Have you thought of visiting the Antarctic? It could be the trip of your life.
Imagine stepping on the white continent and knowing that you are part of a small number of people that have the privilege to be there, not many people can live that experience. It is the only continent without permanent human settlements, and the community that habits the place are only representatives of the scientific world and expeditions.
The Antarctica or Antarctic, as the Chileans call it, is the so-called sixth continent, located at the southernmost part of the earth. It is an uninhabited place with a nomadic population of scientists and military teams from different countries.
Four thousand people inhabit the continent in summer and one thousand in winter. The closest continent is America.
Antarctica has been claimed by several countries. Fortunately for humanity, the control of the continent is managed by a representative’s council integrated by several nations that watch over its natural integrity.
World’s natural heritage
Antarctica possesses magnificent landscapes. The seawaters, when they are calm, look like mirrors that reflect perfection the majesty of the glaciers.
Sunsets are different. Everything is different. Unexpectedly, it is the most extensive desert on earth.
Time passes differently. The movement of the sun is no longer a good reference. Snow barriers can remain the same for hundreds of years, or change in a matter of seconds.
Antarctica is located at the south pole and the shape is circular. In winter, the waters freeze and the continent doubles its size. Above the ice, only the great mountains stand out.
It has the coldest climate on Earth because it receives less amount of sun per year than the rest of the planet. The continent has 90% of the planet’s fresh water and 84% of the ice contained.
True silence prevails in this enigmatic place. A silence that is only interrupted by the singing of the penguins.
Mosses, lichens, and algae are the exclusive vegetation that exists in the continent. There is a small diversity in the arctic fauna, but large in exuberance.
You can observe exotic animal species. Some of them are penguins, elephant seals or leopard seals.
A sub-zero research center
Antarctica was visited for exploration purposes. The first expeditions to visit it encounter were hardship and misfortune. It was hard to explore.
It was the unknown, surely, that stirred up the passion to study the white continent. Since then, a number of research centers have been installed in Antarctica.
The purpose of the studies undertaking in the Arctic to examine the environmental, biological, climatological, geological, marine and space characteristic of the place. Currently, there are numerous scientific bases throughout the continent.
Whole families live in some of them. They have schools, churches and what is necessary to create a human´s settlement to exist under these polar conditions.
The country with the most permanent and summer bases is Argentina. It has 12 in total and has the oldest base in Antarctica.
Russia has the Vostok´s base, the closest to the magnetic pole. France and Italy operate jointly in the same parallel, to manage Concordia´s Base.
Other countries that have Antarctic bases are Germany, Spain, Australia, Russia, South Africa, India, the United Kingdom, and South Korea.
Everything that takes place in Antarctica is regulated by the Treaty of the Antarctic, signed in Washington D.C. in 1959. The governability is in the hands of the countries that are part of the consultative members. By consensus, they define the future of the region.
the Antarctic is being managed with the cooperation among countries. In that place, nationality is not a fundamental criterion to establish the bases of coexistence. A true exception to world geopolitics.
Touristic development in the Antarctic
In the beginning, many lives were lost in the expeditions and exploration of the Arctic; nowadays, it is possible and accessible for many.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in visiting Antarctica for tourism purposes. Living the polar experience in the Antarctic has become a focus of interest.
Tourist services already have attractive offers. Most of the operators have a variety of services to support tourists.
The touristic agencies or operators offer complete packages, which include transfer services to the embarkation city, accommodation on the mainland, transfer service via navigation to the Antarctic Peninsula, and expeditions to different islands. During the November-January period, cruise tours are available.
Who is interested in the polar climate with the lowest temperatures in the world?
According to the International Association of Tour Operators in Antarctica, known by its acronym as IAATO, in the period 2015-2016, 30,904 people traveled as tourists. From this group, 126 were Spanish, 591 came from Latin America. 159 Argentines, 93 Mexicans, and 88 Chileans were registered. Would you dare to be part of these statistics?
Activities in Antarctica
Stepping in the land and contemplating the sceneries, is already a good motivation. The most popular distraction is to navigates routes through the islands, with exceptional guides.
Among the visitors, in addition to the traditional explorers and researchers, now you can add the snow lovers, fans of winter sports such as extreme snowboarding, alpine skiing, trekking in mountains, navigation among iceberg, and so on.
In Antarctica, there are nighttime distractions. One of them, very emblematic, is the Faraday Pub. There, girls can have free bars if they leave their bra.
The funny thing about this place is that visitors are served by climate scientists, meteorologists, and other experts. It is not easy to imagine the mixture between science and fun.
How to get to Antarctica?
First, you must guarantee your route to the city from where you plan to embark to the Antarctic Peninsula. On this route there is a wide range of commercial flights or, for more demanding tourists can choose to go on private jets. Only 1% of the visitors belong to this exclusive group of tourists.
Once, in the continental city of departure, nautical transportation is the most popular option. Ushuaia, in Argentina, is the usual starting point. From there, cruises are available to navigate to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The option of travel via a cruise is also available from Chile, specifically from Punta Arena. Some tourists travel from New Zealand, by the Ross Sea; or from South Africa, from Cape Town or Port Elizabeth.
Antarctica doesn´t have a port; so, just descending becomes an adventure. What they usually do is to transfer passengers from the cruise ships to small boats and boats.
The units are really luxury cruises. From Ushuaia, you can buy last-minute tickets that open a month in advance.
The cheapest cabin rates for 4 people are close to 4,000 USD for 10-day trips. Rooms can be private or shared. The most demanding travelers arrive by private jets and choose individual cabins.
For the more adventurous, there are sailboat options. In this case, the demands are simple: you just have to have nerves of steel and an unbreakable will to experience the maximum of adrenaline.
The recommendations from specialized agencies in Antarctica, suggest selecting cruise ships that are affiliated with IAATO and have at least two departures per day.
There is always the risk that the boat will not reach the destination, due to the instability in time, and return to the initial place of the embankment; or, occasionally, passengers are switched to smaller units that can navigate the dense frost.
The adventurers will find alternatives for doing Kayaking, camping, mountaineering, skiing. The contrast of this exciting adventure is that, in all the boats or fun places, surely you will be attended by scientists, historians or experts in different disciplines of knowledge, willing to answer all your questions, which surely will not be few.
If you leave the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, you can make a visit of only one day and decide to travel by private plane. You can decide to spend the night, with a cost that ranges between 3,000 and 5,000 USD.
There is a cheaper option, but not as comfortable as private flights. It consists of traveling in overflights at low altitudes. You can take pictures and get a pretty good idea of the place. This alternative is valued, on average, between 1,000 and 2,000 euros.
During the route, if your boat meets another boat moving in the opposite direction, you can witness a curious ritual. When sister ships meet, the vessels turn around so that all crew members can greet each other.
To enter Antarctica you do not need a visa. The territory does not belong to any particular country. You only need to receive navigation permits and comply with the requirements of the country of departure, from which you will start your adventure.
Upon arrival, kissing the Antarctic soil is a traditional ritual. It symbolizes an action in homage to the fabulous experience. You approach the disembarkation point and the smell of the pingonearas welcomes you.
Some Islands of interest
On the route to the peninsula and in your exploration days, you will have the opportunity to see some of its islands. Some of them are composed of lava remains and volcanic ash cones.
All the islands located below 65 degrees’ latitude are part of Antarctica. The cold and the incessant wind are its most outstanding characteristics. They are about 13 islands in total, of different sizes and shapes.
One of them is Isla Paulet. De Paulet´s population is of 200,000 penguins. There you can get to know the Paulet Island Cabin. This cabin was built by survivors of a shipwreck occurred in 1903.
Danco Island is a temple, a space of silence. It is a paradisiacal site, surrounded by glaciers. There was a UK base.
10 things you can do in Antarctica
When you think about visiting Antarctica, sure you will wonder what you can do in this frozen continent. We share some suggestions that the website shows for your trip to be of maximum benefit.
1. There is a ritual of arrival.
Kissing the ground symbolizes a tribute to one of the most spectacular place on the planet and the blessing of having received the privilege of visiting it.
2. Observing the majestic icebergs
In the eastern part of the peninsula is a must-see. If you wait patiently, you may be able to witness the formation of a new iceberg that arises from the collision between plates or by detachment.
3. You can visit some of the islands with the greatest diversity of exotic fauna.
The possibility of seeing penguins, seals and other species up close, it is unique and hardly repeatable.
4. If you practice a snow sport, in Antarctica you can do it.
Whether you love kayaking, mountaineering, skiing, or simply, your inner child is happy on snowmobile rides or playing rackets.
5. An experience full of adrenaline is navigating the Lemaire Channel.
This channel is surrounded by drifting Iceberg.
6. Observing the penguins
Is another of the must-see activities. The guides will teach you to differentiate sex and understand their life habits.
7. Visiting Shackleton Cottage
Can be an adventure for many curious people in history and science. This infrastructure remains almost intact as it was almost a century ago, available for visitors to move imaginatively to what happened in that expedition.
8. The sighting of whales
Of the most exciting activities. They may be seen during their migration routes and you may be there to observe them.
9. Visit the Antarctic Museum
Built by the British during World War II.
10. Learning and knowledge
Receive specialized and professional knowledge of guides, navigators and all the people who provide accompaniment in your stay.
2 recommendations that you should consider
If you binge, you cannot eat on land in Antarctica.
With the noble purpose of protecting the environment in Antarctica as much as possible, one of the recommendations of IAATO is not to eat food, not to use paper towels or other elements that, thrown into the ground – intentionally or accidentally- can generate a negative environmental impact.
You can take the option of sleeping in stores, some operators have that service. But you must understand that you will make the meals on the boat, never on the ground.
Care you should have when visiting Antarctica.
You must have adequate security equipment for the route. The recommended survival kit contains energy bars, stores, coats, thermal clothing, and gloves. To reduce the impact on the environment, you must clean your boots and equipment before going ashore to Antarctica and before leaving.
Lodging in the Arctic
In a specific location, there exist the Antarctic base. Rooms available for permanent or temporary use, exclusively for scientific purposes.
In Argentina, before the departure, you have available lodging options. One of them is the Argentina Antarctica Hotel, the Club House Villa Carlos Paz Hotel, among others located near the port.
In these facilities, you will have available internet service, wifi and very well equipped rooms with all services. In these spaces, you also have corporate services available: meeting room, business center.
On the routes, as you have already read in this article, you have available your accommodation in luxury cabins. Also, you would have the option of camping at night in camping tends that operators will have available.
Traveling to Antarctica is a luxury option
With this article, now you know why traveling to Antarctica is a possibility for privileged people. With varied options of transportation, the trip by air in private jets is the one that offers you, without doubt, the greatest comfort.
There are different options: a luxurious lodging, cruises or camping tends are possibilities opened to you.
You just have to be equipped to visit the coldest place on earth and understand the importance to take the greatest care and keep this vital space intact for the planet.