11 BEST Things to Do in Antarctica

Traveling to Antarctica is the dream of many, the destiny that seems most unattainable. Most people do not even consider a trip to Antarctica and, if they do, they think it will be very expensive, that it can be done only if you work in National Geographic. In this Antarctica travel guide we will try to cover everything. If there is something else that you want to know, you can leave it in the comments.

The southernmost realms of the planet are places of unimaginable beauty, where endless white mountains roll to the horizon and massive glaciers churn icebergs into the sea. Here, nature reigns: penguins teeter along the shore, seals loll on ice slabs, and humpbacks and orca whales break the water's surface.

Travel to Antarctica on an Antarctic cruise to visit a place in the world that has remained virtually unchanged since the time that Aristotle first exhibited the idea of Terra Australis. Lake Vostok is a freshwater lake in Antarctica buried under 2.5 miles of frozen water, measuring about as large as Lake Ontario, and larger than all but one European lake.

When you are looking for an exciting travel experience, you should look further afield and head for some of the most demanding landscapes in the world, like Antarctica. It's going to be a demanding trip but you will get the chance to see some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, and there's no other place that quite compares.

You can take a boat trip that starts in Argentina and goes through the South Shetland Islands. While passing through this amazing archipelago, you will get the chance to see penguins and seals in their natural habitat. From there, you can head to the Antarctic Peninsula, an incredible icy landscape filled with incredible wildlife.

If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a humpback whale. Some trips offer you the chance to camp out there as well, but be aware that it’s not the fainthearted. Antarctica has one of the frozen landscapes unlike anywhere else in the world where at least once in a lifetime one should visit to enjoy ice covered South Shetland Islands to the most penguin crowded area.

A voyage to Antarctica reveals a continent’s-worth of wildlife and ice at the end of the Earth. Antarctica has a way of making you ask, in awe, “How are we here?” but also sometimes, “Should we be here?” It frequently reminds you that, unlike the oversized mammals and teeming bird colonies that thrive in its ice-clogged waters and on its barren shores, if you had to try, you wouldn’t survive very long.

best things to do in Antarctica

So here we will see some interesting places to visit and things to do when you are on a tour to Antarctica.

1. Visit South Shetland Islands

Drake Passage is the historical route to Antarctica proper which is named after the 16th century English privateer Sir Francis Drake. It connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean between the southernmost point of Argentina and the tip of the Antarctic peninsula and thus offers the shortest path. It offers intense winds and rains and brutal weather conditions. On the positive side you will be surrounded by incredible scenes of rolling waves.

The coldest temperature recorded in the world occurred in Antarctica at −89.2 °C. Researchers at the South Pole frequently experience -100 °F, a temperature at which human skin will instantly feel pain if exposed to the air. Even smiling hurts, your spit freezes before it hits the ground, and you can hear your breath freezing in the air in front of your face.

2. Hangout in Half-Moon Island

This is one of the outermost islands of Antarctic peninsula. You can see Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins, seals and some sea birds at this place. Temperature was close to 1 degree Celsius and you have to warm up as per the wind conditions. There are a lot of penguin colonies here and the horrible smell of their shit will always tell you where they are.

This long and narrow island also referred as the Alps in mid-ocean as there are steeply rising mountains that cover maximum of the land mass, mighty glaciers, low-lying grasslands and has the most picturesque parts of Antarctica. Wide beaches having penguin colonies and ease of landing on the island makes it most popular.

3. Go to Trinity Peninsula

Now Neko Harbour is on the mainland Antarctica. So it is the first step on the main Antarctic continent. Apart from the small land patches where the penguins make their nest out of stones, the land mass is completely covered in ice. Get some of the best wildlife shots at this place. A standard 18-55 mm lens may not be very helpful here and you need 200mm-300mm lens to get a close up shot of the seals/penguins.

Antarctica's mainland is wilderness of snow and ice and is home to various polar wildlife. The narrow passages are often frequented by expedition cruises landing on the outlying islands. The whole area is jagged with mountain peaks, expansive skies, towering glaciers and with these interesting view you will also find an abundance of penguins.

4. Enjoy Kayaking in Ross Island

Kayaking is a wonderful thing to do and for something different though head to the Polar regions. It is kitted out in a dry suit and with this the cold water kayaks. This remote area offers closest encounter possible with marine life. The most amazing thing is watching a humpback whale breach right next to Kayak (one of the best place to be experienced in Antarctica).

The Onyx River - the longest river in Antarctica, at 32 kilometres in length simply flows from one lake to another.

5. Visit Deception Island

The first ship that tried to land here just kept circling it and was not able to find the entry to this circular land. Hence the name deception island. It has an active volcano and all the land here is covered from the ashes of the eruptions. It gets extremely windy and the trek to the top is not as easy it seems. Not much wildlife here but you see a different face of the Antarctic landscape.

Mount Vinson at 4897 m is a high Massif and strictly saying climbing it is not for normal traveler as it requires proper training from a proper trainer for about minimum a month. It takes minimum 15 days for full climbing on the mountain and that is when your body cooperates. If you are on a mission to climb the world's seven summits it is one of the most difficult to approach but it will be one of the experiences which you will remember forever.

6. Trek To King George Island

This island is again dominated by the Gentoo penguin colonies. As you approach the island you can feel the horrible stench created by the penguins. Spot a lot of humpback whales in Wilhelmina Bay.

7. Send a postcard from Wiencke Island

The national park in Tierra del Fuego in Ushuaia claims that they have the southern most post office in the world but that is actually wrong since there are many post offices in Antarctica. One of it is in Port Lockroy which sits among a massive penguin colony as well as a picturesque iceberg. And please don't be surprised if it takes two to three months for the postcard to arrive!

Domoy point has couple of cabins where some explorers were residing decades back. You are allowed to get inside those and have a glimpse of the lifestyle that they were having while stuck in Antarctica. Also land is not very hilly and the snow look like sand dunes on this island. It looks like a white desert. Again lot of Gentoo penguins and some super lazy seals.

8. Camping in Antarctic Great Wall Station

Who is not crazy in the midnight to enjoy the night without a roof in the shining stars. No food and drink are allowed to be taken with you together and you will be picked up at exact 5:30. So you must be aware of all the advantages as well as disadvantages.

9. Polar Plunge in Livingston

Once when you are going through the polar plunge practice you will just think to avoid it and to not waste time in this activity but when you are at home in warm quilts and remember the time you have spent in Antarctica then for sure you will think this event as the most adventurous.

10. Paradise Bay

See as much of Antarctica as you can. In Paradise Bay, the water is as smooth as glass, the glacial cliffs are of stunning proportion, like frozen skyscrapers arising from the bay, and the black mountains offer an eerie intrigue. Turn off the boat engine and you won’t hear a sound. There is literally not one speck of noise pollution in this remote place at the bottom of the world.

11. Southern Lights from Nelson Island

An expedition to the South Pole is one of the planet's most adventurous, remarkable, dangerous missions for an intrepid explorer with giddy excitement. Just like climbing a mountain it also should not be taken lightly. It at least needs one year training from a good trainer as it can be dangerous if you are not properly trained.

There is no guarantee that the journey will be successful but if you are determined to take up the challenge then it can be interesting and you can have a mind-blowing memory.

Just one thousand kilometers away, Ushuaia is the closest port to visit Antarctica. Others do it from other ports in South America, such as Montevideo (Uruguay), Puerto Madryn or Punta Arenas. In high season, some itineraries add more visits to the route, including Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

A limited number of cruises are operated to the Ross Sea side of the continent departing from Hobart, Australia or Lyttelton or Bluff, New Zealand. Occasionally a trip to the Peninsula will be offered that begins in Cape Town or Port Elizabeth (South Africa), either at the start or end of the season as the ships are being repositioned for the Antarctic season.

While there are companies operating from South Africa, New Zealand or Australia, the frequencies are lower and the distance increases the travel days and the budget. Therefore, it is best to travel to Antarctica from South America.

Although it is possible to travel to Antarctica with family, it is not recommended to take children under 12 years old on board. It is a long journey, in which there will be hard sections to navigate and the conditions will be a bit extreme for children under that age. They call them expedition boats but most trips to Antarctica are actually luxury cruises so they are never cheap, but the cheapest fares are the last minute ones.

Tips for traveling to Antarctica:

• Take a lot of Dramamine. The movements of the Drake Passage are very violent and can test even the strongest stomach. Many times doctors on board deliver medicine for seasickness, but it is better to go prepared from home.
Take sunscreen and glasses. On sunny days the reflection in the snow can be blinding. Do not forget protection for your photographic equipment. Remember that they are extreme conditions.

• If you are interested in an adventure option, ask if it is included or find out its price. The most common are kayaking and camping, although there is also mountaineering and skiing. Kayaking in the Antarctic waters and among wild animals or camping where almost nobody has done it can be unique experiences, but not all expeditions foresee them, they are almost never included in the price.

• If you have time, read before traveling. Although on board lectures are always offered by scientists and historians, these talks are usually in downtimes, such as crossing. There is a lot of bibliography available. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Make the most of it.

best things to do in Antarctica

Antarctica Frequently Asked Questions

I. What to do in Antarctica?

In an Antarctica expedition get the opportunity to explore one of the places in the world with the densest concentrations of animal life, seals, whales, and hundreds of penguins. On board semi-rigid boats called zodiacs, that allow to approach the Antarctic landscape of a more direct way, to see icebergs face to face, travelers are transported to the mainland.

Penguin colonies, scientific bases or sites of historical relevance, such as ruins of whaling stations, are usually visited. In case you are looking for a more private experience, it is possible to travel to Antarctica on a sailboat. It is a much more exclusive experience, but also more hardcore. Cruise aboard a Zodiac, navigating through a maze of icebergs. Sail among crackling ice floating atop the water like shattered glass, and watch as penguins build their nests.

II. How to see penguins in Antarctica?

Regarding the fauna, in any cruise it is possible to see Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie penguins. The king penguin can be seen if the itinerary includes the South Georgia Islands. To see emperor penguins you will have to hire a specialized cruise that arrives more to the south than regular cruises and offers this kind of visits.

It is also possible to see humpback whales, the Minke whales and the Antarctic killer whales, leopard seals, albatrosses and cormorants among other birds.

III. Are there polar bears in Antarctica?

Although it is a very common question, bears belong to the fauna of the northern hemisphere in the same way as penguins to the southern hemisphere, so it will not be possible.

IV. Can I see Southern Lights in Antarctica?

Although the logic would say yes being in a pole the auroras exist, the certain thing is that for it it would be necessary to travel to the Antarctic in winter from March to September and to go more to the south, and that is outside the tourist possibilities. Trips are made in the spring-summer season, when there is more light, and that prevents the show. It is easier to see Aurora Australis from Tasmania, in Australia, or New Zealand.

V. Is it expensive to go to Antarctica?

Antarctica is accessible during the months of October to March that is, in summer of the southern hemisphere. On the other hand, the dates of Christmas and New Year in Antarctica are always reserved well in advance, so the rates go to the clouds. There is no formula to travel for free to Antarctica, nor are there magic potions to get tickets at a free price to Antarctica. Antarctica is an exclusive destination.

VI. Do you need a visa to travel to Antarctica?

No, although if you want you can seal your passports as a souvenir in some scientific bases. Antarctica does not belong to any government and, therefore, all nationalities are welcome.

VII. What clothes would you need to take to Antarctica?

Although most companies provide snow boots and some even offer a gift coat, it is important to travel with the right clothes. Think that Antarctica is very cold, even in summer, and it is better to be well prepared. The essential is to dress in layers. This is equivalent to saying stockings, shirts and thermal pants to start dressing.

Then carry snow pants, hats, scarves, waterproof jacket with the higher the waterproof range, the better, hooded parka and better if it covers the waist, for the moments when you have to be sitting on the zodiacs, gloves. Take a bathing suit too. Although it is usually amazing, it is possible to bathe in some islands and that is an experience that must be had, even once in a lifetime.

If you do not have all those clothes, you do not need to put on one more expense. In Ushuaia you can rent snow clothes prepared for these trips.

VIII. Where do you sleep in Antarctica?

There are no hotels in Antarctica, although some operators offer inland expeditions sleeping in tents and not just one night as on cruise ships. There are many bases of scientific research in Antarctica but it is not possible to sleep in them as a tourist.

IX. Do I need to take money in Antarctica?

While cruises include all meals and basic expenses, it is always good to carry something extra either to buy a souvenir, to drink a whiskey with Antarctic ice or send a postcard. Keep in mind that everything is traded in dollars.

Antarctica Trip Itinerary

Day 1. Ushuaia

During the afternoon embark in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), the southernmost city in the world, located on the banks of the Beagle Channel and start navigating along this scenic canal for the rest of the night.

Days 2 and 3. Sailing to Antarctica

During these two days sail through the Drake Passage. Once you cross the Antarctic convergence you will be in the circumpolar Antarctic surge zone. In this area it is possible to see different types of albatrosses. Next to the South Shetland Islands see the first icebergs.

Days 4-9: On the Antarctic Peninsula

Sail directly to Antarctica, passing by the Melchior Islands and the Schollaert Channel, between the Brabant and Antwerp islands. Navigate through the Neumayer Canal next to the Base Camp. The protected waters of Winke Island will be the playground for all activities. In the middle of this alpine environment there are great opportunities to explore the region on foot, in zodiac and kayak.

Trekkers will be able to use the snowshoes to cross the coasts and the mountaineers will find attractive challenges ascending mountains and reaching impressive panoramic points. Visit the old British scientific station, now a museum and post office, in Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. Very close to there, it is possible to offer a landing in Jougla Point where gentoo penguins, blue-eyed cormorants, leopard seals and crabeater as well as whales nest.

Sail the spectacular Lemaire channel to the Booth , Pléneau and Petermann islands where you can find Adélie penguin and blue-eyed cormorant. In this area there are good opportunities to find humpback and minke whales. The opportunities for kayaking, walking on glaciers and mountaineering are excellent in this area.

In Puerto Neko disembark in the Antarctic continent, in a magnificent landscape with a huge glacier and enjoy the surroundings during the zodiac cruises, walks and kayak excursions. Walk on the ice to reach greater heights on the glacier. Spend the night in Paradise Bay, camping on the coast.

Days 10-11. At sea, back to Argentina

Northbound, get accompanied by a large selection of seabirds as you cross the Drake Passage.

Day 12. Ushuaia

Arrival in Ushuaia in the morning and disembarkation.

When you will be telling the tale of your visit of Antarctica to anyone you will feel proud that you jumped in sub-zero waters in the South Pole and survived there.

So these are some of the best things to do while on a visit to Antarctica rather than these there are many other things you should do and many other places you must prefer visiting.

Kalyan Panja