Antarctica Travel: The Last Frontier
Antarctica, the last frontier. The 7th continent and the single most dramatic, spectacular and untouched landscape on the planet. Larger than Europe and 98% covered in ice over a mile thick, Antarctica has 90% of the world’s ice representing 70% of the world's fresh water (if all of this ice melted, global sea levels would rise 200 feet!). Antarctica belongs to no country, has no currency, no time zone and no permanent human population… just a few thousand people that reside throughout the year at research stations scattered across the continent.
So with all of these startling statistics, why go you ask? The Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, and South Georgia are an ABSOLUTE must for any true world traveler (and the mainland and the South Pole for the even more intrepid). Watch pods of killer whales hunt or simply marvel at the sheer size of a blue whale next to your zodiac - at 100 feet and 350,000 pounds, it is the largest animal that has ever existed. Visit beaches with over 100,000 curious penguins and an ocean filled with playful seals. Gaze upon snow capped black volcanic mountains, glaciers over 100 miles long, and floating icebergs carved into turquoise cathedrals by the Southern Ocean. Antarctica is simply bound to astound you like no other place on the planet!
WHAT WE LOVE
- Hiking Glaciers: Put on snow shoes or crampons and hike up a turquoise glacier. When you get thirsty, reach down and eat a handful of the cleanest snow on the planet. For adrenaline junkies, you can sled down bum first.
- Polar Plunge: Make sure you're nice and toasty from your daily hike or activity, rip those clothes off and run from the beach into the icy Southern Ocean which hovers just around freezing. A once-in-a-lifetime experience that is amazing for your blood circulation.
- Zodiac Cruising: Hop on a zodiac for a relaxing, armchair view of all that is Antartica. As you weave between icebergs, you will begin to grasp the sheer magnitude of this frozen continent. Be on the look out for penguins jumping in and out the water, leopard seals gliding by, birds with 12 foot wing spans flying above, and pods of whales whose wake will rock your boat!
- Antarctic Camping: Are you ready for one of the greatest, sleep-deprived nights of your life? We provide all required gear; you just have to bring yourself and your sense of adventure. Listen to the beautiful, deafening sounds of the ice cracking in the distance.
- 24/7 Daylight: Take in the view anytime. From mid-December to mid-January there are 24 hours of daylight. If you are traveling outside of these dates, there will still be only a few short hours of darkness at night.
- Sea Kayaking: Silently glide between glaciers, seals, penguins and whales. Listen to the sounds of the water as it laps against the ice and work out your upper body as you partake in this unique way of experiencing Antarctica!
- Baby Penguins & Penguin Colonies: No matter what, you will bear witness to massive penguin colonies – Gentoos, Chinstraps, Magellanics, and even King and Emperor penguins. Sit down, look around, and enjoy watching the curious ones waddle over to you. Watch them trip and fall, slide on their bellies, and shuffle along ever- popular penguin highways. If you are lucky, you may just get to witness a penguin egg hatching, revealing an adorable, fluffy baby penguin.
- South Georgia & the Falklands: Many people on their way to the Antarctica Peninsula visit both South Georgia and the Falklands on their journey to the White Continent. A pit-stop in the Falklands allows you to absorb untouched nature – from penguin rookeries to bird-watching to sheep pastures – all while having the opportunity to stroll the charming streets. Soak it in because this will be the last bit of “civilization” that you will see for a while. As you continue to approach South Georgia, you will witness the rugged, mountainous terrain, all while exploring glacier-carved coves and rugged shores. What’s most impressive about South Georgia are the massive colonies of King penguins some numbering as many as 200,000, as well as the fur and elephant seals.
REST & REJUVENATE
There are many ways to see Antarctica, from land-based options in fiberglass igloos to ship-based options. Some are relatively affordable and others are astronomical. Some of our favorite providers are listed below. Epic Road enjoys special relationships with these companies and can secure upgrades, discounts and special privileges for its travelers above and beyond what a traveler can arrange directly. We are also available to you 24/7 should the need ever arise.
- Linblad Expeditions-National Geographic: Who doesn’t want National Geographic photographers documenting their journey to Antarctica? The Explorer, deemed the best luxury ship, not only offers a fantastic expedition team, but an underwater specialist as well that will shoot high-definition underwater photos of the deep sea.
- Quark Expeditions: Queasy stomach? Not to worry! Quark is for the person who doesn’t want to cross the Drake Passage as they offer the ability to fly to Antarctica, as well as an excellent experience.
- Silversea: If elegance is what you’re looking for, this uber luxurious cruise is the one for you. With nearly one crew member per guest and butler service, this ship knows how to go above and beyond. Call it Channel, caviar and icebergs.
- OneOcean: If you’re looking for a smaller, more affordable trip, OneOcean has the answer! Their stabilized expedition ships provide comfortable accommodations, varied amenities, and round the clock activities.
- Oceanwide: Searching for Emperor Penguins? Well, they’re only available via helicopter. Luckily, Oceanwide has your back in offering the much-anticipated chance to see Emperor Penguins through helicopter landings!
- White Desert: If you are looking to live like a local on the ice, White Desert flies you into the interior of Antarctica for an experience that is as luxurious as it is adventurous. After a five-hour flight across the Southern Ocean on a Russian military plane, you are transported to a newly built, ecological camp set in one of the last great wildernesses on earth. Offering a range of adventures from 8-day safaris to visit the Emperor Penguins, to shorter trips designed to cater for those with tighter schedules. There is now even a 3-day trip to Antarctica! With genuine polar explorers as your guides, you will see, touch and experience a place that is unlike anything on earth. This experience is notably expensive, and is worth every penny.
- Antarctica XXI: Looking for both ease and luxury? XXI's fly-cruise will offer you just that! You will both bypass the treacherous Drake Passage via air, all while allowing yourself ample time to explore in Antarctica by land and sea. While you're paying for the convenience, you're also allowing yourself two extra days of exploration that otherwise would be spent crossing the Drake Passage!
WHAT TO KNOW
- The Antarctic travel season is from the first of November until mid-March. Outside of these months it is too unsafe for most travelers.
- Most ships depart from Ushuaia, Argentina. It is typical to have a layover in Buenos Aires and transfer to Ushuaia via Aerolineas Argentina or LAN.
- It's summer there, and temperatures hover in the 20s and 30s. You will not be as cold as you would think, as long as you dress properly. Layers, layers, layers!
- Anyone with a general fitness level can venture to Antarctica. Young, old, families, couples, professionals, photographers, and adrenaline-junkies alike.
- The Drake Passage is known to be some of the roughest waters in the world. If you have a weak stomach, consider flying to Antarctica and avoiding the Drake Shake!
MORE ON ANTARCTICA
- Best Small Cruises to Antarctica
- Climb the Glaciers: Hiking in Antarctica
- Antarctica Wildlife Safaris: Penguins, Whales, and Seals!
- Travel to the Massive Penguin Colonies of Antarctica
- Cruise Through Antarctica by Zodiac or Kayak
- Antarctica Cruise & Travel - Antarctic Safaris
- Epic Road Co-Founder Mark Lakin Honored as "Top Travel Specialist" in Travel+Leisure's 2015 A-List