Located at the end of the world, Antarctica is the ultimate destination for any adventure seeker. The seventh continent has remained unchanged since the British National Antarctic Expedition first discovered it in 1901. With no permanent year-round residents, wildlife prospers in this snowy desert and continue about their daily routine unperturbed by their new visitors. Beneath the surface, the Antarctic’s true diversity becomes apparent as penguins and seals are trapped in an eternal dance and whales feast in the krill-rich waters. Come ashore to this frozen wonderland by Zodiac to admire the serene icescapes and the adaptations it takes to thrive in such extreme conditions. On the outlying islands of the South Shetland Peninsula, explore international scientific research stations in the world’s largest scientific preserve dedicated for peace and science.
Reaching Antarctica is no easy task but once you set foot on the seventh continent, the entire journey will be worth it. The 500-mile crossing from Cape Horn to the South Shetland Islands — crossing the infamous Drake Passage — is the shortest distance to Antarctica from any other landmass. Known as the gateway to Antarctica, Ushuaia is the most common port of departure, located in the Argentinian Tierra del Fuego. When flying to the southernmost city in the world, most Antarctic cruises will include airfare from Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Santiago, Chile. Another common point of departure is the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, located on the Strait of Magellan. To reach Antarctica, you have two options:
- Sail the Drake Passage from Ushuaia— a roughly two-day journey — passing Cape Horn en route to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.
- Board a two-hour charter flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island, the northernmost of the South Shetland Islands, where you will embark the expedition ship.
As the only continent in the world with no permanent residents, Antarctica is governed by the international Antarctic Treaty that has been put in place to protect the fragile ecosystem. While ships carrying 500 or more passengers are allowed to sail in Antarctic waters, they are not allowed to bring their guests ashore. Smaller ships are allowed to bring a maximum of 100 passengers ashore at a time and are restricted to one ship per landing site. Once ashore, there must be a minimum of one expedition leader for every 20 passengers.
Learn more about Antarctic expeditions.