Where to go in Antarctica

map & Itineraries

When deciding where to go in Antarctica, the biggest issue is accessibility. The Antarctic Peninsula – an extension of the Andes – is the most popular landing spot as it is closest point to South America, but still separated by the notoriously rough 1,000km-wide Drake Passage. The crossing takes two days by boat or two hours by plane. Cruises often stop off at some of the fascinating islands along the way, which helps to break up the long voyage. Those departing from New Zealand will set sail for the distant Ross Sea, pausing to explore tiny Subantarctic islands – some of the most remote specks of land on the planet. The great distances here generally require lengthier expeditions.
Antarctic Archipelago Antarctic Peninsula Drake Passage Falkland Islands King George Island Lemaire Channel Port Lockroy Ross Sea/Ice Shelf South Georgia South Orkney Islands Subantarctic Islands Tierra del Fuego

Antarctic Archipelago

Many small islands are found off the Antarctic Peninsula – some more accessible than others. Cuverville Island is a breeding ground for gentoo penguins and brown skuas. Popular with Adelie and gentoo penguins, Petermann Island is the southernmost point of most cruises. On Danco Island, Weddell and crabeater seals can be seen. Zodiac trips take you out to these remote harbours and surrounding fjords.

Antarctic Peninsula

The stark mountains of this curling peninsula are an icy extension of the Andes, rising some 3,000m into the sky. This is the most “accessible” part of the Antarctic mainland, its fingers reaching just beyond the Antarctic Circle. Ruggedly beautiful, visitors to the peninsula can spot dozens of whales swimming around their boats, and one of the region’s top predators – the leopard seal – hunting.

Drake Passage

The stretch of water between South America and Antarctica inspires a sense of both adventure and dread. During the two-day crossing, stomachs will be churned by the waves, gales and the sense of mounting excitement. Watch giant albatross from the deck and join in the fascinating wildlife and geography lectures. And as you reach the frozen continent, you’ll never forget your first sighting of a colossal iceberg.

Falkland Islands

A bit of Britain at the end of the world, the windswept, wave-bashed Falklands have surprising biodiversity. Commerson’s dolphins may follow your boat, while enormous albatross glide above and four species of penguins nest on the shoreline. Meet the people they share the island with in Port Stanley, home to a fish and chip shop and red phone boxes, plus shipwrecks and an unsettling whalebone arch.

King George Island

One of the last outposts before reaching Antarctica, 120km to the south, the South Shetlands are home to 16 research stations and the continent’s only hotel. The largest island is King George; its airfield can be used by those wishing to avoid the rough Drake Passage crossing. Penguins, gulls, cormorants and giant petrels nest here, and the tundra landscape supports mosses and lichens – a surreal sight.

Lemaire Channel

Cruising through the stunning Lemaire Channel is a trip highlight. Icebergs, glaciers and sheer cliffs are the giants above the water, while humpback whales are the behemoths below. Keep an eye out for orcas too. As narrow as 1,600m in places, with plenty of loose icebergs, the channel is precarious. The scenery and mirror-like waters are a dream for photographers, however – earning it the nickname “Kodak Gap”.

Port Lockroy

On Wiencke Island, this natural harbour was originally used for whaling, then as a military base during World War II, followed by a research station. It is now a historic site with a museum and post office – and a popular stop-off point for Antarctic travellers. Half of Wiencke Island is closed to tourists – only penguins are allowed!

Ross Sea & Ross Ice Shelf

Few expeditions venture into the wild, remote waters of the Ross Sea during the couple of months each year when the pack ice breaks up. The 3,794m-high Mount Erebus, an active volcano, is found on Ross Island, along with Shackleton’s Hut and a research station. Visits depend, as with everything here, on the weather. Thousands of penguins, colossal glaciers and historical sites are scattered throughout the region.

South Georgia

Desolate and beautiful, South Georgia, one of the exceptionally remote South Sandwich Islands, is the resting place of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. A 3,000m mountain ridge discharges glaciers into sheltered harbours, home to king penguins and enormous barking elephant seals. The museum reveals the island’s fascinating history. Volcanic Mount Michael, on Saunders Island, has an active lava lake.

South Orkney Islands

Few vessels venture as far as the South Orkney Islands, uninhabited other than by researchers at the two bases – and by penguins, fur seals and the odd whale in the surrounding waters. These glacier-covered rocks are remote and rarely visited, but this makes a landing all the more special. Grounded icebergs are a treat for photographers.

Subantarctic Islands

These specks of land between New Zealand and the Ross Sea are some of the most isolated and unusual islands on earth. Strange megaherbs flourish on Campbell Island, adapted to the harsh conditions. Visit the Australian Antarctic Base and the enormous penguin colonies on Macquarie Island, where rockhopper penguins skip along the shores, while elephant seals bicker and honk. Snares Island is birder heaven.

Tierra del Fuego

Most Antarctic expeditions start on this island at the end of the world. Having travelled all this way, it’s well worth allowing a couple of days for exploration. There are easy walking trails through the national park forests, and you can paddle canoes on lagoons and rivers. Expedition boats depart via the Beagle Channel, with a backdrop of ice-coated mountains giving a sense of how vast the “tip” of South America truly is.

If you'd like to chat about Antarctica or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
01273 823 700

Antarctica itineraries

Classic cruise, 12 days: 
Ushiaia ► Drake Passage (2 days) ► Antarctic Peninsula and islands ► Drake Passage (2 days) ► Ushuaia

Footsteps of Shackleton, 25 days:
Ushuaia ► Falkland Islands ► South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands ► South Orkney Islands ► South Shetland Islands ► Antarctic Peninsula and islands ► Antarctic Peninsula and islands ► Ushuaia

Fly and cruise, 8 days:
Punta Arenas ► (flight) King George Island ► Antarctic Peninsula ► King George Island ► (flight) Punta Arenas

Travel times in Antarctica

The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Antarctica
  • Punta Arenas (Chile) – King George Island: 2 hours by plane
  • Crossing the Drake Passage: 2 days by boat
  • Ushuaia – Falkland Islands: 2 days by boat
  • Falkland Islands – South Georgia: 2 days by boat
Photo credits: [Emperor penguins: Eli Duke] [Ushuaia/Tierra del Fuego: Gus Valentim] [Antarctic Peninsula: Gilad Rom] [Drake Passage: NOAA Photo Library] [Lemaire Channel: Liam Quinn] [Antarctic Archipelagos: McKay Savage] [Port Lockroy: Liam Quinn] [King George Island: Aah-Yeah] [Falkland Islands: John5199] [South Georgia: Brian Gratwicke] [South Orkney Islands: Liam Quinn] [Ross Sea/Ice shelf: lin padgham] [Subantarctic Islands (between Ross Sea and NZ): twiddleblat]
Written by Vicki Brown
Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica cruise

Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica cruise

The Ultimate Antarctica Experience!

From €10900 21 Days ex flights
Classic Antarctica cruise & South Shetland Islands

Classic Antarctica cruise & South Shetland Islands

Experience all that this remarkable area has to offer!

From US $5730 11 Days ex flights
Antarctica small ship cruises

Antarctica small ship cruises

Ultimate Antarctica and South Georgia small ship wildlife cruise

From £7950 22 Days ex flights
Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea cruise

Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea cruise

Antarctica & Weddell Sea Emperor Penguins by ship/helicopter

From US $6890 12 Days ex flights
Antarctic whale watching cruise

Antarctic whale watching cruise

Witness an incredible wildlife spectacle in Antarctica

From £7805 11 Days ex flights
Antarctic cruise and hiking in Chile

Antarctic cruise and hiking in Chile

World class walking in Patagonia, active Antarctica cruise

From £13350 27 Days ex flights
Antarctic Peninsula Cruises

Antarctic Peninsula Cruises

An inspiring wilderness & wildlife journey of a lifetime

From £4470 11 Days ex flights
Antarctic expedition cruise, fly the Drake passage

Antarctic expedition cruise, fly the Drake passage

The quick way to and from Antarctica - A fly cruise

From £11000 8 Days ex flights
Antarctica semi-circumnavigation cruise

Antarctica semi-circumnavigation cruise

Scott & Shackelton Huts, Mount Erebus, Maquarie, Helicopter

From €23490 4 Weeks ex flights
Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia cruise

Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia cruise

Embark on a cruise across the Antarctic Circle and cross the Drake passage

From £15800 23 Days ex flights
Total Antarctic highlights cruise via Buenos Aires

Total Antarctic highlights cruise via Buenos Aires

An adventure-packed, 23-day voyage

From £23300 23 days ex flights
Punta Arenas Antarctica cruise

Punta Arenas Antarctica cruise

Cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula on a polar expedition

From £5830 11 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ondrej Prosicky]