10 Things You’ve Got to Do in Antarctica

It’s not cheap to get there and you can only arrive by expedition cruise ship, but one glimpse of Antarctica’s serenely beautiful landscape and you’ll wonder what took you so long to make the journey. Here’s what you’ve got to do when you visit the most southerly continent in the world.

Photo By: Shutterstock/Evenfh

Photo By: Marathon Tours & Travel

Photo By: Silversea Cruises

Explore the Coast in a Zodiac Boat

Every expedition cruise to Antarctica, from high-end luxury line PONANT to more budget-friendly Viva Expeditions, offers excursions by way of lightweight, inflatable zodiac boats that seat 10 to 12 guests. Of course, you can take in stunning views of icebergs and wildlife, even sandy beaches, from the ship’s deck, but to really experience Antarctica, you’ve got to climb into a zodiac boat. You won’t soon forget weaving around ice floes where leopard seals are lazing the day away.

Waddle With Penguins

One of the most beloved reasons to travel to Antarctica is to get up close and personal with adorable penguins, like literally all the penguins you want to see. Four species of penguins call Antarctica home, including emperor and king, so get ready for the ultimate Happy Feet experience. Many people book a trip to Antarctica for the penguins alone, maybe even half of all travelers. They are that cute, and most cruise ships make land stops at places like Yankee Harbor, which is home to an estimated 4,000 pairs of Gentoo penguins.

Run a Marathon

For those eager to run on all seven continents, book your spot to run in the annual Antarctica Marathon, which attracts 200 runners each March. The race is so popular, in fact, that it’s sold out through 2020, though you can apply to be on the waitlist for 2019 or 2020. The marathon is part of a two-week land and sea travel package offered by Marathon Tours & Travel, which begins and ends in Buenos Aires and includes all the icebergs, penguins, ice floes, and seals you can handle.

Go Whale Watching

There may not be a better place in the world for whale watching than Antarctica. Eight species of whale, including humpback, blue, and orca, can be seen between December and April, but the peak months are February and March. Wilhelmina Bay is the place to go (some even call it "Whale-amina Bay" given the large number of whale sightings) where you can see whales emerge from the depths right from your ship's deck. Take a ride on a zodiac boat to get even closer to the action.

Take the Polar Plunge

If you find yourself in Antarctica, you’ve got to take the polar plunge, as in, jump into the icy waters that hover around zero degrees year-round. Quark Expeditions will award you with a signed certificate you can hang on your wall making it official. Penguins will simply stare at you in awe since splashing around in the frigid waters is just part of their daily routine. Once you get back on the ship, make a beeline for the hot tub and revel in your exhilarating achievement.

Up Your Photography Game

Antarctica is a photographer’s dream, and while not everyone has the skills and talents of a pro photog, Silversea Cruises wants to help you get pretty close, or at least take your photos of the snow-capped landscape to the next level. In January, Silversea introduced a new My Photo Academy on sailings on board the Silver Cloud. Guests not only receive pointers for capturing beautiful photos but learn the ins and outs of photo editing programs to make their images pop.

Go Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking in the frigid waters of Antarctica is easily one of the most awe-inspiring ways to explore the rugged coastline of the world’s southernmost continent. From your expedition ship, take a zodiac boat out to your kayak and be careful not to fall overboard into the icy water as you make the transfer from boat to kayak. Keep your eyes open for minke whales, penguins and leopard seals, some even splashing and playing in the waters.

Warm Up in Thermal Pools

A stop at Deception Island is a must on any expedition across Antarctica, if only for the cool name. Home to thermal pools set in dormant volcanic craters, plan to don a swimsuit and brave the frigid breezes to unwind in the natural warm water. Some consider the hot springs on Deception Island to be bucket list-worthy, if only because it’s not especially easy to reach. Bring a warm robe and overcoat for when you exit the thermal pools in a soaking wet swimsuit to get back on the ship.

Send a Postcard from Port Lockroy

There’s just something fun about being able to send a postcard to friends, family, even to yourself, from the southernmost post office in the world. Once a British research station, Port Lockroy was renovated in 1996 and is now a museum and post office that sees three visiting ships each day. It’s also home to a huge Gentoo penguin colony. A postcard may take a couple of months to arrive, but you’ll treasure that sought-after postmark.

Soak in the Beauty of Lemaire Channel

Lemaire Channel is unquestionably one of the most breathtaking places in the world. So beautiful, in fact, Lemaire Channel is referred to as "Kodak Gap" for its utterly photogenic nature. As your expedition ship slowly makes its way into the channel, plan to soak in every ounce of the towering icebergs that frame the passage and the glass-like water all around. As you can imagine, the Lemaire Channel quickly became a mainstay on expedition cruise itineraries.

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