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  • A traveler’s guide to visiting Antarctica

    photo by Christian Stoker on Flickr

    The Earth is beautiful, but it’s not always a fun place to be in. Deserts and snowy, icy corners of the planet are not everyone’s idea of a good time, and when it comes to Antarctica, for example, few people except for scientists would be willing to spend time there.

    But as maligned as Antarctica might be, it is in fact a very interesting choice of a travel destination, and not just because visiting a continent covered in ice at the South Pole of the planet sounds cool.

    A trip to Antarctica might just convince you that even the most inhospitable spots on the planet are actually excellent places for holidaymaking. Here’s a traveler’s guide to visiting Antarctica, for those who are looking for a freezing adventure.

    Departure points and destinations

    photo by Eli Duke

    Most trips to Antarctica start at Ushuaia, in Argentina, especially if the destination is the Antarctic Peninsula. Although Ushuaia is the most common port, other South American ports could also be points of departure for some ships. Some cruise journeys start in New Zealand (Christchurch), or even in Hobart, Australia, if the Ross area is on the itinerary.

    The most common destinations in Antarctica are the Antarctic Peninsula and Ross Island. Most cruise ships stop at Anver Island (if any part of Antartica can be called touristy, then it’s Anver Island), and another popular destination for cruise ships are the South Shetland Islands: Deception Island, Desolation Island, Half Moon Island or Aitcho Islands.

    How to get there

    photo by Eli Duke on Flickr

    Unless you are a scientist working on one of the research bases on Antarctica, the only accessible way to get to the frozen continent is by boat. If you have lots of money to spend, you can book a flight from the handful of exiting operators that service Antarctica, but your trip will be spent by watching the icy planes for a couple of hours while flying over them.  There are around 20 boats of various types transporting passengers to Antarctica, most of them cruise ships and sailboats.

    Booking a place on a cruise ship is the most convenient and affordable (in a manner of speaking) way to visit Antarctica. There are quite a few cruise lines that offer trips to Antarctica and some Antarctic islands, and most of them operate in summer (the Antarctic summer, November through March).

    Larger cruise ships might be more comfortable (and often cheaper), but smaller vesels can sneak into places where the big ships don’t fit, so you get to see more places. Most cruises include a couple of on-shore excursions: you get to step on Antarctic ice, chase after some penguins (some of them are quite friendly), and be dazzled by the surreal landscape.

    photo by Eli Duke on Flickr

    Sailboats are another option of visiting Antarctica, but the trip is longer and more taxing. Usually these trips are expedition-style, which is a lot of fun if you’ve ever fancied becoming an explorer, but not so much if you just wanted to see some amazing landscapes. The trips can take up to a months and a half, and passengers are usually expected to help out on the boat, even if they have no sailing experience.


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