Tristan da Cunha is one of the many links at the southern end of the submarine mountain range of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It consists of an archipelago of 1 main island and 2 satellite islands, Nightingale and Inaccessible, as well as a number of minor rocky, barren specks of land in the neighborhood. Over 200 miles south lies Gough, an island that is also considered part of the Tristan archipelago.
The only inhabited island is the main one, called Tristan da Cunha after its discoverer, a Portuguese admiral who sailed by in 1506. Tristan is inhabited since 1816 and forms a community of 7 family branches living traditionally in a unique and proud form of independence and self-sufficiency.
The volcano on Tristan towers in the Queen Mary's Peak, a bulge on its crater rim. Volcanic activity was last recorded in 1961/1962 when the entire island population had to be evacuated. The life of the Tristanians in English exile and their return to the island created a great deal of public awareness so that in the wake of this event British subsidies were spent to establish a fishing factory that now provides the main source of income for the 264 islanders.
Tristan is the place on Earth that is farthest away from other inhabited land. The next inhabited place is St Helena, over 2,400 km to the north. Cape Town is 2,700 km away to the east.
There is no airport on Tristan. There is no harbour either that would be large and protected enough to accommodate large tourist vessels. There is no regular means of public transport to and from the island.
The only way to access the island is by sailing yacht, by the fishing vessel "Edinburgh", by the cargo ship "Baltic Trader" or by the irregular services of the royal post boat "RMS St Helena". The latter three usually operate from Cape Town.
The Tristan home page (see external links) informs about ways to travel to Tristan da Cunha.
Anybody wishing to travel to Tristan has to announce that to the office of the Administrator (see Tristan homepage, external links).
The Island Council reviews the background of each applicant and approves or disapproves his/her applications.
The office of the Administrator also advises about the best possibilities to get hold of a berth on one of the a. m. boats.
A waiting-time of up to 2 years has to be taken into account between application and voyage.
Climbing the Peak requires a guide by law. Solo climbing is frowned upon and is extremely hazardous as there is no rescue service in place. Conditions on the mountain are extremely changeable. The Peak is usually covered in mist. There are frequent rain, gales and storms.
The trail leading up to the summit is barely visible, and altough secured with fixed ropes at places, walking can be quite dangerous in wet conditions. Additional risk comes from the fact that there is little variability as to the route of ascent and descent; orientation in mist may be highly problematic, even with GPS.
Altough not explicitly forbidden, camping is considered unusual. There is no official campground on the island, and campers have to follow the suggestions of the Administrator as to where to camp.
The usual form of accommodation is with families or in one of the family-owned guest houses on the island.