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Originally published on Rich Vein Travel.
Travelling to Antarctica is on many people’s bucket lists. It is the Earth’s southernmost continent and it is almost wholly covered by an ice sheet. Although Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest of continents, it is also one of the most beautiful. Majestic icebergs, spectacular wildlife, and incredible adventures, await any explorer willing to travel to Antarctica. This mini travel guide will tell you everything that you need to know about Antarctica Holidays.
Can I travel to Antarctica?
Yes, you can absolutely travel to Antarctica. It’s a common question that many people ask, and it’s understandable considering how remote Antarctica is. The easiest way to get to Antarctica is to fly to Argentina, and take an expedition cruise from there. Most expedition cruises depart from the resort town of Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the “End of the World”. However it’s also possible to begin your journey to Antarctica from Buenos Aires or Punta Arenas in Chile. Although it’s a longer journey for travellers based in the UK, Australia and New Zealand can also act as cruise gateways to visit the incredible sights of Antarctica. Hobart (Australia) and Invercargill in New Zealand both host Antarctic cruise vessels heading south for the summer.
How long does it take to travel to Antarctica?
From London, it takes approximately 19 hours of flying to reach Ushuaia or Punta Arenas. Unfortunately there are no direct flights from London, or any other airport to either location. Should you start your journey from Australia or New Zealand, you will be spending approximately 24 hours flying. If your particular voyage is heading straight to Antarctica from South America, you should reach the Antarctic Peninsula (the northernmost stretch of land) around 2-3 days later depending on the cruise line and the itinerary.
How long is an Antarctica expedition cruise?
The most common expeditions last approximately nine to ten days, including five full days of exploration in Antarctica. Rather than fly from South America, these voyages embrace the power and the beauty of the Drake Passage (and its rich and abundant bird life), sailing from Ushuaia. Time spent at sea varies depending on sea conditions and wind, but often take from one and a half to two days at sea, each way. The rest of the voyage is spent in the seemingly endless coastal environment of the Antarctic Peninsula.
For those with extended holidays and a desire for a deeper exploration of this remote wilderness, there are expeditions that spend twenty or more days which include visits to the Falkland Islands and the otherworldly wilderness of South Georgia, in addition to the days spent in the Antarctic Peninsula, making these expeditions incredibly thorough and comprehensive.
What wildlife could I see on an expedition cruise to Antarctica?
Due to the nature of the wildlife and climate, it’s difficult to make any promises. However, you can expect to see penguins, seals, whales and seabirds. Nine species of penguin can be found throughout the Antarctic region. The Adélie penguins are one of the most common species that explorers spot the most, but the Chinstrap, and Gentoo are also quite common to see too. Antarctica is also a bird-lover’s paradise. There may also be the opportunity so see seals and whales. The use of small Zodiac boats, help you get up close and personal with some of the world’s most magnificent creatures.
What else could I see?
This is entirely dependent on the particular cruise itinerary. However, some of the most common highlights are, Elephant Island, Dalhan Bay, the South Shetland Islands, the Petzvol Glacier, Hope Bay and Paulet Island.
Can I do any activities or excursions on an Antarctica cruise?
Absolutely! Hiking and snowshoeing are quite common activities. But there’s also cross country skiing, mountaineering, sea kayaking and paddle-boarding to name a few! With some expedition cruise lines you can camp overnight on the ice for a truly magical experience. On the ship, nearly all cruise lines conduct a range of optional lectures and presentations to show you how to make the most of your experience without disturbing the fragile wildlife and nature. Some of these lectures are about the formation of snowflakes, the formation of icebergs, and courtship rituals of the animals. However, some cruise lines also provide additional support on how to get the best photographs, offering advice, training courses, and lots of tips. So whatever your experience level, you’ll be a National Geographic cover star in no time.
When is the best time to visit Antarctica?
It is only possible to visit Antarctica between November and March. The best time to go depends on several different factors such as price, your reasons for going, and the wildlife you are most interested in seeing whilst you’re there!
|Month||What to Expect|
|November||Prices are slightly less at the start of the season. However, this is often the best time for photographers looking to snap pristine shots of the ice and the biggest icebergs. Penguins start nest building (part of their courting rituals) and baby seals are born. However, the days are shorter as the large bodies of ice can restrict access to certain areas, until they start to melt later in the season.|
|December/January||December and January are the months with the most sunlight (up to 20 hours a day), and daily temperatures are at their warmest. Penguins begin hatching and wildlife, especially penguin chicks, is most plentiful during this time of year. The conditions are also ideal for our range of wonderful shore excursions, whether it’s visiting a historic expedition hut or research station, or getting up close and personal at a penguin nesting site.|
|February/March||Young penguins born at the beginning of summer start to thrive in their colonies. February to early March is also the best time to see whales. There tends to be less vessels operating at this time, which means you won’t have to compete with other ships for landings. Another advantage to travelling towards the end of the season is that it can often be slightly cheaper, and you can take advantage of any last minute holiday deals and offers.|
What should I pack for an Antarctica expedition cruise?
Despite the fact you’ll be travelling in the Antarctic summer, it will still be fairly cold. Temperatures will be around 0°C, and although at times they may rise as high as 10°C, you’ll still have the wind and water to contend with. As such here are some suggestions on what to pack for your Antarctica cruise:
- Waterproof outer layers – You should have a water resistant jacket and a pair of water resistant over pants. Some cruise lines provide a free complimentary parka, or wind and water resistant jacket
- Bring thick socks and good boots – some cruise lines provide complimentary boots but this varies from company to company
- Lots of layers – thermal underwear, insulating layers, fleeces, thin tops and base layers
- Hats and gloves
- Binoculars and a good camera
- Smart casual evening clothes (depending on the cruise line)
- Seasickness pills
Is seasickness common on an expedition cruise?
Seasickness can be quite common, especially on the voyage from Ushuaia to Antarctica as you pass through Drakes Passage. You may have heard horror stories about this, and at times it can be quite rocky. But most people are able to handle Drakes Passage with seasickness tablets (if they need them), and of course the final destination is definitely worth it!
Is it safe to go to Antarctica?
A bespoke luxury holiday to Antarctica is very safe, as long as you book your expedition cruise with a reputable company. At Rich Vein Travel, we only work with reputable, experienced and trusted cruise lines that, collectively, make countless voyages to Antarctica each year, and have done for decades. We work with Silversea, Quark Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Aurora Expeditions and National Geographic Expeditions.
How far in advance should I book an expedition cruise to Antarctica?
Due to strong demand and the relatively modest number of ships, particularly during High Season, to be confident of securing your first choice we would strongly urge that you begin planning at least 12 months in advance.
Featured image: Unsplash