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Travel bucket list idea:

Cruise to Antarctica

  • Antarctica, Argentina

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 06 February, 2024

To many, Antarctica is the ultimate cruise prize, for the wildlife, the incredible scenery and the sheer remoteness. You’ll be surrounded by mountains, some of them 8,000 feet high, their peaks and ridges softened by snow.

On fine days, the sky is an unfiltered cobalt blue. Vast, blue-white icebergs in dramatic shapes are strewn across the freezing sea. Penguins bustle about their business, seals bask on the rocks and whales feed in plankton-rich waters.

Stepping ashore is an incredible feeling, as is kayaking slowly through the ice. Some companies allow camping on the ice and even skiing, while others offer underwater drones and even tethered hot air balloons.

More immersive itineraries also visit South Georgia to see the enormous colonies of king penguins and follow in the footsteps of Shackleton, while others visit the Falklands, for its concentration of wildlife and military history.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 10 days

Getting there & doing it

There are numerous ways to visit Antarctica by ship; small is arguably better. A ship carrying up to 500 passengers can make landings for hiking, kayaking and even camping on the ice, but only 100 passengers are allowed ashore at a time. Ships carrying more than 500 can only offer scenic cruising, so you won’t step ashore. These cost less but many would argue the experience is diminished.

Expedition cruises depart from Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile, from where it’s a two-day crossing of the sometimes wild Drake Passage before you spot the first icebergs. Many operators offer packages from Buenos Aires and Santiago respectively, including hotel stays and domestic flights – or you can make your own way to the port. Some offer fly-cruising to avoid the Drake, but there’s always the risk of weather-related cancellations.

Itineraries visit points around the Antarctic Peninsula, locations are dictated by ice conditions. Many also include South Georgia, for the penguin colonies, and sometimes, the Falklands.

When to do it

Antarctica’s season runs from November to March, with the longest days in December. Travel early and the snow and ice are sparkling and pristine. Go later and penguin chicks will be hatching, and marine mammals abundant.

Who to go with: tour operators

4

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Aurora Expeditions [Antarctica]

  • Sydney, New South Wales, Argentina

Offer intimate expeditions varying in length from 10 to 26 days in remote destinations around the world. For science & nature lovers, with expedition specialists on board. For Antarctica, they operate two brand new ships, with a focus on active and sporty expeditions in an informal environment.

Hurtigruten [Antarctica]

  • Argentina

Well-regarded and reliable Norwegian operator of the traditional Norwegian coastal voyage, plus expedition cruises. They have extensive experience in polar sailing and all its ships offer a Citizen Science programme and have a working science lab.

Ponant [Antarctica]

  • Argentina

Operates luxurious, state-of-the-art expedition ships exploring some of the remotest corners of the world, including Antarctica. All-inclusive comfort, with top-notch expedition leaders. Their technologically advanced ships run on hybrid power and are able to sail deep into Antarctica.

Silversea Cruises [Antarctica]

  • Monaco, Cote d'Azur, Argentina

The most luxurious small ships at sea, between 50-300 rooms, and all-inclusive onboard. Silversea offers a high degree of luxury in Antarctica and has some of the best expedition leaders in the business, trained in its own academy.