Visit Antarctica

69°30′S 65°00′W

The world's 7th and least visited continent beckons curious explorers with its raw nature, pristine icy landscapes and magnificent wildlife.

Introduction

We are often asked can you visit Antarctica? And the answer is most definitely yes! One of the easiest ways to visit Antarctica is on an expedition cruise.

Situated at the end of the Earth, Antarctica is a frozen frontier far away from human civilisation. It’s a perfect place for nature lovers to explore its awe-inspiring landscapes, otherworldly beauty and large wildlife colonies. Here you will be greeted by five penguin species unafraid of visitors, gigantic elephants and fur seals, and an array of bird life including wandering albatrosses and whales congregating in its rich waters during the summer. 

Antarctica is a place that has captivated countless explorers throughout history. It was an undiscovered land until it was first sighted in 1820. The world’s most remote continent contains many epic stories of exploration, from Captain Cook’s failed attempts to reach it in 1722 to Ernest Shackleton’s famous Endurance expedition.

Antarctica Cruises

Antarctica luxury fly cruise
Door To Door
King George Island To King George Island
Nov 19 - Nov 25 2024
6 Nights

Price from per person

£16,300
Best time to see wildlife in Antarctica with Gentoo penguin and glacier
NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
Ushuaia - Ushuaia
Jan 28 2026 - Feb 08 2026
10 Nights

Price from per person

£9,470
Exploring Antarctica by Zodiac on a luxury cruise
Door To Door
King George Island To King George Island
Nov 7 - Nov 13 2025
6 Nights

Price from per person

£16,010

Ways to Visit Antarctica

silversea endeavour luxury cruise ship in Antarctica

Antartica Cruises

Explore Antarctica on a luxury expedition cruise from South America or New Zealand with onboard naturalists and guides.
Antarctica luxury fly and cruise King George Island plane landing

Antarctica Luxury Fly and Cruise Expeditions

Fly to Antarctica from South America and join a luxury expedition cruise. Skip the sea crossing of the Drake Passage.
Fly to Antarctica

Antarctica Flights

Fly to Antarctica from South Africa or South America and discover the seldom visited interior of Antarctica and reach the South Pole.

To find out more details about all the ways of reaching Antarctica, including expeditions, please see our guide, How to Get To Antarctica.

When to Visit Antarctica

The best time to visit Antarctica is during the summer season, from late November to early March. This period offers the most favourable conditions for exploration, with milder temperatures and longer daylight hours. 

Choose November and early December for pristine landscapes with untouched snow, wildlife, and nesting penguins. Mid-December to January is when wildlife, including seals and whales, are most active and have the warmest temperatures. Choose February to Early March for cooler temperatures and the quiet time to visit the 7th continent. 

The specific best time to visit will depend on your interests. To learn more about the differences in each season, please see our guide below.

 

Best time to see wildlife in Antarctica with Gentoo penguin and glacier

Where is Antarctica?

when is the best time to visit Antarctica glaciers and sun

Antarctica is located in the southernmost part of the Earth. Unlike the Arctic in the North, a frozen ocean, Antarctica is a landmass permanently covered by ice that extends from the South Pole to the Southern Ocean that surrounds it. It is the fifth-largest continent, and unlike other continents, it has no permanent human population, with only scientific researchers and support staff temporarily residing there for research purposes.

The closest landmass to Antarctica is South America. Ushuaia is the nearest city to Antarctica, situated approximately 700 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula, and is where most expedition cruises depart.

Antarctica Wildlife

Antarctica is a pristine wilderness where wildlife thrives undisturbed by humans against the backdrop of icy landscapes and frigid waters. Antarctica is home to five penguin species, including Emperor Penguins, the largest species known for their distinctive black and white plumage (visible on specialist expeditions due to their remote colonies). Adélie Penguins, identified by the white ring around their eyes, are seen in bustling colonies during the breeding season. Gentoo Penguins with bright orange beaks are seen in large colonies and porpoising through the water.

Antarctica is home to various seal species, including Weddell Seals, often seen lying on sea ice, Leopard Seals with their ferocious-looking teeth, Crabeater Seals and Elephant Seals. Humpback, minke whales and Orcas are frequently seen feeding in the mineral-rich waters. There is also rich birdlife, including wandering albatrosses, snow leopards, and shearwaters. 

To find more about the wildlife you can encounter and the best time of year to view it, please see our guide below.

2 orcas hunting in Antarctica wildlife

Antarctica Weather and Climate

expedition cruise ship in Antarctica

Antarctica is a land of extremes where the climate is as dramatic as the landscapes. During the summer season, when you are most likely to undertake an Antarctica cruise, the temperature is relatively mild, between -2 °C and 8 °C (28°F to 46°F) near the Antarctic Peninsula. During this time, you will experience the longest days in December, with nearly continuous daylight. The wildlife is active, and it’s the main period for tourism and research expeditions.

During the winter, temperatures drop from -20 °C to -60 °C (- 4°F to -76°F). There is minimal sunlight, with some areas experiencing polar night. In short, the winter is not a time to visit with extremely harsh conditions, limited travel opportunities, and nearly complete isolation.

The weather in Antarctica can change rapidly, and during an Antarctica Cruise it is essential to dress for every occasion. We supply a detailed packing list at the time of booking.

Antarctica History

The history of Antarctica dates back to the ancient Greeks, who speculated about a southern land, although Antarctica remained undiscovered for centuries. The first confirmed sighting is attributed to the Russian expedition by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev in 1820.

During the late 19th and early 20th century, the Heroic Age of Exploration found its way to Antarctica in the race for the South Pole. In 1908, Sir Ernest Shackleton made it to within 90 miles of the South Pole but had to turn back due to lack of supplies. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen narrowly beat British explorer Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole in 1911, the latter perishing just miles from his next camp. 

A huge attraction for visitors to Antarctica is its fascinating history. Please find out more in our guide below.

Robert Falcon Scott Expedition in Antarctica

Frequently Asked Questions

Antarctica, the southernmost continent, has a unique history of discovery that unfolded over centuries. Here is a comprehensive history of the discovery of Antarctica:

Ancient Theories

The ancient Greeks speculated about a vast southern landmass to balance the continents in the north.

The notion of Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown Southern Land) appeared on maps as a theoretical continent.

Early Exploration (17th – 18th Century)

European explorers, including James Cook and James Clark Ross, voyaged to the Southern Ocean, mapping islands and regions surrounding Antarctica.

Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle and circumnavigated Antarctica’s perimeter but did not sight the continent.

Antarctic Peninsula Discovery

First Sighting (1820)

The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica is credited to a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev in January 1820.

British naval officer Edward Bransfield, part of an expedition mapping the South Shetland Islands, may have seen the Antarctic Peninsula around the same time.

The first person to step foot on the Antarctic Continent is thought to be Englishman John Davis, a sealer and captain of the American vessel Cecilia, on February 7 1821, although some historians contest this. 

Early Exploration (19th Century):

Explorers like James Clark Ross and John Biscoe contributed significantly to Antarctic exploration, discovering various islands and charting the coastline.

The Ross Ice Shelf and the Ross Sea are named after James Clark Ross.

The Heroic Age of Exploration (Early 20th Century):

Race to the South Pole:

The early 20th century saw the “Heroic Age of Exploration,” marked by intense competition to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian expedition reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911.

Scott’s Expedition:

Robert Falcon Scott’s British expedition arrived at the South Pole a month after Amundsen, on January 17, 1912.

Tragically, Scott and his team perished during their return journey.

The discovery of Antarctica is a layered history that combines ancient speculation, early exploration, and the heroic efforts of early 20th-century explorers. While its sighting is attributed to the Russian expedition in 1820, subsequent explorers played vital roles in uncovering the mysteries of this remote and inhospitable continent. Antarctica is a testament to international cooperation in scientific research and environmental conservation.

Regarding general geographical reference, Antarctica spans a wide range of latitudes and longitudes, with the Antarctic Circle marking the region’s boundary where, at some point during the year, there is at least one day with 24 hours of daylight or darkness. The Antarctic Circle is located at approximately 66.5 degrees South latitude.

At the heart of Antarctica is the geographic South Pole, and its coordinates are:

Latitude: 90 degrees South

Longitude: The concept of longitude at the South Pole becomes less meaningful as all lines of longitude converge at the pole. However, it is often around 0 degrees East/West for practical purposes.

Yes, there is land under Antarctica. Antarctica is a continent, and beneath its vast ice sheets lies a landmass with mountains, valleys, and bedrock. The Antarctic continent is not just a floating mass of ice; it is a continental landmass covered by an ice sheet, much of which is several kilometres thick.

Mountain ranges, including the Transantarctic Mountains and the Ellsworth Mountains, characterise Antarctica’s bedrock. The extensive ice cover often obscures these mountain ranges, but they significantly shape the continent’s topography.

Beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, there are also subglacial lakes, rivers, and other geological features. Some of these features have been discovered through satellite observations and ground-penetrating radar. For example, Lake Vostok is one of Antarctica’s largest subglacial lakes.

In summary, Antarctica is not just a floating ice sheet but a continental landmass with diverse geological features, including mountains, valleys, and subglacial lakes, all hidden beneath the ice cover.

Antarctica experiences frigid temperatures due to its polar location. The temperatures can vary significantly depending on the region, the season, and the time of day. Here’s a general overview:

Summer (December to February)

   – Along the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures can range from about -2 °C to 8°C (28°F to 46°F) during the warmest months.

   – Inland and at higher elevations, temperatures are typically colder, ranging from -10 °C to 30°C (14°F to 22°F).

Autumn/Fall (March to May):

   – Temperatures begin to drop as winter approaches.

   – Along the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures may range from -8 °C to 0°C (18°F to 32°F), while interior regions can experience colder temperatures.

Winter (June to August):

   – Winter is the coldest season, and temperatures can plummet below freezing.

   – Along the Antarctic Peninsula, winter temperatures may range from -20 °C to -40 °C (- 4°F to – 40°F), and interior regions can experience even colder temperatures.

Spring (September to November):

   – Temperatures gradually rise as daylight increases.

   – Along the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures may range from -10 °C to -2 °C (14°F to 28°F), while interior regions remain cold.

It’s important to note that these are general temperature ranges, and specific conditions can vary. The interior of Antarctica, away from the milder coastal areas, is among the coldest places on Earth, with temperatures occasionally dropping below -80°C (-112°F) during the winter months. Factors such as wind chill and altitude can further influence the perceived coldness.

Yes, it is possible to visit Antarctica, but it’s not a destination you can simply travel to independently like many other places. Antarctica is a unique and delicate environment, and access is strictly regulated to minimise its impact on the ecosystem. Here are some ways to visit Antarctica:

Expedition Cruises:

   – Most visits to Antarctica are organised through expedition cruises. These cruises typically depart from Ushuaia in Argentina, Punta Arenas in Chile, or other locations in the southern hemisphere including New Zealand.

   – Expedition cruises often include shore landings by Zodiac at various points on the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands.

For more information please see our Antarctica cruises.

Fly To Antarctica:

It is possible to fly to Antarctica and join an expedition cruise that saves you a 2 day sea crossing of the Drake Passage. It is ideal for those short on time or who wuld rather not experience the turbulent Southern Ocean. Please see our Antarctica Fly and Cruise expeditions for more information.

It is possible to fly to Antarctica and visit the South Pole on a specialist expedition. Please ss our South Pole Expeditions for more information.

The nearest country to Antarctica is Chile. The southern tip of Chile, specifically the region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, is the closest landmass to the Antarctic Peninsula. In this region, Punta Arenas is often used as a gateway for Antarctic expeditions.

Punta Arenas is a major port city in Chile and a logistical hub for transportation to and from Antarctica. There are flights from Punta Arenas to King George Island, located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Additionally, some expeditions to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia in Argentina, near the continent’s southern tip.

While Chile and Argentina are the closest countries to Antarctica, it’s important to note that the Antarctic Treaty System governs Antarctica, and there are no permanent populations or countries with territorial claims on the continent. Access to Antarctica is regulated by international agreements to preserve its unique environment and scientific value.

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