Once the sole domain of whalers, explorers, scientists and soldiers, tours of Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula now give you access to a landscape that goes beyond language. Travel here, and you escape the modern world, while depending on it to keep you safe.
To get to Antarctica you’ll travel from Argentina’s Tierra de Fuego on an expeditionary ship. These combine the spirit of adventure with the modern creature comforts you’d expect. Watch as towers of ice glide past, dotted with drifting blue-green icebergs – but the scenery is only half of the magic.
Almost unchanged since the days of Scott and Shackleton, these freezing waters and marine mists are home to a huge concentration of wildlife. Zodiac expeditions ashore are guided by expert naturalists. Stay up late with your camera and you’ll be rewarded with the languorous twilight of the polar night, a photographer’s dream.
Explorers from Cook to Amundsen and Scott all tried their luck here. You can feel what it was like to push through the pack ice on a wooden boat or to haul sledges across the polar plateau. Some of the huts remain, frozen in rime ice.
It’s even possible for visitors to climb Antarctic peaks or kayak icy waters. But there’s nothing quite like the sheer expanse of the polar ice cap for you to reckon with the reality of global warming. The remoteness, the cold, the scale of the ice, the strange, altered rhythms of life here present a challenge. Ice and weather, not clocks, control the timetable.
You are often free to wander ashore on guided visits. But be forewarned: leave nothing but footprints, and take nothing but memories.
When to go
We recommend going between November and March to see Antarctica at is best.