Antarctica. The 7th Continent. A land mass encased in ice at the bottom of the world. There are nature documentaries and science and history books about its remote wilderness. This might make it seem somewhat abstract and unattainable. It might even be impossible. But it’s not.
When I tell people what I do for a living—working on an expedition ship that takes passengers from all over the world to Antarctica—I often hear a similar response, “I had no idea people can actually go to Antarctica!” And I always reply with: “Yes, people go. And so can you!”
Even though Antarctica may seem impossible to reach, adventurous travelers have never had it so easy. Approximately 45,000 people worldwide traveled to Antarctica in 2016-2017, including Americans, Chinese, Australians, Germans, Canadians, the United Kingdom, France, and Indians.
It is half the battle to know, as the timeless idiom goes. Through this piece, I hope to convey both the fact that Antarctica can be visited from almost anywhere in the world, as well as how to do so.
You Can Travel to Antarctica! Here’s How
Often I hear people ask me how they can reach Antarctica after learning how accessible it is: “How do I even get there?” That answer might not immediately seem straightforward. Some of us may have heard of researchers flying on military aircraft from New Zealand or sailing for months on end from South Africa or Australia. However, getting to Antarctica is a simple process. You only need to reach Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile. Both cities have international airports and regular flights to other parts of the world.
Ushuaia, Argentina, a three-and-a-half-hour direct flight from Buenos Aires, is the most popular departure point for Antarctic voyages. Expedition vessels departing for the southern wilderness are welcomed and disembarked from the Port of Ushuaia without any difficulty throughout the summer.
Where Can I Go to Antarctica?
There is no legal restriction on visiting Antarctica as long as you do not leave the continent itself. However, it’s not all plain sailing, and some restrictions may apply. To visit Antarctica, you must have a permit from the Australian Antarctic Division. You must also be a citizen of Australia or New Zealand. What are the best months to travel to Antarctica? The best time to visit Antarctica is during the austral winter, which runs from December to February.
This is the peak season for tourists, so expect to encounter crowds and high prices. The coldest month is July, while the warmest month is February. If you’re traveling with children, it’s best to avoid the summer months. The summer weather is very hot and humid, and temperatures can reach up to 37°C (99°F). At this time of year, you’ll also need to factor in the possibility of strong winds, which could make things difficult.
How Long Does an Antarctic Expedition Last?
You can browse different types of “itineraries” or sailing plans when searching for information about your Antarctic expedition. There are no concrete itineraries per se, but they serve as guidelines for how each voyage will proceed and how long it will last. Some of these expeditions travel directly to Antarctica, with others including the spectacular sub-Antarctic regions of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). You can visit Antarctica in as little as eight days with “express” flights to the Antarctic Peninsula or spend three weeks exploring sub-Antarctic islands and the continent itself.
If you decide to travel by sea, different options are available for your voyage. The most common route is a direct crossing of the Antarctic Ocean from either the South Atlantic or Pacific Oceans to the Indian Ocean. However, others travel via the Southern Ocean or through the Drake Passage. The length of time on the water can vary greatly, depending on the type of vessel used, but a typical journey from the beginning of the Antarctic summer to the end of the Antarctic winter is about 100–150 days.