Antarctica

The White Continent, a vast icy wilderness at the bottom of the world, may be cold and remote, but it may also top more bucket lists than any other destination. That’s partly because only about 30,000 tourists a year get to visit Antarctica. For those travelers who do get to go, it’s typically a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so you want to be sure to navigate confidently through all the options – and Stride is here to help steer you safely across the ice.

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Top Trip Memories


  • Stepping out of your Zodiac and setting foot on the world’s most remote continent, something only a tiny percentage of people worldwide can claim.

  • Watching mesmerized while chinstrap or Gentoo penguin chicks chase after their parents (or any adult penguin), begging for food.

  • Spotting a humpback or minke whale breaching a few hundred yards from the deck of your ship.

  • Marveling at the aggressive tactics of elephant seals and fur seals during mating season on South Georgia Island.

  • Kayaking through near-frozen waters, making sure to steer clear of passing icebergs.

  • Visiting one of the Antarctic research bases staffed by scientists from around the world.

  • Training your lens on an albatross as it soars overhead while en route to Antarctica.

  • Trekking, skiing or just going for a walk across a vast white landscape.

  • Standing on your ship’s deck after dark, basking in the solitude of the world’s last wilderness.

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Tour Tips


  • The shortest (and most popular) sea crossing to Antarctica goes from Ushaia, Argentina, to the Antarctic Peninsula, via the often (but not always) tumultuous Drake’s Passage.

  • The Drake’s Passage crossing may take from 24 to 48 hours, and seasickness is common -- though waters in Antarctica itself are generally calm.

  • Some Antarctica tours leave from Australia, New Zealand or South Africa and visit the Ross Sea area, on the other side of the continent from the Antarctic Peninsula.

  • While most Antarctica tours go by ship, you can also fly in and/or out via the South Shetland Islands to shorten your trip and/or avoid Drake’s Passage.

  • Antarctica tours can be as short as a few days or as long as three weeks or more. Figure at least 10 to 12 days to complete a typical tour by ship.

  • Some Antarctica tours – primarily those that fly into the interior -- offer adventurous options such as camping, skiing, mountaineering, and trekking.

  • Other adventurous options include visits to emperor penguin colonies and the geographic South Pole. Kayaking and SCUBA diving may be available along the coasts.

  • While any trip to Antarctica is an adventurous trip, you don’t have to rough it. Some ships come with five-star amenities, while some land-tour operators offer luxury tent camping.

  • Cruise ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed to make landings, so to set foot on Antarctica itself, you need to take a smaller vessel.

  • Generally speaking, the smaller your ship’s passenger load, the less time you’ll have to wait to go ashore, because ships are limited to landing 100 passengers at a time.

  • Some tours offer visits to the scientific research stations that are run by a number of different countries, including the United States and Great Britain.

  • There are no “cheap” trips to Antarctica, but look for value such as included airfare, helicopter flights into the interior, and gratuities for the crew.

  • Prices vary considerably by length of trip, cabin, ship amenities, month of travel and other factors.

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Antarctica Trips & Tour Advice

Ever since Lars-Eric Lindblad built the first expedition-style cruise ship to take passengers to visit Antarctica in 1969, adventurous travelers have aspired to follow in their wake. Today about 40 vessels – mostly expedition-style vessels but some yachts as well -- make the run to the White Continent, leaving primarily from Argentina or the Falkland Islands, carrying as few as six and as many as 500 passengers. Most of the Antarctic-bound ships, though, carry fewer than 100 passengers.

Visitors go in search of the last real wilderness on earth, whose sole permanent residents are penguins, whales, seals, albatrosses and other abundant marine and bird life. Besides the stunning array of wildlife, you’ll see glaciers, snow-covered mountains, icebergs, and, on some tours, historic sites (such as early Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s huts) and perhaps one of the 20 scientific research stations that have welcomed visitors since 1969.

The most common destinations on sea tours leaving from South America are the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Falkland Islands -- all havens for wildlife. (The latter two are not part of Antarctica.) The primary destination in Antarctica itself is the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts up from the rest of the maainland and is closest to South America. A few icebreakers challenge the often frozen Weddell Sea in search of emperor penguins to the peninsula’s east. And some ships make the journey from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to the Ross Sea on the other side of the continent; emperor penguin colonies are accessible from there by helicopter.

While some 100 tourist sites have seen landings in Antarctica over the years, fewer than 10 receive the bulk of the visitors. Port Lockroy, site of the British Antarctic Survey, is the most visited site, drawing more than 10,000 visitors per year. Passengers board Zodiacs (rubberized rafts) to go ashore, with most ships making one to three landings per day on the mainland.

Antarctic tour operators must follow strict environmental protection guidelines mandated by the international Antarctic Treaty as well as the voluntary guidelines of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO); all itineraries must be approved in advance so they don’t harm the wildlife or the fragile ecosystem.

The Antarctic tourist season runs from late October or early November to March or early April, the summer months when the waters off Antarctica are comparatively ice free. The earlier months bring penguin and elephant seal courtship rituals, while the later months see the birth of penguin chicks and seal pups. By March the adult penguins are mostly headed out to sea, but whale and seal sightings increase. December and January bring the most daylight hours, prime time for photographers.

With so many variables in itineraries, vessels, levels of luxury, price, and trip lengths to wrestle with, it makes sense to let Stride help you sort through all the possibilities. And sooner than you may think, you can experience the same wonders that have captivated polar explorers for more than a century.