Our 10 favourite walks on the island of St Helena

The sheer variety in St Helena’s landscapes – from rugged mountains to rolling countryside and nearly everything else in-between – makes hiking (namely the island’s roster of 21 Post Box Walks) the best way to explore this wild isle. Here are 10 of our favourite walks to tread in St Helena…

1. Diana’s Peak

Diana’s Peak (Shutterstock)

Length: 3.8km
Time: 2hrs 30 mins
Difficulty: Moderate

For the ultimate view of St Helena, look no further than its highest mountain, Diana’s Peak (823m). Though it’s the island’s loftiest peak and the route is steep, it’s not too physically taxing, leaving you to concentrate on soaking up the 60-plus endemic species of fauna you’ll pass as you make your way through the cloud forest on the way up. You’ll also spot a huge variety of invertebrates along the way (120 species of which you can’t spot anywhere else on the planet) and you’ll be able to spot spiky yellow woodlice, rainbow bugs and pink blushing snails if you study the branches of the black cabbage trees carefully enough. You won’t just top Diana’s Peak on this walk as it’s actually one of a triumvirate of mountains part of the same range, with Mount Actaeon and Cuckold’s Point (both characterised by the lonely Norfolk pine at their summit) the other two. All three grant comprehensive island-wide panoramas.

2. Lot’s Wife’s Ponds

Walk past Lot and Lot’s Wife volcanoes (Shutterstock)

Length: 5km
Time: 1hr 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Lot’s Wife’s Ponds is one of the most popular walks on St Helena and for good reason: it encapsulates the best of the island’s natural wonders. It begins on the exposed rocky coast of Sandy Bay, before weaving up past the parasitic volcanoes of Lot and his wife (which give the trail its name) and over a dramatic ridge striped with layers of multi-coloured rock – a striking example of its rich geological history. Keep your eyes peeled for the lime-green babies’ toes succulents and ground-nesting masked boobies as you traverse the outcrops, zig-zagging downhill to the group of sheltered seawater ponds, accessed by a knotted rope over a vertical cliff face. Make sure you’ve packed your swimming gear as you’ll want to take a dip in the ponds, where you’ll be joined by sally lightfoot crabs, starfish and clouds of colourful fish.

3. Blue Point

Blue Point (St Helena Tourist Board)

Length: 3km
Time: 1hr 20 mins (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate

If you were about to walk in an area known as the ‘Gates of Chaos’, you’d likely approach it ominously. But menacing this walk is not; in fact, as St Helena goes, it’s one of the flattest routes you’ll find on the island. And weighing up the amount of energy you’ll exert to the quality of views you’ll receive, it has a valid claim to be best for value out of all the Post Box Walks. You’ll pass multi-coloured soils exposed by erosion and conservation areas aimed at nurturing endemic fauna like rosemary and scrubwood before reaching Blue Point peak (600m). The spectacle is spine-tingling, with rocky mountains seemingly rising out of the ocean either side of this coastal promontory, as well as smaller islets such as Sperry Island and Castle Rock.

4. Heart-shaped waterfall

Heart-shaped waterfall (St Helena Tourist Board)

Length: 1.5km
Time: 45 mins
Difficulty: Easy

One of the seven wonders of St Helena, there are few landmarks on the island more iconic than the Heart-shaped Waterfall. It can be reached by its namesake Post Box Walk, ideal for casual hikers as it’s short and the closest one to the capital, Jamestown. A short stroll through a leafy landscape (with some steps along the way) will bring you to Drummond’s Point, the best spot to see the 90m-high cascade seeping from the heart-shaped rock face. Make sure you time your visit right – the waterfall is often dry at the height of summer and is at its fullest when fed by St Helena’s winter rains (typically June to August). An extension to the walk affords you the chance to see this natural wonder from another angle, taking you right up to its rocky base.

5. Great Stone Top

Great Stone Top (St Helena Tourist Board)

Length: 5km
Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Difficulty: Moderate

This Post Box Walk starts at one of the more curious landmarks of St Helena in Levelwood: the Bellstone, a boulder which, when struck, sounds like a bell and the ringer is said to be granted a wish. After you’ve submitted your wish it’s time to hit the trail, which winds through eucalyptus and acacia forests before skirting around the rocky Boxwood Hill. Then, you’ll start to climb past Little Stone Top and rise above the barren Sharks Valley to the summit of Great Stone Top itself, one of the highest sea cliffs in the South Atlantic. It’s not only a great position to admire the dramatic coastal views, but also to spot seabirds like the red-billed tropicbird.

6. Flagstaff

See cattle grazing on this picturesque stroll (St Helena Tourist Board)

Length: 6km
Time: 35 mins – 45 mins
Difficulty: Easy

A walk that showcases elements of St Helena’s impressive nature, history and landscapes in one, Flagstaff is ideal for hikers of all abilities. Stroll through the verdant Deadwood Plain and the cattle grazing in its wildflower meadows, keeping an eagle eye out for the island’s endemic wirebird along the way. You’ll also pass the site of a former prisoner camp, which once housed 6,000 prisoners during the Boer War from 1900-1902, before gently rising up through thick scrubland and a small patch of forest. The trees will clear suddenly and you’ll realise you’re atop a cliff, a wild blue Atlantic panorama erupting in front of your eyes. Turn around and the emerald-coated landscapes you’ve just treaded will also be revealed in all their glory.

7. South West Point

South West Point (St Helena)

Length: 7.5km
Time: 1hr 30 mins
Difficulty: Easy

One of the longer Post Box Walks but one that’s mostly spent veining pleasant rolling pastures. The gentle terrain means you can focus on the multitude of fine views you can see along the way, including a lording look over the azure Manati Bay and the bare rock of Sperry Island. Some of St Helena’s endemic flora and fauna is also showcased along the way, including bilberry bushes, blue-flowered gobblegheer and the island’s unofficial national bird, the wirebird (also known as the St Helena plover). When you reach the postbox itself, you’ll be treated to a canvas of scorched earth painted in reds, ochres and hot pinks.

8. The Barn

Hie over St Helena’s volcanic landscape (Shutterstock)

Length: 10.5km
Time: 1hr 30 mins – 2 hrs
Difficulty: Hard

A route only to be undertaken by experienced hikers, but for those who dare will be rewarded with St Helena’s raw beauty at its best. It starts off gently enough as you tread through the grasslands of Deadwood Plain but then the track veers off to continue through a stark landscape of craggy valleys and desolate peaks. The precipitous trail skirts around the waist of the barren slopes before it rises to its thrilling finale, atop a gigantic volcanic bluff with clear views along the island’s craggy eastern coastline. On a clear day, you can see St Helena’s airport close to Rupert’s Valley.

9. Sugar Loaf

Sugar Loaf (St Helena Tourist Board)

Length: 12km
Time: 1 hr 30 mins – 2 hrs
Difficulty: Hard

The longest of all of St Helena’s Post Box Walks, Sugar Loaf is named after the charcoal-coloured pyramidal peak where it culminates. There are two different approaches you can take, beginning at either Deadwood Plain or Rupert’s Valley. If you start at the former, you’ll trace the Flagstaff walk (above) to begin with, before winding down through gorse bushes and tracing the spines of rugged coastal ridges before summiting Sugar Loaf. If you choose to approach from Rupert’s Valley, coastal drama is also in abundance but you also get to encounter island history along the way, taking in Munden’s fortifications and Bank’s battery – both built by the East India Company to defend St Helena against invasion. You can do both approaches in one walk if you want to see both sides of Sugar Loaf – you’ll just need a taxi to take you back to your hire car at the start.

10. Sandy Bay Barn

Volcanic coastline of Sandy Bay (Shutterstock)

Length: 6km
Time: 1hr
Difficulty: Moderate

The challenging terrain you’ll encounter on this walk are matched – and surpassed – by the eye-popping scenery you’ll spy along the way. The undulating grassy hills and, in particular, the steep approach road will ache your thighs but reward your eyes with fine views of Sandy Bay and the rock formations of Lot and Lot’s Wife. Continue onwards to hike up to the top of the Sandy Bay Barn amphitheatre, its rocky layers painted in grey, rust, beige and terracotta hues. With an unblemished coastline panorama, you’ll agree it was entirely worth the effort; if you’re lucky you might even glimpse a breaching humpback whale in the glittering sea (June to December only).

Feeling inspired?

To discover more about St Helena, visit St Helena Tourism. You can book your next great adventure here.

Beneath the surface: 7 amazing sights you’ll find in St Helena’s water

St Helena’s rocky coastline was once the Achilles’ heel for many ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean – now its waters are better known for the myriad marine life they harbour. From its historic shipwrecks to inquisitive whale sharks, here are seven thrilling experiences you can have off St Helena’s shores…

1. Swim with whale sharks

Swim with whale sharks (St Helena Tourist Board)

Despite St Helena’s waters being filled with whales, dolphins, turtles and shipwrecks, it’s arguably its whale sharks which generate the biggest buzz. These plankton-hungry giants visit St Helena between December and March every year and it’s the only known place in the world where equal numbers of both males and females arrive, presumably to mate. They come in healthy numbers, too, and over 30 different sharks have been spotted in a single day. A number of local tour operators run ethical whale shark safaris which give you the opportunity to swim alongside these majestic beasts yourself for up to a couple of hours – possibly the most unforgettable experience you can have in St Helena’s waters.

2. See 10 fish you won’t find anywhere else

Look out for endemic fish (Rainer Schimpf)

The less-heralded smaller fish of St Helena deserve to be shouted about, too, mainly because there are a handful you won’t spot anywhere else. There are 10 endemic species of fish only found in St Helena, so it’s important that while you’re scanning the waters for hawksbill turtles and devil rays, that you also try and glimpse the speckles of a deepwater jack, the amber-tinged tail of a Springer’s blenny or the silvery scales of the wonderfully named bastard fivefinger. A guided snorkelling or diving tour is essential for the expert knowledge you’ll receive when trying to spot these endemic and elusive fish.

3. Dive among shipwrecks

Explore shipwrecks (Frogfish Photography)

Unsurprisingly for a chunk of rock floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, many vessels across the centuries have come a cropper on St Helena’s rocky reefs and rugged coastline. Many still rest on the ocean floor and today divers can explore eight of those fascinating shipwrecks, each one representing a different slice of St Helena’s history. Sunk in 1613, the Dutch East India Company vessel Witte Leeuw is the island’s oldest shipwreck and even though not much of it remains you’ll be following in the flippers of undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, who became fascinated with it on several dives in the 1970s. Others include the Darkdale, a tanker torpedoed by a German U-boat during the Second World War and Spangereid, a coal ship which succumbed to fire. Other wrecks weren’t an accident, sunk deliberately to provide an artificial haven for rich aquatic life, including the Bedgellet, which was ironically summoned to salvage another sunken ship you can explore here, the Papanui.

4. Spy whales and dolphins

Spy dolphins in St Helena’s waters (Rainer Schimpf)

St Helena’s waters are well stocked with larger marine mammals, too. Regular boat tours departing from Jamestown give you nose-to-snout meetings with the island’s resident dolphins, who usually frequent the waters of James Bay and near Lemon Valley. You’ll have the chance to tick off three species, with frolicking pantropical spotted and bottlenose dolphins the most common, while rough-toothed dolphins are more elusive. You won’t just see a handful on your trip: we’re talking pods of (on average) 400, while it’s entirely feasible to spot pods of up to 800 dolphins on a good day. Visit St Helena between June and December and you’ll also have the chance to spot humpback whales, with sightings of mothers with their calves likely from July. Even though these gentle creatures are sensitive to noise, mindful tourism means that, as well as boat tours, you can even spot breaching humpbacks from Jamestown’s shore.

Explore the caves and arches in St Helena’s waters (Rainer Schimpf)

5. Explore underwater caves and arches

Beyond St Helena’s artificial reefs, there are plenty of natural nooks and crannies sprinkled around the island’s perimeter to explore. Off its north-western coast, Long Ledge is one of the finest examples, a cave boasting possibly the highest marine biodiversity in St Helena. The cave itself is lit up by rose lace coral and the endemic orange cup coral, while you’ll find yourself gliding past nudibranchs, razor fish and long legs crayfish. Take to its depths between January and June and you’ll be joined by green turtles and devil rays; dive after dark and you’ll spy slipper lobsters and octopuses. For alternatives, Dockyard is a cave filled with crayfish while moray eels love to hide in the little caves pocking Thompson’s Valley Island.

6. Surprise encounters with turtles

Snorkel with turtles (Shutterstock)

As well as epic diving, there is much to keep snorkellers captivated in St Helena, too. Grab your mask and flippers and paddle the snorkelling trails found off the coast of Jamestown and Lemon Valley. While these hotspots will bring you up close with a bounty of tropical fish such as hawkfish, wrasse and parrotfish, it’s the turtles – both green and hawksbill – that will draw an underwater gasp as you swim among the coral. They’re common along these trails so you’ve got a good chance of spotting them and it has even been reported that green turtles have attempted to nest on St Helena’s charcoal-black beaches in recent years, too.

7. Glimpse its wealth of seabirds

Keep an eye out for St Helena’s seabirds (Shutterstock)

So, you obviously won’t spot any in the water, but St Helena’s shores provide one of the best vantage points for spotting its array of seabirds. Boat tours whose headlining acts are the island’s large population of dolphins also double as vessels for spotting the seabirds which nest on its steep cliffs, offshore islets or sea stacks, as well as offering a front-row seat to witness them diving into the brilliant blue ocean to catch their lunch. There are eight species to scour the skies for, including red-billed tropicbirds, masked boobies, fairy terns and Madeiran storm-petrels, the latter being St Helena’s smallest seabird.

Feeling inspired?

To discover more about St Helena, visit St Helena Tourism. You can book your next great adventure here.

Our full travel guide to the island of St Helena

How to get to St Helena and around

How to get to St Helena and around (Shutterstock)

Please note, due to the coronavirus pandemic, commercial flights are not currently operating to St Helena. You can stay up to date with the latest travel restrictions in St Helena here. Once travel restrictions have been lifted, to get to St Helena you will need to fly via Johannesburg, where Airlink operates a flight to St Helena every Saturday. Additional mid-week flights operate seasonally from Cape Town between November and February. Please note, due to the coronavirus pandemic, commercial flights are not currently operating to St Helena.

Hiring a car is the best way to get around St Helena. Traffic drives on the left hand side and visitors can use an overseas driving licence for up to three months. It’s highly recommended you book a hire car in advance. Taxis are another option and good value.

The best time of year to go to St Helena

When to go to St Helena (Shutterstock)

Despite St Helena lying within the tropics, the south-east trade winds make the island’s weather mild and often unpredictable. Temperatures can vary across the island; Jamestown can experience temperatures from 14°C to 32°C, while the forested, mountainous interior can witness the mercury flicker between 8°C and 26°C. As a rule of thumb, St Helena’s hottest months are from January to March and its wettest from late March to early May.

Top three must-sees in St Helena

1. Jonathon the tortoise

At 189 years old, Jonathan the giant tortoise is St Helena’s oldest resident by far and the oldest known living reptile in the world. He can be found patrolling the manicured lawns of Plantation House, the residence of the island’s governor. A tour of the mansion and its grounds will afford you the chance to get up close and personal with this ancient and iconic beast.

Heart-shaped waterfall (St Helena Tourist Board)

3. Wander Georgian Jamestown

St Helena’s capital and the only ‘true’ town on the island, Jamestown was founded in 1659 by the English East India Company. Named after James II (who was the Duke of York at the time), many of the original buildings are still standing today – all were constructed from the local volcanic rock which dramatically wedges the town in a deep valley. A stroll along Main Street, described by many as one of the best examples of unspoilt Georgian architecture anywhere in the world, is like spending time in an open-air museum; its pièce de résistance is St. James’ Church, built in 1774 and the oldest Anglican church in the southern hemisphere.

Meet St Helena’s oldest resident (St Helena Tourist Board)

2. Heart-shaped Waterfall

St Helena’s rugged terrain makes it ideal for hiking and there are 21 marked Post Box walks veining the island. One of them, the closest to the capital Jamestown, is a 1.5km route to Drummond’s Point, where you can witness a 90m-high cascade tumbling down a heart-shaped rock face. Unsurprisingly considering its incredible shape, it’s also labelled as one of St Helena’s seven wonders.

Wander the streets of Jamestown (Shutterstock)

How to get a culture fix in St Helena

1.Witness Napoleonic history

It might be 200 years since the death of St Helena’s most famous resident, but Napoleon Bonaparte’s legacy can still be keenly felt across the island. A trio of sites can be visited today, starting with Briars, a small pavilion in a lush rose-flecked valley where he spent his first few weeks on the island. Located in the island’s emerald highlands, Longwood House was where Napoleon spent the majority of his time in St Helena and much of the furniture that remains – including his own bed – date back to Napoleon’s lifetime. After his death, he was buried in the tranquil Sane Valley, where his tomb remains to this day. Even though it has long been exhumed (his body was taken back to France), both his tomb and Longwood House are moving places to visit.

Visit the Museum of St Helena (St Helena Tourist Board)

Longwood House, where Napoleon spent his time in St Helena (Shutterstock)

2. Visit the Museum of St Helena

Charting St Helena’s history from when the first Portuguese vessels landed on its rocky shores in the 1500s, the island’s museum paints a comprehensive picture of its past. Prepare to be surprised by the breadth of things on show, from exhibits charting the island’s many shipwrecks to a model of the more successful vessel RMS St Helena, a Royal Mail ship which was the only way to reach the island prior to its airport opening in 2017. Learn about St Helena’s Boer War history, numerous royal visits and even when termites, accidentally brought to the island aboard a Brazilian ship, forced many of the island’s buildings to be rebuilt in the 19th century after they wreaked havoc among their timber structures.

3. Party like a saint

St Helena may be a British overseas territory, but on Carnival day it’s more like being in Rio de Janeiro. Held every two years (typically during October), the sleepy capital of Jamestown is transformed into a giant, vibrant party where the main street is filled with colourful and elaborate floats and locals (known as Saints) follow alongside dressed in their most flamboyant costumes. As well as being caught up in the festivities, the Carnival gives you a chance to try the staple cuisine, with steaming food like plo (a one-pot curried rice dish) and a Saint Curry served from streetside stalls.

Attend St Helena’s Carnival in October (St Helena Tourist Board)

How to have an adventure in St Helena

1. Hike up Diana’s Peak

The highest point in St Helena, Diana’s Peak (823m) is well worth hiking up just for the panoramic island views it affords at its summit. A 3.8km-long trail, one of the island’s Post Box Walks, is your route to the top and as you ascend you’ll pass over 60 endemic species of flora and myriad invertebrates, including the pink blushing snails which can be spotted in the black cabbage trees. However, Diana’s Peak isn’t alone: along with Mount Actaeon and Cuckold’s Point it’s one of three pinnacles that are all part of the same mountain range and you’ll top all three on the walk. Make sure you pause at each one to soak up the 360-degree vista over St Helena’s entirety.

Climb Jacob’s Ladder

3. Swim with whale sharks

St Helena’s historic relationship with the ocean has more readily been associated with the shipwrecks which have sunk close to its shores. Nowadays, the island’s coastline is better known for its rich marine life and encounters with whale sharks are one of the most memorable experiences you can have in its waters. These gentle giants visit St Helena between December and March every year and it’s the only known place in the world where both males and females arrive in equal numbers – ostensibly to mate. Over 30 different whale sharks have been spotted in a single day and a whale shark safari with a local tour operator is your ticket to a nose-to-fin swim with these beautiful beasts.

Climb Diana’s Peak (Shutterstock)

2. Climb Jacob’s Ladder

The 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder are all that’s left of a 19th-century cable railway which once connected Jamestown with Half Tree Hollow but the steep staircase that remains has arguably become St Helena’s most iconic landmark. It certainly looks forbidding from the bottom but the lung-burning climb is certainly worth it for the epic panoramas at the top; the steps may not take you to heaven like its biblical namesake but the natural drama that awaits is just as good. Remember to buy a certificate commemorating your feat in the Museum of St Helena at the foot of the 180m-high stairway.

Swim with whale sharks (St Helena Tourist Board)

How to get a taste of local life in St Helena

1. Go on a coffee plantation tour

The East India Company first brought green-tipped Bourbon Arabica coffee seeds over from Yemen to St Helena in 1733. Ever since, it has spawned a love affair with coffee that has led to St Helena producing one of the most expensive and exclusive cuppas anywhere in the world; in the UK, it can only be bought from Harrods. Join a tour of one of the many coffee plantations which dot the island to discover why a cup of St Helena’s finest was Napoleon’s most beloved brew.

Visit the distillery to try the rum (St Helena Tourist Board)

3. Catch a fish

Being an island, it’s not surprising that fishing is one of the locals’ favourite pastimes. From groupers to wahoos and dorados, there are plenty of species to catch on a fishing trip either from boats or the coastline. Even though Saints have a particular weakness for tuna, they were wise enough to protect its future by also introducing a special fishing zone in 2017 where tuna can only be caught one fish at a time. After your fishing trip, make sure to try the island’s celebrated fishcakes, made from the same tuna you’ve been catching hours earlier.

Go on a coffee plantation tour (Shutterstock)

2. Discover the spirit of St Helena

Established in 2006 by Welsh distiller Paul Hickling, the St Helena Distillery is more than just the world’s most remote distillery – a visit here is to get a taste of the island itself. Its most well-known – and best-loved by the locals – product is the White Lion spiced rum, named after St Helena’s most famous shipwreck, a Dutch East India Company vessel which sunk in the 17th century. Paul’s other creations are all inspired by produce found on the island: Tungi is a spirit made from wild prickly pears, Jamestown Gin from the rare Bermuda juniper and his Midnight Mist coffee liqueur is born out of St Helena’s plantations.

Go fishing in St Helena (St Helena Tourist Board)

Where to stay in St Helena

Harkate Guest House

Nestled within leafy countryside, Harkate Guest House has two modern self-catering apartments overlooking woodland, cows grazing in meadows and the historic High Knoll Fort, while Napoleon’s Tomb is only a short walk away.

Richards Travel Lodge

A comfortable and contemporary bed and breakfast found in the heart of Jamestown, it’s all about the personal touch at Richards Travel Lodge. A good night’s sleep is guaranteed, but owners Derek and Linda go the extra mile; you can enjoy exploring the island that little bit more if you have a homemade packed lunch in your bag or will have a tasty meal awaiting you in the evening on your return.

Feeling inspired?

To discover more about St Helena, visit St Helena Tourism. You can book your next great adventure here.

St Helena: A whole year of unique experiences

A lonely island floating in the big blue of the South Atlantic Ocean, St Helena is the UK’s furthest-flung outpost. After defeat by the British at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled here to live out his final days. He’s become the island’s most famous resident and 2021 marks 200 years since his death, making now the ideal time to visit this wild isle. Plenty of walking, wildlife and celebrations make St Helena a year-round destination – here’s our month-by-month guide on what you can do when…


Watch an epic yacht race in January (St Helena Tourist Board)

Before St Helena’s airport started operating in October 2017, a five-day boat crossing was the only way to reach this remote isle. For the romantics among us, by sea is still a dreamy way to travel but if you want to celebrate it without eating up your annual leave, then cheer on the intrepid sailors contesting the Cape to St Helena 2020 yacht race. Starting in December 2020, they’re due to reach the island in late January 2021. If you can’t wait that long, St Helena is a week-long pit stop from January 18-25 2020 for those competing in the round-the-world World Arc Rally.


Snorkel alongside whale sharks in February (St Helena Tourist Board)

Unbeknownst to many, St Helena boasts one of the world’s unique wildlife experiences. Each year, mainly from January to March, the island welcomes migrating whale sharks, drawn by the abundance of plankton. February is the peak period, where groups of between 30 and 40 are not uncommon and it’s believed to be the only place on the planet where fully mature males and females gather to mate. Sensitively organised tours afford you the opportunity for nose-to-snout encounters – either from a boat or swimming alongside them.


Visit St Helena in March to see the endemic wirebird rearing their chicks (St Helena Tourist Board)

Stick around in St Helena during March and you’ll be treated to another wonderful wildlife spectacle. The ground-nesting St Helena plover, known locally as the wirebird because of its thin legs, is the last of the island’s original nine endemic bird species and is a source of pride for the islanders, featuring on their coat of arms. Only around 350 wirebirds are left today but March represents one of the best times to spot them, lying at the tail-end of the nesting season so you can witness these hardy birds rearing their chicks.


Enjoy hiking on the island during April (St Helena Tourist Board)

Plenty of hiking trails web St Helena’s wild interior, all of which showcase its varied vistas, from steamy cloud forest to gigantic rock formations. April is a great time for walking and the weather is comfortable You can organise a guided walk or head out on a jaunt by yourself. Several trace the island’s celebrated Post Box walks (see June, July and August) but there’s plenty of others to enjoy, including a historical stroll through its Georgian capital, Jamestown, and the 699 steps of the knee-trembling Jacob’s Ladder to Ladder Hill Fort.


Visit Napoleon’s home, Longwood House during the month of the anniversary of his death (St Helena Tourist Board)

St Helena’s heritage is as captivating as its scenery. A large chunk of its historic limelight is shone on exiled French emperor Napoleon and May 5 is the anniversary of his death. You can visit his former digs at Longwood House, as well as his grave – now exhumed but still moving, nonetheless. Elsewhere, the many hilltop forts and batteries are the legacy of Dutch occupation, while the governor’s residence, Plantation House, drips with Georgian grandeur. As the island’s oldest resident, Jonathan the tortoise is part of St Helena’s furniture, having started plodding round shortly after Napoleon’s death.

Later on in the month, on May 21 is St Helena’s Day. This celebrates the day St Helena was discovered and a parade, fun activities, a fancy dress competition and live music events are hosted to mark the occasion.

June, July and August

Climb up Diana’s Peak during the cooler months of June, July and August (St Helena Tourist Board)

While it’s summer on the UK mainland, St Helena experiences some of its mildest temperatures (around 20°C) during June, July and August. This is the perfect hiking climate and these months are ideal for tackling one (or a few) of its well-known Post Box walks, which encompass epic landscapes and island heritage. Among them include climbing the lush slopes of the St Helena’s highest mountain, Diana’s Peak (818m), the spectacular rocky drama of Lot’s Wife’s Ponds and the gentle woodland of Peak Dale.


Go diving on the island in September (Frogfish Photography)

September is the perfect time to get under the surface of St Helena – literally. Surrounded by all that wildlife-rich water, diving on the island offers many exciting sightings and this month is when humpback whales can be seen around the island. Diving alongside these gentle giants is an experience you’ll likely never forget and you’ll also have the chance to spot flameback angelfish, endemic butterfly fish, dolphins and even green turtles.

As well as wildlife, there’s numerous shipwrecks worth exploring in St Helena. One of the easiest to explore is the Papanui, which caught fire in 1911 and managed to make it to the shallow waters of the harbour at James Bay before sinking. A more challenging dive is the wreck of the Darkdale, which was sunk by a German boat in 1941. It is now a war grave to remember the 41 lives lost that day.


Attend St Helena’s Carnival in October (St Helena Tourist Board)

Every other year in October the capital of St Helena bursts into a frenzy of fun and imaginative decoration. Originally starting out as a modest charity event, the island’s Carnival is a biennial bonanza of vibrant music, dance and colour. Vividly costumed locals and elaborately decorated floats parade along the streets of Jamestown, making their way down to the capital’s seafront, where food and drink stalls stay open long into the night. It’s a party you don’t want to miss.


Challenge yourself by taking part in the island’s Festival of Running in November (St Helena Tourist Board)

The London Marathon is one thing, but imagine tackling 26.2 miles on one of the remotest islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, the route tracing its devilish hills and rugged volcanic scenery along the way? The marathon is just one event in St Helena’s Festival of Running every November, where several running challenges draw in both locals and those from further afield. If the marathon sounds a bit too gruelling, you could take on the 15km trail, a triathlon or try and race up the steps of Jacob’s Ladder in the fastest time.


Watch the Festival of Lights in December (St Helena Tourist Board)

St Helena celebrates Christmas in style. During December, Jamestown becomes all festive, with carol singers soundtracking the streets and locals playing one-upmanship with their house decorations. It all culminates in the capital’s Festival of Lights, where everything from the float parade to the locals are festooned in fairy lights and candles and sparklers are being waved to music with aplomb. It’s a magical experience enjoyed by Saints, visitors and even the whale sharks, which can be sighted in St Helena’s waters as early as late December.

8 reasons St Helena is the ultimate digital detox destination

Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to St Helena for six years, but even 200 years ago, the island wasn’t much of a punishment. After all, Bonaparte would have found lungfuls of fresh South Atlantic air on dramatic coastal hikes; dolphins and whales cavorting offshore; and some of the most breathtaking night-time stars and galaxies. Today, for the same reasons St Helena made a great space of isolation for Bonaparte, it makes a great destination for those seeking a little peace and quiet.

On St Helena, it’s positively advantageous to be 1950km from the nearest mainland in Africa because visitors have little choice but to surrender to the island’s mellow pace of life. During both my previous visits I barely used my smartphone. I felt fit from hiking wild trails; never once experienced a traffic jam; ate fresh local produce (okay, a few too many chips); and felt uplifted by the rich marine-life of the surrounding sea. Sounds appealing? Here are eight other reasons St Helena is the ultimate escape from the pace of modern life…

1. You can hike for days without meeting another person

The view from Blue Point (St Helena Tourist Board)

Some people collect stamps, others coins, but for those with a more physical disposition, how about ticking-off St Helena’s Post-Box walks? Twenty-one of these hikes capture the scenic wonders of St Helena. They end with a ‘post-box’ where participants can stamp a souvenir book to show they’ve completed the walk. Ranging from 1.5-to-12kilometers in length, they take in many of the island’s most stunning locations. The walk to Blue Point through the ‘Gates of Chaos’ is a dramatic coastal promontory that literally blew me away – both emotionally and physically as it was windy. The toughest is arguably a magnificent 10.5km yomp along a steep falling ridge to The Barn. An easier jaunt to the Heart-Shaped Waterfall takes hikers to one of St Helena’s most iconic beauty spots.

2. You can explore at a slower pace

The view of Jamestown (St Helena Tourist Board)

Setting foot in the charmingly old-fashioned capital Jamestown will feel like arriving in a country village. The local Saints have time to stop and chat, and the pace of life is sedate. A perfect day might start with a promenade along James Bay’s bracing seafront before tracing the jacaranda trees up the high street to explore the town’s 500 years of history in the museum. There are also 17th-century castle gardens to stroll. After lunch, walk to Munden’s Battery for far-reaching ocean views from the Victorian gun emplacement. Then maybe try Cordon Bleu cooking at the Mantis Hotel — the island’s abundant tuna is delicious — before ending a stress-free day with a nightcap of locally-distilled White Lion rum in one of Jamestown’s traditional pubs.

3. The island has some of the best stargazing in the world

A stargazer admiring the Milky Way (Shutterstock)

Stargazing requires dark skies for the full magisterial sweep of the heavens above. With so little light pollution on St Helena due to the tiny population of 4,500, the Southern Hemisphere’s night time sky can be dazzling. And don’t just take my word for that. Sir Edmund Halley, Britain’s foremost astronomer, came here to stargaze for a couple of years between 1667-8 and built an observatory, the foundations of which can still be seen today. A recent visiting astronomer, Bob Bower, commented ‘the Milky Way is so good it can be mistaken for a cloud’.

4. You can sip the world’s rarest coffee

A coffee farmer picks coffee beans (Shutterstock)

Coffee-aficionados should purr at the prospect of savouring one of the world’s rarest coffees. It’s so precious that the island’s main producer of Yemeni Bourbon Arabica beans, Jill and Bill Bolton of Rosemary Gate Plantation, have supplied Harrods of London. Coffee arrived here in 1732 courtesy of the East India Company and the strand’s genetic stock has survived more-or-less unadulterated. Napoleon was reputedly partial to it, so it’s remarkable today you can still enjoy pretty much the same flavoursome taste at the Bolton’s seafront coffee-shop in Jamestown.

5. Breathe in that fresh ocean air

People scrambling over the last part of the hike to Lot’s Wife Bay (St Helena Tourist Board)

St Helena’s slow evolution from the now extinct 14 million-year-old volcano has sculpted vertiginous cliffs that make for some dramatic coastal hikes. The route that personifies this breathtaking yet cataclysmic geological origin is a hike to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds from Sandy Bay. A gritty trail wends through a contorted lunar landscape, skirting pillars of volcanic pipes alternating between friable salmon-pink cliffs and jet-black lava intrusions. For a touch of theatre, it ends with hikers scrambling down a rope onto a wave-cut lava platform filled by natural turquoise rock-pools that can be swam in if the tide is waning.

6. You can see some of the world’s rarest wildlife

St Helena’s endemic wirebird (St Helena Tourist Board)

Why bother flying when you have no real predators? That thought sprang to my mind when I first spotted St Helena’s endemic wirebird near Prosperous Plain. They do actually fly though, like all plovers, and have attained their name on account of their spindly thin legs. It’s a joy to watch them, particularly during chick-rearing season when the clever adults stagger around feigning injury to lure perceived predators away from their ground nests. They are not alone among island endemics. I am yet to see a spikey yellow woodlice but did see my first tiny endemic blushing snail in the Central Peaks cloud forest.

7. You can take part in the island’s forest regeneration

The beautiful Millennium Forest (St Helena Tourist Board)

Centuries of settlers from all corners of the globe have deposited an exotic menagerie of flora on St Helena. They have also wrought deforestation, which means much of the island’s rarest flora, including dozens of endemic trees, flowering plants, ferns and grasses have been left teetering on extinction. Turning the tide is an inspiring project of hope that is well worth a visit. The Millennium Forest has been planted by the St Helena National Trust to nurture these threatened species. The planting includes rare endemic gumwoods, while the extremely threatened St Helena rosemary plant is also beginning to thrive. To get an idea how beautiful the native flora looks in its original forest setting, try hiking to Diana’s Peak where amid swirling mists all manner of endemics flourish, including a rare ebony once though extinct but rediscovered in 1980.

8. You can swim with majestic whale sharks

Whale sharks can be found in the waters of St Helena (St Helena Tourist Board)

A few years back before the airport’s arrival, the biggest maritime adventure was simply getting to St Helena by its old Royal Mail ship. Nowadays St Helena has a burgeoning reputation for marine activities. Even the most confirmed landlubbers will be wowed by huge pods of dolphins racing the boat and spiralling clean out the ocean. The cetaceans get larger in August and September when humpback whales inhabit the coastal waters, often with calves in tow. Undersea activities are flourishing with dive highlights including encounters with graceful Devil’s rays and shipwreck exploration of likes of the Darkdale sank by a German U-boat in WWII. Wannabe divers can now obtain PADI qualification on short training courses. The biggest buzz, however, surrounds fantastic snorkelling opportunities with majestic whale-sharks; floating above them as they feed in slow-motion in the clear cobalt-blue Atlantic between January-March.

The 7 Wonders of St Helena

Before the recent arrival of St Helena’s game-changing flight connecting them to Johannesburg, my previous visit had been by its old royal mail ship. After five days crossing the South Atlantic from South Africa, I was greeted by a storm-lashed volcanic rock just 47 square miles in dimension. With the ship not due to return to collect me for another eight days, I briefly wondered ‘what on earth am I going to do here for all that time?’

As it turns out, from the minute I stepped ashore in the charming little capital of Jamestown I was literally running around St Helena trying to fit in its historic and natural wonders. With a legacy touched by the presence of historical greats like Napoleon and Charles Darwin, and a wild volcanic beauty that has fashioned thrilling coastal hikes, it’s hard to condense the St Helenian experience into just seven highlights.

Nonetheless the islanders’ voted in a poll back in 2018 to declare St Helena’s very own ‘Seven Wonders’. This is far from a definitive list of pleasures awaiting hardy travellers arriving here (for instance, my favourite hike through a lunar-like landscape to Lot’s Wife Ponds did not make the seven, though it was one of the top favourites). Even so, it’s a useful signpost to just how much there is to see and do on this island. Do bring some good running shoes…

1: Jacobs Ladder

Walking down the 699 steps of Jacobs Ladder (Shutterstock)

After four days at sea my legs craved exercise. So what better way to stretch them than with a blast up St Helena’s most iconic ‘wonder’ — Jacob’s Ladder. Yet halfway up this stone staircase — 699 steps that soar steeply some 900ft up the valley flanks of Jamestown — I was gulping in salty South Atlantic air and perspiring heavily. But this is a fantastic introduction to the island and demands to be attempted (perhaps at a more leisurely pace) to enjoy stellar views across picturesque Jamestown and its harbour of bobbing yachts.

The ladder’s construction commenced around 1828-9; built to run alongside a funicular railway to transfer supplies (including manure) from Jamestown to a troop’s barracks that can still be explored by those who make it to the top. This transportation method, however, was short-lived and the rails were ripped up by the 1830s. Yet the steeply inclined steps remain. So grab a bottle of water and take the challenge. The record ascent is a little over four minutes. Probably better to amble up slowly, admire the burgeoning view, then collect a certificate from Jamestown’s museum to say you’ve conquered the ladder.

2: The heart-shaped waterfall

The aptly named Heart-Shaped Waterfall (St Helena Tourist Board)

It would be feasible to believe a lovesick prankster has taken a large chisel and sculpted a near perfect heart out of bedrock over which flows a 295ft waterfall. I first discovered the aptly-named Heart-Shaped Waterfall during a short hike out of Jamestown to the Briars Pavilion, where Napoleon first resided in exile. Thereafter a track through woodland maintained by the St Helena National Trust arrives at the falls. There wasn’t much water when I first saw it: the wetter periods during March to September will yield the most impressive flow. But still I had to pinch myself at just how inconceivable it seemed nature could sculpt a landform that captures the heart both metaphysically and in physical reality.

3: Diana’s Peak national park

Diana’s Peak (David Pryce)

There’s nothing better than to say you’ve ascended a country’s (or island’s) highest point. In the case of St Helena, it is Diana’s Peak, a moderately straightforward hike to 823ft. The peak is reached via a luxurious fertile ridge of cabbage-trees and tree-ferns within a small national park chockfull of endemic little critters like spiky yellow woodlice.

What is truly memorable about this walk is the swirling mists that leave sparkling dew dripping off the vegetation. The mist occasionally parts like curtains to offer snatched views of the island’s geologically crumpled interior. Reaching Diana’s Peak takes you over the less elevated Actaeon’s Peak: so named after the unfortunate huntsman transformed into a deer by the enraged goddess Diana. The moody atmosphere created by the shimmering liquid sunshine truly felt like a fitting abode for any Roman goddess.

4: High-Knoll Fort

The colossal citadel of High-Knoll Fort (St Helena Tourist Board)

It won’t take more than a quick-march for military history buffs to realise that during its British colonial heyday St Helena was fortified to the hilt. And no structure is more imperious in its ambition than High Knoll Fort.

This colossal citadel was started around 1798 and is open free-of-charge all year round. The journey up to the fort, which sits high above Jamestown, is worth the hike or a taxi-ride for magnificent birds-eye views around St Helena. The fort never actually defended the enemy attack it was built for but as you circumnavigate the outer walls the stones tell their own stories of St Helena’s turbulent past. Mutineers were hung here in 1811. Freed slaves dwelt here in the 1850s, while the most troublesome South African Boer prisoners were sent to its secure confine around 1900.

5: Jonathon the tortoise

Meet Jonathon, the oldest Tortoise on the island (St Helena Tourist Board)

Nobody is exactly sure how old Jonathon is. Or indeed how a giant Aldabra tortoise from the Seychelles ended up in the South Atlantic around 1882 and gifted to the Governor at the time. What is certain is with an estimated age between 170-200 years, he is comfortably the oldest ‘Saint’ on the island. There’s even a photograph of him in the flush of youth taken back in 1902.

Jonathon resides on the formal lawn of Her Majesty’s Governor’s Residence, Plantation House. This Georgian property dates from 1792 and weekly tours currently on Tuesdays and Thursdays allows visitors to soak in an opulent British heritage. But Jonathon is the star attraction. He will be found on the lawn with three other giant tortoise so he is never alone.

6: Longwood House

The house Emperor Napolean Bonaparte was exiled to in 1815 (St Helena Tourist Board)

When I first entered Longwood House, I could palpably feel the presence of ‘Boney’. France’s most iconic character, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, was exiled here by the British in 1815 after defeat at Waterloo. He eventually ended up at the purposely converted Longwood House until his death in 1821. Inside I could imagine him letting out an audible sigh as he peeped through a spyhole he cut in his shutters to view the overkill British military presence outside on Deadwood Plain guarding him.

The house dates from 1742. A French tricolour flutters above the whitewashed wooden exterior. An audio-tour is now available to self-guide, but do ask the room attendants questions as they have some rich anecdotes, such as whether the British added cyanide to his wallpaper to poison him…

Whatever your appreciation of French history you will feel his presence in the drawing room where he laid maps out on the billiards table; in his suite where a replica of his greatcoat is draped on a chaise-longue; or in a deep copper bathtub where it’s said this historical tour-de-force sank increasingly into reclusiveness as his denouement approached.

7: Swimming with whale sharks

Snorkel with whale sharks in St Helena (St Helena Tourist Board)

The surrounding ocean was inky-blue and boisterous when I achieved a long held marine quest of swimming with nature’s most colossal fish. It was near the backend of the season to swim with them (January-March) but Keith Yon, my skipper, remained optimistic. On one recent trip he’d seen 19 in a single sighting.

We traced the island’s volcanically warped coast to a brooding black cliff known as Barn Cap. It’s there Keith sighted a whale-shark. The crystal transparency of the ocean, even despite a lively swell, made the experience like snorkelling in an aquarium. I floated transfixed over a single slow-moving whale-shark for 20minutes. I watched her turn with a flip of her crescent tail and counted the dots down her broad flank. At one stage she turned to face me filter feeding on plankton. Only my eyes were wider than her great gaping mouth in a never-to-be-forgotten moment.

Buckle up! The world’s 7 scariest airports

1: Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Lukla, Nepal

Getting ready for take off in Lukla (Dreamstime)

Tiny, treacherous and perched on the edge of the cliff, the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal is regularly nominated as the most dangerous in the world. It is also interminably busy, especially in spring and autumn, the peak season for trekking and climbing in the region.

The airport was built in 1964 to cut the time porters took carry supplies from Kathmandu to Everest. Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man to climb Everest, originally planned to build the airport on flat land but farmers refused to sell because it was also their most fertile. Instead he bought a steep slope for $US635 and pilots have been dealing with the tricky slope, inclement weather and treacherous winds ever since.

2: Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

Jumbo landing at St Maarten (Dreamstime)

At once scary and scenic, the Princess Juliana International Airport is famous for the crowds that gather on Maho Beach, at the end of the runway, to be buffeted and tossed by the jet stream of planes flying low over the aqua blue bay.

The approach is notoriously tricky – pilots have to constantly check their instruments to ensure they maintain the correct altitude – but is nothing compared to taking off. That involves a sharp u-turn as soon as the plane is airborne to avoid the mountains that loom large at the end of the runway.

3: Barra Airport, Eoligarry, Scotland

Beach runway on Barra (Shutterstock)

Situated in a wide shallow bay on the northern tip of the island of Barra in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, the ‘airport’ at Eoligarry is the only one in the world where scheduled flights land on a beach. It has three runways, set in a triangle and marked by wooden poles, that can only be used at low tide.

At high tide, the runways disappear, covered by sea water. Flight times, unsurprisingly, vary with the tides.

4: Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar

Highway across runway at Gibraltar Airport (Shutterstock)

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is only 6.8km² in size, so it is no surprise that its international airport is jostling for space. It’s tightly flanked by a bustling city, a busy harbour and the massive limestone Rock of Gibraltar, looming over the city.

It is also is intersected by Winston Churchill Avenue, one of Gibraltar’s busiest streets. It cuts across the harbour end of the runway and has to be closed every time a plane lands or takes off.

5: Matekane Air Strip, Matekane, Lesotho

Taking off on the runway at Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho is a little like a mother bird pushing its baby out of a nest and hoping it will flying. Perched high in the mountains, the runway is a measly 1,300 feet long. The drop at its end, however, is a staggering 2,000 feet.

The runway is often used by charity organisations and doctors to access remote villages in the area. They take their lives in their own hands to save the lives of others.

6: Courchevel Airport, Courchevel, France

The airport in Courchevel (Shutterstock)

Apart from it spectacular setting high in the French Alps, Courchevel airport really doesn’t have much going for it. The runway is short (1,788-foot), its gradient is steep (18.5%) and it is surrounded by ski runs. There is also a sheer rock-face drop at the end of it.

What makes landing at Courchevel so dangerous, however, are the Alps themselves. It is surrounded by high mountains on most sides. Once a pilot starts their descent they have to remain committed to it. At Courchevel, there is no ‘go around’.

7: St Helena Airport, St Helena

Flight arriving at Saint Helena’s new airport (Lyn Hughes)

Only opened in October 2017, the airport at St Helena has had a long and troubled gestation. First conceived in 1999, it was finally completed in 2015 and immediately declared ‘non-functional’. Building an airport on the side of a cliff, it seems, wasn’t a particularly smart idea. The winds from the open seas were both strong and fickle and the airport was declared the most useless in the world.

Compromises were made and the plan for direct flights from London abandoned. At first, smaller Embraer jets, flying from Jo’Burg with a maximum of 76 passengers were used, with flights landing at the whim of St Helena’s fickly weather. Even when it is good, pilots effectively have to perform a ‘semi-emergency’ landing, making each flight a nerve wracking experience.