The penguins are adorable, the seals are spectacular and the whales have that “Wow Factor” that take your breath away when they pop up beside your zodiac.
They could all easily be the stars of Antarctica but they’re not. The real star of Antarctica? Ice.
We couldn’t get enough of looking at the different hues in the ice. The amazing icebergs make you stand in wonder. Listening to ice break off of a thousand-year-old glacier from the seat of a kayak is overwhelming.
And catching seals sleeping on ice flows in the middle of the Antarctic Peninsula is astounding.
This Antarctica travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.
- There is no standard plug or voltage in Antarctica. Rather, each station or expedition ship has its own distinct power supply and outlets.
- Antarctican dollars are collector's items and are produced by the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office. Nevertheless the bills are not legal tender in Antarctica or in any other continent.
- The only way to get to Antarctica is via ship and operating tours there can be very expensive. It is sometimes possible to find last-minute bargain prices in Ushuaia (Argentina), however most tours are fully booked months in advance.
- Each ship runs its own onboard pay system differently, most of the time bills can be settled in cash, traveler's check or credit cards in either the national currency (in Ushuaia that would be the Argentine Peso) or in USD.
- No single government controls Antarctica, so visitors do not need visas to go there.
Antarctica is one of the most expensive places to visit on earth since you must go on an organized cruise or expedition.
But there are different budgets.
If you fly or travel to Ushuaia, Argentina, you can book last-minute trips and receive up to 50% off.
There is no accommodation on Antarctica, people must stay on an expedition ship.
Since there isn't a local settlement or culture on Antarctica, the food you get is what you have
Getting to Antarctica: There are a few ways to get to Antarctica. Some expeditions go through Ushuaia and some through New Zealand.
It is possible to fly direct to Antarctica
You can check for the best flights to Ushuaia Argentina on Skyscanner.
The weather in Antarctica is the coldest on the Earth, it is, after all, a high flat plateau of ice covered in snow throughout the year.
Winter is known for its freezing dry air and unforgiving winds and the summer temperature usually rests below 0°C. In short, bundle up!
- Base Layer – the base layer should be made of wool or synthetic fabrics – these fabrics offer superior moisture-wicking and temperature control protection.
- Mid Layer – combined with your base layers, these layers will keep you warm. It is recommended to pack fleece tops and fleece-lined pants.
- Outer Layer – pack top quality waterproof pants and a waterproof (not water repellent) windbreaker.
- Head, fingers and toes – don't forget to cover up with waterproof gloves, an insulated hat and tall wool socks.
- Waterproof Rubber Boots – some expeditions provide these, but if not then make sure to pack a pair! They need to be waterproof so that your feet will not get wet when you step into shallow ice water during Zodiac landings
- Waterproof, waterproof, waterproof – we can't stress this point enough. Pants, jackets, gloves and shoes should all be fully 100% waterproof to protect from rainy weather and zodiac landings.
- Sunscreen / Chapstick / Lotion – you will get dry hands, face and lips in the bright sun and dry air, so make sure the bring the basics.
See our packing tips for How to Pack for an Antarctic Cruise
When to Go
The season for Antarctica travel is from November to February.
You cannot travel to Antarctica independently and must book a cruise, flight or expedition.
We went with Quark Expeditions.
Things to Do
- Go kayaking – Polar kayaking takes place in one of the roughest and toughest environments on Earth.
- Camp on Antarctica – To sleep on the 7th continent with nothing but a bivy sack and a sleeping bag between you and the snow is one of the most adventurous things we could do at the bottom of the world.
- Cross the Drake Passage – We had our trepidations about crossing the Drake Passage. They are the roughest seas in the world and 20,000 sailors have lost their lives exploring these waters.
- Antarctica isn't a cultural experience as only scientists and expeditions live there doing research.
- But there is a museum and post office on Antarctica where you can see artifacts from the first expedition to the 7th continent.
What not to Miss
- Spot Penguins – When visiting Antarctica there is one thing you are guaranteed to see….penguins. They just may be the cuteness little animal on earth. They are the most curious creatures.
- Take a Zodiac Tour of Pleneau Bay – Pleneau Bay is an incredible display put on by Mother Nature where you will find an iceberg graveyard. Yes, there is such a thing as an iceberg graveyard and this bay is filled with some of the most extraordinary ice formations you will ever see.
- Enjoy a Perfect Day in Paradise Bay – paddle beside icebergs surrounded by glaciers on the icy blue waters of Paradise Bay in Antarctica
- Visit Deception Island – It’s an island of doom where the worst acts of human nature played out on its shores. A land of slaughter and blood situated on an active volcano waiting to erupt.
Places to Stay
You cannot stay on Antarctica, it must be through an organized expedition.
Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies.
We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.
We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.
Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It is usually the has the cheapest prices, not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation.
Air BnB: Airbnb is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs. I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world's largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Thailand you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.