Falkland Islands
Credit: David G Hemmings/Getty

Falkland Islands

Although it's been 30 years since Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falkland Islands, there's still considerable bad blood between the island's two claimants. Tensions once again escalated recently to the point that some cruise ships canceled December 2012 stops at nearby Argentine ports.

Upon arriving at Port Stanley's pier, you might be forgiven for asking yourself, "This is what all the fuss is about?" The Falklands (the Malvinas if you're Argentine) are a collection of rocky outcrops in the South Atlantic Ocean, devoid of trees and outdoor temperatures above 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

What the five islands do have is abundant wildlife, crazy four-wheel drive adventures, a good bit of history, and 2,800 warm-hearted, more English-than-the-English residents who are genuinely happy you stopped by.

On an unusually blustery summer day, we took local van transport ($20 each) to nearby Gypsy Cove to visit a penguin colony. Whatever the weather, the experience is worth it for the misty sea views, the brightly colored, dense foliage that hugs the rocky dunes, and glimpses of penguins lurching into the sea and huddling in their hillside holes.

Thoroughly wet and chilled, we returned to Stanley and nipped into The Globe Tavern. English flags lined the rafters and Christmas decorations twinkled all around. There was an English Premier League game on the large-screen telly, and English beer. Considering how far this place is from just about every place else in the world, the prices of beer and wine ($3) were amazingly cheap.

After finishing our drinks, we walked down Ross Road, Stanley's "high street," checking out the church, post office, war memorial, shops, and local shore birds. We stopped in at the Malvina House Hotel, a surprisingly Nordic-modern looking place. The bar serves excellent fish and chips and classic mushy peas, authentically served with malt vinegar (on request). The local fish is called grenadier (a.k.a. rattails before marketing folks got involved). Grenadier are among the ugliest fish in the ocean, but the tender white flesh fries up perfectly.

The bartenders at the Malvinas pour suds from the Falkland Beerworks. Black Tarn was on tap the day we were there. Served cellar-temperature as in the U.K., it's a cask-style mild ale with a toasty malt taste, a fair amount of body, and subtle head and carbonation. We found drinking a pint while watching the traffic in Stanley harbor a pleasant way to warm up and round out a day in what must be the world's most remote location with its own brewery.

More information: While most visitors arrive on cruise ships, direct flights are available weekly from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the Mount Pleasant airport just outside Stanley. [lan.com]