Flights to Antarctica
If you don't relish the thought of spending four days at sea in the Drake Passage, a Fly-and-Cruise trip is made for you. From the moment you arrive in Punta Arenas, where flights to Antarctica depart from, you'll be looked after and transported to King George Island in the South Shetland Islands by plane.
Fly-and-cruise trips make the most of your precious time in the Antarctic, from short Antarctic tours of 4-8 days in the Antarctic Peninsula, tours that cross the Polar Circle, to those that allow you to fly one way and cruise the other (if you want to experience the Drake Passage crossing once). Alternatively, if you're a group of 6, short on time and can't find any dates that fit, you could charter a flight to Antarctica and spend 2 days exploring part of the Antarctic Peninsula.
But if paying the 'Drake tax' is all part of the adventure for you, why not browse cruises that set sail both ways on our Antarctic cruises page, or if you've got lots of questions and want to find out about the flight and the Polar Plunge, read our Q&A section.
Express tour of Antarctica
If you only have 5 days (or want to combine a visit to Antarctica with Patagonia) ...More details
Trip of Lifetime Air-Cruise
In just 7 days see the best of the Antarctic Peninsula; Paradise Bay, Cuverville & Deception ...More details
66 Degrees South Circle Crossing
Fly to and from Antarctica and see the highlights in just 9 days. This is an ...More details
Crossing the Antarctic Circle
On this 10-day voyage, you'll cross the Antarctic Circle and get onto the ice. For the ...More details
South Georgia, Falklands & Antarctica Cruise
On this 18-day trip, you fly from Punta Arenas to join the ship at Puerto Williams. ...More details
Where does the trip start?
All Fly and cruise trips that fly both ways to Antarctica start in the Chilean town of Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia. You can reach Punta Arenas by flying from London to Santiago and then south to Punta Arenas with LAN. Once in Punta Arenas, all passengers stay overnight at the same hotel before being woken early the next morning for their flight to Antarctica. The charter flight takes approximately 2 hours and goes from Punta Arenas airport direct to the Chilean Eduardo Frei Station on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands (close to the Antarctic Peninsula). Once on King George Island you take a 30 minute walk to the ship and start your adventure in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Trips that cruise out to Antarctica, start in the Argentinian town of Ushuaia in southern Patagonia and fly back from the Chilean Eduardo Frei Station to Punta Arenas.
How much does it cost?
A Fly and Cruise trip costs between £2,646 for a whistle-stop 5-day tour, to £9,248 for 17 days (flying there and cruising back). These price includes:
- Your return flights from Punta Arenas to King George Island in Antarctica
- Daily guided excursions in Zodiac boats and 2-3 hour explorations on the ice
- Accommodation in a comfortable, modern twin shared cabin
- Themed lectures from your expert expedition leaders whilst on board
- All meals (international cuisine) and an open bar (on most cruises)
This doesn't include tips for staff or purchases in the gift shop. It does mean that you'll need only to book your international and one domestic flight to Punta Arenas. Take a look at our advice on how to get to Antarctica for more on this.
Some Fly & Cruise trips also give you the option to kayak, hike, climb or camp in Antarctica, and the cost varies depending on the operator. You'll find that cruise operators sometimes include this in the price of the trip, whereas others charge an additional amount for your guide and equipment which can range from $350 - 975 depending on the excursion. For rates please see the info box on each trip details page but please be aware that you will probably be required to take out travel insurance for climbing and kayaking excursions.
Although on a per day basis a fly and cruise option is more expensive than a standard Antarctic cruise, it certainly has its advantages. It's one of the quickest ways of seeing all that Antarctica has to offer in just 4 - 8 days, something which a traditional Antarctic cruise just can't offer. And to top it off, it means cutting out around 4 days of cruising in open waters thus giving you a more comfortable journey to and from Antarctica, avoiding potential seasickness.
When should I book my trip?
Demand for fly-and-cruise trips is high and this means that we get enquiries often a year in advance. For the best choice of cabins, dates and to find something within your budget, it's best to get in touch early, even if it's just to find out what's available. We can also provisionally hold a cabin on your behalf for several days whilst you make up your mind. Most people book their cruise around 6-8 months in advance, before availability really starts tightening up.
Will the weather affect my trip?
Through careful planning and studying over the years, our partners are able to estimate that the chances of a flight to Antarctica suffering a delay are low, at about 10% and to date. However, on voyages to such a remote part of the world where the climate is constantly changing, there is no real way of predicting the weather, although it's fair to say that from November to February it will be warmer and brighter than from March to October.
We therefore strongly suggest allowing at least two days either side of your trip for contingency. This way if you are unable to fly back from Antarctica to Punta Arenas due to bad weather, you will not miss your internal or international flight. In the event that you're unable to depart from Punta Arenas for Antarctica, our partner would put into practice their contingency plan so that alternative wildlife activities would be provided in Punta Arenas. Please note that the team will do all that they can to get you to and from Antarctica on time.
What if I'm travelling alone?
Solo travellers are welcome on board all Antarctica Fly and Cruise trips so long as they are happy to share a cabin with someone of the same sex, or have a cabin to themselves and pay a single occupancy cabin rate of between 1.5 and 1.7 times the rate based on two persons sharing a standard twin cabin.
What type of plane will it be?
The planes used by all our fly-and-cruise partners are operated by DAP, a Chilean airline that takes more than 1000 passengers to Antarctica per year. The company's planes include a BAE 146 with capacity for 99, Twin Otter DHC-6, Beechcraft and Cessna 402.
In the unlikely event that there is too much ice on the runway on King George Island, you may have the opportunity to fly on a C-130 Hercules plane, which is able to land on ice.
What's the luggage allowance?
Travelling to Antarctica by plane definitely requires light packing! The luggage allowance is 20kg per passenger including hand luggage. This is due to the fact that you'll be flying on a small, lightweight plane, designed to get you across the Drake Passage as quickly as possible. If you're worried about the luggage restriction, please be assured that you'll be provided with an extensive kit list to help with your packing well in advance of the trip and you will be able to safely leave your luggage with the operator and it will be returned to you at the airport or on your return to the hotel in Punta Arenas.
What is the Drake Passage & why do I want to avoid it?
This infamous body of water is located between the tip of Patagonia (Cape Horn) and the South Shetland Islands and is the point at which the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans meet, causing a great swell known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The current causes huge upswellings, or 'Waves of Terror', often reaching heights of 15 metres that for some people produce serious sea sickness. However, the roughest stretch of ocean in the world is also a haven for a variety of seabirds and whales and so make it a great place for wildlife spotting if you can stomach it.
What can I expect to see and do?
Prepare yourself for the biggest icebergs you've ever seen, Weddell Seals lounging on blue ice floes and penguins waddling up and down huge ice-covered mountains bringing food back and forth to the rookery. You'll spend several hours a day getting up close to Chinstraps, Adelie and Gentoos and hop straight into the Zodiacs if there's a pod of whales nearby.
Itineraries are flexible up to a point, and the expedition leaders will plan each day as they go according to weather conditions. Trips in the Antarctic Peninsula could include sailing through the Gerlache Strait, famed for its spectacular icebergs in all their strange blueish forms, the lemaire Channel, a narrow strait which leads down and across the Antarctic Circle and Deception Island, a volcanic island where you can bathe in the warm-ish waters. You can even take part in the Polar Plunge, a spine tinglingly cold experience involving jumping into waters of 0 degrees.
Slightly longer trips aim to cross the Antarctic Circle at 66 degrees south venturing to some of the more secluded spots of Marguerite and Petermann Island I. If you're looking to explore further afield, you can venture out to the Falklands or South Georgia Islands where you'll really see and abundance of wildlife.
It largely depends on the time of year that you visit, and our Which Month? calendar at the top right of this page will help you decide when to visit if, for example, you're keen to see penguin chicks hatching, fluffy baby seal pups or large whale pods.
Questions? Need help?
Summer is in full swing with penguin chicks hatching all fluffy and grey, you'll see them earlier in the South Shetland Islands and later in the month to the south of the Peninsula. In January watch out for:
- Fur and leopard seal pups getting bigger, sticking close to their mums on the beaches.
- Penguin colonies are a hive of activity, with parents finding as much food as possible for their young, fending off giant Skua birds that prey on baby penguins.
Find out more about visiting Antarctica in January
February is still summertime and the continuously receding ice means that ice breakers can explore further south, visiting the Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea. Expect to see:
- Young penguin chicks are starting to get strong and big and can be seen huddling in 'penguin creches'.
- The concentration of fur seals increases
- February is prime time for whale watching with a variety of breeds feeding in the Antarctic Peninsula
Find out more about visiting Antarctica in February
By March, Autumn is well and truly here. The days begin to get shorter and the temperature starts to drop as the sun sinks below the southern horizon. Extensive walks into the South Shetland Islands are possible as although you may experience some winter frost during the night, snow cover is at its minimum.
- Young penguins are now in a state of adolescence and are interested and inquisitive in visitors
- Adult penguins are molting, making them look strangely shabby! They spend a lot of their time teaching their young to go to sea
- Whale watching is still very good at this time of year and there's a high chance you'll get near to lots of them
Find out more about visiting Antarctica in March
November is springtime in Antarctica, and as the ice begins to break and melt thanks to the sun's energy, Antarctica gets a burst of life - with plankton blooming on the ice and krill swelling in abundance. After a long, dark winter, Antartica's creatures make the most of the spring to fatten up before darkness strikes again. In November you'll see:
- Crabeater seals (born between September and November)
- Penguin courting rituals, nest building and stone stealing
- Penguin, petrel and comorant eggs are laid in November
- Elephant alpha seals aggressively guarding their harems on the beach until December
- Seals lounging on many icebergs
- Minke, Southern right whales and humpbacks arriving to feed
Find out more about visiting Antarctica in November
We're in early summer now, and many animals are being born, parents are searching for food for their young, and the variety of wildlife that can be seen on the icebergs, ice cliffs and Antarctic beaches is extraordinary. You'll see:
- whales feeding in Antarctica's food rich waters
- Petrel and comorant eggs are still hatching
- Penguin eggs start to hatch at the end of December in South Shetland Islands
- Days are lengthening so you should be getting near to 24 hours of daylight
Find out more about visiting Antarctica in December
We'll help you find your cruise style according to your appetite for adventure:
Skip the Drake Passage with cruises that include flights to Antarctica
The standard Antarctic Peninsula in 9-12 days
Abundant wildlife of Falklands & South Georgia
Go further south - The Antarctic Circle
Travel in style with Luxury Antarctic Cruise
Antarctic kayaking & campingwith Active cruises
We help all kinds of travellers find the best way to explore Antarctica. As well as mountaineering guides and expedition leaders we work with 8 different expedition vessels offering over 80 Antarctic Cruises each season. We use our knowledge and contacts to help you find the best Antarctic Cruise for your dates, budget and appetite for adventure.