A breathtaking land of shimmering ice
Head south – hundreds of miles off the tip of South America – and you will reach the bewitching icy and rocky landscapes of the great white continent. Antarctica has long been the destination of dreams for many an intrepid traveller and stepping foot on the 7th continent is at the top of most must-do lists. And now with luxury cruises, as well as the traditional expedition ships, visiting these far off shores – once frequented by only the most courageous explorers – is more accessible than ever.
- This is the ultimate frontier for travellers and nature at its most unspoilt. It may even the chance to say you have visited every continent
- The great number of wildlife species in these seemingly inhospitable waters including myriad whale and penguin species
- Traditional polar expedition cruises, particularly our featured fly and sail packages, offer intimate Antarctic experiences
- Cruises departing from Argentina or Chile lasting three weeks or more are the ideal way to see the white continent in style
- Antarctica is home to a number of research stations run by governments around the world which may be lucky to visit during a cruise
Best time to visit Antarctica
• It is only possible to visit Antarctica on a cruise between November and early March
• In November you may see less wildlife, however the Antarctic ice is at its most pristine after the long Southern Hemisphere winter months
• Penguin chicks begin to hatch in December and the colonies are at their largest in February
• February to March is the best time to see whales and seals.
Antarctica holiday highlights
The best way to experience the coast of the Great White Continent is undoubtedly from the water. Sailing past a towering ice burg or cutting through surface ice as you make your way to your next landing spot is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. A handful of our featured cruise lines offer you the opportunity to visit Antarctica, the choice of course is based on personal tastes. If you wish to travel with all the comforts you would expect from a ultra-luxe cruise line – think free-flowing Champagne and butler service – there's Seabourn and Silversea Expeditions, both featuring 20 plus-night itineraries between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso in Chile. Antarctica XXI on the other hand offers a more adventurous yet comfortable experience on board the purpose-built expedition ship MV Ocean Nova.
One of the major appeals of an Antarctic cruise is the wildlife that you may encounter. Of the 17 varieties of penguin worldwide only 4 like to live and breed in the chilly waters of the Antarctic including Emperor penguins. During the summer large pods of minke and humpback whales feed in the nutrient-rich waters, joining the elephant, fur and leopard seals. The final draw are the huge number of seabirds that fly south during the summer – albatrosses, turns, shags and petrels amongst others.
In order to make the most out of the experience and enjoy your holiday to the full there are a few considerations to take into account. When taking part in shore excursions throughout the tour you will be transported on small zodiac boats to get to those otherwise inaccessible places. It must be noted that launches and landings can sometimes be a bit tricky, therefore a good level of physical health is needed. You should also be prepared for slightly rough seas as the weather, especially the wind, in Antarctica can be somewhat unpredictable; what can be predicted however is that it will be cold and you should pack accordingly.