Welcome to the incredible Antarctica, often referred to as the last frontier and the great white continent! In all honesty, there's no place on Earth quite like Antarctica when it comes to experiencing extraordinary wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. Getting there involves itineraries taking you to South America, in Ushuaia, where you'll embark on a journey crossing the renowned Drake Passage. Alternatively, for those who want to make the most of their time in Antarctica, there are many fly-cruise options. Either way, you're in for an unforgettable adventure!
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas): Although more famously known for its 1982 war history, the Falkland Islands are a popular stopover for travelers en route to Antarctica. Beyond its dramatic past, the islands offer incredible scenery and are a paradise for penguin and bird species enthusiasts.
Lemaire Channel: Serving as the gateway to the far south of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Lemaire Channel stretches between Booth Island and the Peninsula itself. This 11-kilometer long, 150-meter deep, and 700-meter wide channel offers breathtaking views and is one of the highlights of any Antarctic expedition.
Paradise Bay: As one of the most spectacular sights in Antarctica, Paradise Bay boasts incredible glaciers and massive icebergs, making it a haven for those who appreciate frozen landscapes. Exploring the bay on a Zodiac is an unforgettable experience, not to mention the abundance of wildlife that calls this place home.
Petermann Island: Petermann Island is a unique destination where you can spot Adelie penguins, alongside Gentoo penguins, blue-eyed shags, leopard seals, and humpback whales. It's a treasure trove of Antarctic wildlife and a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.
Port Lockroy: Initially a military base during World War II, Port Lockroy has transformed into a captivating stop for cruises. Travelers now have the opportunity to explore remote islands and harbors in the frozen continent, making it a unique and fascinating destination.
South Georgia: Renowned for its diverse wildlife, including fur and elephant seals, South Georgia is home to a massive king penguin colony. This island is a haven for those interested in polar history, as it's where Sir Ernest Shackleton embarked on his legendary journey to seek aid for his Antarctic expedition. It's a place where history and nature collide, creating an extraordinary experience for visitors.
Whalers Bay (Deception Island): Nestled in the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island has a rich history as a bustling seal and whaling hub. Today, it stands as one of the safest harbors in Antarctica. Over the years, it has attracted scientific and military interests from Britain, Chile, and Argentina. British Base B, though deserted since its destruction by volcanic activity in 1969, serves as a testament to this history. Now, it's a popular destination for Antarctic tourism and a hub for summer research teams from Spain and Argentina.
When to go / useful information
When to go
The Antarctic voyage season is short, spanning from November through early March. Given that most travel to Antarctica is by ship, it's crucial to book your voyage as early as possible to secure your spot on your preferred journey.
October – December (early season): During the early season, you'll encounter a lot of ice, including massive icebergs. While the temperatures remain cool, the landscapes are pristine, blanketed in snow, and exceptionally beautiful. This time of year offers the opportunity to witness penguins laying their eggs and elephant seals breeding.
December – February (mid season): The mid-season is the most popular time to visit Antarctica, thanks to warmer weather and longer daylight hours. It's the perfect period to observe adorable and fluffy penguin chicks hatching. Additionally, this is an excellent time for spotting whales and seals in the region.
Mid-February – March (late season): During the late season, as the polar ice begins to melt, it's an ideal time for further exploration. It's also a great time to witness a plethora of whales returning to the region to feed. This period offers a unique and less icy perspective of Antarctica, with ample opportunities for wildlife encounters.
Currency: When shopping for souvenirs, it's best to use US dollars as they are the preferred currency. While there is an Antarctican dollar in existence, it's more of a collector's item issued by the Antarctic Overseas Exchange Office and not considered legal tender.
Language: Antarctica, with no permanent residents, doesn't have its own native language. Instead, English serves as the common form of communication among the diverse nationalities working there. Staff at research bases often communicate in their native languages, be it Russian, Norwegian, or English.
What makes it special: Antarctica, the "great white" continent, is a dream destination for seasoned travelers. Its vastness is awe-inspiring, and even though we can only scratch the surface as tourists, we are rewarded with the opportunity to witness wild and untouched wildlife and marine life that has thrived for millennia. Imagine walking onto the ice and being surrounded by a massive rookery of Chinstrap penguins, utterly indifferent to your presence. Witnessing sheets of ice calving off gigantic ice walls before your eyes and capturing the myriad shades of blue in the sky, ice, and water will keep your camera clicking for hours in pursuit of that perfect shot. During the summer months, the lighting is exceptional, with almost 24 hours of daylight.
Weather: Antarctica's weather is extreme, making it suitable for cruising only during the summer months, from November to February. Approximately 98% of Antarctica is covered in ice. Temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula range from a maximum of 10 degrees Celsius to a minimum of -5 degrees Celsius. Conditions are highly unpredictable, and wind chill factors can make it feel much colder than the recorded temperatures. Proper wet weather gear and boots are essential for any visit to the continent.
Social customs: There are no indigenous peoples associated with Antarctica, but it is reckoned there is a working population of about a thousand researchers and technicians during winter months, rising to as many as 5000 in the summer.
If landing on Antarctica, as a general rule, try to stay at least five metres (15 feet) away from any birds, seals or other wildlife. Keep noise down when you're on the ice, and watch your positioning as a group – don't surround the animals or cut off their access to the sea. Touching or feeding Antarctic wildlife is strictly prohibited.