By Terri Paajanen
Have you seen so many parts of the world that you are running out of new places to visit? I doubt that, but for any traveller who is looking for something really different, remote, obscure or unique, why not take a trip to Antarctica. Though this icy continent has a long reputation for being isolated and extreme, there is a growing tourist industry to help you have a tour of this mysterious land.
The best (easiest) way to see Antarctica is by cruise. Though some adventure tour companies can give you the chance to do some overland exploring, staying near the coasts is the usual way to go. A bit more to see, and much easier transportation.
Even if the idea of travelling so far off the beaten path appeals to you, it may not be that interesting to visit a huge block of ice on holiday. Thankfully, that’s not really what you can expect. The natural wonders of Antarctica are actually pretty diverse though it is safe to say there will be plenty of ice and snow no matter when you are there.
The scenery is mainly snow and ice, but it’s still remarkable to see. The purity and clarity of the untouched snow is amazing, and the huge formations of ice can be found nowhere else. Blue-white icebergs float by regularly, making the landscape an ongoing series of views.
There is even a good supply of wildlife, providing you stay near the coasts. Penguins are the most abundant with seals coming in at a close second. During the right seasons, there can be loads of water birds overhead as well. The water can be home to pods of blue whales and Orcas (killer whales). Don’t get your hopes up to spot some majestic polar bears though. They don’t actually live on Antarctica at all. They’re a northern Arctic animal.
And when you’re not just standing there gawking at the beauty of your surroundings, there are usually other things to do. Every Antarctica cruise will be different, but you can usually expect to have the chance to go hiking, kayaking, ice climbing, whale watching, camping out on land and more. And of course, there will be on-board entertainment just like you’d get with any other cruise.
Arranging an Antarctic Tour
Most cruises will have the Antarctic Peninsula as their destination, but can leave from various points. There are lots of tour companies out of the southern parts of Chile or Argentina, and New Zealand has some choices too. Depending on your tastes or budget, you can find a luxury cruise ship, or have a rougher adventure with an industrial ice-breaker.
Needless to say, it’s cold in Antarctica no matter what time of the year it is. You aren’t going to get any truly warm weather there so forget that idea. But to get the best climate, try to arrange a trip for either December or January. It will still be around the freezing point though, but decent enough that you should be comfortable when you’re out and about on your trip.