The end of the world is unimaginably beautiful. In Antarctica, icebergs tower like carved cathedrals, glistening ice sheets stretch to the skyline and otherworldly rock formations rise from pristine snowfields.
A land of extremes, Antarctica holds many secrets. Hidden kilometres beneath the ice, hundreds of vast freshwater lakes teem with microscopic life. Subglacial eruptions rumble from two active volcanoes, and the fastest winds on the planet tear through its flat expanses. Snow-shrouded mountains ripple across the length of the continent, which is home to a staggering 90% of Earth’s ice.
Antarctica is impenetrable during winter, as newly formed sea ice doubles the size of the continent and an eternal darkness settles over the land. But come summertime, the sun hovers above the horizon 24 hours a day. Awe-struck visitors will experience brilliant daylight even in the dead of the night, a phenomena known as the midnight sun.
Once known only to the most intrepid explorers, the White Continent is now within reach for adventurous travellers. With astounding wildlife spectacles, breathtaking expeditions and secluded accommodations, life on the farthest reaches of the Earth feels a lot like being on another planet altogether.
A Theatre of Wildlife
All across Antarctica, nature reigns supreme. Although the only plants to thrive here are colourful lichens, mosses and algae, wildlife abounds.
Oceans rich in squid, crustaceans and krill attract an abundance of whales. Humpbacks leap vertically from rolling waves, congregating in groups over 20 strong at feeding grounds. While minke whales are often spotted around pack ice, male sperm whales dive to impossible depths for giant squid. On rare occasions, shy blue whales up to 30 metres long breach the ocean’s surface.
Many birds call this frozen terrain home, including skuas, storm petrels, snowy sheathbills and the enigmatic albatross. Comical, quarrelsome rookeries of penguins are undoubtedly a highlight of the Antarctic peninsula. Most common are the chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie varieties. Further inland you’ll find remote colonies of regal emperor penguins in the Ross Sea and Ice Shelf.
Unfortunately for the birds, predators are plentiful. Two thirds of the world’s orcas patrol Antarctica’s icy waters, as well as enormous leopard seals with spotted coats and razor-sharp teeth. Life here may be beautiful, but survival is by no means easy.
Adventures On The Ice
Antarctic adventures are among the most memorable of them all. With more accommodation and excursion options than ever before, your trip can be tailored to suit your preferences.
At Echo Camp, six futuristic Sky Pods look like they’ve been beamed down from Mars. The luxurious space-station style interiors feature floor to ceiling windows, meaning you’ll wake each morning to views of pristine glacial landscapes and distant mountains.
Guests can choose from any number of breathtaking outdoor expeditions. Trek through a labyrinth of iridescent blue rivers and ice tunnels or zipline over a frozen lake. Scale the striking red granite walls of the mountains which encircle the camp, before abseiling down with the help of an expert guide. Then try your hand at fat biking or skiing across the sparkling snow of a 10km Explorer’s Loop. If adventure sports aren’t your thing, there are a myriad of ways to explore the majesty of the icy wilderness. Why not hop on a jeep for an action packed safari tour, or camp out overnight under the stars?
Discoveries At Sea
To experience life at sea, opt for an unforgettable voyage with Antarctica21. Each subtly different, their modern ships combine luxury and adventure to make for some of the most sophisticated expeditions around the Antarctic waters. Almost all the cabins in the Magellan Explorer and Hebridean Sky offer private balconies, the perfect spot to take in views of turquoise-hued icebergs while sipping a warm drink. Expert polar guides deliver fascinating talks in the state of the art lecture rooms, while the charming lounges offer a relaxed setting to meet other passengers. What’s more, you’ll be able to fly over the Drake Passage, saving two days of crossing these tempestuous waters by boat.
Zodiacs are on hand to navigate through Antarctica’s hidden passages, whisking you away to secluded bays and islands. As well as guided sea kayaking expeditions through Antarctica’s calmer waters, guests can take part in snowshoeing adventures through mountains and snowfields with surreal vistas.
When To Go?
Due to weather conditions, Antarctica’s tourist season is short.
From late October to November, the snowfields are pristine and untouched. Penguins and other seabirds begin nesting and courting, while seals fight to establish territories. This is the best time to see emperor penguins in the Ross Sea and Ice Shelf.
Between December and January, temperatures are the warmest, hovering around zero degrees celsius. The sun doesn’t set during December’s summer solstice, so you can experience the midnight sun. Seal pups are born and fluffy penguin chicks begin to hatch.
For whale-watching, February and March are ideal. At this time, fast-growing algae carpets the landscapes in brilliant hues of green.