Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth and effectively uninhabited, but travellers are increasingly determined to visit this glacial continent, resulting in Antarctica’s tourism almost quadrupling in the last two decades.
Antarctica can be reached by air or sea, though sailing is the more popular choice as many claim the journey through the Drake Passage is part of the unforgettable Antarctica experience. The most common departure port is from Ushuaia, Argentina, and the cruise can last anywhere from six to 18 days. There is also the option to fly in from Southern Chile. Though flying will save you more time, it’s also more expensive and has limited departure dates.
While there, there is also plenty of things in Antarctica to keep you marvelling, including the abundant wildlife it boasts. You can see emperor penguins belly sliding and jumping out of the water, migrating killer and humpback whales meters away from your kayak, or finding seals tucked away in a hidden corner of an iceberg.
Not to mention the unique landscape of ashy glaciers and steaming beaches produced by Deception Island, an active volcano, massive cliffs around the ocean, the surreal colours bouncing off glaciers, the Southern Lights and even several historical buildings. If you’d like to experience all of this, the best time to visit is between November to March.
Though it’s becoming more and more accessible, a trip to the white continent is still quite expensive. The flight and cruise will take up most of your budget and depending on the cruise length, operator, route and room type, this ranges between £6,000 and £15,000. Good travel insurance covering travel delays, emergency evacuation and baggage issues costs around £70 to £100. Adding to those costs, clothes, equipment and other miscellaneous expenses, an overall budget trip to Antarctica can cost £7000, while a luxurious getaway can go as high as £20,000.
However, with the increasing popularity comes some subsequent negative impacts. For example, the unintentional introduction of non-native plant and spore species by unsuspecting carriers. Antarctica has a limited tourist season due to the harsh weather and ice movement, which unfortunately coincides with the wildlife breeding season and may be a potential disturbance. There’s also the threat of pollution, like the cruise ship oil spill that occurred in 2007.
Some people would say to visit this southernmost continent as soon as possible, before climate change or over tourism make the site unavailable for public. But what do you think? Is Antarctica in your travel bucket list?