UK Green List countries: a guide to the most remote destinations on the approved travel list

From the South Sandwich Islands to St Helena, the Green List includes several far-flung islands that are far from the beaten path

On Monday, international travel to and from the UK resumed. The government announced a Green List of destinations deemed acceptable for travellers to visit. Decidedly short, the initial selection of destinations comprised only 12 countries and territories cleared for travel by UK authorities.

Of those, only a handful of places are actually viable options for anyone considering a holiday, with many of the places on the list restricting tourists or proving almost unreachable for leisure travellers.

The 12 destinations on the UK green list are:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • Singapore
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Some destinations on the current list that would typically be popular holiday options, including Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, are not welcoming travellers so inclusion on the Green List doesn't automatically mean UK tourists can go there.

Of the destinations that are accepting tourists, Portugal and Iceland seem the most likely picks for a holiday. But let's not forget the island destinations deemed "Green" by the UK authorities. Other than Gibraltar, which is a peninsula rather than an island, you'd be hard-pressed to find any of these locations listed among the world's most-visited places.

But while some of these far-flung destinations remain off-limits, others are worth considering if you're craving a holiday of a different ilk and have the money, time and adventurous spirit you'll likely need.

From the untouched archipelago of the Faroe Islands to the rarely heard of South Sandwich Islands, here's a guide to the lesser-known destinations on the UK's Green List.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

One of the hardest places on the planet to get to, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are located 2,000 kilometres off the tip of South America, surrounded entirely by the southern Atlantic Ocean.

The UK's most remote and environmentally pristine British Overseas Territories, the archipelagos are recognised for their biological importance, biodiversity and breeding populations of seabirds and marine mammals. The region has featured in several documentary series including Frozen Planet, Blue Planet and Planet Earth.

According to David Attenborough, who narrates the region's visitors' guide, this is one of the most isolated places on Earth. There's also no airstrip in the territory, meaning you can only get here via ship. The shortest journey is a three-to-five day sailing trek from the islands' nearest neighbour – the Falklands Islands, located 1,390 kilometres away and currently closed to visitors.

You won't find any visitor accommodation on the South Sandwich Islands, but you will find endless wildlife. Unsplash
You won't find any visitor accommodation on the South Sandwich Islands, but you will find endless wildlife. Unsplash

If you do make it here, you won't find any visitor accommodation. What you will find is endless elephant seals, penguins, sea birds and untouched wilderness. You'll also discover the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton – one of the world's greatest explorers, and the grisly remains of what was once the British whaling industry.

The snow-covered South Sandwich Islands in the deep south of the Atlantic. Unsplash
The snow-covered South Sandwich Islands in the deep south of the Atlantic. Unsplash

All visitors will need a permit before travelling, regardless of nationality. There's also a visitor fee for each stay, which ranges upwards from $130.

And, if you're seeking holiday sun, these islands are not for you. Weather is predictably cold and windy year-round, although between November and March, rains replace snow and temperatures can rise to around 8°C. The penguin-friendly South Sandwich Islands are even colder than South Georgia, owing to their more southerly position.

St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Diana's Peak National Park, St Helena. Courtesy Unsplash
Diana's Peak National Park, St Helena. Unsplash

Another off-the-beaten-track destination on the Green List is the territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

While they are regarded as a collective British Overseas region, the islands in the South Atlantic Ocean are rather far from one another – with the distance from Ascension to Tristan da Cunha equivalent to that between London and Jordan's Dead Sea.

Of the three, St Helena is probably the easiest to reach, but that doesn't mean it's easily accessible – it's still one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. If you want to make the trip, you can fly there from South Africa or via a £950 ($1,345) each-way charter flight by Titan Airways from the UK.

Arriving visitors must be tested for Covid-19 in St Helena, and then complete mandatory 14-day quarantine. But since the return flights to the UK only depart every five weeks, you'll still have plenty of time for sightseeing.

St Helena Airport, Jamestown. St Helena. Courtesy Unsplash
St Helena Airport, Jamestown. Unsplash

Once free from quarantine, the island offers an unspoilt natural paradise to explore, with rainforest, desert and volcanic ecosystems. It's also a bucket-list destination for Napoleon-era enthusiasts, as it was here that the former emperor died in exile.

In the capital of Jamestown, there are several historical sites plus the majority of the island's accommodation options for visitors. The surrounding waters make for ideal whale and dolphin-watching trips and the unpolluted skies are ripe for stargazing. It was here that astronomer Edmond Halley created the first star catalogue.

Green Mountain National Park. Courtesy Ascension Island Government/ Twitter
Green Mountain National Park. Courtesy Ascension Island Government / Twitter

The dot in the Atlantic that is Ascension Island is reachable via a twice-monthly flight from St Helena, or by RAF flight from the UK. It's also reachable by sea. The remote island is a single gigantic volcano, so expect craters and cones, plus the island's only golf course stretched over a lava field.

A 14-day quarantine policy exists for all visitors unless coming from St Helena. Tourist can explore the island's man-made green forest, go birdwatching and roam the untouched wilderness.

English Bay and Comfortless Cove beaches are the only two sites recommended for swimming owing to strong tides and shark-infested waters. This is also the place to go to spot green turtles. Every year, thousands of females migrate here from Brazil to lay their eggs on the deserted beaches.

Edinburgh of the Seas is the only village on Tristan da Cunha. Courtesy Flickr / Steve&Chris
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is the only village on Tristan da Cunha. Courtesy Flickr / Steve&Chris

Tristan da Cunha is a group of volcanically active islands that are only reachable by sea. The only accommodation available are government guesthouses and most sightseeing can only be done when accompanied by a local guide.

Falkland Islands

The Falklands Islands remain closed to most visitors. Unsplash
The Falklands Islands remain closed to most visitors. Unsplash

One of the last great wildernesses, the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic are perhaps more accessible than some of the other island destinations on the Green List, with twice-weekly flights from the UK plus airlines to Brazil, Chile and Argentina (although these are currently suspended until October).

Offering untouched landscapes, vast open spaces and white sandy beaches, the islands are also a natural paradise with rocks, rivers, penguins, birds and more. There's also a good little selection of places to stay, from small hotels and lodges to guesthouses and cottages. Unfortunately, current visitor restrictions mean tourists are not permitted to visit the Falkland Islands.

Faroe Islands

Floating in the North Atlantic Ocean, around halfway between Iceland and Scotland, the Faroe Islands are a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark that is reasonably accessible for tourists.

Non-stop flights head here from several destinations including Spain, Scotland, France, Norway and, of course, Denmark. Travel restrictions have recently been updated and travellers from the EU and Schengen countries can now visit with no quarantine. Visitors from elsewhere must have a valid reason to visit and should quarantine for 10 days. All travellers must have a PCR test on arrival, and again on day four.

Accommodation options on the Faroe Islands are good, with everything from four-star hotels to Airbnb rooms. Many of these are located in Torshavn, one of the world’s smallest capitals, but there are also options on the far-flung islands for those wanting to be surrounded only by nature.

In the Faroe Islands' Gásadalur is Múlafossur, one of the prettiest waterfalls in the world. Unsplash / Rogério Toledo
Mulafossur, one of the prettiest waterfalls in the world, is in Gasadalur on the Faroe Islands. Unsplash

Late spring and summer are the most popular seasons to visit as the weather is warmer and drier than the rest of the year, but autumn also works for those keen on hiking, birdwatching or photography. Winter days are short – with only five hours of daylight – and the snow showers and gale winds keep most tourists away.

Awaiting travellers in the Faroe Islands are 18 rugged islets of endless shades of green, swathed in Atlantic seafoam and each with its own sights to delight. Head to Gjogv, the most northern village on the island of Eysturoy to explore a well-preserved village filled with timber-walled, turf-roofed cottages. Or go west to Mykines, not to be confused with Mykonos, where you'll find an otherworldly experience with steep cliffs, rolling hills and unrivalled bird watching.

Colourful homes on the Faroe Islands, one of the most easily accessible island destinations on the UK's Green List of countries where people can travel to without quarantine upon return. Unsplash
Colourful homes on the Faroe Islands, one of the most easily accessible island destinations on the UK's Green List of countries where people can travel to without quarantine upon return. Unsplash

Other must-sees include the waterfall of Mulafossur, Sorvagsvatn lake hovering above a windswept ocean and riding Faroese horses through the mountains of Lambafelli. Most islands are well-connected via roads, bridges and subsea tunnels, making it easy to get around.

History fans can visit Tinganes, one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places in the world still in use, and Streymoy, home to the never-finished Kirkjubour Cathedral dating back to the 13th century, and to the oldest wooden house in the territory.

Brunei

The Sultanate of Brunei remains closed to most travellers. Courtesy flickr / Bernard Spragg
The Sultanate of Brunei remains closed to most travellers. Courtesy flickr / Bernard Spragg

Tiny Brunei is an oil-rich sultanate on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, in South-East Asia. This quiet Darussalam is home to some of the world's oldest tropical rainforests, stunning shorelines and marine-rich scuba-diving. It's also filled with mausoleums, mosques, museums and more.

Getting to Brunei is relatively simple – Royal Brunei Airlines is operating flights to and from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the UK. However, the country recently implemented a strict interpretation of Sharia, which affected tourism.

Those who are still keen to visit will be unlikely able to go as entry is severely restricted. Only citizens and those with a permit from the Prime Minister’s Office, supported by a sponsor in Brunei Darussalam, can travel.

Those who are approved must provide a negative Covid-19 test and quarantine in a government-designated facility (usually a local hotel) for up to 14 days. There's also an exit travel ban, which might be disconcerting if you only planned to stay in the region for a short time.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar is located at the tip of southern Spain and allows travellers from the UAE to quarantine in a hotel of their choice. Courtesy Visit Gibraltar
Gibraltar lies off the coast of Spain and is a sunshine-filled destination that's easy to get to and offers history, nature and plenty of places to stay. Courtesy Visit Gibraltar

Not quite as off-the-beaten-path as some of the other destinations on the UK's Green List, Gibraltar is likely to be popular with holidaymakers craving a summer escape. Technically it's not an island, but a narrow peninsula at the southern edge of Spain. Getting here is simple with flights from the UK and Morocco, driving options from Spain and inter-railing routes via France and Spain.

Gibraltar has reopened to travellers on its Green List, which is the same as the UK's list except for the addition of the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Spain.

Travellers from red-listed countries, which includes the UAE, face 10 days' quarantine if they are unvaccinated, while all other visitors are considered to be coming from amber destinations, meaning five days of isolation.

All travellers arriving by air must complete a passenger locator form before visiting and follow the rules for lateral flow or PCR tests.

The five-star floating Sunborn Hotel in Gibraltar. Courtesy Visit Gibraltar
The five-star floating Sunborn Hotel in Gibraltar. Courtesy Visit Gibraltar

Accommodation options in Gibraltar are varied, from the five-star floating Sunborn Gibraltar yacht hotel, to four-star boutique stays and even a Holiday Inn. Year-round temperatures are pleasant with highs of around 30°C and lows of 12°C.

While it might be small, Gibraltar has all the right ingredients for some fun in the sun. The little British territory acts as the gateway between Europe and Africa, with plenty of scope for exploring.

From Second World War siege tunnels to the Barbary apes that live on the Rock of Gibraltar, history and nature are guaranteed. There are also stunning beaches, waterfront attractions, good shops and restaurants and an unmissable British influence.

Queensway Quay, Gibraltar. © Visit Gibraltar 
Queensway Quay, Gibraltar. Visit Gibraltar

Divers can submerge in the Bay of Gibraltar and the surrounding waters are ideal for dolphin watching. The Unesco World Heritage Site of Gorham's Cave complex is worth a visit and nature fans can enjoy hiking through the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in Gibraltar where the Skywalk, a glass lookout with breathtaking views, awaits the brave.

Updated: May 20, 2021 06:44 PM

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