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St. Helena - Overview

St Helena Highlights

This is one of the most isolated islands in the world abd sailing remains the only means of getting to the island, with the RMS St Helena doing a few round-trip UK-Cape Town voyages a year.


A volcanic island rising out of the South Atlantic Ocean, the British territory of Saint Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the world, located 1,200 miles (nearly 2,000km) from the west coast of Africa with Ascension Island its nearest landmass, 703 miles (1,131km) away. Ascension Island is one of its dependencies along with Tristan da Cunha.

Despite its small size and remote location, St Helena has been described as a 'beautiful emerald set in bronze', with its lush subtropical forests and rolling hills almost entirely enclosed by sheer volcanic cliffs. Instead of bright lights, sandy beaches and shopping, the island offers tranquil beauty, and 19th century values imbued with 300 years of colonial history. The Saints, as the islanders are called, are friendly and charming, a mixture of descendants from British settlers, African slaves and contracted workers from the East.

St Helena was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, and lying directly in line with the trade winds that took ships rounding the southern tip of Africa into the South Atlantic, it soon became a stopover for its supplies of fresh water and fruit trees, and a rendezvous point for homebound voyages from Asia. It became a British dependency in 1834 and for many years was used as a place of exile, most famously for Napoleon after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, as well as for Chief Dinizulu and thousands of Boer prisoners from the Angola-Boer war. Tourism promotes the life of Napoleon on the island where he lived in Longwood House for six years until his death in 1821, and the residence is now a museum owned by the French government.

St Helena's capital and only town is the Georgian seaport of Jamestown, nestled between towering cliffs and protected from the sea by 18th-century fortifications. The town's most prominent feature is Jacob's Ladder, 699 steps embedded into the near vertical cliffs that connects the valley floor to the top of Ladder Hill. It is popular with tourists, as well as runners who come from around the world to compete in the timed run every year. St Helena has no airport and can only be reached by ship.


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