One of the most frequently asked questions is where to go on your adventure expedition cruise to Antarctica. I focus here on cruises leaving from southern South America as these will get you to the Antarctic Peninsula, the most wildlife rich part of the Antarctic continent.
Download our Ultimate Antarctica Guide Three routes
There are three routes ships follow from South America. The shortest cruises are 6 days in length and fly from Punta Arenas to the Antarctic Peninsula and back.
If you are cruising all the way you have a choice of 2 sets of routes.
Penguins in Antarctica - photo by David Sinclair
There are cruises that last between 10 and 14 days) which sail via the Shetland Islands or even directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. Longer cruises (18-25 days ) take in the Falklands and South Georgia (and some even more remote islands), as well as the Antarctic Peninsula. Especially South Georgia is a destination which will add tremendously to your entire experience - imagine 50,000 pairs of penguins in one colony!
The Long Antarctica Expedition Cruise via the Falklands & South Georgia The Falkland Islands are home to myriad of seabirds and migratory birds like the black-browed albatross. Bustling rookeries of rock hopper and other penguins abound. Special to the Falkland experience is getting a sense of what it is like to live in a remote corner of the earth. Crossing open ocean is par for the course on an Antarctic Expedition cruise. Much of your time will be spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals and seabirds. On-board experts relate stories of some of the earliest daredevils who explored Antarctica. You will also learn about Polar conservation, photography and wildlife. Soon the first icebergs come in to view. Huge snow-covered mountains are the hallmark of South Georgia - the most rugged island in this part of the world. Marvel at the hundreds of thousands of king penguins that live here. Fur seals poke their heads above the water, skuas and giant petrels swoop in the skies, and albatross are regularly spotted. In season you may see elephant bulls put on violent fights to become master of their stretch of beach or protect their harem. Finally, explore the old whaling station at Grytviken and pay your respects at the grave of the most famous Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. See a video on South Georgia on my South Georgia trip report.
Almost a million breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins can be found on Zavadovski Island, which is part of the South Sandwich Archipelago. Active volcanoes such as Mount Asphyxia and Mount Michael form the backbone for these utterly remote islands. The South Orkney Islands are often shrouded in mist and protected by large icebergs and sea ice. You may be able to observe penguins nesting in moss beds alongside graceful snow petrels, silver-grey Antarctic fulmars. Visit the oldest human outpost in Antarctica, a remote Argentinean meteorological station. At Elephant Island you will learn more about the famous Antarctic adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton. This island was a place of refuge in 1916 for Shackleton and his crew after his ship was destroyed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea.
The Short Antarctica Expedition Cruise - to the Peninsula and back
The long and short Antarctica expedition cruises will all visit the South Shetland Islands and places mentioned below. Amazing wildlife sightings await you at the South Shetland Islands just off the Antarctic Peninsula. Gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie penguins abound here, as do several species of seal. You might even see humpback whales dining on krill off King George Island.
(Most fly-in options will join here and visit points below) The fantastic collapsed caldera of Deception Island is a perfect place to discover natural and exploration history. Engage in walks on the beach, explore the abandoned whaling station, or take a spectacular hike to the crater rim. Or simply relax and enjoy a bath in the hot springs where warm water bubbles up through the black sand on the beach. The most common reaction to arriving at the Antarctic Peninsula is a sense of reverence and awe. The experience is hard to put into words, as few places are as untouched and enduring as Antarctica. One moment you’ll be overcome with a feeling of complete isolation and silence, while the next moment you’ll be inspired by nature as a calving glacier crashes into the brilliant blue sea or a penguin comes waddling by to inspect your footwear. Explore the waterways surrounding the peninsula by Zodiac (inflatable boat) and marvel up close at nature's glory. Spectacular waterways such as the Lemaire Channel will leave you yearning for more. On landing sites you will observe crab-eater, Weddell, elephant and fur seals, skuas and other seabirds as well as an abundance of penguins. Representing the latter are large colonies of the comical Adelie penguin and breeding colonies of chinstrap penguins. You may see humpback whale dining on krill or spot orcas and Minke whales as you cruise along.
Activities on your Antarctica Expedition Cruise
There are plenty of activities possible on our Antarctic expedition cruises. A walk ashore on the Continent will evoke emotions you carry with you for the rest of your life. Climb a mountain to see the spectacular scenery, or explore an old abandoned whaling station. Hiking, snow shoeing, sea kayaking, and ski touring are all options on an expedition cruise in Antarctica. You may even wish to camp on shore overnight. Whatever your vantage point, whether it is on-board or onshore expect to feel transformed as you experience twilight at the very bottom of the planet.
Specialist Antarctica Expedition Cruises
Emperor penguins are seen at Snow Hill and in the Ross Sea and are normally visited by helicopter trips from the ship on specialist cruises. You will see ice bergs everywhere, but the Weddell and Ross Seas have some spectacular tabular ice bergs. The latter is where you will also see explorer's huts, the famous dry valleys and Mt. Erebus. No matter what, your life will be changed by this experience. And when you finally land back at South America's tip, all you will want to do is turn around and get back on board the next ship; to take another journey on an expedition vessel to Antarctica, and experience the world as it is meant to be.