Antarctica, simply the name of the only Covid-19 free continent on earth, conjures up visions of icebergs, endless miles of white landscape, glaciers, frozen mountains, an incredible array of wildlife and incredibly cold temperatures. For some, it’s the final stop to be able to claim membership in the 7 Continents Club. For most, however, it’s simply the pleasure of visiting an astonishing destination void of pollution and the souvenirs left behind by humanity.
From the first moment you enter the waters of the Antarctic and you begin to glimpse the rugged coastline of this pristine continent, you will start to grasp the enormity of where you are. Antarctica is a huge piece of land. The land mass itself covers 5,100,021 miles (not including the hundreds of surrounding islands) and accounts for 8.9% of the earth’s land. Antarctica, almost 98% solid ice, was finally considered a continent in 1840, and not just a group of isolated islands.
There is no capital city, and, other than some research facilities, not even a single “town.” There are no airport security machines to go through and no passport or immigration official to check documents and passports. You definitely won’t feel crowded in this land of ice, mountains, snow and ocean. So, undoubtedly the basic questions are: What’s the best route to take to see this magical continent? How long of a trip is your typical Antarctica adventure? What type of clothing should you pack? And of course, how much does it cost? There are a myriad of questions for which you would want to know answers.
As with any trip or adventure that is somewhat exotic (or maybe really exotic, depending on your point of view), there are many, many details. Simply for the ease of enjoying this article, some of the answers will be touched on. But as with any trip of this kind, the more research you do, the better prepared you will be.
How do you get to Antarctica and what’s the best route to take to see this magical continent?
From this writer’s perspective, the best way to get there is by travelling via Argentina then continuing your journey by ship. You can fly from most major US cities nonstop to Buenos Aires. BA (Buenos Aires) is an amazingly beautiful city with numerous great restaurants, very nice hotels plus fun and interesting sightseeing. You can plan for any number of days in Buenos Aires, either before or after (or both) your Antarctica adventure. There are several “jumping off points” from Argentina to get to Antarctica. One of the most favored is flying from Buenos Aires to the town of Ushuaia where you will board a ship and cross the infamous Drake Passage. Once you’ve crossed Drake’s Passage (approximately a 2 day voyage) your Antarctica adventure begins!
How long of a trip is your typical Antarctica adventure?
The typical Antarctica adventure is anywhere from 5 – 10 days. It all depends on which cruise company you choose to use and the itinerary they offer. This writer and his family chose to travel aboard the MS Midnastol with Hurtigruten, a well-established Norwegian company that is renowned for its Fjord Cruises in Scandinavia as well as its Antarctic Cruises. For more information about Hurtigruten visit Hurtigruten.com. Hurtigruten has a five star safety rating and kept their ship, the MS Midnastol, in top-notch condition.
What type of clothing should you pack?
In a few words, WARM, VERY WARM. Layers are best, using long underwear, wool socks, fleece jackets and of course, down-filled outer jackets. Cold weather gloves, as opposed to just standard leather or cloth gloves, are a MUST. Incidentally, Hurtigruten supplies you with the appropriate boots as well as a Helly Hansen bright red, multi-colored, long, all-weather outer jacket, as a gift. You will also want to take some type of warm woolen hat or head covering as well as a wool/warm scarf.
And of course, how much does it cost?
This question can be a bit tricky because it all depends on what cruise company you choose, what time of year you travel, the type of cabin you reserve – the lower the deck on the ship, generally the less the cabin will cost – pre and post side trips, plus of course you should expect to pay additional for your drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), extra excursions from the ship and perhaps WIFI. Always ASK what is and isn’t included. Depending on the cruise company, airfare is typically not included. The average cost is around $10,000 per person. The most economical cruises to Antarctica start at just under $5,000 per person for a 6-10 day voyage. For longer itineraries, and depending on your cabin choice, pricing can go as high as $20,000 per person.
What animals and wildlife can you expect to see?
You can expect to see a surprising variety of wildlife during your Antarctic expedition. This extreme landscape is home to leopard seals, crabeater seals, robust sea lions, minke whales, humpback whales and an assortment of birds well designed to withstand the Antarctic chill. Naturally, you will enjoy literally thousands and thousands of penguins, including the emperor, chinstrap and king, who make Antarctica their home.