For those of you who love nature and are willing to travel to the farthest reaches of the earth to see it, visiting Antarctica has probably been on your bucket list.
Antarctica is the hardest place on the planet to get to. But, with a rise in tourism, it has never been easier to get to Antarctica, however, it still isn’t easy to get to by normal standards.
Join me as I run through everything you need to know about how to get to Antarctica so that you can begin planning a trip of a lifetime to the “white continent.”
Yes, flying to Antarctica is possible and you have two different options to choose from, a flying-over experience and a flying-in experience.
Flying Over involves flying to Antarctica and back in a day. It is essentially a day trip to Antarctica, flying over the continent and seeing the incredible landscapes from the comfort of a plane.
You’ll have an expert who knows everything about Antarctica explaining all the wonderful things you can see from the chartered Boeing 747 window.
If you are short of time and want to see Antarctica, this is a great way of doing it. But, you won’t actually get to set foot on Antarctica and experience it up close or see the wildlife that calls Antarctica home.
Charter flights for this type of experience only depart from Australia with flights operating out of Sydney, Melbourne, and less frequently from Perth.
Flights are limited, so you will need to book way in advance and be a little flexible as weather conditions can delay trips.
In order to fly and land in Antarctica you will have to book a charter flight and they operate from Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and Australia.
The great thing about flying into Antarctica is that you will get to see the interior of Antarctica which you can not see from cruise ships.
Opportunities like spending time with the Emperor Penguin colony, hiking, skiing, ice climbing, going to the South Pole, and climbing to the peak of the Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica become a reality.
Only around 500 people a year or less actually fly into Antarctica’s interior and it certainly would be an experience of a lifetime.
Other benefits of flying in include skipping the long sail and seasickness, but it does cost a lot. Expect to pay around $30,000 for a standard fly-in expedition.
You should also note that to fly to Antarctica requires some flexibility with your dates as flights only operate in good weather windows.
Most people visit Antarctica by going on an Antarctica cruise as Antarctic Peninsula Cruises are the most affordable way of getting there and the most environmentally friendly too.
Around 90% of the cruise ships, aka expedition ships, leave from Ushuaia in Argentina, South America. You can also get on a cruise ship from other ports in South America such as Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and Punta Arenas, Chile.
If you live in Europe, Africa, South America, or North America, flying into Ushuaia via Buenos Aires is your best bet.
It takes about 3 days to cross to the Antarctic Peninsula on a cruise ship. This is, of course, weather dependent as the sea can be rough. You will have to cross the Drake Passage also, which is notorious for rough seas.
Departures may be delayed to avoid dangerous seas, so some flexibility is needed, even with larger ships.
If you live in Asia or Oceania, then you have the option to get a ship from New Zealand or Australia. The crossing from these countries takes 7 days to reach as they are considerably further away.
However, you will get to stop off at some stunning islands such as the Campbell and Auckland islands, as well as Macquarie island too which are all teaming with wildlife.
Taking a ship from Australia or New Zealand often ends up requiring a month-long expedition and is therefore more expensive than leaving from South America.
You should also note that taking a ship from Australia or New Zealand will involve rougher seas and colder weather than from South America. You also won’t get to the Antarctic peninsula and will see less wildlife.
The best and most popular way of getting to Antarctica is by doing a fly-cruise trip. It involves flying from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, right at the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, which is just a 2-hour flight.
At King George Island, you will board a ship that then cruises around the peninsula. Fly cruise trips are great as they save you around 4-6 days of sailing and you avoid crossing the rough seas of the Drake Passage.
The fly-cruise option is ideal if you get seasick and want to miss the long crossing. But, a fly-cruise expedition is more expensive than getting a ship from South America.
An Antarctica Expedition can range from 5 days to one month and cost anywhere from $6000 to $98,000 per person, depending on the type of Antarctica Expedition.
There are literally close to 100 Antarctica Expedition itineraries to choose from, the most affordable and most popular of which take you down the Antarctic peninsula and via both King George Island and the South Shetland Islands.
You have the option of visiting the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Shetland Islands on an Antarctica Cruise, but these expeditions take longer and cost more.
The most expensive Antarctic Expeditions are to the interior. If you would like to go to the South Pole and summit the Vinson Massif, expect to pay close to $100,000 per person.
There are numerous ways to get to Antarctica from the United States depending on the kind of expedition you would like to do.
To explore the interior, fly from a US hub such as LA or NYC to Punta Arenas, Chile. From Punta Arenas catch your charter flight to the interior.
For a fly-cruise option, you should also fly to Punta Arenas, Chile from one of the major US hubs and board your ship to explore the Antarctic Peninsula.
If you want to cruise the whole way via the Drake Passage, fly into Ushuaia in Argentina via Buenos Aires and board your ship from there.
The best way to get to Antarctica from Europe or the UK is via South America.
Depending on how you want to get there and your expedition, you can either fly into Punta Arenas, Chile (interior or fly-cruise expedition) or to Ushuaia, Argentina (cruise-only option).
Flights operate out of London, Madrid, Paris, and Amsterdam.
Getting to Antarctica from Canada involves exactly the same options as getting to Antarctica from the USA (see above).
Flights to Punta Arenas, Chile for Fly Cruise and Antarctica Interior Expeditions are available from Ottawa and Montreal.
Flights to Ushuaia, Argentina for a Cruise only expedition are only available from Toronto.
Antarctic cruises from Australia depart from the port of Hobart in Australia and take around one week to get there.
Antarctica trips like this generally take about a month, as it is a week to get to Antarctica, 2 weeks of exploring the continent, and one week to get home.
Flying to Antarctica directly from Australia is very rare and availability is almost zero. If you want to shorten the trip, you are best off flying to South America.
You can fly into Punta Arenas, Chile for Fly Cruise and Antarctica Interior Expeditions from Sydney or Brisbane, or to Ushuaia, Argentina for a Cruise only expedition from Sydney only.
It is actually more affordable to fly to South America for a 10-day expedition than taking the 3 or 4-week expedition cruise from Australia. Also, you will see a lot more wildlife in the Antarctic Peninsula than in the Eastern Arctic where the cruises from Australia go.
Antarctica cruises depart New Zealand from the port of Invercargill and are very similar to cruises from Australia. The total expedition takes 3 to 4 weeks and is only to East Antarctica which has huge icebergs but much less wildlife than the Antarctic Peninsula.
Flights to Antarctica directly from New Zealand are close to impossible. If the cruise option from New Zealand isn’t what you are looking for, then flying to South America is your best bet.
You can fly into Punta Arenas, Chile for Fly Cruise and Antarctica Interior Expeditions and to Ushuaia, Argentina for a Cruise only expedition from Auckland only.
There are lots of reasons to visit Antarctica and some of them will most likely be quite personal to the traveler in question.
The main reason to visit Antarctica is for an adventure of a lifetime. It truly is the least explored place on Earth. The Antarctic peninsula receives just 50,000 visitors a year and the Antarctic’s interior less than 500.
Between the stunning white landscapes, huge icebergs, giant glaciers, mountain ranges, and the waters that teem with wildlife, it is a bit of heaven on earth.
Hanging out with a King Penguin Colony, watching leopard seals and orcas hunt, as well as seeing all the other wildlife that calls Antarctica home, will be nothing short of mind-blowing.
A trip to Antarctica also involves being truly disconnected from the world and reconnecting with nature.
But, to experience all this, you have to work for it. First, you fly around the world, get on a boat, perhaps cross the infamous Drake Passage, and then live in extreme conditions to see it all.
A trip to Antarctica is life-changing and you will come home seeing the world with a new perspective. It will ignite the adventurer in you and give you a newfound respect for nature.
While in Antarctica, you are not going to sit aboard a ship all the time or relax at a research station, you are going to explore it in numerous different ways. Here are some great things to do in Antarctica.
Taking a stand-up paddle board and cruising slowly around the edges of icebergs and the peninsula is nothing short of incredible.
It is just you, the elements, and all the wildlife that happens to swim or fly past. You might encounter seals, penguins, and whales while on your paddle board.
If stand-up paddle boarding seems a bit risky, why not go for a paddle in a kayak? You will look over snow-covered mountains, see and hear glaciers, and paddle with humpback whales and orcas if you are lucky.
If you are an experienced scuba diver then going for a dive in Antarctica is possible. The waters are crystal clear and you will be able to see all the different colors blues, and icebergs from underwater, and get up close to seals, whales, and penguins.
Small boats will take you to shore where you can hike around Antarctica to see spectacular sites like red waterfalls, glaciers, and lots more.
While hiking, you will also get to hang out with penguins. They are not worried about humans at all which allows you to have close-up experiences.
There are 6 types of penguins in Antarctica, including Gentoo, Adelie, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Chinstrap, and Emperor penguins. You are pretty much guaranteed to spend some time with some of them.
The research being conducted in Antarctica is about as cutting edge as it gets and there is no better way of learning about Antarctica than visiting one.
Some are open to visitors and will give you an excellent insight into the “white continent” and the discoveries being made.
If you are going on an expedition to the Antarctic interior, you will have the opportunity to get to the South Pole and climb the highest peak in Antarctica, the Vinson Massif.
Doing one or both of these will be the physical and mental test of a lifetime, as well as an adventure that you will never forget and only a few humans have ever accomplished.
The only time you can visit Antarctica is between November and March, as in the other months the sea ice is too large and thick, and the sea conditions are intense, to say the least.
Choosing which month to see Antarctica depends on what you would like to see and your budget. The month of November is great for mating penguins and lots of different seal species. The landscapes are also to die for as the icebergs are at their biggest.
December to January sees 20 to 24 hours of daylight, so you can explore for longer in the day. Penguin chicks are out and there are lots of seals to be seen. The icebergs still offer great landscape photography.
February and March are all about whales, penguins, chicks, and seals, plus the ice has melted more so you are able to explore the southern reaches of the peninsula.
March is also the most affordable time to go too, combined with a tonne of whales, I’d say it is the best time to travel to Antarctica.
The key to being comfortable in Antarctica is staying warm, and dry, and having the ability to capture all the stunning things you are seeing. Here is a good packing list to follow:
Yes, it is legal to go to Antarctica. Anyone can travel there with a tour operator, but tour operators must hold a permit.
The cost of visiting Antarctica depends on the type of trip you do and how long it is. You should expect to spend a minimum of $8,000 including flights from home for a shorter cruise package.
Prices then go up to over $100,000 per person for special expeditions to the interior including going to the South Pole and summiting the Vinson Massif.
From Punta Arenas, Chile the flight to Antarctica is just over 2 hours. But, if you want to include your flight from home, add around 24 hours to that.
Antarctica is guarded under the Antarctic Treaty as it is a unique and pristine environment that is vital to the health of the planet.
It is key to understanding our planet and is one of the only left true wildernesses without human influence left on earth.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.