Antarctica. It’s the windiest, coldest, driest, highest, and most remote place on Earth so, why would anyone want to go there?? Because despite all of these things, it is also the most indescribably beautiful place you’ll ever experience.
This is our “how to visit Antarctica” guide.
Antarctica in Summary
Located at the bottom of the world, Antarctica can be reached from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. There isn’t an indigenous population (unless you count the penguins!) but, instead the continent is inhabited by a quarry of international research stations with fluctuating residences. More people in summer (November to March) for repair and maintenance purposes and less in winter (April through to October) for research related activities.
How we did it and why…
The main reason we chose to visit Antarctica is because it would be my 7th continent and we’d come this far, why not go all the way?? Quite logical really. We did A LOT of research before making any decisions and there may have even been a spreadsheet involved…which I personally encourage you to do also!
The first thing we did was to decide what we wanted to see. On a cheaper 10 day tour we’d get to mainland Antarctica but, we wouldn’t get to visit the surrounding islands including the Falklands, South Georgia, South Orkneys and South Shetlands. With a 20 day tour, we could see it all, but it was going to cost twice as much. This was the first dilemma and where my love of spreadsheets came in very handy.
Be flexible. This is also a phrase you'll hear daily onboard your ship so, it's good to start preparing yourself now. We looked at dates for the current year plus the following year when we were planning our trip. As a good example, what we paid for a 20 day tour eighteen months in advance, would have only bought us a ticket on a 10 day voyage sailing that year.
We spoke to the operators. We asked a dozen seemingly stupid questions to help us come to a final decision. I even went as far as to ask for discounts. After all, you don’t know if you don’t ask! (All requests were denied for the record…)
Once the spreadsheet was completed and our questions had been answered, we faced our final dilemma. Who would we entrust our life savings to? Who would give us the best experience?
In the end, we chose Hurtigruten’s White Christmas in Antarctica 20 day voyage for USD $7,897 per person. We had an inside cabin aboard the expedition ship, the MS Fram. The Fram would take us to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Orkney and Sandwich Islands, the South Shetlands and the Antarctic Peninsula with plenty of landings and optional excursions available.
How you can do it too
You might be broke after booking your trip but, you will never regret it. Our voyage to Antarctica has topped the list as the number one place we’ve ever visited and if future finances allow, we’ll be on the next boat over in a heartbeat!
Depending on how long you want to stay, and your means of travel, etc. is how much you’ll have to spend on this unique opportunity. Prices however, generally start from around USD $2,000 per person. Some voyages are fully inclusive, others will have optional purchases available on board.
On our ship, the MS Fram, we had several excursion options ranging from mainland Antarctica camping (USD $500+ to kayaking ($116) and Polar Cirkle cruising ($150). Tea, coffee and hot chocolate were free, alcoholic drinks were reasonably priced, and a free water dispenser was available on the 4th deck. You could also purchase quality clothing in the small shop at very reasonable prices which was handy for a few things we’d forgotten along the way.
NB: We had been told it would be much cheaper to arrive and book last minute...unfortunately this was not the case. Our voyage was sold out and others were selling for more than twice the price. I've added this extra research to the spreadsheet...
Cruise or Expedition ship? What you decide really depends on what you want to get out of your voyage. Cruise ships tend to carry more people and with most landing sites within the Antarctic region only allowing 100 people ashore at a time, this could limit your chances to explore.
Expedition ships on the other hand tend to be more focused towards getting people off the ship for adventures such as hiking, kayaking, small boat cruises, camping, etc.
If you have the time, it’s also possible to go with a resupply ship. These generally take around 30 days but work out much cheaper than cruising.
Australia & New Zealand cruises start from around USD $10,000 per person
Argentina / Chile cruises start from around USD $3,000 per person
Fly in or over? Qantas offers flights from Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney (Australia) during the Antarctic summer with prices starting from as low as AUD $1,199. Unfortunately, you won’t land but there are big windows on the plane so you can still get some great photos.
You can also fly in and combine your trip with a voyage. This is a slightly more expensive option and you’re looking at a starting price of around USD $4,495 per person, triple share, upwards.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also apply to work in Antarctica. For Australians, check out the website; http://www.antarctica.gov.au/jobs/antarctica for current opportunities.
We LOVED our tour of Antarctica but, it was a culmination of many factors that came together quite well. The landscapes and wildlife were fabulous and the professionalism and service aboard the MS Fram was nothing short of perfect. This trip was amazing and we can't recommend it more highly. To get in touch with Hurtigruten about your 'White Christmas' in Antarctica, check out their website; https://www.hurtigruten.com
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