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World’s most remote island, famous as place of Napoleon’s exile, now open for tourists

World’s most remote island, famous as place of Napoleon's exile, now open for tourists

A remote island, renowned for being the place of Napoleon’s exile, will soon open its doors to tourists. St Helena, a small and rugged island nestled in the South Atlantic Ocean, has remained sparsely populated due to its extreme isolation. Situated nearly halfway between southern Africa and Brazil, reaching this British overseas territory used to require a grueling five-night journey by boat until 2017. However, with the advent of weekly commercial flights and the recent introduction of high-speed internet, the government aims to invigorate its nascent tourism sector, which welcomed approximately 2,100 leisure travelers in 2023.
Home to just over 4,000 residents, affectionately referred to as Saints, St Helena is poised to attract a particular type of visitor. Emma Phillips, wife of St Helena’s governor Nigel Phillips, notes that the island appeals to those with a genuine thirst for exploration and learning, rather than merely seeking sunshine and good food.

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The island’s unpredictable weather and occasional scarcity of supplies, given its distance of 1,200 miles from the nearest continent, demand a spirit of adaptability from visitors. Nevertheless, Phillips swears by the island’s warm hospitality, rich history, and natural marvels, urging visitors to approach with an open mind.

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Best known as the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile from 1815 until his passing in 1821, St Helena boasts numerous heritage sites dedicated to the deposed French emperor. Tourists can explore his residences and original burial grounds, although his remains were repatriated to France in 1840.

The island’s capital, Jamestown, offers a charming blend of old-world British colonial architecture and modern amenities. Visitors can peruse small retail and grocery stores housed in Georgian-era buildings, while vestiges of the island’s pre-internet days linger in the form of DVD rental shops. For a panoramic view accompanied by a workout, adventurous travelers can ascend the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder, an outdoor staircase overlooking the town, originally built as a donkey-powered cart track.

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Two miles south of Jamestown lies Plantation House, an imposing Georgian mansion constructed in 1792 by the British East India Company. Once the seat of St Helena’s colonial administration until 1834, it now serves as the official residence of the governor.

Adorned with royal portraits and period furnishings, including antique china and a chandelier from Napoleon’s final abode, Plantation House also boasts a well-maintained lawn, home to the island’s most celebrated resident – Jonathan, a venerable tortoise. At an estimated age of 192, Jonathan holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest living land animal. Having met several members of royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Edward, Jonathan remains a beloved figure and a must-see attraction for visitors, affirming his status as an enduring icon of St Helena.


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