It Is Possible to Visit Antarctica, and I Will Explain How to Do So

2023-01-16 07:49:02 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Antarctica An Additional Continent The frozen chunk of Earth at the planet's polar core. Their far-flung wilderness has been the subject of nature shows, textbooks, and museum exhibits. And because of that, it could appear far-fetched and unattainable. Possibly so, it's impossible to say. However, this is not the case.

I work on an expedition ship that transports people from all over the world to Antarctica, and when I tell people what I do for a living, they often respond with, "I had no idea people can actually go to Antarctica." And every time they do, I tell them, "Yes, people go It's possible for you, too. ”

Passengers on a hike, during a landing on the Antarctic Peninsula

The passengers are out on a hike after landing on the Antarctic Peninsula. Featured image by David Merron

Even though Antarctica is so far away, it is easier than ever for daring tourists to visit. As a matter of fact, more than 45,000 people from countries as diverse as the USA, China, Australia, Germany, Canada, the UK, France, India, and dozens more visited Antarctica in the 2016–2017 season.

There's an old adage that goes something like this: "Knowing is half the battle." The main goal of this article is to inform the reader that it is possible to travel to Antarctica from almost any location, and, more importantly, to explain the steps necessary to make this dream a reality.

It's possible to visit Antarctica. How to Do It:

When I tell people how easy it is to travel to Antarctica, they often express genuine excitement, but then they ask, "How do I even get there?" That answer might not be as simple as it first appears. Some of us may have heard of scientists who traveled to Australia or South Africa by military plane, or of sailors who traveled for an entire month around New Zealand. On the other hand, getting to Antarctica is a breeze. Getting to either Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile, is all that's required. Both have international airports and frequent flights to the rest of the world, making them true global cities.

From Buenos Aires, a direct flight to Ushuaia, Argentina takes 3.5 hours; from there, the majority of Antarctic cruises set sail. Each summer, the Port of Ushuaia serves as easily as any harbor in the Virgin Islands, the Mediterranean, or Alaska does in loading and unloading expedition vessels en route to the southern wilderness.  

Trips to Antarctica can be taken from Ushuaia, Argentina. The Drake Passage, a stretch of water stretching between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, is crossed by the expedition. This trip can take up to two days at sea, depending on weather, and is an excellent chance to see rare animals like the great wandering albatross.

Travelers who would rather not cross the Drake Passage can instead take a flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to an airstrip on an island close to the Antarctic Peninsula. After a short trip from Punta Arenas, they will board the expedition ship and come face to face with glaciers and penguins.  

When will it be safe for me to visit Antarctica?

Passengers stand at the hull of the ship as they cruise through sea ice

As the ship cuts through the icy waters, passengers line the hull. Caption: Sam Crimmin

For the best weather, travelers should plan their trip to Antarctica between the months of October and March, which correspond to late spring and early fall in the southern hemisphere. It is not until late spring (around the end of October or beginning of November) that the sea ice opens up sufficiently to allow ships into Antarctica's untouched glacial landscapes for the first time in the year. From late October until the end of summer and the beginning of the wonderfully powerful Antarctic autumn around the middle of March, voyages depart regularly.

Find out more about the special things to do and see in Antarctica at each time of year.

When going to Antarctica, how long should one plan on being there?

You'll find a variety of sailing plans, or "itineraries," when researching your Antarctic expedition. These plans are more indicative of the course and length of each trip than anything else. There are expeditions that go straight to Antarctica, and there are expeditions that take in the stunning sub-Antarctic regions of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia.

Antarctic travel can be tailored to your time constraints; options range from "express" expeditions that involve flights to the Antarctic Peninsula and back in as little as eight days to epic explorations of sub-Antarctic islands and the continent itself. covering a period of at least three weeks

Most expeditions last between nine and ten days, with five of those days spent exploring Antarctica. These trips depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, and take advantage of the Drake Passage's power and beauty (as well as its rich and abundant bird life) rather than flying from South America. Depending on weather and currents, the trip can take anywhere from 1.5–2 days at sea each way. The rest of the trip is spent exploring the Antarctic Peninsula's seemingly endless coastline.

A number of expeditions spend twenty days or more exploring the Southern Ocean and its distinctive islands, satisfying the curiosity of those on extended vacations who want to learn more about this uncharted region. These expeditions spend a considerable amount of time in the Antarctic Peninsula, but they also travel to the wildlife-rich Falkland Islands and the otherworldly wilderness of South Georgia.

King penguins in South Georgia

Penguin kings of South Georgia Shot by: David Merron

When comparing a cruise to Antarctica, how does an expedition differ?

If you want to truly experience what it's like to be in Antarctica, you should do so aboard a real expedition ship. Travelers on expedition vessels can explore the continent's famous glacial landscapes and wildlife up close and personal, something not possible on larger cruise ships.

More than 500 to 2,000 people have been known to travel on larger ships that only make brief passes by Antarctica. Conversely, expedition ships never carry more than 200 people. Tourism regulations on the Seventh Continent necessitate small groups, so passengers can enjoy a greater variety of experiences, such as intimate Zodiac cruises among the icebergs and wildlife and daily landings on islands and the actual continent. Larger cruise ships are not equipped for this kind of exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Ocean Endeavour in the Lemaire Channel. Photo: David Merron

In the Lemaire Channel, with the Ocean Endeavour Image by David Merron.

Ships used for Antarctic expeditions have ice-class ratings, meaning their hulls can withstand contact with sea ice and iceberg fragments of varying sizes. Because of Antarctica's harsh environment, they are designed to function independently for weeks at a time and to master the constantly shifting coastline, inlets, bays, and channels. Like the sailing adventures of yesteryear, modern expeditions capture the spirit of exploration by preplanning every detail of the trip so that the travelers are free to act on the spur of the moment when favorable conditions arise or when they spot a rare species of wildlife.

There is a wide variety of expedition vessels from which to choose in terms of size, amenities, and adventure opportunities, making it easy to tailor your trip to your preferences. Selecting the right ship for your needs can be accomplished with some online research or a conversation with a Polar Travel Advisor.

How do I spend my time in Antarctica?

Passengers spot a whale fluke while on a zodiac cruise. Photo: David Merron

On a zodiac tour, visitors see the tail fin of a whale. Image by David Merron.

Daily excursions off the ship are a staple of Antarctic expeditions. Most cruises to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia include at least one stop at a port where passengers can disembark to explore the landscape, see wildlife up close, or simply relax on dry land. or you could just sit there in silence and contemplation among the ice and wildlife. You'll also take daily Zodiac cruises (inflatable boats that can carry up to 12 people) to see things like sculpted icebergs and marine life like seals, penguins, and whales, as well as less-visited areas that will make you realize how tiny you really are in comparison to the vastness of the natural world.

Those who are looking to spice up their trip can choose from a number of different excursion packages. Among these are camping trips out on the ice, where one can truly experience a break from civilization for an entire day.

Antarctic camping

Passenger pictured waking up after camping overnight in the Antarctic Peninsula

An Antarctic Peninsula camper is pictured the morning after spending the night there. David Merron (in the photo)

During the Antarctic summer, picture yourself settling into your sleeping bag as the sun sets and your expedition ship disappears behind the horizon of a nearby island. Camping with a few dozen other hardy souls who want to brave the 7th Continent like explorers from centuries ago, the rumblings of glaciers and the voices of penguins become all the more audible. As you drift off to sleep, the pristine Antarctic silence will envelop you; upon waking, you'll be greeted by the nearby glaciers and calm waters of a protected Antarctic cove, and perhaps a penguin or two lounging on the shore. Unparalleled adventure only found on Antarctic expeditions.

Paddleboarding in the South Pole

Stand-up Paddle Boarding in the Antarctic Peninsula. Photo: Abbey Weisbrot

Antarctic Peninsula Stand-Up Paddleboarding Photos by: Abbey Weisbrot

The Antarctic Peninsula is surprisingly pleasant in the summer, despite the continent's icy repuation. So welcoming that, under the right circumstances, tourists can even SUP across icy bays. While stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is most commonly associated with the tropics, it can also be a great choice for a private moment in Antarctica. One of the best ways to get some exercise while also taking in the sights and sounds of porpoising penguins and floating glacier fragments is to go for a paddle through a peaceful, secluded cove. Penguins, whales, and seals are frequently spotted gliding beneath or close to your board as you surf in Antarctica's teeming waters.

Paddling a kayak in Antarctic waters

A Kayaker's perspective in Antarctic waters. Photo: Quark Passenger

Antarctic waters from the viewpoint of a kayaker Image: A Passenger on a Quark

Visiting the Antarctic by sea kayak has long been a popular pastime for intrepid travelers. Kayakers, like those who choose stand-up paddleboarding, have a more subtle impact on the environment. There are no nearby motors to mask the genuine Antarctic soundscape. The average kayaker gets to see more of the world than someone on a stand-up paddleboard does, as they can quietly glide past the shores where thousands of penguins nest without disturbing them. Sea mammals, such as seals and whales, are occasionally encountered by kayakers. To ensure everyone's safety, all kayaking programs keep a respectful distance from marine mammals. Nonetheless, it is humbling for kayakers to share the water with such massive marine mammals. These are the kinds of adventures that can spark a lifelong interest in nature and travel.

All Antarctic trips also include the chance to go snowshoeing, learn the basics of mountaineering, go on long hikes, and even take the infamous polar plunge.

How similar are all vacations What is the best way for me to plan my itinerary?

The uniqueness of an Antarctica trip lies in the fact that no two expeditions are ever the same. No other expedition will have sailed the exact same course you did or had the same experiences or taken advantage of the same unplanned chances that the wilderness presented. Because of the ever-changing nature of the sea ice and weather, ships must adopt a flexible travel strategy that takes advantage of weather windows and rare opportunities to access otherwise inaccessible landscapes.

You'll probably see more penguins and glaciers than you can keep track of, and the sheer size of everything you'll see will be hard to put into words. It's true that no two trips are exactly alike, but each one has its own share of victories, coups, and opened doors that lead to adventures that are truly unique. Your journey will be one of a kind; every trip has its own spirit, rhythm, and history.

Is It Worth It To See Antarctica?

Researchers and explorers have believed there to be a sizable continent south of Africa since ancient Greek times. To the south Even as scientific evidence of the world's sphericity accumulated, the prevailing notion that there must be a landmass at the bottom of the globe to balance out the continents in the north persisted.

England commissioned Captain James Cook on multiple voyages to the Southern Ocean not only to take astronomical measurements to better understand longitude and the mathematics of the world, but just as importantly, to discover this famed and mysterious continent.  Captain Cook never saw land in Antarctica, but he penetrated deep into southern latitudes Due to the seemingly endless sea ice and icebergs he encountered, he concluded that any land in the area must be frozen, enclosed in ice, and nearly inaccessible.

Ernest Henry Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott, and Edward Adrian Wilson

On November 2, 1902, Ernest Henry Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott, and Edward Adrian Wilson set out for the Antarctic in an attempt to reach the farthest south possible.

Numerous explorers, sealers, and whalers set sail for the Antarctic Peninsula in the 1820s. Bellingshausen, Palmer, and Bransfield are just some of the early commanders whose names can be found all over Antarctica because they were among the first to set their sights on the true southern continental landmass. Over the course of the next century, explorers braved frigid seas, scurvy, and total isolation to discover its many hidden corners. Some of humanity's first encounters with the Seventh Continent are chronicled in the courageous and harrowing accounts of explorers such as Sir Ernest Shackleton, Sir Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, Otto Nordenskjold, and Douglas Mawson.

Some modern-day adventurers seek to emulate the feats of these legendary explorers by venturing into remote areas where they can get in touch with nature and forget about the stresses of everyday life. Antarctica travel speaks to a universal yearning to explore the unknown and confront our own limits of knowledge. Antarctica is the kind of destination that, like the journeys of so many famous explorers before us, will forever alter our worldview. Nothing compares to the thrill of exploring uncharted territory, whether it's seeing sights that few people have ever seen, listening to the rumble of a glacier a thousand meters thick as it barrels down a coastal mountain, or strolling along a snowy beach with an endless colony of charismatic penguins. That's why so many adventurers kept returning to the Antarctic continent, year after year, to explore its uncharted landscapes and listen to its unique sounds. And those moments are what you'll remember for the rest of your life.

You can, in fact, travel to Antarctica.

Antarctica is the most isolated continent on Earth, located over 1,000 kilometers from its nearest neighbor. Despite this, it is possible to travel there and experience the journey at your own pace. Various departure points, cruise lengths, itineraries, and travel windows make Antarctica accessible. The continent has not been colonized, so its wildlife and wilderness areas continue to function as they have for millennia. Its splendor, however, is not out of reach; rather, it is right there, waiting to be discovered.

Talk to a Polar Travel Adviser about which Antarctic expedition would be best for you, or check out the links below for more information.

Daven Hafey

Daven works professionally as a guide, writer, and filmmaker, but he is at home in the wilderness. More than 40 polar expeditions have had him as their guide, and he has nothing but respect for the people who make their homes in the Antarctic, Greenland, Arctic Canada, and Alaska. Daven believes in the power of a good story and has a degree in political science as well as an understanding of ecology. He's been with us for six incredible seasons and brings a genuine sense of wonder and respect for the natural world to our work with Quark Expeditions.

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