Tailored from £7,500 per person excl. flights
8 Days South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
8 Days South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
Voyage to the final frontier, ticking the seventh continent off your list as you step foot on the icy shores of Antarctica. Skip the notorious Drake Passage, instead taking a comfortable charter flight from Punta Arenas in Chile.
You’ll land on King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands and home to a small human population gathered around the research centres. Take a few hours to explore the extraordinary lifestyle here before boarding your ship bound for Antarctica.
As you sail the glittering blue seas, you’ll get your first thrilling glimpses of Antarctica from the colossal ice sculptures floating offshore. Touch down on the continent, leaving your footprints in the snow as you explore this icy wonderland.
You’ll spend four days making shore excursions to spot whales, penguins, seals, albatross and an array of fascinating sea birds. Learn about the incredible history and geology of the region, and roam through the unparalleled landscapes.
Go kayaking or stand up paddling along the ethereal waters, gliding in the shadows of glaciers, or challenge yourself with snowshoeing and mountaineering. You even have the option to camp overnight on the Antarctic continent - a truly awe-inspiring experience. For those sticking to comfort of the sturdy, specialist ship, you’ll enjoy cabins with ocean views, a bar and restaurant, and onboard lectures presented by your wonderful crew of Antarctic experts.
If you’re short on time or prefer to avoid a long expedition at sea, the Antarctic Express is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the magic of Antarctica on a bite-sized voyage. Go where few others have ventured on this thrilling eight-day experience.
You’ll be met on arrival by a representative at Punta Arenas airport and transferred to your hotel. In the evening, your expedition leaders will meet you at the hotel where you’ll enjoy a welcome dinner and briefing about embarkation day.
If you arrive early in Punta Arenas, there are plenty of things to do in this southernmost part of Chile. Head to the town centre to see the Plaza Munoz Gamero. This impressive plaza is marked by a statue of Ferdinand Magellan, the famous Portuguese explorer and surrounded by lush greenery. Visit the Nao Victoria Museo, a replica of Magellan’s carrack ship with a museum inside.
Take a walk along the coast to the Costanera del Estrecho, a beautiful monument of an arriving ship with mermaids blowing through conches, sounding the alarm to explorers. There’s a number of cafes along the walk to grab a hot drink.
Continue your walk to the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, the lookout from the Hill of the Cross. Just a 15 stroll from the Plaza de Armas, this peaceful lookout offers a gorgeous view over the colourful buildings of the city.
Today you’ll cross the infamous Drake Passage, but instead of taking the stomach-turning journey by sea, you’ll be whizzed across the passage with a charter flight. You’ll board the flight in Punta Arenas, flying for around three hours before landing in King George Island in the South Shetland Islands. You’ll get your first glimpse of the breathtaking Antarctic landscapes from the air and it’s a spectacular way to begin your voyage into the seventh continent.
After landing, you’ll have time to explore the island around the Chilean Research Base, before being transferred by Zodiac to your ship. Once your board the ship, it’s time to embark on your Antarctic expedition. You can travel on the Ocean Adventurer or the World Explorer, and both will get you there in supreme comfort and safety.
Both ships include ensuite cabins with external views, onboard lectures and presentation in the theatre-style auditorium, a bar and restaurant, Polar library, medical clinic with a licensed doctor, onboard laundry service, observation decks, a gym, the Polar boutique, two elevators accessing most decks, and WIFI in some areas.
Today you’ll walk in the paths of the bold first explorers, as you set foot on Antarctica for the first time. You’ll get your first sightings of the Great White Continent from the ship, so keep your eyes peeled to spot whales and seabirds. The highly trained Expedition Team will also keep a sharp eye out for any wildlife sightings and will alert you if they see anything.
With a team of expert lecturers on board, you’ll be able to get all your questions answered and hear some fascinating presentations on the wildlife, history and geology of the region. Most thrilling of all, you’ll spend the next four days making daily onshore excursions. You’ll board a Zodiac, a large-capacity, rigid-hulled inflatable boat with 4-stroke engines, which will transport you to the top sights around the Peninsula. You’ll cruise in search of whales, walk along icy beaches strewn with seals, hike to penguin rookeries and soak up the awe-inspiring landscapes of towering icebergs and glittering glaciers.
Your daily excursions are always dependent on the unpredictable weather of Antarctica. In such an indomitable region, Mother Nature always rules, and you’ll be left breathless by the sheer power of this untamed land.
There are numerous possible landing points offering magnificent scenery and incredible wildlife sightings, so no two days are ever the same. Some of the highlights include Lemaire Channel, an impossibly beautiful strait that runs for 11 kilometres between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Known as the ‘Kodak Gap’, this is one of the most scenic locations in the region.
For great wildlife viewing, head to Half Moon Island to see an abundance of breeding Antarctic birds including shags, kelp gulls, skua, snowy sheathbills, chinstrap penguins, Wilson’s storm-petrels and Antarctic terns.
For gentoo, macaroni and chinstrap penguin rookeries, visit Hannah Point, and for beaches strewn with Weddell, fur and southern elephant seals, head to Turret Point. You’ll also find adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries here. The Aitcho Islands have a superb mix of wildlife, with southern elephant and fur seals, and gentoo and chinstrap penguin rookeries.
Continue your exploration of this unparalleled land. For brilliant views, head to Neko Harbour, a bay once used by Neko, the floating whale factory ship. As you climb up the steep slope, you’ll see whale vertebrae used by gentoo penguins for shelter and an unmanned refuge hut built by Argentina. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the glacier-ringed harbour.
Another great spot is Petermann Island, offering spectacular views after a challenging hike to the peak of the island. Here you’ll also see the southernmost rookery of gentoo penguins, along with shags, south polar skuas and Adelie penguins.
For exceptional photography opportunities, visit Baily Head, also known as Rancho Point. The craggy headland carves a natural amphitheater, perfect for landscape photography. You’ll also spot colonies of chinstrap penguins here.
You can visit some historic sites including Waterboat Point, where the remains of a research camp have been designated as an Antarctic historic site, and Port Lockroy, where a secret base was built during World War Two. It’s now a historic site with a museum and the world’s southernmost post office.
This is your final day to immerse yourself in this phenomenal wilderness. You can opt to take a kayaking adventure through the Antarctic (this must be booked in advance). Weather permitting, you’ll have an intimate encounter with the region as you kayak in a small group of maximum 16 people, led by an expert guide. Soak up the remarkable landscapes as you glide past dazzling ice sculptures and witness animals bringing life to such an unforgiving environment.
For some fascinating natural wonders, head to Pendulum Cove, where you’ll find hot geothermal waters with yellow algae and boiled krill floating on the surface of the searing hot water. You can also see geothermally-heated springs at Whaler’s Bay, through a small passage of Neptune’s Bellows. This spot offers penguin and seal sightings, and the remains of a whaling operation on the beach. If you cruise past Telefon Bay, your guides can show you where a volcano erupted on Deception Island.
After a phenomenal week of exploring the wild Antarctic, you’ll say farewell to the expedition team. Disembark the ship and board your charter plane for the three-hour flight back across the Drake Passage. Keep your eyes peeled for any last sightings of whales or sea birds.
You’ll touch down in Punta Arenas and be transferred from the airport to your hotel. You can spend the afternoon relaxing in your hotel, exploring the town or enjoying a final dinner with your fellow adventurers.
Punta Arenas has some spectacular surrounding attractions and you may like to spend some more time here. Visit the Alberto Agostini National Park, a protected area and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. With unspoiled landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery, this is the perfect place for a scenic adventure.
For more wildlife, head to Isla Magdalena, an islet off the coast renowned for its mass of penguins. Those looking for some history can venture to Fuerte Bulnes, a historic fort constructed in 1852 and restored in the early 1940s. It’s a lovely day trip from Punta Arenas.
After breakfast, you’ll check out of the hotel and depart for the next leg of your travels. Sadly, your incredible express voyage to the Antarctic has come to an end, but we’re sure you’ll be leaving with some life-altering memories and stories of a place where few others have been.
If you’ve got the urge for more intrepid exploration, you can venture upward through Chile or Argentina, perhaps trekking through Patagonia for more jaw-dropping landscapes. If you’d like to escape to warmer shores, we recommend a trip to Colombia or the pristine beaches of Cuba. Wherever you choose, our friendly team of Luxury Travel Specialists can help you arrange onward travel through South America and beyond.