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Top Trip Memories

  • Taking a small ship expedition style cruise in Antarctica and Arctic waters to view snow-covered mountains, fjords, glaciers, and iceburgs.
  • Setting foot on Antarctica, the world’s most remote continent, something only a tiny percentage of people worldwide can claim.
  • Watching, mesmerized, while chinstrap and Gentoo penguin chicks chase after adult penguins.
  • Spotting the many varied types of wildlife and birds that inhabit these continents such as whales, dolphins, elephant seals, fur seals, musk ox, albatrosses, polar bears, walruses and polar bears.
  • Viewing the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) as they illuminate the sky with swirling streaks of green, red, and other vibrant colors. 
  • Driving your own sled dog team in Alaska, Greenalnd, Northern Scandinavia, and other polar regions.
  • Spending time with the locals of Ittoqqortoomit, a small village in northeastern Greenland, gaining insights into their culture and day-to-day lives.
  • Sailing through the magnificent Graveyard Iceberg.
  • Sleeping overnight in an igloo or ice hotel.
  • Visiting a reindeer farm and enjoying a ride on reindeer-pulled sleighs.
  • Scouting for Humpback and Minke Whales.
  • Taking a brief dip in the chilly polar waters and earning a certificate from your ship's crew, honoring your feat.
  • Standing on your ship's deck after dark, basking in the solitude of two of the world's last wildernesses.
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Tour Tips

  • In most cases, the best way to explore the polar regions is by small, expedition-style cruise ships.
  • While any trip to the polar regions is adventurous by nature, you don't have to rough it. Some ships come with five-star amenities, while some land-tour operators offer luxury tent camping. 
  • While there are few, if any, "cheap" trips to the polar regions - especially Antarctica - look for value adds such as included airfare, helicopter flights into the interior, and gratuities for the crew.
  • Prices do vary considerably by length of trip, cabin, ship amenities, month of travel, and other factors.
  • Cruise ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed to make landings on Antarctica, so to set foot on the continent itself, you need to take a smaller vessel.
  • The shortest - and most popular - sea crossing to Antarctica goes from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula, via the often (but not always) tumultuous Drake's Passage.
  • The Drake's Passage crossing may take from 24 to 48 hours, and seasickness is common - though waters in Antarctica itself are generally calmer.
  • While most Antarctica tours go by ship, you can also fly in and/or out via the South Shetland Islands to shorten your trip and/or avoid Drakes Passage.
  • Polar tours can be as short as a few days or as long as three weeks or more. Figure at least 10 to 12 days to complete a typical tour by ship.
  • Some polar tours - primarily those that fly into the interior - offer adventurous options such as camping, skiing, mountaineering, and trekking.
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Antarctica & the Arctic Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.8 out of 5

99%

recommend

157 Reviews

  • Excellent 153
  • Great 32
  • Average 2
  • Disappointing 0
  • Terrible 1

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.8
  • Guide
    4.8
  • Activities
    4.8
  • Lodging
    4.8
  • Transportation
    4.8
  • Meals
    4.8

Tour Reviews

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
from start till end this trip was amazing!
Everything went smoothly, from the pre-tour info, to information at the hotel and the logistics of the domestic flights and checking in on the boat. It felt very safe, especially for a woman travelling alone.
The crew on board was excellent! I loved the way every guide had his own ‘field of expertise’ which covered everything you wanted to know (and things you didn’t know you wanted to know ;-)).
The Staff was extremely helpful, happy, smiling and overall serviceminded. It was a pleasure!
Overall the program on board made sure that you almost didn’t have an idle moment, which for me was amazing! And the logistics of getting nearly 200 passengers into zodiacs 10 at the time, went so incredible easy, they crew are really professional and know how to make your experience the best possible.
I can highly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to explore the magic of Antarctica.
Antarctica itself surprised in more ways than one – I was expecting rough weather through the Drake passage, but instead we had calm seas and smooth sailing, so we reached Antarctica half a day early, and had our first zodiac trip before sceduled! The amazing weather stayed with us for the rest of the trip, so amazing blue skies and sun every day was really a treat!
The wildlife was every were! Once we reached the continent, every time we looked out, we had penguins on almost every iceberg floating by the ship or a whale showing off in the water close by. And the landings on Antarctica itself, with seals lying around and thousands of penguins all around you, just doing what penguins do was so serene and magical. We even had an afternoon where around 50 Orcas were gathering and swimming around the boat for almost 3 hours, so we could just observe.
In the zodiacs we got to experience icebergs calving, get close up with leopard seals floating by on an iceflake, and even had some curious humpback whales, so close to the zodiac that we could almost touch them. Not to mention the beautifull icebergs and surroundings that would take your breath away for sure!

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5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
This was one of the most amazing trips we have ever done. The scenery was breathtaking. The crew and expedition team were cheerful, helpful and knowledgeable. The kayaking with penguins and whales popping up feet away was fabulous.
When a humpback whale popped up 10 feet away from our kayaks and just meandered around us for a while.

Solan was wonderful. He has the most calm, funny and inclusive way about him. His voice for the early morning wake up calls is like velvet.

Go! Sign up for the kayaking or some other adventure options. Be flexible. Take loads of camera memory cards and batteries.

This is probably the most expensive trip we have ever undertaken and we have travelled a lot. It was worth every penny. We are now looking at doing one of the Arctic adventure trips.

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5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
An amazing experience: history in the Falklands; huge penguin colonies in South Georgia and beautiful ice and whales in Antarctica. I had high expectations before the trip but they were exceeded in every area. An unforgettable experience.
Close encounters with whales; the sound of ice calving from glaciers and ice bergs popping; BBQ on deck surrounded by the beauty of Antarctica.

It's warm on the ship - take some t-shirts and cooler clothes and maybe something a little dressier for dinner on the last night.

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Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia

Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
It was the most wonderful experience and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Sheer excitement.
There was more than one inspirational moment and I couldn't choose between standing amongst thousands and thousands of penguins and/or seals, or the sheer beauty of the Antarctica's ice bergs floating by.

The expedition leader of this cruise - as well as his crew - was absolutely fantastic, knowledgeable, helpful, and I couldn't imagine having a better leader.

Just relax and enjoy and see a part of the world you have never seen before.

It was the most unique experience of all my travels. Simply unforgettable and worth every single penny. A trip of a lifetime.

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Fabulous Trip on a Great Ship

Audience with “Kings”

5.0
January 2017
Poseidon Expeditions
Recommend: Yes
I hadn't heard of Poseidon when I found the company while searching for trips to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands. However, I was reassured by reviews I found online and I am very glad that I trusted what I read. The pre-cruise administration from Natalia was efficient and helpful. The pre-cruise hotel was beautiful with great views. Our cabin was the best we have had on any of our small boat cruises. It was, however, the expedition staff and crew who made the whole trip so wonderful.

Forward planning meant that we were able to avoid storms around Falklands and South Georgia by reversing the itinerary to visit Antarctica first. This was an inspired decision as we had a calm crossing of the Drake Passage, reasonable weather at the start to excellent weather from day three. Every evening there was a recap meeting where we were fully apprised of the itinerary for the next day. Weather, winds and swell were all detailed and the decisions for the next day's landings fully explained. The captain was involved in the decisions and his extensive experience in the region helped our wonderful expedition leader, Jonathan Zaccaria, to make great decisions as to where to land. So good was the planning that we were able to make all but one landing throughout the 19 days, including every important stop planned from the wildlife point of view. This included seeing the fantastic king penguins at St Andrews Bay on South Georgia, where, only the previous week, one person we had spoken to said her cruise was unable to land anyone because of the wind and swell.

The ship's staff in every area could not do enough for us. This included our cabin man, the bar and kitchen staff, and the expedition staff, who managed the numerous zodiacs so brilliantly on the landings.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that I would recommend Poseidon to anyone on this performance and we are looking at going again on another of their cruises.
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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Antarctica & the Arctic Trips & Tour Advice

The earth's Polar Regions -- Antarctica and the Arctic -- are among the last great frontiers for adventurous travelers. While they both have cold weather and ice in common, the northern and southern extremes of the world also have big differences. Antarctica, the White Continent, is under international jurisdiction and maintains strict guidelines on the numbers of ships and passengers that can land there each year. Penguins and marine mammals are huge draws. The Arctic ranges across a number of countries and has no penguins, but it does have polar bears and more marine mammals. Travel is restricted only by the laws of the various countries and the relative scarcity of transportation.

An ideal way to explore both is by expedition-style cruise vessels. In Antarctica, only vessels carrying fewer than 500 passengers can actually land on the continent itself, and no more than 100 passengers can go ashore in one place at any given time.

In the Arctic region, more routes are opening up to cruising, such as the Northeast Passage from northern Norway to Siberia and Alaska via the Russian Arctic.

Antarctica

The world’s southernmost continent is also the highest, driest, coldest, and by far the least populated. 

Besides several species of penguins and various marine mammals, the only residents are scientists and support staff who conduct research at the 20 or so national stations, and most of those are there only during the summer months. Few remain beyond one or two year stints there.

With tourism to Antarctica really only opening up in the 1970s, and with just 30,000 or so visitors there per year, it’s safe to say that fewer than one and a half million people have ever set foot on this remote continent. If you get to go, savor your good fortune.  

The Antarctic tourist season runs from late October or early November to March or early April, the summer months when the waters off Antarctica are comparatively ice free. The earlier months bring penguin and elephant seal courtship rituals, while the later months see the birth of penguin chicks and seal pups. By March the adult penguins are mostly headed out to sea, but whale and seal sightings increase. December and January bring the most daylight hours, prime time for photographers.

Where Can You Go?

While there are a number of approved landing sites for small vessels, only a relative few are commonly visited. Port Lockroy, site of the British Antarctic Survey, is the most visited site, drawing more than 10,000 visitors per year. Passengers board Zodiacs (rubberized rafts) to go ashore, with most ships making one to three landings per day on the Antarctic Peninsula or nearby islands.

One wild card factor to consider is the weather, which can be stormy and erratic and play havoc with the itineraries the cruise lines have planned. Ice is a constantly changing variable. Special icebreaker ships are required to go deep into Antarctic waters, though some “highest ice class” expedition-style cruise ships can cut through ice as much as a meter thick. A few icebreakers challenge the often frozen Weddell Sea in search of emperor penguins. 

Flexibility and the willingness to change course at a moment’s notice – on the part of both the ship’s captain and the passengers – is key to a successful Antarctic journey.

The Arctic

The Gulf Stream and generally warmer temperatures than in Antarctica help make Arctic exploration more accessible than in its southern counterpart, offering a number of choices for experiencing life above the Arctic Circle. 

Greenland is ground zero for climate change, as its glacial ice – representing about eight percent of the world’s supply – is rapidly melting, threatening to raise ocean levels and temperatures. But much of its interior remains a wonderland of white, and icebergs still fill its bays. Fascinating towns and small settlements dot both west and east coasts, which you can visit either by small cruise ship or via land and air transportation. 

Only a tiny fraction of Iceland lies above the Arctic Circle, but this volcanic land of black lava, geothermal pools, moon-like landscapes, and neat, brightly painted houses is one of the far-north’s most visited areas. Part of Europe but lying a third of the way toward the North American continent, Iceland boasts one of the world’s most literate populations and is easily accessible by air as well as sea. 

Small ships now make the journey to Spitsbergen (Svalbard), a Norwegian island archipelago hundreds of miles north of the top of continental Europe. Spitsbergen is home to some of the farthest north settlements in the world, as well as glaciers, icebergs, and an array of wildlife including polar bears, walruses, and flocks of seabirds. In northern continental Norway and Finland, you can ride in reindeer sleds and visit the Sami, the nomadic people who drive their reindeer herds through the frozen wilderness.

Be Among the First

Transiting the Northeast Passage – from Europe to Asia via the Russian Arctic – represents a new thrill in Arctic exploration, now available by expedition-style cruise ships with high ice-class ratings. Until recently, this area was off limits due to both political and climatological reasons. The cruises visit Murmansk, the largest city north of the Arctic Circle, and continue through the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean to Russian Siberia until reaching Nome, Alaska. Expect to see polar bears, whales and seals along the way. 

Northern Canada is a far cry from the urbanity of the cities lying near the U.S. border that harbor most of this huge country’s population. The town of Churchill in northern Manitoba is the place to see polar bears and Beluga whales, while the vast, remote province of Nunavut beckons adventurous travelers to encounter Inuit villages that include the northernmost permanent settlement in the world. 

Most visitors to Alaska confine themselves to cruises along its southeast coast or inland trips to Denali National Park, but the state’s remote Aleutian Islands and far northern tundra area stretching north to Nome offer adventurous travelers an entirely different experience in the “Last Frontier.” You can go dog sledding in Arctic Alaska, fish for salmon in far northern waters, watch for bears and birds, and get around by small plane (or properly equipped vehicles along rough roads).


Related Guides

Countries: 

 Greenland, Antarctica, Arctic, Iceland, Norway & Scandinivia

Attractions:

 Drake Passage, Paradise Bay, Deception Island, Lysefjord and Many More

Top Activities: 

 Small-Ship Expedition Cruise, Snowmobiling, Dog sledding, Watching Aurora Borealis and Many More

 

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