To many of us, Antarctica may seem like an almost mythical destination - somewhere that only scientists get to go. However, today’s luxury holidays are pushing new boundaries in an effort to meet the demands of the world’s wealthiest, and with the rise of ‘explorer yachts’ - vessels which are equipped to travel long distances through remote regions - Antarctica is becoming something of a must-visit destination. But what’s the best way to visit Antarctica, what can you do whilst there, and when’s the best time to go? We answer all your questions.
What’s the best way to visit Antarctica?
Antarctica is the only continent without a single reported case of COVID-19 at time of writing, and we want to keep it this way, meaning visitors should take all possible precautions when travelling through this vast and unique landscape. Travelling by boat is the best way to visit Antarctica, providing floating accommodation that allows you to easily explore its different regions.
Visiting on a superyacht charter assures you are safe within your own bubble, at the same time offering all the luxuries and comforts you would expect on a five-star yachting holiday. However, bear in mind that you will need to take a two-hour flight from Punta Arenas (at the southern tip of Chileto King George Island) to meet the yacht and begin your adventure. We recommend around 7 to 10 days aboard a private explorer yacht to fully immerse yourself in the drama of the landscape.
Highlights of an Antarctica winter escape
Antarctic Sound & The Weddell Sea
Cruising through the Antarctic Sound, you’ll be awestruck by the tall icebergs floating through from the Weddell Sea. You may have an idea in your mind of what an iceberg looks like, but the variety of shapes, colours and sizes will both surprise you and take your breath away. To make your trip even more special, ask the captain to head south from Snow Hill Island for a rare chance to see Emperor penguins passing on ice floes.
This is one of the safest harbours in Antarctica, thanks to the lagoon that formed when the island’s volcano erupted in the ’60s. Those seeking an active holiday have the option of hiking to the top of the 570-metre peaks and capturing the stunning scenes below, while those wanting to take it easier can take a dip in the warm waters here, which are heated by the volcanic activity. There is nothing quite like relaxing in a natural hot spring surrounded by this vast, icy landscape.
Offering another chance to experience a truly incredible view, looking out over the dramatic peaks and waters, you’ll need to disembark at the far end of Neko Harbour and climb the hill here. The effort is definitely worth it though, with resident penguins seemingly cheering you on on your way up. You’ll likely spot whales while looking out at the bay, making it an incredible stop-off for wildlife lovers.
If you’re not satisfied with the whales at Neko Harbour, then you are in for a treat in the Gerlache Strait, where humpback, minke and blue whales are native, as well as orcas. Look out for circles of bubbles on the water - this is where the creatures will emerge.
When is the best time to visit Antarctica?
There is never what we would call ‘warm weather’ in Antarctica. However, its icy front is part of what makes it so majestic, with a breathtaking landscape that sets the scene for an idyllic winter getaway.
The best time to visit Antarctica is from November until April - the Southern Hemisphere’s summer - when tourists benefit from a more temperate climate. There is likely to be less ice blocking the passage to some of the areas towards the centre of the polar region during these months, if you are planning on venturing that way. It is also a great way to escape the short winter days, with the sun barely setting in Antarctica during this time.
In November, the average high temperature at the Esperanza Base on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is approximately 2C (36F), while in April it is -2C (28F). However, when you consider that for most of your charter you will be cosied up on your luxury yacht, appreciating the scenery in maximum comfort, the idea of these temperatures suddenly seems more appealing.