It could be the trip of a lifetime to visit Antarctica…
Stepping on the white continent and feeling part of a very small number of people who have been there, is a privilege that very few can have. It is the only continent without permanent human settlements. Only representatives of scientific expeditions live there.
Antarctica or Antarctica, as the Chileans call it, is the so-called sixth continent, the southernmost continent on earth. It is an uninhabited continent, with a mobile population of scientific and military teams from different countries.
Approximately 4,000 people inhabit it in summer and about 1,000 in winter. The nearest continent is America.
Antarctica has been claimed by several countries. Fortunately for mankind, it is managed by a council made up of representatives of several nations that watch over its natural integrity.
Incredible natural landscape, world heritage site
Antarctica has been awarded with magnificent landscapes. Its waters, when calm, look like mirrors that perfectly reflect the majesty of its glaciers.
The sunsets are different. Everything is different. Paradoxically, it is the largest desert on earth.
When visiting Antarctica you will realize that time passes differently. The movement of the sun is no longer a good reference. The snow barriers can remain the same for hundreds of years, or change in a matter of seconds.
With an almost circular shape, Antarctica is located at the south pole. In winter the waters freeze and the continent doubles in size. Above the ice, only the great mountains protrude.
It has the coldest climate on earth because it receives less sunshine per year than the rest of the planet. It contains 90% of the planet’s fresh water and 84% of the ice.
The true silence is imposed in this enigmatic place. A silence that is only interrupted by the singing of penguins.
Its vegetation is composed exclusively of mosses, lichens and algae. Its fauna is low in diversity, but great in exuberance.
You can observe exotic animal species. Some of them are penguins, elephant seals or leopard seals.
A sub-zero research center
Visiting Antarctica began with the sole purpose of exploration. The first expeditions that tried to visit it did not have much luck. It cost many lives to visit and explore it.
Surely from the passion it arouses in the face of the unknown, the interest in studying it was born. Several research centers have been set up in Antarctica.
The studies are developed for different purposes: environmental, biological, climatological, geological, marine and space. At present, there are numerous scientific bases throughout the continent.
In some of them, entire families live. They have schools, churches and everything necessary for life under these polar conditions. These families are related to researchers.
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 base, the closest to the magnetic pole. France and Italy operate jointly in the same parallel, to manage the Concordia Base.
Other countries with Antarctic bases are Germany, Spain, Australia, Russia, South Africa, India, United Kingdom and South Korea, among others.
Everything that takes place in Antarctica is regulated by the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 in Washington DC. Management is in the hands of countries that are part of the consultative members. By consensus, they are the ones who define the future of the region.
The policy is one of cooperation. In this place, nationality is not a fundamental criterion for establishing the basis for coexistence. A true exception to world geopolitics.
In ancient times it cost many lives to reach Antarctica on expeditions, today it is possible and accessible to 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.
These 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 Antarctica Tour Operators known by its acronym IAATO, in 2015-2016, 30,904 people traveled as tourists to Antarctica. Of these, 126 were Spanish, 591 came from Latin America. There were 159 Argentines, 93 Mexicans and 88 Chileans. Would you dare to be part of these statistics?
How to get to Antarctica?
In principle, 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 offer of commercial flights or, for more demanding tourists, private jets. Only 1% of the visitors belong to this exclusive group of tourists.
Once in the mainland city of departure, the sea transport option is the most popular. Ushuaia, in Argentina, is the most popular departure point. From there, cruise ships are available to take you to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The cruise ship option is also available from Chile, specifically from Punta Arena. Some tourists travel from New Zealand, through the Ross Sea; or from South Africa, from Cape Town or Port Elizabeth.
In Antarctica there is no port, so going ashore is already an adventure. What they usually do is a transfer from cruise ships to small boats and launches.
The units are really luxury cruise ships. When visiting Antarctica, from Ushuaia you can buy last minute tickets that open a month in advance.
Rates you can find when visit Antarctica…
The cheapest rates for a 4-person cabin are around 4,000 USD for a 10-day voyage. Rooms can be private or shared. The most demanding travelers arrive in private jets and choose single cabins. For the more adventurous, there are sailboat transfer options. In this case, the requirements are simple: you just have to have nerves of steel and an unbreakable will to experience the maximum adrenaline.
The recommendations of agencies specializing in Antarctica suggest selecting cruise ships that are affiliated with IAATO and that have at least two departures each day.
There is always the risk that the vessel may not make it to the destination due to unstable weather and must return. Occasionally, passengers are switched to smaller units that can navigate through the dense frost.
Adventurers will find alternatives for kayaking, camping, mountaineering and skiing. The contrast of this exciting adventure. Is that, in all the boats or fun sites, you will surely 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 one-day visit if you decide to travel by private plane. You can decide to stay overnight, with a cost ranging 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 way to the peninsula and in your days of exploration, you will have the opportunity to visit some of its islands. Some of these islands are composed of lava debris and volcanic cinder cones.
All islands located below 65 degrees latitude are part of Antarctica. The cold and the incessant wind are their most outstanding characteristics. There are about 13 islands in total, of various sizes and shapes.
One of them is Paulet Island. Paulet has a population of 200,000 penguins. There you can visit the Paulet Island Cabin. This cabin was built by survivors of a shipwreck in 1903. Danco Island is a temple, a place of silence. It is a paradisiacal place. Surrounded by glaciers. There was a base of the United Kingdom.
10 things you can do when visit Antarctica
When you think about visiting Antarctica, you surely wonder what you can do in this frozen continent. We share with you some suggestions from the web to make the most of your trip.
Take note of this:
- There is an arrival ritual. Kissing the ground symbolizes a tribute to one of the most spectacular spaces on the planet and to the blessing of having received the privilege of visiting it.
- Observing the majestic icebergs in the eastern part of the peninsula is an activity not to be missed. If you wait patiently, you may be able to witness the formation of a new iceberg that emerges from the collision between plates or by detachment.
- 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 is unique and hard to repeat.
- If you practice snow sports, you can practice them in Antarctica. Whether you love kayaking, mountaineering, skiing, or simply your inner child is happy on snowmobile rides or playing snowshoeing.
- An adrenaline-filled experience is navigating the Lemaire Channel. This channel is surrounded by drifting icebergs.
- Penguin watching is another must-do activity. With the guidance of the guides, you can get to differentiate them by sex and understand their life habits.
- Visiting the Sackleton Hut can be an adventure for many curious about history and science. This infrastructure remains almost intact as it was almost a century ago, available for visitors to imagine what happened on that expedition.
- One of the most exciting activities is the sighting. They may be spotted during their migration routes and you may be there to observe them.
- Visit the Antarctic Museum, built by the British during World War II.
- Receive specialized and professional knowledge from guides, navigators, and all the people who accompany you during your stay.
2 Recommendations to consider
No binge eating, you can’t eat on Antarctic land
With the noble purpose of protecting the environment in Antarctica, one of the IAATO’s recommendations is not to eat food, or use towels or other items that, thrown to the ground intentionally or accidentally, can generate a negative environmental impact.
You can take the option of sleeping in tents, some operators offer this service. But you must understand that meals will be taken on the boat, never on the ground.
Care you should take when visiting Antarctica
You must have adequate safety equipment for the route. The recommended survival kit contains energy bars, tents, coats, thermal clothing and gloves.
To lessen the impact on the environment, you should clean your boots and equipment before going ashore and before leaving Antarctica.
The Antarctic base is located in a specific location. Rooms are available for permanent or temporary use, exclusively for scientific purposes.
Argentina, before departure, you have available lodging options. One of them is the Hotel la Antártida Argentina, the Club House Hotel Villa Carlos Paz, among others located near the port.
These facilities will have wifi service available and rooms very well equipped with all the 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. You can opt for a camping night in tents that the operators will have available.
Traveling to Antarctica is a luxury option
In this article, you could learn why traveling to Antarctica is a possibility for the privileged. With a variety of transfer options, air travel by private jets or private aircraft is the one that offers you, without a doubt, the greatest comfort.
Staying or lodging in its luxurious cruise ships or, for adventure, in its tents, is also a possibility.
You just have to be equipped to visit the coldest place on earth and sensitized to take the greatest care to keep intact this vital space for the planet.