Ultimate Guide To Antarctica 

Antarctica penguins and Cruise ship

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Antarctica is the fifth largest continent in the world; however, the majority of cruises and tour guides will focus on the Antarctic Peninsula (the pointy bit). This is a far safer option than venturing too far inland. 

The Peninsula is home to a whole host of different landmarks, many of which are named after hundreds of different polar explorers who tried to conquer this land before realizing that it was inhospitable, even more so in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Differences In Time Of Year

Antarctica
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

During Autumn and winter, the majority of Antarctica’s coastline is impenetrable due to the thick ice and extreme temperatures that can drop below minus 60 degrees. Yes, you read that right —minus 60 degrees! Not to mention that for the six months of winter, the continent is plunged in 24-hour darkness.

So, to summarise, the only time of year you can go without freezing to death is from November to March. This is also when you will see wildlife at its busiest and enjoy 24-hour sunlight, which leaves you all day every day to go exploring. 

One thing I would say is that the demand for cruise ships during this season is very high, and there are limited numbers of them, so if you want any chance of securing a spot, you will need to book at least 12 months in advance. For the more popular ships, such as the Fly and Cruise Ships, booking 18 months in advance wouldn’t hurt. 

October to November 

Gentoo Penguins (Pygoscelis papua) on Danko Island on the Antarctic Peninsula in Antarctica.
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

This is Antarctica’s early summer months, and for many creatures, it is the awakening of Utopia. During the micro-season, snow and ice are very prominent, and millions of penguins return for breeding season. If you are coming to Antarctica to see the wildlife, then this is the best time to come. 

December to January

Emperor Penguin and chicks
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

This is high summer, and the temperatures are at their warmest. Continuous daylight also leaves lots of time for exploring. At this time of year, you will see fluffy penguin chicks in their nests, as well as many whales and king penguins arriving to begin feeding. 

February to March

Weddell seal pups on the ice of the Antarctic
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

This is late summer, which is an amazing time to see maturing penguins and seal pups. There are also a lot of young animals around during this time, which is when the predators are at their most prominent. This is also the best time to see whale encounters of all kinds. 

Recommendations When Planning 

Antarctic glacier in the snow. Beautiful winter background. Vernadsky Research Base.
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

When planning an Antarctic trip, it is crucial to consider several key recommendations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are the key points you should consider when planning your dream Antarctic vacation.

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Get A Smaller Ship

big blue tourist ship in Antarctic waters against the backdrop of glaciers
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

When it comes to Antarctica, bigger does not necessarily mean better. Larger boats (over 100 People) will reduce sea sickness, so if you suffer from it, you may prefer one. However, a smaller boat gives you a much more personalized feeling. 

You will also get the chance to interact one-on-one with the scientists and lecturers and access shallower harbors. Another downside of a bigger boat is that only 100 passengers are allowed to step foot ashore at one time, so you will have to take it in turns. 

On Board Lecturers 

Lecture
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

When you sign up for an outdoor adventure in a wild landscape, a lecture programme may sound slightly dull. However, I assure you that the scientists share some very interesting insights about the land and creatures around you. With their help, you will be able to identify species on your own, and having a little knowledge will mean you are even more amazed by the scenery and creatures. 

New Zealand Subantarctic Islands 

Wet gentoo penguine in nest in rainy weather
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

If Antarctica is considered the forgotten continent, then I’m unsure how to describe these specks of land as they are the least explored part of it. The New Zealand Subantarctic Islands nurture strange mega herbs and are a very popular spot for sea birds to rest as they are the only land for thousands of miles. 

Slightly further south, you have Macquarie Island, which shelters huge numbers of seal and penguin colonies. If you are interested in wildlife, you will not be disappointed.

Zodiac Trips 

Inflatable boat full of tourists, watching for whales and seals, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

The beauty of Antarctica is taken in most by the lucky individuals who are able to go on a zodiac trip. This is when you go out on a tiny boat and can get up close and personal with the water, wildlife, and land. The weather and ocean will dictate your schedule for this once in a lifetime experience. It is simply thrilling!

Lemaire Channel

Cruising through the beautiful Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Cruising through the Lemaire Channel was a trip highlight for me. If you look up, you will see the glaciers, Icebergs, and cliffs. Then, if you look below, you will see the giants of the sea (Humpback whales) along with Orcas. 

The channel can get as thin as 1600m, and loose icebergs hover around, making it dangerous to take this route. However, the beauty and mirror-like waters make it a photographer’s paradise, earning it the nickname “Kodak Gap.” 

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How To Choose An Antarctic Expedition

Arrival of antarctic expedition
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Choosing an expedition can be hard as there are many different choices. So here are some important things to take into consideration before booking your trip:

Itinerary

Illustration of discovery journey road trip traveling on laptop
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Have a look through the itinerary of each trip beforehand, as different ones focus on different aspects of the South Pole. For example, some will focus more on wildlife, and others will focus more on the landscape, so it all depends on what you are most interested in seeing. 

Size and Passenger Count

big blue tourist ship in Antarctic waters against the backdrop of glaciers
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

It is very important to know that cruise ships are not allowed to make stops in Antarctica, and any boat with over 500 people on it is not allowed to make landings. So, if you want to set foot on the ice, you will need to keep this in mind. 

A polar ship with 50-200 people on it can navigate through the ice much easier and make landings in a wider variety of areas, so if possible, I would recommend going on a smaller boat. 

Accommodation

The interior of cabin at cruise ship on board new cruise ship
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Have a look at what level of accommodation you want. For example, there are more luxurious cabins and much more basic ones. Do be aware that, as in most places, the increase in comfort often correlates with an increase in price. 

Reputation

Leopard seal resting on ice floe, looking at the photographer, blue sky, with icebergs in background, cloudy day, Antarctic peninsula
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

It is very important that the captain and crew you choose to go with are experienced and competent, as although this place is beautiful, it can be dangerous with inexperienced staff. So, before you book, have a look at reviews from previous travellers to see if the company is reliable. 

Environmental Impact

Cruise Ship in front of large tabular Iceberg in Antarctica
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Antarctica is amazing, and it is our job to protect it. So, when choosing a tour company, look to make sure they follow strict environmental guidelines. All the best cruises follow guidelines, so if a company doesn’t, it could be a sign that they are untrustworthy. 

Flexibility 

Arctic and Antarctic cruise ship
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Take into consideration how much flexibility you need. For example, some people like to explore on their own without someone instructing them. So, if you are interested in a more hands-off approach, there are options for that. 

Journey To Arrive In Antarctica 

Flying into Buenos Aires
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Antarctica may be challenging to reach. However, the most common way to get there is to start in a small town in the southernmost part of Argentina called Ushuaia. This is the city that I flew out from and it was such a lovely place. 

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The easiest way to get here is to fly into Buenos Aires, the capital city, which has an international airport that takes flights from all over the world, no matter what country you live in. I flew out from London, and it was a very long flight; however, there is no quick way to get here. Then you can fly from the capital down to Ushuaia. 

What Company Did I Go With and Would I Recommend Them? 

Sea_Spirit Posiden Adventures
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

When I went on my trip, I decided to go with Poseidon Expeditions, and I couldn’t recommend them enough. Before I went, I did lots of research into them and found lots of positive reviews along with many repeat passengers, which was a very promising sign. 

There are many different options within the company; however, I decided to go to the Antarctic Peninsula—the “realm of penguins and icebergs.” This was an incredible experience that I will never forget, and although it can be pricey, it is worth every penny.

Conclusion

Antarctic landscape (land, sea and sky) sunset
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Overall, Antarctica is like no other; I recommend a trip if you have the finances. As long as you go with the right company and pick the right style of trip, you will have an amazing time. 

About The Author

Jake Convery - Guest author
Photo Credit: Jake Convery.

My name is Jake and I am a keen traveller along with running my own site (dannyconvery.com) along with my brother. I have been travelling for the past few years and one of the most memorable places I have ever gone is Antarctica. This was the trip of a lifetime and I hope everyone has as good of an experience I did. 

Co-Founders and Content Creators at | Website
Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.

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