Tailored from £6,850 per person excl. flights
14 Days South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
14 Days South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
Journey further into the polar wilderness, where few travellers ever venture, on this fearless voyage into the Antarctic Circle. With a specialist ship strengthened for the ice found in the world’s southernmost waters, you’ll cross over into the Antarctic Circle and be rewarded by some of our planet’s most remote and beautiful landscapes.
Your Antarctic Circle Cruise starts in Ushuaia, Argentina, where you’ll board your cruise ship to meet the crew, your fellow passengers and the expedition team, comprised of excursion leaders and specialists such as historians, marine biologists and naturalists. Throughout the trip, this team will provide you with information about the Antarctic region and answer any questions you may have during the journey.
After crossing the Drake Passage, you’ll reach the South Shetland Islands, stopping off to explore the islets along the way. Then, you’ll reach the Antarctic Peninsula and enjoy twice-daily excursions to various sites on the mainland, taking your first steps on the remote continent. Finally, you’ll sail along the peninsula’s west coast to reach the Antarctic Circle, where few tourists ever visit.
Your 12 nights spent aboard the ship will be spent in either a cabin or suite, depending on your preference. Full board is provided, as well as talks and lectures by the team, daily activities and excursions.
If you’re looking to push the boundaries, get out of your comfort zone and head deep into pure white wilderness, then this Antarctic Circle Cruise is ideal. Follow in the footsteps of great historic explorers and join their ranks as a bold and daring pioneer.
You’ll arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina, the day before you’re due to embark on your Antarctic cruise, giving you plenty of time to explore the world’s most southerly city. You’ll take a private transfer to your hotel and the welcome desk in the lobby will provide you more information on your expedition.
Explore the town, grab a lunch of freshly caught seafood dishes or take an optional excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park, where you can take the End of the World train, visit Lago Roca and Bahia Lapataia.
You’ll spend the morning at your leisure in Ushuaia, with breakfast provided at your hotel. After lunch, you’ll embark on your Antarctic journey by boarding your cruise ship and spending the evening sailing down the Beagle Channel. You’ll be greeted by the expedition team, who will introduce themselves and give you an overview of the route into the Antarctic Circle.
Once you’ve left the Beagle Channel, you’ll be crossing the Drake Passage over to Antarctica. Be warned that this rocky stretch of water is know as one of the roughest patches of ocean in the world, though the rewards at the end of the journey are worth the temporary seasickness.
The Antarctic cruise ship holds 134 passengers, including crew and a team of experts, including historians, marine biologists and naturalists. With a ratio of one team member to 10 guests, these experts provide daily lectures, talks and training programmes on a wide range of topics to offer insights into your Antarctic adventure.
After crossing the Drake Passage, you’ll arrive at the South Shetland Islands, an archipelago lying around 120 kilometres north of the Antarctic Peninsula. The islands are used by several countries as bases for research stations, many of which are located on King George Island.
Today, you’ll continue to explore the South Shetlands, including the intriguing caldera of Deception Island. The island is the site of an active volcano, which last erupted dramatically in 1967 and 1969. Both eruptions went unpredicted and caused a lot of damage, despite research stations on the island monitoring volcanic activity. The mystery of this Antarctic volcano island is now a fascinating stop-off for Antarctic cruise ships, showcasing the power of Mother Nature.
In your downtime on the cruise ship, hang out on deck and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings. Humpback and minke whales are commonly seen in these waters, with visits from orcas also commonplace. In the skies, you’ll be able to spot wandering, black-browed and light-mantled sooty albatross, amongst other seabird species.
You’ll start to leave the South Shetlands behind as you head further towards the polar south, through the Bransfield Strait, until you reach the Antarctic Peninsula. This is what you have been waiting for - the chance to set foot on the least-visited continent and leave your footprints in the snow on the Antarctic mainland.
The expedition team will organise two shore landings per day, weather and conditions permitting. On the peninsula, you’ll encounter some of Antarctica’s endemic wildlife, including penguins (gentoo, chinstrap and Adélie penguins) and seals (Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals).
The peninsula also has a fascinating history of human exploration and as you journey to the Antarctic Circle, the ship’s historians will recount stories of the famous explorers who first reached (or attempted to reach) Antarctica, as you follow in their footsteps.
One famous name you may recognise is Ernest Shackleton, a British-Irish polar explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic. He competed in the race to reach the South Pole and though Shackleton and his team were beaten in December 1911 by Roald Amundsen, they still managed some incredible feats.
Shackleton’s achievements include the farthest south latitude at the time (between 1907 and 1909, only 97 miles from the South Pole), the conquest of Mount Erebus (the most active Antarctic volcano) and an unbelievable battle for survival after his ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice in the Weddell sea.
Take one of the ship’s 14 Zodiacs to shore to explore the pure, white wilderness of the Antarctic mainland. Stand in the shadows of towering icebergs, marvel at the glittering ice patterns of glaciers and bask in the quiet tranquillity of snow-covered scenery.
If you’re feeling brave, you can also take the “polar plunge” by jumping into the freezing waters of the Antarctic! A real shock to the senses, this is one way to truly appreciate the harsh polar environment, boost your blood circulation and get a shot of adrenaline, as well as have an incredible and unique experience to look back on. How many people can say they’ve swam in the waters of the Antarctic?
Continue your exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula, with plenty of options of things to see and do. Cruise the scenic Lemaire Channel, which has iceberg-filled waters as still as a lake; visit Plèneau Bay, where giant bergs run aground and end their journey from the mainland at an iceberg graveyard; sail into Neko Harbour for giant glaciers and wildlife sightings; come ashore in Paradise Bay for gentoo penguin encounters and uncover colossal whale bones from the whaling era of the 1920s.
Get closer to the action with an Antarctica kayaking excursion, available when the weather permits. This activity is led by experienced and skilled professionals, so you can experience paddling the Antarctic waters with whales, penguins and seals in their natural habitats.
Having conquered the Antarctic Peninsula, you’ll now continue your journey southward along the west coast of the peninsula on your quest to cross into the true Antarctic Circle. Few travellers venture this far, but this specialist cruise ship is strengthened for the ice and can access remote locations that other cruise ships can’t reach.
Your destination is 66.5 degrees south of the equator and at this latitude, the sun rises on December 13th and doesn’t set again until 30th December – so depending on the time you visit, you might be treated to the midnight sun. Once you reach this latitude, you’ll be inducted into the elite group of travellers who have not only stepped foot on Antarctica, but who have also crossed the line into the Antarctic Circle.
Having crossed the geographical milestone of the Antarctic Circle and toasted your success, you can now focus on exploring this remote region of extraordinary beauty.
Antarctica’s top predators can be found in the waters here, including pods of orcas and herds of leopard seals. In the skies, you’ll spot the pristine feathers of snow petrels fluttering by, whilst on land you’ll be treated to commanding views of dramatic mountain ranges and surreal icebergs.
Continuing your intrepid adventure into the Antarctic Circle, areas of interest include Crystal Sound, a channel named for the scientific research on ice crystals in the area. As the name suggests, this region boasts epic snow-blanketed peaks and glistening icebergs floating in crystal-clear waters.
Another area you may be able to explore is the Gullet, though this narrow channel is notoriously difficult to navigate, so exploration is limited by weather and sailing conditions.
Today, you’ll start to head back north again, along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, swerving around the South Shetlands and back out into the Drake Passage, heading for South America.
The Drake Passage is named for another famous explorer, Francis Drake. This British sea captain predates Shackleton by several hundred years, exploring the world’s oceans during the Elizabethan era. Drake was the second person recorded to circumnavigate the world in a single expedition, between 1577 and 1580. However, he was also a colourful character and branded a pirate by the Spanish, who nicknamed him “El Draque” (the Dragon)!
As you slowly make your way back to Ushuaia, look out for the undulating dorsal fins of orcas, blowhole spray from humpback and minke whales, as well as and the epic wingspans of albatross, the giants of the bird world. These are your last Antarctic wildlife encounters and a chance for a few last-minute photo opportunities.
As you unwind at the end of your Antarctic adventure, you’ll have time to spend with the cruise ship’s staff and your fellow passengers, swapping stories, sharing photos and forging friendships. Join the final talks and lectures to review your trip and enjoy your last night aboard the expedition vessel.
After breakfast, you’ll disembark your Antarctic cruise and say your goodbyes to the expedition team and fellow passengers, stepping back on land in Ushuaia. Depending on your flight time, you have the option to be transferred directly to the airport or to have your luggage stored so that you can spend a little more time in the city before your onward journey.
Though your Antarctic cruise expedition has come to an end, you’ll leave will a camera full of photos, an array of stories and anecdotes to share with loves ones back home, as well as full bragging rights that you’ve been to the Antarctic Circle – an achievement that you can look back on in years to come.