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How to Get to Antarctica

How to Get to AntarcticaAntarctica is over 7,000 miles from the USA and 11,000 miles from the UK, and getting to somewhere as remote as Antarctica isn't easy.

Wherever you're coming from, the simplest way is to fly to Argentina or Chile and down to the southermost towns in the world. This means you might want to consider combining a trip to Antarctica with a visit to Patagonia.

There is also the option to take a cruise which includes South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, either on the way out to or back from the Antarctic.

Don't worry if this all sounds complicated! Get in touch and we'll be happy to organise your flights along with your cruise to make sure everything is as smooth as possible.

 

Below we'll explain more about:

How to get to Antarctica from the UK | How to get to Antarctica from the USA | How to get to Antarctica from Australia

 

Plus: how to get to Antarctica from Canada & how to get to Antarctica from New Zealand.

2 Ways to Get to Antarctica

There are two main ways to get to Antarctica: by sea or by air.

For some cruises you can fly there and sail back, but most offer one or the other.

#1 Cruise across the Drake Passage

Most Antarctic cruises set sail from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and cross the Drake Passage before reaching the Antarctic Peninsula.

Ushuaia is in Argentina, and its airport does not link to many international destinations. Therefore, from outside of South America, it is necessary to fly to Buenos Aires in the North of Argentina, then take a connecting flight down to start the cruise.

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 (AEP) and Ezeiza (EZE), the former usually serves domestic flights and the latter international flights. Make sure you know which airport you're flying out of, and take a look at our blogpost on travelling between the airports in Buenos Aires. This flight takes approximately 3 hours and 38 minutes, and cheaper flights often land in El Calafate on the way.

Ushuaia PortIn 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 from Ushuaia.

 

#2 Fly-and-cruise

This is an increasingly popular option, which involves flying over the Drake Passage and starting your cruise at King George Island, just North of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Drake Passage is infamous for its rough seas, which cause terrible seasickness for some people. If you suffer from seasickness, or just want to save the 2 days at sea, then the fly-and-cruise option is probably right for you.

Flights to Antarctica depart from Punta Arenas in southern Chile. Punta Arenas airport has few international flights, so to get here from abroad you'll need to take a connecting flight. Since Punta Arenas is in Chile, you should fly first to Santiago in northern Chile and continue your journey from there.

Santiago to Punta Arenas - 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. 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.

Fly-and-Cruise PlanePunta 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 this sounds like the best option, find flights to Antarctica from Punta Arenas.

 

How to get to Antarctica from the UK

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. To get there, you first need to fly to Buenos Aires:

UK to Buenos Aires - Wherever you're coming from in the UK, the best option for flying to Buenos Aires is to make your way to London and then fly from Heathrow.

  • You can fly direct from London Heathrow (Terminal 5) (LHR) to Buenos Aires with British Airways. BA 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.

-There is also the option to fly out to Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) in Spain,from where Iberia operates a daily direct flight to Buenos Aires. But this will take longer.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Buenos Aires. Find & Book Flights

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. 

To get to Punta Arenas you'll first need to fly to Santiago:

UK to Santiago - There are no direct flights from the UK to Santiago. The best option is to fly out to Madrid in Spain and from there you can connect to a direct flight over to Chile.

  • You can fly from most UK airports to Madrid. From Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD), Iberia flies direct to Santiago once a day, with a journey time of around 13.5 hours.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Santiago. Find & Book Flights

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. This means you'd need to fly into Santiago and back out from Buenos Aires.

Not to fear, flying into one country and out of another is perfectly doable and often no different price-wise than flying in and out of the same country.

How to get to Antarctica from the USA

Getting to Ushuaia in Argentina

If you want to go on one of the Antarctic cruises which sails across the Drake Passage, then the cruise will depart from Ushuaia in the South of Argentina. To get here, you first need to fly to Buenos Aires:

USA to Buenos Aires  - There are flights from several of the larger airports in the USA, either direct or with a stop. Below we've listed flights from some major cities, but we're more than happy to help you find and book a flight from anywhere else in the United States - just get in touch.

  • New York, NY - American Airlines fly direct from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) once a day, with flight times of approximately 10 hours 35 minutes.
  • Miami, FL - There are several daily direct flights from Miami International Airport (MIA) which take around 9 hours. American Airlines fly 2 to 3 times per day, and LAN Airlines once a day.
  • Dallas, TX - American Airlines have one direct flight each day from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), with a flight time of about 10 hours 20 minutes.
  • Atlanta, GA - Delta Airlines operate a direct daily flight from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which has a flight time of around 9 hours 35 minutes.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Buenos Aires. Find & Book Flights

Getting to Punta Arenas in Chile

For 'fly-and-cruise' trips which skip out the Drake Passage crossing, you need to get to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. First, you'll need to fly into Santiago:

USA to Santiago - There are flights from a number of major airports in the USA to Santiago, either direct or with a stop. Details of flights from some cities are listed below, but we're happy to help you find and book flights from anywhere in the United States - just get in touch.

  • New York, NY - LAN Airlines fly direct to Santiago avery day from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) , with a flight time of approximately 10 hours 55 minutes. In addition, there are around 3 flights a week which stop once at Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Peru. These flights are operated by LAN Colombia and have a total journey time of just over 13 hours.
  • Los Angeles, CA - There is a daily flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), operated by LAN Airlines. These flights have one stop at Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Peru, and the journey takes around 13 and a half hours in total.
  • Miami, FL - There is a daily direct flight from Miami International Airport (MIA), operated by American Airlines, with LAN Airlines also flying direct up to twice a day. The flight times are approximately 8 hours 30 minutes.
  • Dallas, TX - American Airlines fly direct once a day from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The flight takes around 9 hours 40 minutes.
  • Atlanta, GA - There is a direct flight operated by Delta Air Lines, which flies daily from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with a flight time of approximately 10 hours 10 minutes. 

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Santiago. Find & Book Flights

Returning from Antarctica

The return journey from Antarctica to the USA 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. This means you'd need to fly into Santiago and back out from Buenos Aires.

Not to fear, flying into one country and out of another is perfectly doable and often no different price-wise than flying in and out of the same country.

How to get to Antarctica from Australia

Getting to Ushuaia in Argentina

If you want to go on one of the Antarctic cruises which sails across the Drake Passage, then the cruise will depart from Ushuaia in the South of Argentina. To get here, you first need to fly to Buenos Aires:

Australia to Buenos Aires - There are no direct flights to Buenos Aires. The most efficient way to make this journey is to fly to Santiago and then take a connecting flight to Buenos Aires. Flights from Santiago (SCL) to Buenos Aires (EZE) are regular and take around 1 hour 55 minutes.

  • From Sydney, you can take a flight direct from Kingford Smith Airport (SYD) to Santiago. Qantas operates this flight around 4 times a week, with a flight time of approximately 12 hours 40 minutes.
  • From elsewhere, you'll either need to get to Sydney and then fly Sydney to Santiago to Buenos Aires... or it may be more convenient to fly to Auckland, NZ to Santiago to Buenos Aires - LAN Airlines fly direct from Auckland International Airport (AKL) to Santiago once or twice a day in around 11 hours 45 minutes.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Buenos Aires. Find & Book Flights

Getting to Punta Arenas in Chile

For 'fly-and-cruise' trips which skip out the Drake Passage crossing, you need to get to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. First, you'll need to fly into Santiago:

Australia to Santiago - From anywhere in Australia, you should be able to fly to Santiago with at most one stop.

  • From Sydney, there is a direct flight 4 times a week from Kingford Smith Airport (SYD), which is operated by Qantas and takes approximately 12 hours 40 minutes.
  • From elsewhere, one option is to get to Sydney and then fly direct from Sydney, as above... or, if it is possible for you to fly to Auckland, NZ, you can fly Auckland to Santiago - LAN Airlines have direct flights once to twice daily from Auckland International Airport (AKL), with a flight time of about 11 hours 45 minutes.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Santiago. Find & Book Flights

Returning from Antarctica

The return journey from Antarctica to Australia 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. This means you'd need to fly into Santiago and back out from Buenos Aires.

Not to fear, flying into one country and out of another is perfectly doable and often no different price-wise than flying in and out of the same country.

How to get to Antarctica from Canada

Getting to Ushuaia in Argentina

If you want to go on one of the Antarctic cruises which sails across the Drake Passage, then the cruise will depart from Ushuaia in the South of Argentina. To get here, you first need to fly to Buenos Aires:

Canada to Buenos Aires  - It's possible to fly direct from Toronto to Buenos Aires, but not from elsewhere. From some areas of Canada it will be most efficient to travel to Toronto and fly direct from there, while from others you could fly with a stop in the USA.

  • From Toronto - Air Canada operates a direct flight 5 times a week from Pearson International Airport (YYZ), with a flight time of around 13 hours 50 minutes.
  • Canada to USA to Buenos Aires - for this option, take a look at how to get to Antarctica from the USA. If it's not clear how to get down to Buenos Aires from your part of Canada, do get in touch and we'll be happy to find and book flights for you.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Buenos Aires. Find & Book Flights

Getting to Punta Arenas in Chile

For 'fly-and-cruise' trips which skip out the Drake Passage crossing, you need to get to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. First, you'll need to fly into Santiago:

Canada to Santiago - There are direct flights from Toronto, but from elsewhere in Canada, you'll either need to first travel to Toronto, or take a flight which stops in the USA.

  • From Toronto - There are 5 flights a week direct from Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to Santiago. The flights are operated by Air Canada and take approximately 10 hours 40 minutes.
  • Canada to USA to Santiago - for this option, take a look at how to get to Antarctica from the USA. If you're unsure how best to get down to Santiago from your part of Canada, don't hesitate to get in touch so we can help you find and book flights.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Santiago. Find & Book Flights

Returning from Antarctica

The return journey from Antarctica to the USA 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. This means you'd need to fly into Santiago and back out from Buenos Aires.

Not to fear, flying into one country and out of another is perfectly doable and often no different price-wise than flying in and out of the same country.

 

How to get to Antarctica from New Zealand

Getting to Ushuaia in Argentina

If you want to go on one of the Antarctic cruises which sails across the Drake Passage, then the cruise will depart from Ushuaia in the South of Argentina. To get here, you first need to fly to Buenos Aires:

New Zealand to Buenos Aires - There are no direct flights to Buenos Aires. The most efficient way to make this journey is to fly to Santiago and then take a connecting flight to Buenos Aires. Flights from Santiago (SCL) to Buenos Aires (EZE) are regular and take around 1 hour 55 minutes.

  • From Auckland - LAN Airlines fly direct from Auckland International Airport (AKL) to Santiago once or twice a day in around 11 hours 45 minutes. Then you'll need to take a connecting flight to Buenos Aires.
  • From elsewhere - First travel to Auckland, then you can fly Auckland to Santiago to Buenos Aires, as above.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Buenos Aires. Find & Book Flights

Getting to Punta Arenas in Chile

For 'fly-and-cruise' trips which skip out the Drake Passage crossing, you need to get to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. First, you'll need to fly into Santiago:

New Zealand to Santiago - You can fly direct to Santiago from Auckland. From anywhere else in New Zealand you'll need to first travel to Aukland.

  • From Auckland - LAN Airlines have direct flights once to twice daily from Auckland International Airport (AKL), with a flight time of about 11 hours 45 minutes.

See above for how to get to Antarctica from Santiago. Find & Book Flights

Returning from Antarctica

The return journey from Antarctica to Australia 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. This means you'd need to fly into Santiago and back out from Buenos Aires.

Not to fear, flying into one country and out of another is perfectly doable and often no different price-wise than flying in and out of the same country.

 

South Georgia and the Falkland Islands

South Georgia Wildlife

South Georgia and the Falkland Islands lie in the Southern Pacific Ocean, relatively close to the southernmost region of South America from where Antarctic cruises depart.

Therefore, there are some Antarctic cruises which include the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

You can find out more about why to visit South Georgia & the Falklands and which cruises include this, or read on to see the two ways these islands can be included in an Antarctic cruise:

 

Cruise from Ushuaia

Some of these cruises depart from Ushuaia and sail to the Falklands and South Georgia, before crossing to the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula.

See how to get to Ushuaia in Argentina.

Fly from Punta Arenas

There is also the option to fly out to Port Stanley, on the island of East Falkland, and start your cruise from there. These flights depart from Punta Arenas, so the first leg of the journey is the same as for the standard trips that include flights to Antarctica. However, you'll still be cruising across the Drake Passage, as with the other type of trip that takes in the Falklands and South Georgia.

See how to get to Punta Arenas in Chile.

Visiting Antarctica and Patagonia

Torres del Paine, 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 used for getting to Antarctica

Google Map

Also see our interactive Google map showing how to get to Antarctica.

Questions? Need help?

Ask a question about Antarctica on our Adventure Planner

Call the Antarctic team on:

+44 (0)117 369 0696

(we're open 9am - 6pm, Mon-Fri, but do call evenings and weekends and we will try our best to help).

Email us at: advice@swooptravel.co.uk

Contact us on Skype: swoop_in

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Which month?

January

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

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

March

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

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

December

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. 

About Swoop

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.

>> How can we help you?