Sunny day in Antarctica, zodiac tour among small icebergs
Expressive penguin with small ship cruise in background in Antarctic

Antarctica & the Arctic - Best Tours & Trips 2019

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. An ideal way to explore both is by expedition-style cruise vessels.
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Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Tour Styles

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 0 $ 10,000+

Price Per Day

Trip Length

Countries

Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

Travel Theme

Travelers Age

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Activities

Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Top Antarctica & the Arctic Experiences and Attractions

Antarctica & the Arctic Trip Reviews

194 Antarctica & the Arctic Tour Reviews - Summary 99% Recommend

4.8 out of 5
Excellent 159
Great 32
Average 2
Disappointing 0
Terrible 1
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.8
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.8

Tour Reviews Write a Review

Excellent

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

The best in the business!

Read more
Operator AdventureSmith

TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!

5.0
Zegrahms Expeditions Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Sunday, 22 July... SVALBARD, Norway. Halfway between the top of continental Norway & the North Pole!

We disembarked & are now back to civilization! WOW!
What a FANTASTIC adventure on the ship Ocean Adventurer!

Once again, Zegrahm delivered! Cruise Director & Expedition Leader executed an unforgettable adventure! SUPERB lectures on ship & field trips from the guest experts in their fields... history of polar explorations... geology... birds... polar bears & other animals!

We saw several polar bears, groups of walrus, one very photogenic seal, reindeer, Arctic fox, a BLUE WHALE (largest of ALL whales!)... & a gazillion birds!

Our small ship was indeed able to circumnavigate the Svalbard (Spitsbergen) archipelago... 3 cheers to our Russian captain! The staff on board were FANTASTIC! And the best food I've had on any ship!

Mostly great weather... quite fortunate! Out on the Zodiacs (rubber rafts), I wore almost everything in my suitcase, in layers all at once, hoping to stay warm & dry... followed by VERY LONG hot showers once back on the ship, while I thawed out!

If you have an interest in polar adventure, TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!

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Operator Zegrahms Expeditions

Looking fwd for more camps...

5.0
Trailblazer tours India Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

My daughter had gone to bhandardara near nasik with the trailblazer team...she had a very nice time..and it was first time I had send her ...so looking fwd for more camps...

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Operator Trailblazer tours India

A wonderful country to visit. The programme Tribes put together fitted our wishes exactly and worked perfectly.

5.0
Tribes Travel Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

The people were lovely; ziplining for the first time, when in ones' late 60s! the wildlife; the beauty and tranquility of the North Pacific coastline.

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Operator Tribes

5 star hotel on water run by a 5 star team

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

5 star hotel on water run by a 5 star team

Read more
Operator G Adventures

SPITSBERGEN EXPLORER

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Fantastic experience of the wild.True wilderness.Helpfull guides and crew members allowed us to explore the Svalbard coast from a n exploration ship-The Plancius.
First sighting of a polar bear close up on the pack ice at 81Degrees 40' north.

Very good.Experienced ,clear and keen to make every effort to show us the wilderness.

Take plenty of warm outdoor cloathes including 2 pairs of waterproof trousers.

Exceptional.Try to stay at The Radisson in Longyearbyr rather than any of the poorer accomodations prior to boarding the ship.

Read more
Operator Exodus Travels

Antarctica & the Arctic Tours and Travel Guide

Antarctica & the Arctic Attractions & Landmarks Guide

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

 

Top Antarctica & the Arctic Travel Companies

All Antarctica & the Arctic tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.8 for all Antarctica & the Arctic trips.

387 trips from 88 tour companies with 194 reviews

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