Remote Island Where Napoleon Was Exiled Now Open For Tourists

Explore St Helena, the island where Napoleon was exiled, and enjoy trekking, whale watching, and swimming with devil rays, all the while discovering its rich history and natural beauty
St Helena is one of the most remote islands in the world
St Helena is one of the most remote islands in the worldUmomos/Shutterstock

Nestled in the vast expanse of the South Atlantic Ocean, lies St. Helena, a small island known for its extreme isolation, which has kept it off the beaten path of tourism. Located between southern Africa and Brazil, until 2017, reaching this British overseas territory has now become easier with the recent introduction of weekly commercial flights. The government is now keen to boost tourism here. St. Helena is now poised to offer an exhilarating and uncommon travel experience for those seeking an adventure that is a far cry from the ordinary.

The island boasts several factors that make it an attractive destination. Firstly, it is the place where Napoleon was exiled and spent his time from 1815 until his death in 1821. Secondly, the island is home to Jonathan, a 192-year-old tortoise who is famously known as the oldest land animal in the world. Jonathan is an absolute celebrity and even had the privilege to meet with royalty, including the late Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the island in 1947. The island has a small, permanent population of just over 4,000 residents who refer to themselves as 'Saints.'

School children with  Jonathan
School children with JonathanDarrin Henry/Shutterstock

Far From The Madding Crowds

The remote island is still somewhat untouched by tourism, but that could soon change. In 2023, approximately 2,100 vacationers explored the island, and the aim is to draw in even more guests. St Helena is a beautiful island that offers plenty of attractions for visitors. It is known for its architectural gems. You can visit Napolean's homes and his original burial grounds. The island also boasts a rich collection of British Georgian-era colonial buildings, primarily in its capital city, Jamestown.

Things To Do

Visitors can experience various microclimates within an hour's drive, ranging from cool tropical forests to sunny rolling grasslands and windswept volcanic cliffs. The island also boasts an incredible diversity of plant and animal species, with about one-third of all endemic biodiversity in UK territories found here. More than 500 species can be found on the island which are not present anywhere else on earth. The island also has Britain's last remaining natural cloud forest.

For outdoors enthusiasts, St Helena is great with many scenic trails, including a hike to the island's highest point, Diana's Peak, which takes you 2,690 feet above sea level. You can also walk to Blue Point Trail for spectacular views or hike to St Helena's famed Heart-Shaped Waterfall. Go swimming with Chilean devil rays, and humpback whale watching.

If you're a coffee lover, you simply must try the coffee made from St. Helena's beans. These single-origin beans are known to be one of the rarest and most expensive varieties in the world. They were imported from Yemen in the 18th century and have never been cross-fertilized due to the island's isolation.

The Information

Getting There: Airlink, a South African airline, operates one weekly flight from Johannesburg to St Helena. During the island's busy summer season, which runs from December to March, an additional mid-week flight may be added.

Services: It's important to note that St Helena has only recently opened up to the world. There are limited banking facilities available, and currently the island has no ATMs, and credit cards are not widely accepted.

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