Falkland Islands vacations overview
The Falkland Islands – a remote and still battle-scarred Atlantic archipelago – boasts some of Earth’s wildest and most far out landscapes, with white beaches, hidden beaches and empty beaches. Empty, that is, except for the many forms of marine and birdlife that call the Falkland Islands home. King penguins are just one of five species living here, along with rockhopper, Magellanic, gentoo and macaroni penguins – comprising almost half a million breeding pairs. Observe them hanging out and keeping their beautiful beady eyes open for resident dolphins, whales and the particularly vicious leopard seal. Learn more in our Falkland Islands travel guide.
Our top Falkland Islands vacations
Best time to go to the Falkland Islands
Most people visit as part of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica, meaning that shipping schedules usually dictate the best time to visit the Falkland Islands. That’s November to March generally, when the ice breaks up enough to let ships through. For wildlife watching, these are great months to visit. Elephant seal pups are a big attraction in October and November, and baby penguins are prolific around December and January. As nature’s needs must, young seals and penguins attract orcas and other cetaceans for feeding time. Max temperatures between December and February are 15-28°C, dipping to between 0-5°C in the southern winter.
Map & highlightsStark and windswept, the Falkland Islands form Britain’s southernmost outpost and are known predominantly for two things: a brief, bloody war in the 1980s (battlefield sites include Goose Green near Darwin) and plentiful marine life. Antarctic cruises often pause in the capital, Stanley, for exploring. West Falkland Island is dominated by Port Howard, a vast sheep farm, but you can also see whales off the coast. Carcass Island teems with birdlife and you may also see dolphins on the horizon. Sea Lion Island is one of the world’s top sites for seeing elephant seals breeding, while Volunteer Point has an immense penguin population.
1. Carcass Island
Unlike the name, this island is brimming with live birds, penguins and so much more. It was actually named after HMS Carcass which visited in 18th century. There is one lodge to stay at, a welcoming farmhouse. An Important Bird Area, species include the endemic Cobbs’s wren, tussock birds and black throated finches. Hike the island’s wild rocky ridges, beaches or cliff walks, keeping an eye out for Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins.
Charles Darwin visited spot during his 1830s zoological survey on the Beagle's second voyage. Now remote and sparsely populated, its history ranges from 19th century cattle farming gauchos to early 20th century Scottish sheep farmers and, most recently, the nearby Battle of Goose Green during the 1982 Falklands War. A ten-week war in a landscape that still feels utterly unchanged by time.
Sea Lion Island
3. Sea Lion Island
One of the most southerly islands, a 40-minute flight from Stanley, it is also home to the Falklands’ only purpose built tourist lodge – the southernmost British hotel in the world. It is also habitat for sea lions, and a top breeding spot for elephant seals. Less obvious, but equally prolific are the ground nesting birds that thrive in the wildflower filled grasslands. You won’t miss the penguins, dolphins and orcas though.
The capital, on the largest East Falkland Island, and home to the majority of islanders, it is also the landing point for many of the ships en route to Antarctica. There is a quaint Anglican cathedral to visit, and you will gain great insight into island heritage in this Atlantic anomaly at the Historic Dockyard Museum, with exhibits ranging from the life saving telephone exchange, to the life taking Falklands War.
5. Volunteer Point
What’s the Point? The islands’ largest colony of king penguins, plus a full on party of gentoo and Magellanic penguins too, all hanging out on this 2km white sandy beach to the north of Berkley Sound. That’s the point. Take a tour here with an expert naturalist guide, plus a good driver. The penguins can waddle and wade their way across the coastal grass and boglands, but humans need a 4x4.
West Falkland Island
6. West Falkland Island
This island represents what the islanders mean by ‘camp’. On the Falklands, you either live in Stanley or ‘in camp’ which means in the countryside. Stay on one of the large farm settlements here, hike up the highest peak of Mount Adam, go whale or penguin spotting at Port Edgar, or go trout fishing on the Warrah or Chartres Rivers around Port Howard. This is camp with bells on.
You can hardly turn around in the Falkland Islands for falling over a penguin, but this sprawling archipelago has many other avian visitors, as well as an impressive cast of endemic species. Pack your binoculars to watch albatrosses making their (sometimes less than graceful) landings on Steeple Jason Island, or Southern giant petrels waiting for an opportunity to snaffle someone’s fish and chips in Stanley. Chirpy Cobb’s wrens – found nowhere else apart from the Falklands – thrive on Carcass Island, while striated caracara are birds of prey with a penchant for penguin chicks and lambs.
Many Antarctica cruises make a brief stop in the Falkland Islands after navigating the Beagle Channel – or the notoriously choppy Drake Passage – from Ushuaia. However, our cruises are vastly different to the ‘all singing, all dancing’ mega vessels that most are familiar with. These are small ships, with passenger numbers limited to 250. There’s a lower impact on the environments and communities they visit, and greater flexibility when it comes to activities and accessing narrower bodies of water. Routes vary, but there really is no better way to explore this region and its spectacular landscapes than by sea.
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More about the Falkland Islands
Prompted by Argentinean forces invading the Falkland Islands and then South Georgia in 1982, the Falklands War saw Britain firmly stamp its authority over territory both countries claim as their own. Nearly 1,000 military personnel died in the two-month conflict and it was seen as a resounding victory for Britain, but has never been fully resolved. While the islanders largely consider themselves British citizens, Argentina still views ‘Las Malvinas’ as Argentinean. Most Falkland Islands vacations focus on the wildlife, but some do provide interesting history tours that take you from Port Stanley to key battlefields such as Goose Green.
Types of vacations
Small ship cruising is the best way to see the Falkland Islands and its wildlife. There’s a range of itineraries available, but what they all have in common is a lower impact on the places they visit when compared to larger vessels. Trips typically focus on the two main islands, where penguins are in abundance, but there is much more to wildlife vacations in the Falklands than these charming flightless birds. The species here are a link between Patagonia and Antarctica, and they include vast seal colonies, whales, dolphins and both endemic and migratory marine birds.