (3 Ross Road; +500-21355).
Waterfront Hotel: This is nearby, and has a cafe during the day with dinner served in the evenings. Homemade produce is available along with coffee and fresh fruit juices. (36 Ross Road; +500-21462).
The Globe Tavern: situated opposite the jetty, this serves pub food at its finest -- fish and chips, chips with gravy, burgers, bangers and mash, washed down with British ale. On cold days, a peat fire warms the entire establishment. (Corner of Crozier Place and Philomel Street).Bittersweet: A little way further up the hill from the Globe Tavern, this offers specialty coffees, bagels, filled rolls, and handmade Fairtrade chocolates. Organic and gluten-free rolls and cake are available. On Friday and Saturday evenings there is a wine bar with live music. (3 Philomel Street; +500-21888; open Tuesday to Thursday, 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday 7:45 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.