Falklands as part of an Antarctica cruise

Our cruise expeditions that include the Falkland Islands on their itineraries are a very different kettle of fish from those that arrive on these shores with up to 3,800 passengers on board. First of all, they are small expedition ships which are en route to the Antarctic, as opposed to all singing, all tango dancing, floating hotels that are ‘doing’ South America. Second, they have a maximum of 250 passengers and many have fewer than that. Third, these are ice strengthened ships ready to deal with polar waters and choppy crossings, such as the Drake Passage, the infamously bumpy stretch between Antarctica and the tip of South America.
To go by sea or not?

To go by sea or not?

For many people, heading this far into the South Atlantic is a trip of a lifetime, so they want to explore not only the wildlife wonders of the Falklands archipelago but also Patagonia and the polar region. Taking a two or three week cruise allows you to not only see the magnificent penguin colonies of the Falklands, their other superb birdlife, sea lions and cetaceans, but also explore further south, watching the glacial effect take hold as you go. If, however, sea travel is not your thing and the idea of days on end at sea does not sit well with you or your stomach, then flying direct to the Falkland Islands and taking short flights from Stanley out to the more remote islands in the archipelago, might suit you better. You won’t get glaciers, but you will get gorgeous landscapes, and superb wildlife watching within a really close distance.

The route

The majority of small ship cruises that take in the Falkland Islands are about three weeks long, although there are some two week options too. The most popular route is a magnificent circuit that starts and ends in Ushuaia, Patagonia. The first stop, after a day of travelling through the exquisite Beagle Channel, a strait in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, is the Falkland Islands.
On a small ship cruise you will usually spend a couple of days at the Falkland Islands, in and around Stanley, the capital. From here you can take guided hiking tours with naturalists to see the penguin colonies, Sea Lions and other birdlife, or some cruises also visit smaller islands such as Steeple Jason Island to see the largest black-browed albatross colony in the world.
Your next crossing is through the famous Antarctic Convergence to South Georgia Island, a great route for spotting whales. South Georgia is your first chance to see glaciers that tumble down from its 3,000m-high mountain ridge.
The names all take a Scottish turn now, as you visit the South Orkney Islands, home to a few researchers and a lot of penguins, fur seals and migratory whales, but also superb glaciated terrain. Followed by the South Shetland Islands, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, where you will visit superb wildlife watching spots such as Half Moon Island, Deception Island and Hannah point, depending on conditions. Or the largest of the archipelago, King George Island, with colonies of elephant, Weddell, and leopard seals, as well as Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins.
Although there are some expeditions that return to base at this point, most do the Antarctic Full Monty. The last stop on these itineraries is, therefore, the Antarctic Peninsula, the most accessible point on the great ‘White Continent’. Here you will spend time on deck just taking in the vast, stark mountains which are an icy extension of the Andes and reach an elevation of 3,000m in some parts. From the observation decks look out for whales, take Zodiac trips to see icebergs or seals basking on ice floes up close and personal, or just set foot on the greatest wilderness on our planet. Some small cruise ships even offer the chance to have a polar dip to those who are brave enough to swim in the icy waters.

For more information on Antarctic expeditions, see our guides on How to choose a cruise ship to Antarctica and Life on board an Antarctic cruise.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Falkland Islands or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Falklands & Antarctica travel advice

Charlotte Caffrey, expedition leader from our supplier Aqua Firma:

“Speak to an operator who’s been on all of the ships and they’ll tell you the differences between them. Some might have bunk beds; others have bigger cabins with their own flat screen TV. But on all of them the focus is outward looking – really being exposed and enveloped by the environment that you’re in, rather than inward looking. We do offer luxury boats with a Jacuzzi on board, three course meals, a wine list – things like that. But it still holds that you’re out twice a day, being guided by experts in their field, and that’s the main priority. The experience that you get of going out twice a day every day with polar experts – that will remain the same. The frills of the ship are just an added bonus if you want that sort of thing.”
“Generally, we'll take about 110 passengers on a trip and the atmosphere on the boat is electric. We attract a hugely diverse age range, from people in their 20s to people in their 80s and in the evenings everybody is so buzzed about what they've seen and experienced and they're all sharing their stories about the sheer exhilaration of seeing the icebergs and taking in the incredible scenery. It's such a wonderfully varied mix of people, but with a real sense of bonding because everyone has been brought together there by a shared passion.”

You can read a more in depth interview with Charlotte about life on board, here
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Falkland Islands] [Top Image: Jeremy T. Hetzel] [To go by sea or not?: McKay Savage] [The Route Image One: Douglas Scortegagna] [The Route Image Two: David Stanley] [The Route Image Three: David Stanley] [The Route Image Four: Aah-Yeah] [The Route Image Five: David Stanley] [Charlotte Caffrey Image One: Andreas Kambanis] [Charlotte Caffrey Image Two: Christopher Michel]