2022 marks the 15th anniversary of my trip to Antarctica. Looking back at the photos, I’m reminded of the great people I met, the unique wildlife we encountered, and the magical adventure experienced exploring the ice continent.
Best time of year to visit: November to March, with temperatures ranging from 0 to 29 degrees and January being the warmest month to visit. This is the time of year when wildlife will also be most bountiful and active.
Recommended time needed: Allow at least two weeks minimum as it takes two days to cross the Drake Passage each way and most cruises spend at least 7 days exploring the islands and continent.
Flights: Most travelers will fly to Buenos Aires (EZE) and then catch a 3-hour connecting flight to Ushuaia (USH). If you’re visiting Patagonia before Antarctica, the flight from Trelew (ZEL) to Ushuaia is 2 hours.
Getting to Antarctica: There are several companies that offer cruises to Antarctica. Be sure to book one that details their itinerary and offers daily landings on the ice continent, and some may just cruise by but won’t have landings.
G Adventures – they offer four trip types ranging from 11 days to 22 days.
Hurtigruten – they offer a wide range of itineraries that either focus on Antarctica or include Antarctica as part of a larger and longer expedition bundle with other destinations like the Falklands or Patagonia.
Day 1: Most trips will include accommodations in Ushuaia. Quark Expeditions arranged rooms for our trip at the Hotel Albatross in Ushuaia which I would recommend if you need to book a place on your own.
Once our group met at the hotel we explored Ushuaia and nearby Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Time permitting I’d recommend spending a few days in Ushuaia before boarding your ship.
Day 2: We Embark! Our ship to Antarctica was the Orlova. She’s been decommissioned since my trip, but she was able to carry 110 guests and 70 crew when she was in service.
Day 3-4 Crossing the Drake Passage
We set sail for Antarctica by crossing the Drake Passage which takes two days. During these two days at sea, there’s plenty of time prepare for what you’ll see when you finally arrive in Antarctica. During the day you can learn about the history of Antarctic exploration, the different types of penguins you’ll encounter, glaciology and how climate change is impacting the ecosystem.
In the evening we watched a mini series on Shackleton and I got to know my fellow adventurers better and spent time learning the ins and outs of my point and shoot camera.
Days 5-8 South Shetland Islands and the Antarctica Peninsula
Many people ask what to do once you get to Antarctica. There’s plenty to do and see once you reach the South Shetland islands and Antarctic peninsula.
Days 9-11 Cross the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia.
The crossing to Antarctica was fairly smooth, but the crossing to Ushuaia was very turbulent. At times during dinner we had to hold on to our plates and glasses and watched everything not held slide across our tables.
Things to do
- Zodiac Tours – weave in and out of icebergs observing wildlife and taking in the dazzling colors and shapes of glacial ice floating by.
- Wildlife Photography – whales, seals and penguins are bountiful and easy to spot.
- Polar Plunge at Deception Island
- Iceberg Photography
- Visit a research station
Palmer Station is one of 70 permanent research stations scattered across Antarctica.
Types of penguins you may see
Chinstrap – can be found on various islands and beaches in the Shetland Islands and Antarctica. It’s name comes from a narrow black line under its head, which looks like it’s wearing a black helmet.
Gentoo – can be identified by a wide, white band across the top of its head that resembles a bonnet, and a bright orange/red beak. It also has whitish-pink, webbed feet and a prominent tail – the longest tail of all penguin species.
Adelie – only found in Antarctica, its the most common type of penguin along with the Emperor penguin. It has a white ring around its eye and its’ bill is mostly covered by black feathers, leaving only the tip exposed.
Emperor – the tallest and heaviest type of penguin. Feathers on the head and back are black and sharply contrast from their white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches.
I highly recommend a visit to Antarctica if your time and budget allows it. It’s like visiting another planet and the experiences and sight you will have will be once in a lifetime treasured memories.