Antarctica is now one of the top cruise destinations for adventure travelers and wildlife lovers. You may be thinking about planning your
The Antarctic Peninsula is the long, icy finger that reaches toward South America from the Antarctic continent. In addition to having the most hospitable climate in Antarctica, the peninsula has the richest concentrations of wildlife and the most enchanting scenery. Therefore, it is the region most popular with tourists to Antarctica. Cruise ships depart from the city of Ushuaia at the southern end of Argentina and cross the Drake Passage, where albatross can be seen gliding effortlessly over the tumbling waves. The first stop is usually in the South Shetland Islands, where bustling penguin colonies can be found alongside historical sites and polar research stations. From there, you cross the Bransfield Strait to the peninsula itself. Explorations, including an attempted landing on the continent, usually take place in and around the Gerlache Strait, a gorgeous area containing many of the best landing and cruising sites in Antarctica. Camping and kayaking opportunities are also plentiful here.
Antarctic Peninsula trips are occasionally advertised to include an attempted crossing of the Antarctic Circle. The Antarctic Circle is a line on the map (at 66° 33′ South) marking the northernmost latitude of the Antarctic midnight sun. It is a circle drawn around the South Pole, inside of which the sun does not set on the austral summer solstice (December 20 or 21). The circle is farther south than the areas normally visited by cruise ships. In addition, the waters near the Antarctic Circle do not become navigable (due to heavier ice concentrations) until later in the summer, as compared with the Gerlache Strait area. Consequently, Antarctic Circle trips are longer and occur later in the season, for a better chance of making the crossing. In addition to exploring the South Shetland Islands and the Gerlache Strait, these trips give you the chance to become one of the few Antarctic tourists to cruise and perhaps even make an excursion south of the Antarctic Circle—a notable achievement, if weather and ice conditions allow. If you want to check a cool geographical box (one of the five major circles on the globe) while visiting a rarely seen part of Antarctica, then this slightly longer trip is worth the extra cost.
Another option is to take a trip that includes the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. These trips leave from either Montevideo or Ushuaia. From 21 to 24 days in length, these trips are much longer than Antarctic Peninsula trips and include more days in the potentially rough Southern Ocean. But if you can manage the extra time and cost, the destinations on these voyages are absolutely worth it. If you love wild nature, then the days spent in the Falklands and South Georgia will be among the most enjoyable and memorable of your life. The wildlife on these remote subantarctic islands is simply unbelievable. On these voyages, you will also have a chance to visit the South Shetland Islands and the peninsula, though there are not as many days in this region as compared to a standard Antarctic Peninsula or Antarctic Circle trip. Kayaking opportunities along this itinerary are among the best on the planet. However, camping is not offered on these voyages.