Traveling to Antarctica is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can undertake. Although it is expensive, it is truly spectacular. A trip to Antarctica is something that you and your fellow travelers will never forget. It is a distant and inhospitable place, therefore traveling there is not the same as traveling anywhere else. However, there are plenty of possibilities for intrepid explorers who want to witness the majesty of the frozen continent. Whether you spend a couple of weeks exploring places on a ship or spend a day flying to get there, with some planning and a generous budget, you can take the trip of a lifetime.
Method 1 of 3: Travel to Antarctica by Boat
Step 1. Take a cruise
By far the most common way to travel to Antarctica is on a special cruise ship. There are several different trips, but they usually all take between 10 days and three weeks. You can take several routes to the peninsula depending on where you start. The advantages of these cruises is that the ship provides you with everything you need and you will be able to see Antarctica and its wildlife up close for an extended period of time.
Most trips to the Antarctic Peninsula region depart from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina; Port Stanley, Falkland Islands (Argentine Port, Falkland Islands according to Argentines); and a few also depart from Punta Arenas, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina or Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Step 2. Decide if you want to travel on a large cruise or a small one
There is a wide variety of ship sizes you can travel on, ranging from about 45 passengers in total for the smallest, to 280 passengers for the largest. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. In general, the larger the ship, the more comfortable it will be and the better equipped it will be, but you will have fewer opportunities to get ashore yourself from Antarctica and see things up close.
- Offshore, larger ships are more comfortable, but strict rules about how many people can visit shore will limit your opportunities to visit shore.
- Smaller boats allow you to spend more time on shore. This is because the tourist rules limit landings to tour groups of 100 people.
- All reputable cruise operators are registered with the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), so this would be a good place to contact during your trip planning. They support eco-friendly travel to Antarctica.
- The cost of these cruises is quite variable, but a 10-day trip will cost no less than $ 4,500, while a longer trip could cost between $ 12,750 and $ 16,000.
Step 3. Sail to Antarctica by yacht
It is possible to get to Antarctica by yacht, but it is not very common and it is more for more specialized sailors than for a normal tourist. There are several yacht companies that are authorized by IAATO and direct trips to Antarctica that you can contact. The yachts depart from Ushuaia or Stanley and are only for brave and adventurous people.
- For these smaller ships, conditions are far more treacherous than for the larger cruise ships.
- This is a very expensive option that could cost you more than US $ 1000 per day and per traveler.
Step 4. Travel on a French resupply ship
An unconventional option is to travel on a French refueling ship as a tourist. This ship, Marion Dufresne II, departs from Réunion and the entire trip (round trip) takes about a month. The number of tourists allowed on board is limited and you will need to contact French tourist agencies for up-to-date information on the departure schedule, availability and prices.
Prices start from US $ 8000 for the full month
Method 2 of 3: Fly to Antarctica
Step 1. Hire a flyover trip
The easiest way to see Antarctica is from above. You can book an excursion to fly over Antarctica, which will allow you to see its incredible white landscapes from the comfort of a plane. Booking a plane tour is a good option for day travelers who intend to spend a couple of hours over Antarctica and return the same day. You can enjoy the views as Antarctic experts give talks on the plane and serve you food and drinks.
- Currently, Australia is the only place you can take those flights from.
- You need to plan this in advance if you want to do it and book early.
- If you want to live this experience more closely and be in contact with wildlife, this is not the best option for you.
- Depending on the seat, the flight can cost between $ 1,000 and $ 8,000.
Step 2. Get a flight that lands in Antarctica
If you want to land in Antarctica, there are a large number of companies that offer this service, starting from several places. Where you go from will depend on the rest of the trip, so determine if it is better to travel from Australia, Chile, South Africa or Argentina and research the dates in each of these places well. Keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are much less frequent and much less predictable than regular flights.
- Some adventure vacation companies offer promotions that include a landing in Antarctica along with activities like skiing, camping, and climbing.
- You can travel to Rey Jorge Island (known in Argentina as "May 25" Island) from Punta Arenas in Chile and spend a night in a tourist camp there.
Step 3. Research the options that combine flight and cruise
Another option is a flight and cruise package, which cuts down on the time you have to spend on a boat (avoiding the Drake Passage, which is notoriously difficult to traverse) but at the same time allows you to see the scenery and wildlife up close. You can fly to King George Island and then get on board a boat that will take you around the area.
- This might be a good option if you want to see the ice and wildlife up close but don't want to spend as much time traveling on top of a cruise ship, although it won't be cheap at all.
- Don't expect to pay less than $ 10,000 to $ 14,000 for a two-week trip.
Step 4. Remember that bad weather can ruin your plans
Keep in mind that flights are subject to cancellation due to bad weather conditions or problems that may affect safety. This happens with any flight, but the extreme conditions of the southernmost part of the world make this happen more frequently. The best method of evaluating flight options is to read tourist guides written specifically for Antarctica or visit specialized websites, as the details change from year to year depending on availability and people's interest.
Method 3 of 3: Plan your trip
Step 1. Select the right time for your visit
The tourism season to Antarctica lasts approximately five months, mainly during the summer time in the southern hemisphere (from November to March). The rest of the months of the year are extremely cold, dark and the ice banks freeze blocking much of the way. Keep in mind that although there will be fewer people during the last days of the season, by that time most of the fauna will have already left and returned to the sea. During those months, some of the things that are likely to happen are:
- During November, the ice banks begin to break up and it is mating season for penguins and other birds.
- During December and January, the penguins' eggs hatch and the parents feed and nurture their young in the breeding grounds.
- During February and March, the baby penguins begin to develop their feathers, the adults change their plumage, and the whales are easy to spot.
Step 2. Prepare to spend a large amount of money
This is a travel destination where a small budget is not an option, unless you are hired to work hard. At a minimum, you will have to face an expense of at least US $ 5000 and that is only to cover basic needs and you will not access precisely the best seats and opportunities.
- It is possible to get last minute deals at a good price with cruises in places like Ushuaia, Argentina. You need to be in town, have the flexibility and availability to leave immediately. This is a risky option, but if it works you could save a lot of money.
- If you don't want to visit Antarctica as a tourist, consider other options, like joining a government expedition to Antarctica. To do this, you will likely need adequate technical, scientific or medical skills, or other skills that may be useful such as cooking for large groups of people. For them to take you into account, it is also necessary to have a good training if you want to work for the government.
- Another possibility is to travel as a guest as part of the work team. Sometimes some people are asked to go to work as journalists, photographers, artists, etc. In this case, those who make the invitation or the same people who travel, are those who cover the expenses of the trip. Again, this will depend on the skills you have.
Step 3. Understand some health and safety issues
The Antarctic environment is dangerous for humans. The weather can get worse quickly and it is always cold, even during the summer (maximum summer temperatures along the coast generally vary between 5 ° C and 13 ° C). There are dangers such as cracks in ice fields and glaciers and the risk of fire is very high in very dry environments, so if you are going to handle any flammable product you must do it carefully.
- Read about the necessary equipment and clothing. You are definitely going to need completely waterproof clothing! Most likely, the cruise ship has your missing items to rent, but they may not fit your measurements.
- There are no vaccination requirements to go to Antarctica. However, it is better that you are in good physical condition and health, because medical treatment will be basic and difficult to provide to all passengers. You should ask your doctor to specify in detail through a letter all the diseases you have, especially if you need to carry some type of medication.
Step 4. Respect the fragility of the Antarctic environment
The Antarctic environment is fragile and outside of expeditions, bases, and some tourists, there are almost no human-made changes. Wildlife is not afraid of humans because there has never been a long-term negative interaction. It is important to respect the native nature of Antarctica and ensure that tourism does not have a negative impact. There are visitor guidelines that have been adopted under the Antarctic Treaty that regulate visitor actions in Antarctica and are worth reading as part of travel preparation. Some of the essential aspects that you should take into account are:
- Don't get too close to animals and don't do anything that could disturb wildlife.
- Do not throw trash.
- Do not commit acts of vandalism: all the sculptures built by humans have historical value and many of the shelters are part of the world heritage site. Don't draw anything on rocks or other geological formations.
- Take photos and nothing else. Leave the eggs, shells, plants, rocks, fossils, dirt, etc. where are they.
Step 5. Enjoy the ride of a lifetime
This is one of those trips that those who do it never forget or stop talking about it. If you love nature in its original state, extraordinary views, opportunities to observe incredible wildlife, and don't mind the cold, this may be the perfect trip that will create an unforgettable memory for a lifetime.
- Prepare enough clothes that are suitable for the weather conditions, it does not matter if you go in the middle of July or January, remember: in Antarctica it is very cold.
- Reputable tour guides subscribe to the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty. Before leaving, review the content of this treatise and the accompanying guidelines.
- Make sure you have everything related to the trip, medical, health and other necessary insurance well organized before leaving. Also, talk to your doctor about any illness that could turn into an emergency. In Antarctica, doctors are few and far between.
- Because this experience can have a high financial cost, it is quite common for those who decide to do so have to save for several years. If this is something you've been saving for a long time, keep in mind that you will need to regularly review updated information, especially if you are researching now to travel later. Changes often occur in the Antarctic travel industry and you must adjust to the conditions and research needs of Antarctica.
- Find out from your federal government how to be a "good citizen" in nature. Antarctica does not have local sovereignty and your behavior will be governed by the federal laws of your country.
- Look for different excursions so that you can find the one that interests you the most and the one that best fits your budget.
- The climate of Antarctica is extreme. Prepare for intense sun, strong winds, ice, and extreme cold.
- Traveling to Antarctica can be relatively expensive, but if you can afford it it is an incredible experience.
- When you return, take absolutely everything you brought with you. Leave no trace.
- Verify that your photography equipment is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.