To see the islands at their best it is advisable to plan a visit during the austral summer, October to April, when the tourist industry is geared up to ensure that visitors truly appreciate the archipelago, its wildlife and its way of life. The long summer evenings of December and January offer a welcome respite from winter in the northern hemisphere. It is possible to visit the islands at any time of year; however, some of the accommodation closes out of season.
The reproductive cycles of the local wildlife may dictate when a visit to the Falklands is scheduled. Penguins are a major attraction and they, in common with many other breeding seabirds, are at their most vocal when displaying in the early months of the summer. Chicks abound in midsummer. Southern elephant seals and southern sea lions can be seen throughout the tourist season, as can the scarce fur seal. The greatest concentrations of these impressive beasts are to be found during the pupping seasons in spring and midsummer. Killer whales, although far from common, are best observed when the pups start leaving the beaches.
As is to be expected, the flora is much more impressive in springtime when the majority of plants are in bloom; however, there are always some late spring and summer flowers, and several species produce attractive berries in the early autumn.
It is possible to come to the islands to fish for sea trout from 1 September to 30 April, although September and October and mid-February to mid-April are thought to be the optimal times for this species. Falkland mullet are not so seasonably variable and can be caught throughout the fishing season.
The paramount climatic feature of the Falkland Islands is wind. The islands are usually described as having an oceanic climate dominated by the prevailing westerlies. Footage of the events of April, May and June 1982, showing the military in action in snow and ice, have resulted in a public perception that the islands are snow-covered throughout the year, as though comparable with the Antarctic. In fact, the islands have a rather narrow temperature range from 19°C in January to 2°C in July, with an average annual mean temperature of 6°C.
Very warm days are rare during a Falkland summer, although the islands enjoy more sunshine hours than the south of Britain. The general lack of pollution and dust in the atmosphere increases the penetration of ultraviolet rays, so a high-factor suncream is an essential part of the visitor’s travel pack. The sea temperature varies very little during the year on average with a range of between 6°C and 7°C.
Public holidays and events
Liberation Day on 14 June commemorates the liberation of the islands after the invasion by Argentina in 1982 and is marked by a service in Christ Church Cathedral followed by a parade to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Liberation Monument a short distance along Ross Road. There is usually a large military representation for this. Battle Day on 8 December is to commemorate the battle between the British Navy and the German South Atlantic Squadron, which resulted in the loss of most of the German squadron. There is a parade to the 1914 memorial on the headland to the west of Government House followed by a service and a fly-by from the RAF.
Peat Cutting Day was reinstated as a public holiday on the first Monday in October in 2002 to mark the traditional start of the peat-cutting season. There is relatively little peat cut these days as most islanders use oil or electricity for heating, but the day off work in some hopefully spring-like weather is enjoyed all the same.
The major sporting event in the Falkland Islands’ calendar is the Stanley Races over 26 and 27 December. This takes place at the race course at the eastern end of Stanley and involves a variety of horse races of up to a mile in length. There are also junior races as well as many others over this popular two-day event. Another sports event, the West Falkland Sports, takes place around the end of the shearing season, the location moving to a different settlement on West Falkland each year.