Options for Seeing Antarctica
The most common way to see Antarctica is by cruise or research ships. You can sail from either Ushuaia, the southernmost point of Argentina, Punta Arenas, Chile, Bluff, New Zealand, or from Hobart, Australia, The fastest is via Ushuaia, but crossing Cape Horn and the Drake Passage is not an easy feat so best be prepared for seasickness. Each cruise ship has their specific itineraries, depending on what you choose. Some stop at the Falkland Islands and the Shetland Islands while others prepare their own wildlife or glacier expeditions including certain perks such as transportation and cold weather clothing. Prices for these expeditions vary from $12,000 to $60,000 and trip length varies from 2 weeks to a month, depending on the company and expedition you choose. Other companies offer the flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia; others don’t, so plan that accordingly in your Antarctica budget.
Some sailboats also charter expeditions to Antarctica. You’re in a smaller group, which enables you to visit more places than the bigger cruise ships could get to. With these types of trips, you have to help out the sailboat crew, so a bit of sailing knowledge will help, but probably not required. Prices vary, but can range from 5,000 AUD per day.
Another option would be to fly to Antarctica. Unlike the ship option, flying is seasonal (can only be possible during the summer months) as Antarctica has extreme cold temperatures that freezes the plane’s wings, debilitating its capabilities any other time. Commercial flights fly from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth or Adelaide from Australia using a Qantas 747. Commercial flights are considered fly-bys, which entails paying a certain sum of money (approximately $1,200 for an economy center seat, and goes up to around $7,000 for the highest class) and flying over Antarctica but does not constitute landing there. The flight takes approximately 12 ½ hours and is considered a normal, domestic flight: you’ll get food service, no need for a passport. What you’ll get is a chance to see ice over the windows, lots of them – oh, and flying over Antarctica of course. You can learn more at Antarctica Flights.
If you have a bit more money, you can charter a flight to Antarctica. Note that there are no paved landing strips in Antarctica so the pilot has to land over ice and you’ll have to bring your own provisions for your trip. Chartering a flight can mean leading your own expedition so the cost factors of it can be enormous. You’ll have to coordinate with experts to create an itinerary for your once in a lifetime trip.
Whatever option you choose to get to Antarctica, I hope you’ll have an amazing time. Not everyone can get there, and is one of the final frontiers (and probably last continent) you’ll ever reach.