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No place on Earth compares to this vast white wilderness of elemental forces: snow, ice, water, rock. Antarctica is simply stunning. Antarctica is a land of extremes: it is the coldest and driest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation. As the fifth largest continent in the world, Antarctica is also the most Southern, overlying the 'South Pole'.Readmore
Those brave enough to venture to the ends of the earth are rewarded with a perspective and inspiration unlike any other. Here, nature reigns supreme, where untouched ice-crowned mountains rise majestically amidst brilliantly blue glaciers in icy waters. Follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers and historical adventurers as you arrive on the shores of the seventh continent.
East Antarctica & the South Pole
Severe and spectacular, East Antarctica is the land of the polar plateau and the continent’s coldest temperatures. The icebound coast, with its massive ice shelves, is broken up by the occasional ice-free oasis, or teeming seabird or emperor-penguin colonies.
Only a small number of research stations are scattered along these difficult-to-reach shores, and visitors appear so rarely that they are generally welcomed with open arms.
Inland East Antarctica, the heart of the ice cap, is only rarely visited by tourists. Several important research stations take advantage of the vast, thick ice sheet and its high, dry, freezing conditions: perfect for astronomy and physics.
Among them is the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. To reach here, you’ll fly over magnificent glaciers, yawning crevasse fields, and the most barren snow on Earth as you cross the Polar Plateau to reach the mighty Geographic South Pole.
South Shetland Islands
Thanks to their spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and proximity to Tierra del Fuego, the South Shetlands are one of Antarctica’s most visited areas. This major group of islands is just half a day’s cruise across the Bransfield Strait from the Antarctic Peninsula, and all cruises stop here.
The South Shetlands stretch 540 km from northeast to southwest and include four major groupings as well as 150-odd islets, skerries and rocks. The islands are about 80% glaciated and cover 3688 sq km. The archipelago’s highest point is Smith Island Mt Foster (2105m), first climbed in 1996.
Most distinctive of the South Shetlands is Deception Island, a beautiful ‘restless’ volcano that was the site of a whaling station and the first Antarctic flight.
Since both New Zealand and the US have their principal Antarctic stations on Ross Island, in summer it becomes a hub of activity, with science groups passing through on their way to field camps all over this side of the continent, and to the South Pole. It’s also the location of three famous historic huts, Mt Erebus and several penguin rookeries.
King George Island
King George Island, the largest of the South Shetlands and the first stop in the Antarctic for many tourists, is loaded with stations. Less than 10% of the island’s 1295 sq km is ice free, yet it supports year-round bases maintained by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Poland, Russia, South Korea and Uruguay, all connected by more than 20 km of roads and tracks. There are summer-only Dutch, Ecuadorian, German, Peruvian and US bases. The stations, some within walking distance of one another, are here because King George Island is so accessible from South America. Thus it’s a smart spot for countries to build stations and perform scientific research, thereby earning the status of consultative party to, or full member of, the Antarctic Treaty.
McMurdo Station, Antarctica’s largest encampment, has the feel of a bustling frontier town, but with helicopters and icescapes. Backed by the looming active volcano of Mt Erebus, the sprawling US station is home to more than 1100 people during summer and hosts a multinational assortment of many more researchers in transit to field camps and the Pole. More than 100 buildings blanket the nearly 4 sq km between Hut Point and Observation Hill. Water, sewer, telephone and power lines all run above ground in a crisscrossing array. Called Mac Town (or just ‘Town’) by residents, the station can be an overwhelming sight after Antarctica’s clean white icebergs and lack of human presence. Approximately 250 people winterover at McMurdo to maintain the station and prepare it for the next summer season when the bass fills to capacity.
The Larsemann Hills, 11 rocky peninsulas discovered by Norwegian captain Klarius Mikkelsen in 1935, are an ice-free oasis extending 15km from the Dålk Glacier. Mikkelsen named the hills after young Lars Jr, son of expedition organizer Lars Christensen. The Larsemanns, which reach a maximum elevation of 160m, contain about 200 fresh and saline lakes, as well as unique species of flora.
‘Polies,’ the residents of the US scientific research station here, like to boast that S 90° is a ‘latitude with attitude.’ Indeed, it is a near-mythical location, a place of extremes (high altitude, intense cold and very low humidity) where the blinding sun remains above the horizon for months at a time, then plunges beneath it for an equivalent period of darkness.
Known to Police simply as ‘Pole,’ the South Pole was, just a few decades ago, off-limits to all but the US government program’s scientists and support personnel. The only exceptions were a small number of other countries’ government-sponsored expeditions that traversed the plateau from the coast, and well-financed adventurers who passed through on private expeditions to cross the continent by ski or dog team. Today, ‘ordinary’ tourists can make the trip, though the cost is significant and not many stay more than a few hours.
The sign says: ‘It’s home, it’s Mawson,’ and for about 24 people living at the oldest continuously occupied station south of the Antarctic Circle, it is.
Australia’s Mawson was established in 1954 on the southeastern shore of Horseshoe Harbour. Named after Douglas Mawson, it's usually approached through Iceberg Alley, a channel lined with huge tabular bergs that have run aground on underwater banks. Horseshoe Harbour, a 90m-deep anchorage protected by two arms of land, is the best natural harbor for thousands of kilometers. The station’s high-latitude location makes it ideal for studying cosmic rays, done in an underground vault in solid rock, 20 m below the surface.
Despite its capacity for about 70, there are usually fewer than 24 people living at Mawson during summer, and about 16 in winter. It was formerly the principal home of Australia’s much-loved Antarctic huskies, before the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection forced their removal.
Commonwealth Bay & Cape Denison
Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition was based at Commonwealth Bay (named by Mawson for the Commonwealth of Australia) from 1912 to 1914. Nearby Cape Denison commemorates one of the expedition’s main supporters, Hugh Denison.
The same furious katabatics that caused Mawson to call this the ‘Home of the Blizzard’ often make landing here impossible. They also make conservation of Mawson’s huts much more difficult than that of the historic buildings on Ross Island. In 2007 a small laboratory was built to help conserve the site’s artifacts. Areas between the Main Hut and Boat Harbor where artifacts (building materials, domestic and scientific equipment, food, packaging, clothing and other historic detritus) are scattered on the ground are off-limits to tourists. No more than 20 people at once may come ashore here.
This northernmost headland at the entrance to the Ross Sea was named for Britain’s Viscount Adare, member of parliament for Glamorganshire, by his friend James Clark Ross, who discovered the cape in 1841. Sprawled across the shore is Antarctica’s largest Adélie rookery – 250,000 nesting pairs – as well as two sets of historic huts. Unfortunately, Cape Adare is an extremely difficult landing, typically with heavy surf and strong offshore winds – 200 to 500 people make it each year. Because of the penguin rookery, helicopters cannot be used except very late in the season.
Don't be fooled by all the ice: Antarctica is an amazing brilliant, arid desert. The region's moisture is all tied up in frigid seawater and the huge sheets, shelves, and packs of ice which cover nearly all of the continent plus surrounding waters. There is little snowfall here, and even less rain.
For tourists, Antarctica is accessible only during the austral summer season from November to March, during which sea ice melts enough to allow access, coastal temperatures can rise up to highs of 14°C (57°F) and there are twenty four hours of daylight. During the winter the sea is impassable. Temperatures can fall to -40°C/F and there are twenty four hours of darkness.
The above temperatures apply to the islands and coastal regions that tourists ordinarily visit. Temperatures in the interior, such as the South Pole, are far harsher, with summer highs of around -15°C (5°F) and winter lows plummeting to -80°C (-112°F)
There are no hotels in Antarctica. All tourist accommodation is aboard expedition ships. Some tour operators include a one-night pre-tour stay in a hotel in Argentina, Chile, New Zealand or Tasmania.
Most visitors arrive by cruise ship and sleep onboard for the duration of their Antarctica exploration, only venturing off for day trips on land. The quality of the catering onboard varies by operator, with ships carrying all the supplies needed to feed their passengers. There are no physical restaurants or bars on Antarctica proper as all research station residents are supplied by the government.
Bars and Pubbing in Antarctica
Evening entertainment isn’t a focus of Antarctic expeditions, with nature and landscapes the main attractions. However, most cruise operators serve alcohol onboard in their restaurants, bars, and lounges, and passengers can socialize with their fellow shipmates or even enjoy music in the evening.
Dining and Cuisine in Antarctica
In general, the smaller the boat, the more limited the menu. Dining options are usually influenced by the nationalities onboard and thankfully don’t include traditional expedition staples such as seal and whale. Buffet breakfasts and lunches are common, along with a formal sit-down evening meal with at least two international options. Those staying at research stations or camping on land will need to bring their own provisions or check in advance that catering will be provided.
They say curiosity killed the cat, but in this case curiosity led to the discovery of lands unknown to mankind. Driven by adventure, a team of Norwegian experts set out to explore a far away snow-laden stretch of wilderness in 1895. The discovery of Antarctica opened a Pandora’s Box, fuelling travellers’ wanderlust for almost two centuries now. But every adventurer who has ever ventured out to this icy wonderland has had questions. Here are just a few of them to prep you for your expedition.
How to visit Antarctica?
To get to Antarctica, you need to fly to Ushuaia. This little city lies in the far south of Argentina and is nicknamed as “fin del mundo” (The end of the world). Many Antarctica expedition cruise ships leave from this city.
Does one need a visa to enter Antarctica?
Since no one owns Antarctica, you don’t need a visa. However, since you need to step on Argentinian land to board a ship to this continent, you need an Argentina visa.
How do people survive the cold here?
They layer up! The answer is loads of warm clothes that cover your feet, ankles, hands, wrists, head and body. Actually, make sure you cover everything you can. Most people use multiple layers of synthetic fiber as it keeps you warm. But most importantly, the colder it gets, the harsher the UV rays become, so remember to use sunscreen and wrap-round goggles. It’s an absolute must!
Does Antarctica have electricity?
Yes, it does! The research centres and bases are usually powered by diesel-powered generators. And since Antarctica is the windiest place on earth, some bases even use large wind turbines for their supplementary electricity.
Major health risks while living and working in Antarctica. The major health risk while working in the field is hypothermia. Other risks include injuries like slipping on ice or a wet floor (sprains, strains and fractures) and back injuries when lifting heavy loads.
Antarctica is a place of dichotomy. Life and lifeless, light and lightless, it’s a continent worth study and worth a visit. However, there are some things to keep in mind once you arrive this far south on the planet. Not everyone thinks the same as you, nor do they need to be reminded of their hardship. Here are some key points to keep in mind when you travel to Antarctica, a place that will welcome you and be different than any other place you could ever go to again.
No Plunking or Taking – When you’re in the wilderness back home, you may get a staggering urge to deposit bodily waste. We’ve all had the proverbial “call of nature” at some point. In Antarctica, however, it’s not as easy as ducking behind a tree or rock. Anything steamy you plunk down here can and will be measured by scientists. Just as you shouldn’t leave any trace, you should not take either. Bird droppings, feathers, rocks, shells, bones, sediment, sand, snow, water, salt, sticks, pebbles, animals and all vegetation should not be touched.
Snowmen, Snow Angels and Igloos – If this is your first time seeing so much whiteness, so much snow and so much hardship, don’t go stir crazy. Parting from the group and attempting to build anything from the snow will be frowned upon. Most people down here will not be amazed at a one meter (three foot) snowman. Likely, snow angels too, won’t impress anyone and an igloo that simply looks like a mound of snow will rouse no excitement. Antarctica is a place to understand how people coexist with the environment for the sake of their particular science. It’s not a place to make a playground and let loose all those childhood fantasies.
Ask Too Many – People here do get to see the occasional passerby. People like you who are interested in the life and landscape of such a unique continent do come on tours. If you can, try to keep your questions interesting and on topic. Don’t ask every new “local” you meet about their hardships, “Don’t you miss the newspaper?”
We the leisure team brings a wide range of customized Antarctica tour to offer you a perfect hassle-free vacation. The plans are tailored keeping in mind your requirements and benefits. Whatever might be your choice; an adventurous vacation, a luxury vacation, a family vacation or a romantic one, we are ready with the perfect plan for you. We value your safety as well as respect your privacy, and the tour experts plan your tour accordingly, either a packaged group tour or an independent tour. In all cases we ensure a hassle-free experience with magnificent accommodations, authentic local guides, and unimaginable excursions. So whether you wish to explore the beauty of the seventh continent or immerse yourself in the white wildlife, write to Leisure and we will bring you perfect tour from the top tour experts.
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