New Air Service Makes St. Helena Accessible to More American Travelers

View over St Helena
Photo by StHelena/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

New flights are making it easier for curious Americans to visit one of the world's most off-the-beaten-track destinations—the island of St. Helena.

Far flung in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, St. Helena (pronounced St. Hel-EE-na) is one of the planet's most remote inhabited islands: 1,200 miles from Africa, and 1,800 miles from South America. Its remoteness that is its charm and the source of its rich history.

The 47-square-mile volcanic island was, until recently, accessible only by sea. But United Airlines' new nonstop flights from New York to Cape Town, and new South African Airways Airlink flights from Cape Town (in addition to Johannesburg) are making a three-, four- or seven-day (or longer) visit to St. Helena a reality. An increased flight schedule is set for December through February.

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Discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, St. Helena has been under British rule since 1657 and is, after Bermuda, the second-oldest territory of the British Commonwealth. Its remoteness is what brought St. Helena fame: After the French defeat at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island until he died there in 1821. His home is one of the most visited sites of St. Helena. Until 2017, St. Helena was reachable only by its very own Royal Mail Ship, RMS St. Helena, offering five-day voyages from Cape Town approximately every three weeks.

Today, St. Helena has a population of 4,500 and is eager to welcome visitors. It is dedicated to the conservation of its diverse and unique animal, plant and marine life. Its capital, Jamestown, is considered one of the most authentic Georgian-period towns on earth.

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