• Saturday, August 19, 2017

Travel to Antartica

Antarctica – Cooler than Cool
September 25, 2013
By , Galavante Contributor

Even if you’ve done the Orient Express, the Skeleton Coast, and booked a seat on Branson’s space vehicle, there’s still one place left to visit: Antarctica, the holy grail for adventure travelers.

Look, we’ll cut straight to the point. Antarctica is remote, vast, lunar, and unforgiving. It’s damn cold; the average annual temperature is -70°F. It’s also extremely dry – technically, the entire continent is a desert. There are probably more facilities to comfortably overnight in outer space. Still reading? Good. Because it’s also hands down one of the most stunningly gorgeous, isolated destinations you will ever visit.

Throughout the year, several purpose-built cruise ships head for the deep, deep South, departing from Argentina’s southernmost point or the Tasmanian Coast. Hop aboard, layer up on fleece, and don’t get all Titanic when your ship scrapes ice. That’s normal. As your ice-breaking vessel navigates the glacial shards and you catch sight of the continent, you’ll also get a sneak peek at its array of adorable polar wildlife: think terns, petrels, albatrosses, penguins, and seals. Tons of seals.

Once your ship moors just off land, hop into a Zodiac, an inflatable rubber boat made just for zooming around icebergs and plowing onto snowy moorings. Each day, you’ll head out on Zodiac excursions around the icy coastline, disembarking at various points to explore the polar wilderness by foot.

While Antarctica’s unpredictable weather means you’re totally at the mercy of Mother Nature, your ship is likely to be chock full of creature comforts. The extravagance of these vessels is one reason many people book a journey in the first place. The more luxurious boats offer roll top baths and gold fittings in private balcony suites, with Michelin-star dinners and personal butlers. It might seem odd to come to the ends of the earth for such pampering, but you’ve already been everywhere else, right?

Good For: Adventurers, couples, families, and bucket listers. A trip to Antarctica is not exactly a luau and rum punch kind of vacay, but it’s hardly grueling or impossible.

The Highlights:

  • Gazing at towering blue icebergs from the plush comfort of your starboard suite.
  • Ogling jaunty little penguins and lethargic seals while exploring on the Zodiac.
  • Glimpsing humpback whales breaching the water’s surface from just a few feet away.
  • Tiptoeing around Shackleton’s and Scott’s winter huts, both perfectly preserved for over a century.
  • Being the first to answer the question “What is the seventh continent?” in Trivial Pursuit.
  • Checking off the seventh continent from your bucket list.

Suggested Stay: 1 week; any more and you might go stone cold crazy.

What to Know: Though Antarctica’s mythology looms large with frostbitten extremities and iced-over beards, if you visit during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, temperatures won’t drop much below freezing. Still, pack a solid base layer, a fleece parka, and a windproof shell. Ski goggles, polarized glasses, and a good wool cap are essential. Steel-shank rubber boots with excellent traction are ideal for walking on snow and ice, and you might want to tote a pair of trekking poles.

Getting There: At the top of the list is Orion Expeditions, whose Antipodean voyages trace the historical journeys of Shackleton, Scott, and Mawson across the Southern Ocean and the Ross Sea. These 100-person ships are decked out with five-star service and spacious ocean view suites and cabins. On the other side of the world, departing from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, are shorter journeys with a day or two of sea crossing. These voyages can often cram in more landings, wildlife, and iceberg sightings due to shorter distances. Quark Expeditions runs a dozen or so journeys along the Antarctic peninsula on an adventure-ready cruise ship, while the Norwegian Hurtigruten operates several journeys aboard its modern expedition cruiser, the MS Fram. These trips often include visits to Subantarctic areas like South Georgia, South Orkneys, and the Falkland Islands.