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Top Trip Memories

  • Stepping out of your Zodiac and setting foot on the world’s most remote continent, something only a tiny percentage of people worldwide can claim.
  • Watching mesmerized while chinstrap or Gentoo penguin chicks chase after their parents (or any adult penguin), begging for food.
  • Spotting a humpback or minke whale breaching a few hundred yards from the deck of your ship.
  • Marveling at the aggressive tactics of elephant seals and fur seals during mating season on South Georgia Island.
  • Kayaking through near-frozen waters, making sure to steer clear of passing icebergs.
  • Visiting one of the Antarctic research bases staffed by scientists from around the world.
  • Training your lens on an albatross as it soars overhead while en route to Antarctica.
  • Trekking, skiing or just going for a walk across a vast white landscape.
  • Standing on your ship’s deck after dark, basking in the solitude of the world’s last wilderness.
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Tour Tips

  • The shortest (and most popular) sea crossing to Antarctica goes from Ushaia, 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 calm.
  • Some Antarctica tours leave from AustraliaNew Zealand or South Africa and visit the Ross Sea area, on the other side of the continent from the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • 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 Drake’s Passage.
  • Antarctica 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 Antarctica tours – primarily those that fly into the interior -- offer adventurous options such as camping, skiing, mountaineering, and trekking.
  • Other adventurous options include visits to emperor penguin colonies and the geographic South Pole. Kayaking and SCUBA diving may be available along the coasts.
  • While any trip to Antarctica is an adventurous trip, you don’t have to rough it. Some ships come with five-star amenities, while some land-tour operators offer luxury tent camping.
  • Cruise ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed to make landings, so to set foot on Antarctica itself, you need to take a smaller vessel.
  • Generally speaking, the smaller your ship’s passenger load, the less time you’ll have to wait to go ashore, because ships are limited to landing 100 passengers at a time.
  • Some tours offer visits to the scientific research stations that are run by a number of different countries, including the United States and Great Britain.
  • There are no “cheap” trips to Antarctica, but look for value such as included airfare, helicopter flights into the interior, and gratuities for the crew.
  • Prices vary considerably by length of trip, cabin, ship amenities, month of travel and other factors.
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Antarctica Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.8 out of 5

98%

recommend

50 Reviews

  • Excellent 41
  • Great 7
  • Average 1
  • Disappointing 1
  • Terrible 0

Rating Details

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

Tour Reviews

5.0
August 2016
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Right from the start the expedition staff called this the Epic Antarctica voyage and it was. The South Atlantic crossing to the Falklands was supposed to be calm - well almost! But it was so totally worth it. I wimped out of the first surf landing as conditions were described as 'borderline' but the second was unbelievable. There was a pod of up to 100 Commerson's dolphins and every zodiac, all afternoon, had an escort. From there on, every landing was like being in a wildlife and/or history documentary. The ship (MV Sea Adventurer) wasn't new and she wasn't conventionally pretty but she had a slightly rakish profile. She was also sturdy and dependable. Even in bad weather (and the deck officers were very good about keeping us bow into the weather) the movement was fine - noisy sometimes but generally fine. There was plenty of outdoor deck space for wildlife watching and the captain was very good about opening up the bow decks if there was anything interesting to be seen. In 3 weeks we only had one aborted landing. There were a couple of major technical failures but they were quickly sorted. The hotel staff were brilliant. They work long hours with no rest days for months at a time and they always have a smile and time for a chat (the ship was definitely Anglophone and they all spoke very good English). The food was outrageous - so much and so much variety. I still have no idea how after 3 weeks at sea in such a remote area they were still producing fresh fruit and salads every day, three times a day. We didn't have much contact with the sailors but they were always there to get us on and off the zodiacs with minimum fuss and bother, and sometimes they lent a hand ashore too.
I don't know if inspiring is the right word but there are obviously abiding memories - just being in the Southern Ocean was amazing in itself; watching albatrosses and giant petrels swooping in the ship's wake; the zodiac cruises were truly unbelievable, being in a little rubber boat so close to glaciers, icebergs, whales, penguins, seals and big sea birds; walking among penguins in their huge colonies, especially on South Georgia and Saunders Island in the Falklands (I had a cold at the start and missed out on the smell which is quite pungent!); the seals were sometimes cute and sometimes less so - they could really be very aggressive (I was sure I would be bitten at one point). Then there were the shore landings at Stanley and Grytvikin where we could get to chat to real people and we drank a toast to Shackleton at his monument. I guess that was the most inspiring moment. Deception Island is something else altogether - an active volcanic caldera in the Antarctic.

First the ship's captain deserves a mention. The first time we saw a huge (bigger then the ship) tabular iceberg he steered straight towards it and did a circumnavigation so we could get a good look close up. He and the deck officers did a magnificent job of getting us to where the most interesting sights were. Obviously the engineers did a similarly brilliant job, but less visibly. I could not criticise in any way shape or form the expedition staff on the MV Sea Adventurer. There were 12 of them plus the expedition doctor (and she fully participated on the landings). The expedition team leader gave us a wake up call every morning and it'll be some time before I forget them. Every one of the multinational expedition team was an expert in their own field. We had presentations on ornithology, marine biology, geology, history, weather, the Antarctic Treaty and probably more besides. They were skilled zodiac drivers and we trusted them absolutely. I cannot speak too highly of them. Solan, the team leader, was a laid-back Alaskan. If he said "get out there now" you knew there was something good to be seen.

If you even think you might be susceptible to sea-sickness, take something for it. The expedition doctor was kept pretty busy during the first half of the trip prescribing pills and giving injections. Her advice for the trip was: wash your hands; don't fall and don't get sick. It works. A ship is a closed environment. There was a cold virus, a bit of gastrointestinal upset going round the passengers but nothing too serious. Still, be prepared! You probably don't need as much cold weather gear as you think. The Quark parka included in the price of your trip includes a fleece lining and it's pretty heavy duty. The wellies were warm and comfortable and they certainly did keep the water out in surf landings but they didn't fit very well. The hiking is mostly up hills and the tussock grass is home to lots of seals. I gave it a miss as I have poor balance and co-ordination at the best of times (walking poles are provided if you want them). I'm also a bit of a coward around some of those seals. It could be quite claustrophobic in the lounge when the storm shutters were in place which they were for 2 days between South Georgia and South Shetlands and again for 2 days in the Drake Passage.

This was a once in a lifetime experience and I was very lucky. We had some unusually good weather and managed to land or go on zodiac cruises which most of the expedition staff either had not been to before or only rarely. I was disappointed that we were not able to go into Port Lockroy but that was just one item on a long list of things we did achieve. A proper Southern Ocean storm south of South Georgia (wind force 10 - 11 with 6 - 9 m swell - I've always wanted to experience a proper storm at sea), lots of landings on the Falklands, South Georgia, South Shetlands and the Antarctic Peninsula, crossing the Antarctic Circle and rounding Cape Horn. We saw lots of wildlife, a lot of it at very close quarters. What more could anyone want?

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5.0
August 2016
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
One of the best experiences of my life. Icebergs, whales, seals, penguins, historic huts and awe inspiring (in the true sense of that overused term) scenery.
There were inspiring moments every day: spotting the first iceberg on the horizon, whales surfacing next to the zodiacs and boat, being served hot chocolate on a zodiac in the middle of an ice choked bay, stepping inside the time capsule of a historic hut, crossing the circle. I could come up with many more.

The experts on board really contributed to the pleasure of the voyage. They gave illuminating and interesting lectures during the sea days and then worked hard to ensure that excursions were a memorable experience.

A good quality down jacket will keep you comfortable when standing on deck while wildlife watching. Also a pair of binoculars is essential. They don't have to be expensive.

This is not a cheap trip, but it never will be. It was a life changing experience as much as a holiday. Everything about Antarctica is as spectacular as it looks on TV or in books and was worth every penny. Go !

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5.0
August 2016
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
The trip delivered everything promised - and more.   The scenery and wildlife were as hoped for and the Zodiacs got us to the right places.   The programme of talks on passage days and in the evenings were excellent.   The ship (Ioffe) was better than I expected - comfortable, quiet, well maintained, and with a helpful crew.
It would be unfair to pick a single moment from so many!   Whale watching from the Zodiacs?   Sailing up the Lemaire Channel?   Observing life in a penguin rookery?  Visiting the huts of earlier explorers?   The variety of sizes, shapes, and colours of the icebergs?    Entering the harbour at Deception?

Chad was very effective at running the programme, which of necessity had to be flexible, and keeping us informed.   He was well supported by his helpers including a number of knowledgeable and approachable experts on the polar regions and their wildlife.

You will need warm clothing - obvious, but you may be sitting for three hours in a Zodiac with temperatures around freezing and in a chilling wind.   Walks ashore are less of a problem.
The waterproof clothing and boots supplied on loan on the Ioffe were of good quality, there is no need to bring your own.    Take some coloured clips to identify your boots amongst the 90 other pairs!
This is a very photogenic trip.   Takes lots of memory, particularly if you intend shooting movie clips of whales and penguins.
The Ioffe rolls very little because it has effective stabilisers but if you are prone to seasickness it would be wise take medication for the Drake Passage. 

I hesitated before booking because of the cost.   I don't regret it now - it was the right itinerary and the right size and style of ship for me.
If you are a cautious take a spare camera and maybe a portable hard drive for downloading your camera.   It would be a shame to have a camera problem and no record of the trip! 

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5.0
August 2016
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
An absolutely exhilarating experinence cruising on Akademik Sergei Vavilov whilst being surrounded by large white and deep blue icebergs, pushing through the ice trying to cross the Antarctic circle..An unforgetable experience observing and photographing colonies of penguins - those guys are so curious! They ask you to stay away at least 5 meters from the wildlife but nobody told the wildlife to respect that distance!! 
A lonely Adelie penguin stuck on a large iceberge, right on the top, trying to figure out how to get down again. Oh my! We watched that guy good half hour from our zodiac, whilst he was trying to find his way down, all of our frozen fingers were crossed for him in a hope that he'd make it down. We lost the count of how many times he run up and down, gliding, running, the poor Adelie must've been exhausted.
When our time was up, we had to leave and none of us will ever know whether he made it down to the safety and found his colony but our thoughts were with him for the duration of the trip and even so after our return home. 

Our tour leader - Jonathan Chester was very knowledgable, always taking a great regard to the safety of us all and to the environment that was surrounding us.

Yes, when you meet up wildlife, stop clicking the camera for a while. Stop, sit down and watch - things will happen.

Ensure that you visit your doctor prior to the trip and ask for the strongest anti-sickness tablets there are, because, lets face it, there is "The Drake!" to cross!!!!!!

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5.0
August 2016
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
The scenery was as breath- taking as I expected - if not more so: the animal life fantastic.  What made the journey was the informative guides, the high quality food and the friendliness of all concerned.  A fabulous trip that involved crossing the Antarctic Circle and visiting several historic sites and preserved huts of past years.
The most outstanding memory is of the orca pod feeding off a whale: Anoux's beaked whale is rare itself but watching the orca pod surrounding it, taking chunks to eat and arcing as they did so, is a something I will not forget.  But this was just one of many fantastic moments.

He, and the whole guide staff were very good.  They were all polar experts who had personal experiences to talk about and were always happy to answer questions.  I felt they dealt with the unfortunate incident of the death of the Japanese lady extremely well and should be commended for this.

Take twice as much digital card space as you think  you will need - and then more!  There is so much to film both in stills and on video.

Not really - I would sound as though I was an advert as the trip! It was such an amazing experience that I cannot do anything else to potential travellers but - GO!

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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Antarctica Cruise in 1 Week

Day 1, Punta Arenas: Start your journey in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Day 2, King George Island: Fly to King George Island (this saves you the treacherous journey through dreaded Drake Passage). Tour the Frei Chilean Base and Bellingshausen Russian Base before taking a Zodiac to embark your cruise vessel.

Day 3-6, Antarctic Peninsula: You’ll spend the next three days exploring the mysterious, harsh yet beautiful landscape of Antarctica, The White Continent. Have your camera ready for shots of penguins, albatross, and seals, as well as the incredible formations of ice, fiords, glaciers, and floating icebergs. Enter into the water in a Zodiac for up close viewings, cruise the Lemaire Channel, and visit Port Lockroy.

Day 7, King George Island: Return to King George Island for your flight back to Chile.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Classic Antarctica Fly and Cruise with Explore! - 8 Days, premium trip

Antarctic Express, Fly the Drake with Peregrine Adventures - 8 Days, value trip

Antarctica Fly and Cruise with Arctic Kingdom - 8 Days, luxury trip

Or see All Antarctica Cruises in One Week

Antarctica Cruise in 2 Weeks

Day 1, Ushuaia: Enjoy a day to explore Ushuaia, Argentina. Do some shopping, or walk around the nearby National Park. Set sail through the Beagle Channel in the evening.

Day 2-3, Drake Passage: Drake Passage can be a notoriously rough crossing. If you get sea sick, prepare accordingly with as many precautions as possible. Keep your eyes peeled for whales!

Day 4, Bransfield Strait: Make your way to the Antarctic Peninsula, passing through the Shetland Islands on the way, and stopping for your first step onto Antarctic soil.

Day 5-10, Antarctic Peninsula: Kayak among icebergs, observe penguins, and walk through stunning snowscapes. Visit the historic base at Port Lockroy and send a postcard from the only post office on Antarctica. Weather permitting you may cruise through Lemaire Channel or experience the stunning views of Paradise Bay. You may also have the chance to visit an active scientific research station.

Day 11-12, Drake Passage: Sail once again through Drake Passage

Day 13, Ushuaia: Arrive back in Argentina and end your journey.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Antarctic Circle with Explore! - 14 Days, premium trip

Journey to Antarctica with National Geographic Expeditions - 14 Days, luxury trip

Antarctic Circle Quest with Exodus - 14 Days, value trip

Or see All Antarctica Cruises in Two Weeks

Antarctica Trips & Tour Advice

Ever since Lars-Eric Lindblad built the first expedition-style cruise ship to take passengers to visit Antarctica in 1969, adventurous travelers have aspired to follow in their wake. Today about 40 vessels – mostly expedition-style vessels but some yachts as well -- make the run to the White Continent, leaving primarily from Argentina or the Falkland Islands, carrying as few as six and as many as 500 passengers.

Most of the Antarctic-bound ships, though, carry fewer than 100 passengers. Visitors go in search of the last real wilderness on earth, whose sole permanent residents are penguins, whales, seals, albatrosses and other abundant marine and bird life. Besides the stunning array of wildlife, you’ll see glaciers, snow-covered mountains, icebergs, and, on some tours, historic sites (such as early Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s huts) and perhaps one of the 20 scientific research stations that have welcomed visitors since 1969.

Antarctic Peninsula

The most common destinations on sea tours leaving from South America are the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Falkland Islands -- all havens for wildlife. (The latter two are not part of Antarctica.) The primary destination in Antarctica itself is the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts up from the rest of the mainland and is closest to South America. A few icebreakers challenge the often frozen Weddell Sea in search of emperor penguins to the peninsula’s east. And some ships make the journey from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to the Ross Sea on the other side of the continent; emperor penguin colonies are accessible from there by helicopter.

While some 100 tourist sites have seen landings in Antarctica over the years, fewer than 10 receive the bulk of the visitors. 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 mainland.

Protecting the Ecosystem

Strict standards Antarctic tour operators must follow strict environmental protection guidelines mandated by the international Antarctic Treaty as well as the voluntary guidelines of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO); all itineraries must be approved in advance so they don’t harm the wildlife or the fragile ecosystem.

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.

With so many variables in itineraries, vessels, levels of luxury, price, and trip lengths to wrestle with, it makes sense to let Stride help you sort through all the possibilities. And sooner than you may think, you can experience the same wonders that have captivated polar explorers for more than a century. 

Related Guides

Continent:             

Antarctica and the Arctic

Local Attraction:  

Port Lockroy, Drake Passage, Deception Island, Beagle Channel, Antarctic Peninsula and Many More

Top Activities:      

Wildlife Sightseeing, Expedition Cruises & Zodiac Cruises

Similar Destinations:                    

Arctic, Alaska

More Antarctica Guided Tours

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