Best known for the war that was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the British, this colony of Britain is still a lonely outpost of only about 4000 inhabitants, mainly consisting of British military personnel. The residents of the Falkland Islands are typically decended from the British, and culture there–while unique in many ways–is, itself, British through and through.
The Falkland Islands were uninhabited until the late 17th century, when the Europeans stumbled upon them during an exploration of the southern Atlantic. In 1690 a British expedition landed at the Falklands and claimed them for the crown. They named the sound between the two main islands after British naval officer, Viscount Falkland; later the name was applied to the entire island group.
The first official settlement came in the mid-1700s, when the French set up camp, but they soon turned over their claim to Spain. Since that time, the Falklands have seen a great deal of territorial conflict–first between Spain and Britain, and then between Britain and Argentina. In 1833 the United Kingdom established a military garrison on the Falklands, effectively snubbing the Spanish claim to ownership, and in April of 1982, Argentina invaded the islands, sparking brutal violence between Britain and Argentina that ended in British victory just a few months later.
Initially sustained by agriculture (mostly sheep farming), fishing currently accounts for the largest contribution to the Falkland Islands’ economy–including the sale of fishing licenses to foreign trawlers and exporting vast quantities of squid. Other contributing industries include export of wool to the U.K., coin and stamp production, offshore oil exploration, and limited dairy production and crops to sustain the islands’ population through the winters. The Falklands are self-sufficiant except for the military, which is provided by the British and, itself, makes a large contribution to the local economy.
Traveling in Falkland Islands
The only way to get to the Falklands is by air. There are biweekly civilian flights from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England. You can also fly there from Santiago or Punta Arenas in Chile. Visa requirements are typically the same as those for entering the U.K. Citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are generally allowed to stay six months without a visa.
Once in the Falklands there are really only two ways to travel around to the different parts. The first is on the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS), which flies on demand to grass airstrips throughout the islands. There are also boats for day trips that can be chartered throughout the Falklands. You could also rent a car, but remember to drive on the left.
Tourism continues to increase in the Falklands, with an estimated 30,000 visitors in 2001. Since the local population is tiny, and festivals on the Falklands are of a different breed than elsewhere in the world (the most spectacular of which are the annual “sports meetings” held throughout the summertime, which include horse racing, bull riding, and sheepdog trials), people traveling to these islands usually do so to check out the wildlife. Though they are also the wettest months in the region, December through January tends to be the best time to view the islands’ migratory birds and marine mammals. For anglers, sea trout season runs from September through April. The islands’ “high season” last from October until April–although, that doesn’t say very much, considering the dearth of tourists.
Weather in Falkland Islands
October through March is the rainy season with the wettest months being December and January. However, it rains fairly steadily throughout the year, so be prepared. Between May and September is the Southern Hemispheric winter, and not a good time to visit the Falklands.
Falkland Islands Information:
2805 permanent residents, plus 2000 British military personnel
Colony of the United Kingdom
4700 sq mi (12,170 sq km)
Stanley (pop 1750)
Fishing, wool processing, offshore oil exploration