Visiting Tristan da Cunha

Considered the most remote inhabited place on earth, visiting Tristan da Cunha is not something most people think of when looking for their next vacation spot. And it’s that very fact that would provide the expert traveler with a most unique getaway. By visiting Tristan da Cunha you will be visiting a distant and small set of islands that are the furthest from any continental landmass.

Tristan da Cunha - The Main Settlement on the Island, Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream, Flickr
Tristan da Cunha - The Main Settlement on the Island, Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream, Flickr

The nearest land to Tristan da Cunha is South Africa – 1750 miles away. Cape Town serves as the gateway to this small South Atlantic island territory of the United Kingdom. Boats headed for and arriving from the islands are rare. If you don’t catch the return trip back to Cape Town within a few short days of arriving, you probably won’t be able to leave for another month or two. And the boat trip takes six or seven days itself. A trip like that is not for the casual tourist.

Once you’re on the island of Tristan da Cunha (the main island and the entire archipelago share the same name), you will find yourself in “Edinburgh of the Seven Seas,” a small city of less than 300 people and more commonly referred to as “The Settlement.” The main industries on the island are farming and fishing. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is a lack of things to do – if you really want to get away from it all, this is the place.

Cool House on Tristan da Cunha, Photo: Jake73, Wikitravel
Cool House on Tristan da Cunha, Photo: Jake73, Wikitravel

Visits to Tristan da Cunha begin with the guesthouses which are especially set aside in order to accommodate visitors. In and around the Settlement, there are some neat places to visit. The Museum tells about the islands’ history and sells some of the handicrafts of the locals. The Post Office sells stamps and coins for elite collectors. Prince Phillip Hall is the heart of the community, hosting all the Settlement’s activities, and sharing a roof with the city’s only pub: The Albatross Bar. The island even offers a golf course so visitors and residents alike have the opportunity to play a game or two.

Additionally, the island of Tristan da Cunha has two churches – one Catholic and one Anglican, a school, a store, and a hospital. Camping can be done in the nearby Patches, an agricultural area where vegetables – especially potatoes – have been grown for the last 150 years. Any visitor interested in lobster will find it in abundance on the island, especially at the Factory where Tristan Lobster is frozen and packed to ship around the world. The island’s sheep industry is vital to the economy and survival of Tristan da Cunha’s inhabitants. Not only a food supply, but also a source of wool, the residents produce superb woolen crafts.

Steep Hills on the West Coast of Tristan da Cunha, Photo: michael clarke stuff, Flickr
Steep Hills on the West Coast of Tristan da Cunha, Photo: michael clarke stuff, Flickr

Natural sights abound in the region with many uninhabited islands that are home to penguins, albatross, and many other species of wildlife. Tristan da Cunha offers mountain climbers a chance to scale the volcanic heights to the snow-covered crater at the summit of Queen Mary’s Peak. Sheer cliffs offer themselves to the rock climber – the sheer drop of more than 1000 feet is a challenge. Boats offer tours of nearby Inaccessible Island – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and Nightengale Island, both uninhabited. Fishing is a very popular and common activity, as is bird-watching, and hiking.

The subtropical climate of Tristan da Cunha is highly temperamental and very prone to sudden change, but getting along on the island is not difficult as the territory’s language is English. If you are an experienced traveler who wants to get back to nature and get away from it all, visiting Tristan da Cunha is a unique experience.

Visiting Tristan da Cunha = Seeing Nothing but Endless Ocean All Around, Photo: brunosan, Flickr
Visiting Tristan da Cunha = Seeing Nothing but Endless Ocean All Around, Photo: brunosan, Flickr