The 7 Most Popular Places to Visit
The 7 Most Popular Places to Visit in Antarctica
One of the most exciting prospects, when planning an Antarctica vacation, is deciding where, in this glorious ice-brimming continent, you’ll want to go. Every expedition cruise and fly & cruise tour offers something unique, be it a visit to a stellar sub-Antarctic island, the chance to set foot on the Antarctic Peninsula, visit research stations, waddle with penguins and even take a helicopter ride over the South Pole.
Enjoy your sensational virtual ride to Antarctica!
1. The Antarctic Peninsula – the best springboard for Antarctic explorations
Find suggested itineraries for Antarctic Peninsula expedition cruises here.
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 unrivalled chance of seeing it all, up close. The climatic conditions make Zodiac outings safe and rewarding. Among the most mesmerising pros of visiting the Antarctic Peninsula is that you’ll soak up that postcard-perfect scenery you’ve been dreaming for years.
2. South Georgia Island – for astonishing wildlife visual feasts
Discover incredible flora and fauna of the islands of Antarctica. Click here to explore South Georgia and The Falkland Islands.
The island to rival every single wildlife-watching destination on earth, the one dubbed ‘The Galapagos of the South’, South Georgia is a splendour 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 crèche. The best part of a visit to South Georgia is that this speck of an island is actually quite tiny, further emphasising the mind-boggling concentration of wildlife.
Options for visiting South Georgia include 20-day Classic South Georgia and a long list of expeditions which also include visits to the Falkland Islands, detailed below.
3. South Shetland Islands
Find out more about diverse trips to Antarctica here.
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 bunkered 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.
4. King George Island – visit research stations & see a flood of wildlife
Click here and find the best trip for you.
Seeing all of these amazing Antarctic creatures setting up their seasons home in the abandoned shells of whaling stations on King George Island is a poetic justice not lost to any visitor. Once a thriving base of the whaling industry, the wildlife of King George (much like in South Georgia) has claimed back its rightful nesting hub.
The most populated island in the South Shetlands, King George hosts the Antarctic Marathon every year (yes, it’s a thing), is the place to send a postcard home (from the Port Lockery Museum) and also where you can waddle with penguins in scenic Paradise Bay. King George may not feel like the most isolated place in Antarctica, yet the human presence means you can actually do quite a bit. Take a scenic helicopter ride to get a bird’s eye view of this astonishing archipelago (you can also choose to fly over the South Pole!) and learn more about life in a research station.
King George is the major flying destination in the Antarctic region and main aviation hub for those who wish to skip a crossing of the Drake Passage but still wish to cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula.
5. The Falkland Islands – history, nature and culture galore
Lear more about diverse Falklands here.
Renowned primarily for their historic value, the Falklands are that little bit of Britishness in the Sub Antarctic region. Surprisingly biodiverse, 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 marvellous South Georgia.
6. The Drake Passage
Find all the trips to Antarctica here.
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!
Most cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula include a crossing of the Drake Passage, like this one
Ask us for options for fly-in and cruise-out so you cross the Drake Passage once, like this one
Ask us for fly-in and fly-out tours to skip the Drake Passage altogether like this one
7. Macquarie Island
Enjoy the wildlife with our tours to Antarctica.
Australian Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson famously said that Macquarie Island is ‘one of the wonders of the world’ and we could not help but agree. Remote as can be, this little spot of wonder seems to float in the middle of absolute nowhere in the Southern Ocean. And that’s precisely what it does.
Formed by the collision of two tectonic plates, Macquarie is indeed a unique geological gem, one that attracts wildlife from miles around. This is the most remote and spellbinding animal paradise you could visit. Home to over 100,000 seals and 2 million pairs of penguins (at least four different species have been observed – over 200,000 King Penguins alone) this immensely fertile island really is the most blissful hideout in the Sub Antarctic region. Follow the steps of Mawson and feel like a true Antarctic explorer when you choose an Antarctic Expedition which visits Macquarie Island.
Expeditions to Antarctica which stop by Macquarie Island depart from New Zealand and Australia. See your Macquarie Island options here.
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.
Know how to combine experiences and places to create a comprehensive Antarctica vacation? We do! Contact our team of experts right here and let Viva Expeditions guide you to the most spellbinding continent of all.