Almost all visitors to Antarctica visit the Antarctic Peninsula, that stunning finger-like protrusion that points north, towards the southern tip of South America. This is the closest landfall on the Antarctic continent for expedition cruises from Ushuaia (Argentina) and the most coveted spot of all. The frigid sea canals of the Antarctic Peninsula are framed by icebergs and dotted with ice flows and bergy bits. The shores and waters brim with exceptional wildlife and, in protected coves, secure landing sites are plentiful. Whales swim the calm waters, penguins choose cosy corners to give birth and you have the unrivaled chance of seeing it all, up close. The climatic conditions make Zodiac outings safe and rewarding. Among the most mesmerizing pros of visiting the Antarctic Peninsula is that you’ll soak up that postcard-perfect scenery you’ve been dreaming for years.
The island to rival every single wildlife-watching destination on earth, the one dubbed ‘The Galapagos of the South’, South Georgia is a splendor that’ll delight animal lovers. Almost 80% of this island is covered in ice even during the warmest month so the biggest challenge you’ll have here is dividing your attention – and photographic exploits – between the majestic Antarctic landscapes and the island’s prolific wildlife.
A wonderful story of rags to riches, South Georgia was once a major fur seal and whale slaughterhouse yet has enjoyed a heart-warming regeneration in the last 70 years. Home to over 3 million fur seals, 3 million pairs of Macaroni penguins, 1 million King Penguins, 200,000 Gentoo penguins and over 10,000 Chinstrap, as well as an astonishing flurry of unique birds, South Georgia is – quite rightly – considered Antarctica’s most rewarding wildlife creche. The best part of a visit to South Georgia is that this speck of an island is actually quite tiny, further emphasizing the mind-boggling concentration of wildlife.
A stunning mountainous archipelago stretching for more than 500km of immensely nutrient-rich waters, the South Shetland Islands attract Antarctic marine wildlife in droves, with whales, penguins and seals converging to feast in summer. The islands are also of great historic value and home to international research stations, some of which you can visit. Some of the best spots to visit on the Shetlands are King George (home to most of the research stations), Livingstone (the prime nesting site for penguins and seals), Deception (with its picturesque volcanoes and warm thermal baths), and Elephant islands, where Shackleton hunkered down for an entire winter during his 1914-1916 expedition. Remnants of his ship, the rather aptly named ‘Endurance’, can still be seen today.
Check out itineraries for all expeditions to Antarctica and you’ll discover that the great majority of them make visits to the South Shetlands.
Renowned primarily for their historic value, the Falklands are that little bit of Brutishness in the Sub Antarctic region. Surprisingly bio diverse, given the human existence and relatively recent war, these still-contested islands attract four types of penguins, waved albatrosses and plenty of dolphins. Nature, history, culture and stunning scenery: there’s more than one reason to include a visit to the Falklands in your Antarctica vacation.
See which expeditions include a visit to the Falklands, with many also including stops on marvelous South Georgia.
Dreaded and revered in equal measure, the Drake Passage is that infamous body of water that joins South America to the Antarctic Peninsula. Renowned for its unpredictable conditions, it is most famous for being ‘the roughest sea on earth ‘although, to be honest, the likelihood you’ll experience eerie calm on a crossing is actually quite high. So, in the end, it’s the anticipation of crossing the Drake Passage that is, perhaps, the most coveted experience of all. Drake Shake or Drake Lake? Hitch a ride on an Antarctica expedition cruise ship and find out!
For every ‘7 most popular places to visit in Antarctica’ there are at least another dozen stellar spots to include, all bound to make your Antarctica expedition even more rewarding and unforgettable. So whether you lean towards more historic haunts or only want to fill your adventure with wildlife and startling landscapes, the options are plentiful.