It’s cold. Freezing, in fact. In front of me, the tip of a yellow tandem kayak is pointing to a massive block of ice. Easily the span of five cars laid flat, this iceberg has a cool blue streak from the water level to few feet underwater. Each and every direction around me is filled with mountains covered with a white blanket of, what seems like, fresh powder. I feel so small, so vulnerable, yet filled with amazement and curiosity. Right then, a penguin zips by me with the speed of a Ferrari…
Before we get into what this frozen land can offer you, let’s talk about the logistics of it all. As you can imagine, getting to Antarctica is not cheap by any means. Thankfully, there are ways to do it that’s not going to cost you $10,000. You can get to Antarctica by plane or ship. Though infrequent, there are flights that go to some research bases around Antarctica, where you can perhaps organize a tour. The simpler path is to get yourself on a cruise for about a two and a half day journey to reach Antarctica from the bottom of South America. These cruises can be anywhere between a “fly one way and cruise back” trip for 6 days, to middle point of 10-12 days, to some lasting almost a month.
Throughout the year, tour companies have sales that offer a decent discount on future trips. If you want to or can plan ahead of time, look out for those companies. There are plenty of them out there; a simple google search will give you several options. Try to book something a year ahead to get the best deals. If you’re more like me, plan a last minute tour! Note that spontaneous trip planning to Antarctica is not ideal for most people and can be complicated. If you’re going solo, there’s a much better chance of this working out.
If you have a lot of time on your hands, head down to Ushuaia (pronounced ush-oooh-aye-aa), Argentina. Nick-named “end of the world”, since it’s the southernmost town of the world. Once you get to Ushuaia, you will have a chance to stop by the tour offices along the main streets. Here, you can get a sense of how much you would pay for a super last minute trip, leaving within days– so long there’s a scheduled cruise and spots left on it, of course. I’ve met several people during my trip that did exactly this. Handful people spent a few days to a week or even longer in the area and got the absolute best price for an Antarctic cruise.
If you are more time constrained, you can also try to communicate with some tour companies through email/phone few weeks ahead of time and find a reasonably priced cruise. There’s a blogger named, Marcello, who compiled a list of these companies. You can get the list by signing up for his email list on this page:
At the time of my trip, I found this site to have a list of all departures from Ushuaia:
This site also keeps a list of last minute trips:
I communicated with many companies about a month before I actually left. I was somewhat flexible on time and price was the biggest differentiator initially. After getting to chat with several people over email, I determined there were about 6 tours that still had some spots left. Looking at those timelines and my possible vacation times, I figured over Thanksgiving break would be the best time to go, so I started focusing on that. In the end, I found the best value and activity offering with a tour company named Swoop. This is the tour I went on: http://www.swoop-antarctica.com/cruises/peninsula/antarctic-explorer
Going with the option to hunt down tours over internet will require a lot of your time and patience. Of course, you’ll still have to get yourself to bottom of South America. Last minute flights are not cheap, so keep that in mind! I used frequent flyer points to get myself down to Ushuaia, so it was of less concern for me during my trip. The tour operator was Quark; this seemed like a very good company. They had some AMAZING guides, really good kitchen and housekeeping staff, and seemed quite environmentally friendly.
Tip: SIGN UP FOR KAYAKING!!!!!!!!!! …umm, if that wasn’t clear… GOOOO KAYAKING!! It’s well worth the seemingly high price tag.
Tip: Whatever you do, get yourself to do every single adventure activity!! Polar plunge, included. You might regret it if you don’t do it, as some people did on our trip as we headed home.