Antarctica is the fifth largest continent in the world, situated at the southernmost point of the Earth. It is a unique and pristine wilderness with no permanent human habitation, making it one of the most isolated and untouched places on the planet. The continent's landscape is dominated by ice and snow, with vast glaciers and ice shelves covering over 98% of the land. Visitors to Antarctica can expect to see stunning scenery of icebergs, mountains, and wildlife, including penguins, seals, and whales.
Travel to Antarctica requires careful planning and preparation due to the extreme weather conditions and limited infrastructure. However, for those who are willing to make the journey, Antarctica promises a once-in-a-lifetime experience unlike any other place on Earth.
The best time to visit Antarctica is November and should include South Georgia and the Falklands (people usually end up coming back and doing that, when they find out what they missed). November is peak of the breeding season for penguins and elephant seals. It’s in this season you get to see the spectacular colonies and have those ‘BBC’ moments.
Getting to Antarctica is not as simple as traveling to most other destinations. The most common way to get to Antarctica is by ship from South America. The majority of tours depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, and sail through the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. The voyage can take between two days to a week, depending on the weather and the ship's speed.
For those who prefer a faster journey, some tour operators offer fly-cruise expeditions. These involve a flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island, followed by a shorter cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula.
It's worth noting that travel to Antarctica is heavily regulated to protect the continent's fragile environment. Visitors must follow strict guidelines to ensure they leave no trace and do not disturb the wildlife. Additionally, tourists need to obtain permits and undergo medical examinations before embarking on their journey.
Ideally you choose a vessel with more than about 100 guests. Landing in parts of Antarctica can’t be done with more than 100 people at a time. Most vessels are 200 passenger which means time-sharing. If you want a visit to the Antarctic to be about being on land and seeing nature, smaller vessels are a better option.
The tourist season in Antarctica runs from November to March, which coincides with the southern hemisphere's summer months. During this time, the sun is above the horizon for almost 24 hours a day, providing visitors with plenty of daylight hours to explore the continent's stunning landscape.
In November and early December, the sea ice around the Antarctic Peninsula begins to break up, allowing access to more remote areas. This is also the time when many penguin colonies begin breeding, providing visitors with the opportunity to see chicks hatching.
From mid-December to January, the weather is generally at its warmest, with temperatures ranging from 0°C to 5°C (32°F to 41°F) along the Antarctic Peninsula. This is also the busiest time of the season, with the most tour operators and visitors on the continent.
February and March are the best months to see whales, as they migrate to Antarctica to feed during the summer months. The sea ice also begins to reform during this time, providing visitors with the opportunity to see the continent at its most pristine.
It's worth noting that the weather in Antarctica can be unpredictable and can change rapidly, even during the summer months.
During the summer months, temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula can reach up to 5°C (41°F), but the interior of the continent remains much colder, with temperatures averaging around -20°C (-4°F). In contrast, during the winter months, temperatures can drop as low as -80°C (-112°F) in some areas.
Antarctica is also known for its strong winds, which can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph) in some areas, and its dry climate, with an average annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches), mostly in the form of snow