A place explored by so few, Antarctica is the coolest destination on Earth, both literally and figuratively. It is remote, untouched and unusual, leaving people to often wonder, can you go to Antarctica? Then more importantly, why on earth would you even want to?
As for why, well that depends on the person and their reason for traveling in the first place. Going to Antarctica is a world’s Top 100 Travel Adventure and a bucket list trip for any world traveler. That said, our reasons to visit Antarctica are endless and are a surprise to many people. Its remoteness, epic adventures, chilling history, curious wildlife and endless opportunities for photography are just a few reasons we had Antarctica on our bucket list.
Can You Go to Antarctica?
Of course, you can travel to Antarctica! It is one of the most common questions people ask when they are thinking about visiting Antarctica. Taking a trip to Antarctica is like going to the last great wilderness which is one of the many reasons it has called out to us for years.
Truth be told, people have been traveling to Antarctica for tourism since the 1960’s. It is possible to visit the white continent from South America or New Zealand and travel is typically by ship – like we did! – although some companies are now offering charter flights.
Visit by Expedition Ship
Traveling by expedition ship is the most popular option for travelers to visit Antarctica. Expedition ships sail to Antarctica from South America or New Zealand. Most Antarctic Peninsula trips last 8 to 25 days from South America and depart from Argentina or Chile. From South America the expedition cruise ship season to Antarctica runs from November to March depending on weather and ice conditions.
We explored Antarctica with Quark Expeditions on their MV Sea Adventurer ship that departed from Ushuaia, Argentina and explored the South Shetland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula.
Quark Expeditions is the leader in polar adventures and being on their expedition to Antarctica we experienced it first-hand. From unique adventures and the experienced staff to the well-designed expedition ship. The team on the ship not only provided a good trip but went above and beyond to provide the ultimate experience in Antarctica.
Flying to Antarctica
In the 1970’s, sightseeing flights by airliners started from Australia and New Zealand and in the latest years, some companies have started to offer tourist flights to Antarctica. Now, we’re not talking about commercial flights that you can book online. We’re talking about private charters that are available by a couple of the polar providers.
Quark Expeditions offers a flight to the Antarctic Peninsula flying over the Drake Passage allowing you to experience Antarctica the fastest and most direct way. Their Antarctic Express option allows you to fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica return but the flights are highly weather dependent. Anyone with their heart set on flying to Antarctica should have a very flexible travel schedule.
Going to Antarctica – 16 Reasons Why You Should
Now that we have shown you that yes, it is possible to travel to Antarctica, it’s time to tell you why you would want to. It is a legit question and one that we are beyond excited to share with you.
The Most Remote Destination in the World
Antarctica is one of the most remote destinations in the world to travel to. To get there you have to cross the Drake Passage, the most notorious and rough seas on the planet. Upon completing that, you arrive to a large ice-covered land mass that cannot support a long-term civilian.
There is no indigenous population, besides the local penguins, and no evidence to suggest anyone has ever stepped foot there until the last few centuries. Its remoteness is just one of the many reasons to visit Antarctica. When was the last time you traveled to a location that was that remote?
It is not like most places where you can just book a flight and end up there in a few hours, at least for the normal person (Quark Expeditions recently started offering charter flights to Antarctica). No more than nearly 60,000 people will be going to Antarctica this year, in terms of tourism that’s small when Paris will have around 17.44 million visitors in one year. Due to the remoteness, only 1% of the world’s population will ever visit Antarctica.
Antarctica is the 7th Continent
To us, a trip to Antarctica was so much more than just the 7th continent but for many people visiting the Antarctic, it is a huge milestone. Marking off the seventh continent is the top reason that most people choose to visit Antarctica.
A visit to Antarctica for many travelers is the last check mark in an impressive travel resume. For young and old this is a huge travel accomplishment, that so few travelers in the world have done. Some have been waiting a lifetime to visit Antarctica and some have even traveled there because their loved ones wanted to visit and never made it.
Nothing else in this world compares to setting foot on the seventh continent. Call it a bucket list check or call it what you want, it’s one the most popular reasons to visit Antarctica.
For the Adventure
Joining an expedition that is going to Antarctica is a true adventure. Sailing from Ushuaia in South America leaves you follow the path of the classic explorers that made their way to Antarctica before you.
Crossing the Drake Passage is an adventure in itself. Some days it can be whipping like a washing machine and others it can be nice and calm. On the calm days, you will be able to view Albatross, with their more than six-foot wingspan, soaring off the stern of the ship.
Upon reaching Antarctica, there are endless adventure activities to do including kayaking, hiking, camping and the polar plunge. All while just being present in one of the most untouched destinations in the world. That’s what is so magical about a trip to Antarctica, it is a true adventure.
For the Expedition (every trip is different)
I travel to experience things, I try to let the adventures evolve and I don’t like outlined, canned adventures. This is why I absolutely love expedition travel. On an Antarctic expedition I can tell you that you’ll be traveling from point A to Antarctica and then back to point A. What happens in between, well that’s the magic of it.
Every expedition is different. Weather conditions control where you go and what you can do when you’re there. Wildlife sightings and encounters control how long you may stay and how you may view them.
The appetite for adventure is what drives an expedition ship and that’s a reason why we love them. They are all about exploring and letting the adventure evolve.
For the History
Antarctica has a rich history of explorers and countries trying to put their footprint on it. Many have failed and in doing so they have left amazing historical sites throughout Antarctica. While some are nothing more than ruins, left neglected to the harsh weather and others have been preserved for generations to see them.
Explore the whaling and research ruins of Whalers Bay on Deception Island. Discover the history of Port Lockroy that was originally used for whaling, then as a military base, followed by a research station and now a historic site with a museum. It even has a post office where tourists can mail postcards from Antarctica.
When you’re not seeing it with your own eyes, you’re listening to it through the telling’s of the expedition leaders who share the stories of the people that have traveled the same route as you.
For the Photography
It does not matter if you are a hobbyist photographer with a smartphone or a professional with a kitted out DSLR, the Antarctic presents the opportunity of a lifetime for photography. Truth be told, there’s really not a bad shot to be had while on an expedition in Antarctica.
The place is hands down a photographers dream destination. It offers unique wildlife and amazing landscapes, the seventh continent will give you a chance to take some of the best pictures you have ever taken. A way to show people about this magical destination and to remember your trip for a lifetime.
For the Wildlife
If you love wildlife, you’re going to love Antarctica. Everything is as curious about you as you are about them. On our Quark Expedition cruise to Antarctica we had endless wildlife experiences that we’ll remember for a lifetime.
Due to the abundance of krill in the icy waters, whales migrate to the end of the earth to feed. The sheer volume of whales is a spectacle you won’t see elsewhere and there’s nothing quite like witnessing humpback whales jumping out of the water next to your zodiac.
Or maybe you’re fascinated with penguins, a species that is only found in the Southern hemisphere. The largest concentration of this interesting bird is found in the most remote place on earth. You can witness them swimming, playing, hunting, breeding, nesting and fledging on an expedition.
Of course, it’s not all about the penguins and whales, you’ll also be treated to a large variety of special birds, including albatross, and several species of seal. You will have an intimate look into the lives of these animals and how they survive, it is not an experience that can be replicated anywhere else.
Another popular reason to visit Antarctica is for a scientific perspective. Antarctica is one of the most untouched locations in the world thus making it a prime destination for those studying climate change, paleontology (plants & fossils) and is also a top spot for astronomers to study the sky.
These scientific studies are not just done by the scientists. Going to Antarctica with Quark expeditions, we were offered several opportunities to help researchers with their studies with hands-on options for the guests, like identifying whales, to studying clouds for NASA.
When you take an expedition to Antarctica, you are indirectly supporting scientific research in the area. Most companies operating in Antarctica support researches by providing transportation to and from the continent and by dropping provisions when they are in the area.
Part of what makes a trip to Antarctica so great is the educational element involved. You might be wary of those long sea days to cross the Drake Passage, but never fear, the expedition staff is on hand to teach you all things Antarctica.
These are not those boring lessons that you had to sit through in school, instead these are exciting presentations by professionals who live and breathe Antarctica and work as part of the expedition staff.
They are the historians, geologists, biologists, ornithologists, naturalists, artists, musicians, doctors, and photographers that you will share your experience with. Since they are part of the expedition, they are not just on the ship but also on shore with you pointing out things and educating you while you are exploring Antarctica. This is what makes your experiences so magical. You’re going to see a lot more and you’re going to learn about what you are looking at.
For the Snow
I know what you’re thinking, why on earth would someone go to Antarctica to experience snow? There are much cheaper places travelers can go to embrace snow around the world. But it’s not the same, not even close.
There were people on our ship that had never ever experienced snow. Some old, some young and they thought, why not experience it for the first time in an epic location like Antarctica. Unfortunately for them, future snow experiences will be hindered.
Even as someone who grew up in a place where it snows, a lot, it was exciting to wake up after a long night sailing and heading outside to find all the ship decks and railings covered in a layer of snow. There really is no other adventure buildup like that.
I can’t express the feeling you get when you’re hiking on the continent, completely surrounded by penguins, and it starts to snow. Big, beautiful, pure flakes of snow from the sky.
For the Big Ice
The first time you spot an iceberg after leaving the tip of South America is a moment you remember the rest of your life. Ours came in the morning after two days of sailing and it was a massive, unreal tabular ice berg. It was our first connection to Antarctica.
Now, we’ve seen ice before, even big ice during our trip to Greenland, but seeing Antarctic ice is special. It is literally the oldest, purest ice on earth and its massive in size too.
It is the best place in the world to see every kind of ice you can imagine. Big ice, small ice, ice bergs, bergy bits, brash ice, solid ice, glacial ice and, of course, the world’s largest ice sheet.
To See it Before it’s Gone or Changes Too Much
Antarctica’s ecosystem is fragile, this is no secret. Did you know the polar environments are hypersensitive to change and are one of the first areas of our planet to show change? This leaves intrepid travelers wondering how much longer we have left to see this special place.
Let’s be honest, it will not be gone overnight but Antarctica is changing significantly. It is one of the most rapidly warming regions of the world and the changing ecosystem not only affects the ice but the entire balance of the continent and surrounding waters.
Even in a short amount of time visiting Antarctica, your eyes will open to the changes that are happening. You’ll experience a realization that we need to do something now to protect it for future generations. Going to Antarctica will transform you from a basic tourist to an ambassador for the polar regions.
For the Epic Landscapes
There is literally nowhere else on earth like Antarctica and our visit ripped down the stereotypes of what we imagined a visit would be like. Yes, there were huge jagged ice walls that meet the sea, glaciers and ice but we were treated to an array of landscapes that you just can’t predict.
We experienced amazing landscapes that looked otherworldly, including black sand beaches, steaming beaches, a massive caldera, towering volcanoes and enormous snow-covered mountains. Adding texture was a surprising array of black, gray, red, tan, gradients of blue, dustings of green and many shades of white. Not exactly what you’d expect, is it?
To Experience Real Cold
I know what you’re thinking, this is another one of those top reasons to visit Antarctica that is not going to be on my list. Let me tell you, you might not ‘think’ it’s a good reason to go to Antarctica but it is on the tip of everyone’s mind when they think of Antarctica (extreme cold).
Don’t get me wrong, its cold, but not as cold as you think. When you’re going to Antarctica it will be summer in the Southern hemisphere. As long as you’re dressed for the weather, you will not be cold. The fresh Antarctic air will definitely catch your attention as you breath but you will be surprised at how quickly you will adjust to the cold temperatures.
You will embrace the cold by enjoying the hot tub or taking the polar plunge (we did!). Embrace the Antarctic chill, it will probably be one of the best parts of your trip to Antarctica.
No Ports of Call
While we spent 6 days in Antarctica, we only saw two other ships in passing. Otherwise, it was just us and Antarctica’s pure nature. There’s literally nothing down there and I feel that’s part of the magic of Antarctica.
No scrambling at ports of call and being funneled to gift shops. No malls, no shopping and no hotels. A trip to Antarctica has none of that and many travelers love that.
I love people on expedition ships. They are unlike other travelers you will meet on your travels. The mix of people is crazy and their past adventures are amazing. From America’s adventure travel couple marking off the world’s top travel adventures to someone who grew up in a native village in the Arctic, all of our travel paths are interesting.
One thing we all have in common is the love for adventure. Expedition travelers are true adventure lovers who don’t care what they look like, what their coffee tastes like or how long it takes to get to a location. Adventure is in their DNA and it’s about the journey.
Being able to share it with people that share our passion for adventure and lust for world exploration is special. Best of all, we are the types who are not simply list checkers. We love meeting people that share our passions and it was so fun to talk about what comes after Antarctica.
Have We Convinced You?
I hope our reasons to visit Antarctica has fueled you to actually go out and explore this amazing continent. We could go on for days with endless reasons to visit Antarctica. There is truly no other trip in the world like going to Antarctica and it will not disappoint. It will be a trip of a lifetime and there will be an endless amount of experiences that will be unlike anywhere else in the world.
|Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent|
Adventure Options: Camping, Hiking, Kayaking, SUP and Cross Country Skiing
|Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake|
Adventure Options: Kayaking and SUP
- Experience the fastest, most direct way to Antarctica
- Fly over the Drake Passage
|Epic Antarctica: Crossing the Circle via Falklands and South Georgia|
Adventure Options: Camping, Hiking, Kayaking and SUP
|Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
More on Antarctica:
- Crossing the Drake Passage: What It’s Really Like
- Climate Change Awareness from Travel: How to Talk About It
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Our trip to Antarctica was in partnership with Quark Expeditions, however all opinions are 100% mine, as always.