Nineteenth-century shipwrecks and a plethora of marine life are among the attractions awaiting visitors to the Falkland Islands. Although these islands are perhaps best known as the battleground of the eponymous 1982 war between Britain and Argentina, but this archipelago in the Atlantic is an intriguing and relaxing holiday destination.
Situated nearly 500km from Patagonia, the Falklands – or Islas Maldivas, depending on who you talk to – are a frequent stopping point on Antarctic voyages, and with such an abundance of rare animal life, it's not hard to see why. There are two main islands, East and West Falkland, as well as several hundred islets. Wildlife lovers will find strewn among them five different species of penguins (including macaroni, king, Magellanic, gentoo, and rockhopper), as well whales, and sea birds. Head to Volunteer Point for the islands' largest group of king penguins, while there are a predictably vast amount of sea lions to be found on Sea Lion Island.
Reminders of the 1982 conflict do remain, with battlefields, such as Goose Green and Pebble Island, now tourist attractions. Also claimed by Spain, France and Argentina over the years, the Falklands have been British Overseas Territory since 1833. Argentina famously still contests this status and there have been recent political ramblings on the matter by that country's government. However, a recent referendum found that an overwhelming majority of the 3,000 or so islanders want to remain under British rule.
Most of the Falkland Islands' population live in the capital Stanley, over whose harbour much avian life can be seen circling above the waves. More than a thousand members of the British military live at the Mount Pleasant Base. There's a rural feel to the islands, with hamlets and sheep abounding, while you'll find no traffic lights on the Falklands' country roads. There are more than a dozen endemic plants, including Felton's flower, thought to be extinct in the wild until recently, which gives off a whiff of caramel. Also, look out for the ubiquitous snakeplant.