Antarctica is one of the most remote locations in the world, but if you’re looking for a totally unique and unforgettable experience, it’s the ultimate winter destination. It’s the coldest and windiest continent so visitors can only travel there during the summer – between November and March – when temperatures remain above -10°C. The vast wilderness can be accessed by flight from Punta Arenas in Chile or from Ushuaia in Argentina – which explains why many travellers choose to combine their trip with a holiday in South America, too. However, it’s worth noting that you can’t travel to Antarctica on a solo expedition, so it’s vital to choose a reputable tour company when booking.
Once on the continent, visitors can explore the beautiful landscape, which ranges from vast ice sheets to huge glaciers and hundreds of mountainous habitats. The ice caps, which have formed over hundreds and thousands of years, can measure up to 4km deep in places, while parts of the untouched landscape are home to rare wildlife. Lovers of the outdoors will relish guided tours and activities in the wilderness – think glacier hiking, cross country skiing and sea kayaking.
Antarctica is home to an abundance of wildlife and some of the world’s rarest species preserved by the Antarctic Treaty. Whales migrate to the continent during the summer months while penguin colonies breed on the northern peninsula. Leopard and elephant seals, albatrosses and killer whales are often spotted on the continent – the wildlife in Antarctica is famously unafraid of humans, so you’ll be able to get up close to some of the less dangerous species. One of the best ways to spot these creatures is to embark on a sea safari. From a boat, or cruise ship, you can travel to small islands to visit emperor penguins, or spot rare seabirds atop a glacier. The Shetland Islands, a rich volcanic landscape, is famous for its bird population, while South Georgia is a hotspot for whales.
Where To Stay:
It might sound obvious, but there are no hotels in Antarctica, so the main way to get around is by cruise ship. Several companies offer a range of tours, usually lasting between one to three weeks, where guests can experience Antarctica while staying in luxury accommodation. If you’re looking for an itinerary packed with activities, White Desert has a selection of tours to choose from, from five-day trips beginning in South Africa, to longer expeditions where you can explore the wilderness on a private jet. During each adventure, visitors will make a base at Camp Whichaway, situated within the interior of Antarctica, to experience some of the best activities on offer. The camp is one of the only places on the continent with accommodation for guests – expect state-of-the-art heated sleeping pods and luxury home comforts. Each dome has everything you need for a comfortable stay, including heating, an en-suite bedroom, and a separate water closet. The camp itself also has a separate pod with hot showers, plus a reception and dining pod where guests can relax in the evenings and try some of the local delicacies on offer. For a family trip, guests can plan their visit around once-in-a-lifetime activities – ice tunnels expeditions, land safaris, zip lining and ice picnics are just a few of the things to choose from. Abercrombie & Kent, another reputable company, also have several options to choose from and are a great choice if you want a tailormade itinerary.
If you’d rather see the sights by sea, Discover the World offer some of the best small ship cruises where expeditions are guided by a team of experts. Their Classic Antarctica package is a great choice for solo travellers or couples. The 10-day trip starts in Argentina, before crossing the famous Drake Passage. From there, you can explore the south Shetland Islands and Arctic Peninsula to spot wildlife such as whales and penguins, hike across glaciers, or simply relax on board the ship. For something a little more extravagant, opt for a luxury cruise with Scott Dunn. Whether you want a two-week expedition exploring the landscape via private jet, or you’d rather cruise along the waters with gourmet food and a butler service aboard a cruise ship, there a range of holiday packages to choose from. On the Silversea Silver Explorer ship, guests can expect all the comforts from a luxury hotel, including a contemporary dining room, wellness centre and beauty salon. The ship also has an Explorer Lounge where you can learn about the region’s endemic wildlife and nature.
Flight Time: The flight to Chile or Argentina usually takes around 40 hours with a connecting flight, so it’s worth planning a trip to South America on your arrival or return journey.
When To Go: Most tour companies only operate between the summer months from November to March where temperate remain above -10°C.
Currency: There is no official currency in Antarctica (mostly because there isn’t anything to buy), but travellers will need local currency for their connecting journey in South America.
Time: Local time is GMT plus 13 hours.
Things To Note: Travelling to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime journey that requires careful planning so it’s important to always travel with a reputable company to ensure you have a safe trip. Travellers will need to be fully prepared for outdoor expeditions and will need to a pack accordingly – more information can be found on operator websites.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information.