Getting to Antarctica
Antarctica is 11,000 miles from the UK, and getting to somewhere as remote as Antarctica isn't easy. For those coming from the UK, the simplest way is to fly to Argentina or Chile and down to the southermost towns in the world.
Check out different types of Antarctic Cruise, or read on below to find out more about getting to Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. Find out more about combining a trip to Antarctica with a visit to Patagonia.
Getting to Ushuaia in Argentina
The marjority of the Antarctic cruises we work with depart from the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, which is the closest point to Antarctica and found in Argentinian Patagonia.
London to Buenos Aires - Fly direct from London to Buenos Aires with BA, who recently launched this direct route from Heathrow with a flight time of around 14 hours. Great news for people trying to get down to Antarctica as it has made the overall journey time far quicker.
Buenos Aires to Ushuaia - Buenos Aires is a fantastic city and you may choose to break up your journey with a stop over there. However, if you're keen to get onto the ice, fly on to Ushuaia with Aerolineas Argentinas. There are two airports in the capital, Jorge Newbery and Ezeiza, the former usually serves domestic flights and the latter international flights, make sure you know which one you're flying out of. This flight takes approximately 3hours and 38 minutes, and cheaper flights often land in El Calafate on the way.
In Ushuaia, check into your hotel and head down to the port to board the cruise the next day. We usually recommend that you arrive at least 24hrs before the start of your cruise to allow for any flight delays.
Ushuaia to Antarctica - The last leg of your journey is a 2-day crossing of the notorious Drake Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific converge. After approximately 48 hours at sea, you'll arrive at the South Shetland Islands, the first stop on the Antarctic Peninsula.
If crossing the Drake is all part of the adventure for you, find Antarctic cuises that depart from Ushuaia.
Getting to Punta Arenas in Chile
Many people look to avoid the journey across the Drake, which is why a couple of our Antarctic cruise partners have designed 'Fly-and-cruise' trips, flying from Punta Arenas in Chile to the Chilean Eduardo Frei Antarctic base on King George Island. These trips provide more comfort for guests and help you to make the most of your precious time in Antarctica.
UK to Madrid to Santiago - To get to Punta Arenas you should fly from any UK airport to Madrid. From Madrid, Iberia flies direct to Santiago, with a journey time of around 13.5 hours. Although Santiago itself isn't as exciting as other Latin American cities, the nearby Colchagua Wine Valley or Valparaiso are places of note, so you may opt to spend a few days exploring the vineyards or wandering the streets of Valpo.
Santiago to Punta Arenas - From Santiago take a LAN flight to Punta Arenas (either direct or with 1 stop in the Chilean Lake District at Puerto Montt), with a flight time of 3.5 hours. On the way you'll fly over Mount Fitz Roy and Volcano Osorno.
Punta Arenas to Antarctica - It's here that you'll catch your chartered flight with the Antarctic cruise team and passengers to Antarctica, flying over the dreaded Drake Passage and arriving in Antarctic a lot quicker. Even though this is a big advantage, be aware that flights can be delayed or cancelled if the weather isn't looking favourable.
If you'd prefer to fly to Antarctica, find Antarctic cruises that depart from Chile
Returning from Antarctica
The return journey from Antarctica to the UK usually takes the same route as the outward journey. However, on some Antarctic cruise trips operators fly out to Antarctica from Chile and return by ship to Ushuaia or vice versa.
Visiting Antarctica and Patagonia
If you've got time to spend before or after your cruise to Antarctica, there are some fantastic places to visit not far from Punta Arenas and Ushuaia. We would recommend making the most of your trip this far south by combining your Antarctic cruise with seeing some of Patagonia's spectacular landscape, flora & fauna. You don't have to travel far from Punta Arenas or Ushuaia to find yourself in some of the most pristine and remote landscapes in the world. To find out more about making the most of your trip south and to browse trip ideas, see our Visiting Patagonia page.
Airports in Patagonia & Antarctica
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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
How can we help you?
We have helped all sorts of people arrange their trip to Antarctica and we provide the following services:
1) Impartial advice from Antarctica specialists: how, when, where, what, with which operator and vessel.
2) Antarctica is vast - we'll help you work out which type of Antarctic Cruise itinerary is right for you.
3) We'll help you find the best expedition vessel for your own style, budget and aspirations for your trip.
4) If you have specific holiday dates we'll help you find available cabins for your travel plans.
5) We help solo travellers find likeminded travel companions to share a cabin and any expensive single supplements.
6) Want to visit Patagonia as well? We'll help you design a great itinerary to explore both destinations.
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.