I’m an adventurous traveler at heart, so the more I travel, the more challenging and bigger my goals get. Since I started traveling long term back in 2011, I knew that I wanted to visit all 195 UN Recognized nations around the world and set foot in all seven continents.
We are in 2021, and so far, I’ve visited 138 UN Recognized nations and six continents.
The one continent missing? Antarctica.
Antarctica has been on my list since early 2014, but I’ve always pushed it for later because of money or logistics. Last year, I had the goal of finally visiting Antarctica in the 2020/21 season, but those plans had to be put on hold again due to the pandemic.
One of the realizations I had in 2020 was how quickly everything can change and how many things you took for granted, like the freedom and possibility of going virtually anywhere whenever you wanted, could evaporate in an instant.
This realization made me reshift my focus and helped me re-prioritize my goals, plans, and life in general.
Well, in general, Antarctica will not be pushed for later anymore. It’s time for me to visit that last continent!
And you know what? Why don’t you join this adventure too?!
For this Antarctica adventure, I picked Chimu Adventures’ New Years’ trip to ring in the new year with the midnight sun in a completely remote destination!
It is an 11 days trip starting on December 29th from Ushuaia, Argentina. If you’re interested and would like to get more info, you can fill out the form on this link!
Additionally, Chimu is offering up to 25% off to my readers, so make sure you fill out that form to take advantage of that discount.
How to Plan a Trip to Antarctica
Reaching that landmass at the bottom of the globe, completely encased in ice, is an adventure that many travelers dream of.
Antarctica’s remote wilderness is featured in nature documentaries and our science and history books. It offers some of the most scenic landscapes on the planet: slim passages with steep sides, iceberg alleys, mountains and glaciers that empty into the sea, and more.
It makes Patagonia, which is incredibly impressive by itself, look like child’s play.
It looks so wild, foreign, and out of the way that many travelers think it is out of reach or perhaps impossible to get to. But it is not!
Despite its seemingly impossible remoteness, Antarctica has never been more accessible to adventurous travelers.
Antarctica is no longer limited to professional explorers like Bellingshausen, Palmer, and Bransfield, who were among the first commanders to discover the southern continental landmass back in the 19th century.
In fact, these days, over 45,000 people from all over the world visit it each season.
Now, how Can YOU Visit Antarctica?
Antarctica remains isolated from the rest of the world, with its wildlife and landscape operating the same as they have for thousands of years. But all of this beauty is accessible and waiting for you to explore it.
Although Antarctica sits more than 1,000 km from the nearest neighboring continent, making it the most remote continent on Earth, you can actually visit it and enjoy the voyage at your own preference and pace.
The main way to reach Antarctica is by taking a cruise or expedition ship from one of the many embarkation ports like Puerto Natales in Chile, Ushuaia in Argentina, Hobart in Australia, and Bluff in New Zealand.
One thing to note is that you should plan your Antarctica trip way ahead of time to get the best deals, cabins, and the opportunity to participate in other activities with limited capacities, like camping, kayaking, among others.
I recommend planning your trip a season ahead of your intended travel season. For example, if you’re thinking of traveling in the 2021/22 season, start planning your trip during the 2020/21 season.
Can you plan your trip last-minute? You can, but you’re limited to what’s available. Antarctica cruises are very popular, so availability might be very limited. Additionally, there may not be any capacity for offshore activities for last-minute bookings.
On the other hand, last-minute bookings may or may not come with a discount. But that’s not guaranteed.
When planning your trip, it is important to schedule your flights to your departure port to arrive at least a day before the ship’s departure to avoid missing it due to unforeseen delays.
How Long do Antarctica Trips Last?
The most common Antarctica expeditions last approximately nine to eleven days, including five full days of exploration in Antarctica and about one and a half to two days at sea crossing the beautiful Drake Passage if you’re sailing from Ushuaia.
If you’re looking to reach the arctic circle, you’ll be looking at 14 to 16-day trips, but other journeys extend beyond those days to up to 30+ days, to include even more islands and destinations.
For those short on time, there’s also the option of “flying and cruising.” You could fly to King George Island, skipping the famous Drake Passage’s crossing, and begin your 5-9 days journey from there.
Each company has its own itinerary, so it’s always best to check them individually to see which one offers what you’re looking for and fits best your dates.
Should You Pick an Expedition Ship or a Cruise?
It depends on the type of trip you’re looking for and how much you’re looking to spend.
The best way to immerse yourself in the Antarctic experience is aboard an authentic expedition ship. Unlike traditional cruise ships, expedition vessels are much smaller.
They allow travelers to get closer to the continent and travel into and set foot on the glacial landscapes that make it so famous.
Expedition ships usually carry between 70 and 200 passengers, but never more than 200.
These small group sizes comply with tourism regulations on the 7th Continent and allow for a substantially wider array of activities, including daily landings on islands and the continent itself.
You can also do more intimate Zodiac cruises (small, inflatable watercraft that hold just 12 people) amongst icebergs and wildlife.
But of course, smaller ships mean more expensive trips.
Still, in my opinion, an expedition ship is the way to go! If you’re traveling all the way to Antarctica, wouldn’t you want to actually stand on the continent?
The other option is larger cruise ships that do quick cruise-by’s, providing only glimpses of Antarctica. These ships often carry upward of 500 – 2,000 passengers.
While cruise ship trips are cheaper than expedition ship trips, these do not get you close to the continent nor allow you to get off and explore the Antarctic Peninsula.
Another reason why cruise ships don’t get close to the continent is that they are not designed to be ice-class rated.
Expedition ships have reinforced hulls that are ice-class rated, meaning they are designed to withstand contact with bits and pieces of sea ice and small fragments of icebergs.
These ships are engineered to meet the continent’s extreme conditions. They can be entirely self-sufficient for weeks on end and able to navigate the ever-changing seascape of Antarctica’s coastline, inlets, bays, and channels.
Expedition trips bring back that sense of true exploration in the spirit of those sailing adventures from centuries ago.
Which Company to Pick for Your Antarctica Trip?
There are dozens of companies that can take you to Antarctica, and while many are great, I’m picking Chimu Adventures for my trip. One of the first reasons is that The Ocean Endeavour ship is an expedition ship, which will allow me to set foot on the continent.
Additionally, Chimu offers high-quality travel experiences, which is essential for expedition trips like these.
As you may know, I’ve partnered with Intrepid Travel, a highly reputable travel company, many times before. I was pleased to learn that Intrepid Travel partners with Chimu to use their ships on their tours. To me, that speaks highly of Chimu’s quality.
Chimu’s prices are competitive, and even more so now, they are offering my readers up to 25% off on their voyages.
For the New Year’s trip I’m doing, the deals available are 15% off Cabin Category 4, 20% off Cabin Category 5-7, and 25% off Cabin Category 8-10.
The prices come out the following:
- Category 1 Inside Single (US $9,995 per person)
- Category 2 Inside Triple (US $8,995 per person)
- Category 3 Interior Twin (SOLD OUT)
- Category 4 Twin Porthole (US $9,345 per person) – includes 15% saving
- Category 5 Twin Window (US $9,595 per person) – includes 20% saving
- Category 6 Comfort Twin (US $10,395 per person) – includes 20% saving
- Category 7 Select Twin (US $11,195 per person) – includes 20% saving
- Category 8 Superior Twin/Double (US $11,245 per person) – includes 25% saving
- Category 9 Junior Suite Double (US $11,995 per person) – includes 25% saving
- Category 10 Owners Suite Double (US $12,745 per person) – includes 25% saving
I’ve picked a Category 5 Cabin, which comes out cheaper than a Category 1 Cabin with the discount!
What Can you do in Antarctica and What Can You Expect to See?
For this New Year’s trip, you’ll experience the magic of celebrating the New Year in such an awe-inspiring destination. This is a once in a lifetime experience that will become a cherished memory for the rest of your life.
Start the year off with a bang, and see the glow of the sun as you cheer at midnight!
Each day in Antarctica (on any expedition trip), you will have the chance to explore two separate locations, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
You will spend half your time on land at each location, surrounded by hundreds to thousands of penguins and able to walk around a piece of the white continent few have had the chance to.
The second half of your time at each location is spent zipping around the bay in zodiacs, exploring places not accessible by land, and coming up close to deep blue icebergs, penguins, and a variety of seals swimming in the water or resting on ice flows.
And if you’re lucky, some whales that have migrated early!
As you make your way down the peninsula, you will experience different varieties of penguins in different parts of the continent: Chin Strap, Gentoo, Adelie, among other penguins.
Witnessing them look after their chicks, play with each other, steal stones from each other’s nests, and walk around curious at their strange and friendly neighbors is exhilarating.
A team of expert expedition staff looks after your entire experience. They have a vast range of experience exploring and studying Antarctica, adding incredible value as they answer every question you could ask whilst aboard.
You will live the moment in the places you learn about as the team holds talks about the history, science, wildlife, photography, and other topics – adding value to your trip.
If you choose to go on an expedition ship like Chimu’s Ocean Endeavour, you have plenty of Antarctic activity options. These are just a few of the things you can do there:
This is my favorite activity, and I’m counting the days until I can say I camped for one night in Antarctica!
To me, this is a call back to the explorers who braved the 7th continent environment centuries ago.
You’ll set up your sleeping bag under Antarctica’s midsummer night skies as you watch the expedition ship slowly disappear behind a neighboring island.
The quiet rumblings of glaciers and penguin calls become all the more audible you and the other few dozen brave campers settle and take in the wonderful and pure Antarctic silence.
Although Antarctica has a reputation for being fiercely cold, the Antarctic Peninsula can be quite inviting in the summertime!
Daily zodiac excursions will take you out to explore nearby glaciers and spot seals swimming in the water and resting on ice flows. Depending on the trip’s departure, there’s also the opportunity to see the whale migration and the hatching of little penguin chicks!
Excursions also go ashore to get up close with the seals and penguins and explore the landscape of infrequently visited areas that make us all feel small in this beautifully extensive environment.
There’s also the possibility of snowshoeing, doing some beginners’ mountaineering and extended hikes.
As an option to the daily excursions, there’s also the option to kayak among glaciers and explore other spots with a quieter approach.
You can kayak safe routes through cathedrals of grounded icebergs, encounter seals and whales in their natural environment, and coast quietly along the shorelines dotted with thousands of nesting penguins.
Some companies might also offer the option of Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP), instead of kayaking.
Antarctica is a haven of great photography. It is so beautiful that even amateur photographers can capture National Geographic-style photos with their iPhones. To take advantage of this, the photography program compliments the daily excursions.
There are specially designed zodiacs for photography and workshops on shooting in Antarctica to get the best photos. It’s not necessary to have extensive photography experience as all Antarctica shots will be stunning beyond belief, but it is available for photography fanatics.
The Polar Plunge
This is like a rite of passage on all antarctic excursions. What is the polar plunge? As the name says, you literally take a dip in the cold waters of Antarctica!
The Polar Plunge sometimes takes place onshore or from the ship’s gangway or Zodiac. All participants wear a tethered harness and plunge into the polar waters as they are cheered on by fellow travelers.
When is the Best Time to Go to Antarctica?
The best time to visit Antarctica is from October to March, which is late spring to early fall in the southern hemisphere.
During late spring, the sea ice opens up just enough to allow ships access into the pristine glacial landscapes. Trips last all through the southern hemisphere summer until the temperature falls and the sea ice thickens again in the middle of March.
But beyond ice and temperature, there are key dates during the season that are optimal depending on what you’re aiming to see.
Some of the highlights are:
Early Season – October/November:
- Beautiful frozen scenery and pristine landing sites
- Animal courtship routines
- Excellent photographic opportunities courtesy of the lightly setting sun.
- Packs of elephant and fur seals marking their breeding territories in the sub-Antarctic islands.
- Less penguin mess
- Affordable pricing
Mid Season – December/January
- Wildlife at its prime!
- Expect to see sunbathing seals, adorable penguin hatchlings, and increasing numbers of whales arriving for the summer.
- Temperatures are at their warmest, which is great for camping!
- Longer days (20 hours of sunlight) means there are more opportunities for landings.
Late Season – February/March
- Peak whale spotting season, seal numbers are up on the peninsula, and penguin rookeries are bursting at the seams on South Georgia.
- Shorter days provide sensational sunsets.
- Awesome night-time sky gazing
- Some of the best value-for-money expeditions.
Below is an infographic prepared by Chimu Adventures depicting the best times and highlights per month.
Traveling Antarctica is unlike anywhere else in the world. You are truly isolated in the magic of the landscape and wildlife.
It is one of those few places that is still pure and undisturbed by mass tourism. But thankfully, it is accessible to us thanks to expedition companies like Chimu Adventures.
I can’t wait to experience the continent myself, and I hope to see you onboard too! Share your interest and let us know if you’d like to join us on this New Year’s expedition!
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