Dreaming of waddling alongside penguins under the midnight sun in one of the remotest parts of the planet? In that case, you need to dig deep into your pockets and get yourself down to Antarctica. The ultimate bucket list destination, this sprawling frozen desert is also home to seals, whales, and unique seabirds – and let’s not forget icebergs the size of villages.

The best way to explore Antartica is by booking yourself onto a marine expedition. Trips to Antarctica generally depart from the southernmost tip of South America in Chile. By the time you’ve found your sea-legs, you’ll be ready to place your own feet on the frosty wilderness.

We know research for a trip as wild as this is overwhelming. So, to give you a headstart on your planning, we’ve rounded up the best Antarctica tours. Amass your thermals and zip up your parka – you’re setting sail for the planet’s last frontier. 

Best Trips to Antarctica

Best Trips to Antarctica

All the trips to Antarctica that we’ve rounded up are marine expeditions. That means long, sunny days exploring the icy formations and spying on wildlife, and nippy evenings snuggled up in your toasty cabin. But, rather than a traditional cruise, these adventures feel more like a private expedition.     

Bear in mind that the tourist season for Antarctica holidays is limited to November – March (summer in the South Hemisphere). All the trips we’ve curated sail during these five months. Outside of the summer season, the tourist cruises are halted as the temperatures plummet. Plus, to access this isolated corner, it’s going to cost you. But a trip to Antarctica is an adventure of a lifetime and it’s worth every last penny to see these heartstopping sights. 

Let’s find the best Antarctica tour package for you…

Best Overall Trip to Antarctica – Quest for the Antarctic Circle 

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 14
  • Price: $9,682 USD
  • Group Size: Max 134
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

This fortnight-long expedition starts and finishes at Ushuaia, Argentina. Brace yourself for the turbulent Drake Passage, known as one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of sea. Assuming the conditions are favourable, your voyage then takes you over the Antarctic Polar Circle. Few travellers have the opportunity to venture this far south; in fact, this is the only trip we’ve found that makes the crossing, making this one of the most unique trips to Antarctica.

The rest of the trip takes you to the South Shetland Islands and down along the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Once here, you’ll be in and out of the Zodiac boats. Keep your eyes peeled for a massive rookery of penguins and pod of whales gliding through the frigid waters. All in all, a terrific overview of the Great White Continenent.

If you want a slightly shorter and cheaper option, check out the Antarctica Classic expedition. This one skips crossing the Polar Circle and is one of the most budget trips to Antarctica we’ve seen. 

Quest for the Antarctic Circle, Antarctica

Who is this tour best for?

Bucketlisters, couples, families with children over 10. 

Cons:

  • It’s not cheap
  • Antarctic kayaking is not included in the cost and must be purchased separately at the time of booking 
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Best Winter Trip to Antarctica – Christmas in Antarctica

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 11
  • Price: $9,525 USD
  • Group Size: Max 200
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

Treat yourself to a truly magical Christmas this year and join this festive winter trip to Antarctica. Not to confuse you if you already live in the South Hemisphere – when we say the best winter trip to Antarctica, we’re talking to your Northern neighbours with a lust for a snowy Christmas. 

The festive season is one of the most active times for Antarctic wildlife. That means there are plenty of opportunities to see penguins, seals and whales under the midnight sun. In between Zodiac excursions, you can wind down in the onboard wellness spa and saunas, or take a yoga class. Christmas Day will be spent along the Antarctic Peninsula – providing the weather conditions cooperate, you’ll have two landings to look forward to. It’s as white a Christmas as you’ll ever get.

Christmas in Antarctica, Antarctica

Who is this tour best for?

Couples, families, solo travellers (single cabins are available at the same price as some twins). Travellers who prefer to get away over the Christmas holiday. 

Cons:

  • Prices for flights this close to Christmas may be inflated 
  • While all meals onboard are included, drinks are not. Over Christmas, this might rack up your bill if you’re not mindful of your spending 

Best Whale Watching Trip to Antarctica – WWF Giants of Antarctica 

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 11
  • Price: $10,599 USD
  • Group Size: Max 200
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

Intrepid has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund Australia to curate the best Antarctica tour package for wildlife enthusiasts. Joining you onboard this voyage is the marine ecologist Dr Ari Friedlaender and his team of scientists. During the course of the trip, Ari will provide a series of comprehensive talks about the history, geology, and biology of Antarctica. Additionally, Ari will accompany you on your daily excursions, providing a rich insight onto Antarctica’s wildlife. 

To optimise your chances of sightings, this tour is scheduled right in the midst of peak humpback whale season. You stand an excellent chance of seeing these majestic creatures slicing through the water with your own eyes. What else can we say other than you’ll have a whale of a time. 

WWF Giants of Antarctica, Antarctica
source: hecke61 (Shutterstock)

Who is this tour best for?

Anyone eager to learn more about the biology of Antarctica – particularly marine wildlife enthusiasts. Photographers. 

Cons:

  • There is only one set of dates available for this tour: 16 – 26 February 
  • One of the more expensive tours 

Best Budget Trip to Antarctica – Best of Antarctica from Punta Arenas 

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 11
  • Price: $6,148 USD
  • Group Size: Max 200
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

Alright, you need to take a ‘budget’ trip to Antarctica with a tiny pinch of salt. This isn’t going to be your standard ten bucks a day set-up – it’s still an Antarctic expedition at the end of the day. However, this trip does come at a much more wallet-friendly price than other trips. Plus, with ten nights at sea, you’re still getting ample time to explore and seeing similar sites to other trips on the list. 

Your route follows the dramatic Drake Passage before sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula and giving you a chance to explore the South Shetland Islands. While aboard, you will learn a thing or two about your upcoming explorations. There is a series of lectures and workshops presented by photographers, marine biologists, and glaciologists to keep you occupied. 

Best of Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Antarctica

Who is this tour best for?

Travellers on a (slightly) smaller budget. Those who want to see a bit of Chile as well as Argentina onto the trip. 

Cons:

  • The trip departs from Chile and ends in Argentina so depending on your nationality, you may require two visas. It might also impact your inbound/outbound travel costs
  • The cheapest cabins do not have a window/porthole. Bear that in mind if you suffer from claustrophobia (or simply enjoy an ocean view)

Best Trip to Antarctica for Photographers – Spirit of Shackleton 

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 21
  • Price: $15,515 USD
  • Group Size: Max 134
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 20 breakfasts, 18 lunches, 19 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard
sSpirit of Shackleton, Antarctica

Who is this tour best for?

Photographers, film-makers, couples, older travellers. Those taking a gap year/sabbatical.

Cons:

  • This is the most expensive trip on our list (but on the plus side, it’s also the longest)
  • As sensational as the midnight sun is, some passengers struggle to sleep. Don’t forget to take a quality eye mask to ensure your beauty sleep on the lengthy trip

Most Unique Trip to Antarctica – Antarctic Eclipse 

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 14
  • Price: $12,722 USD
  • Group Size: Max 200
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

Just try and eclipse this tour. Aside from the rugged glacial landscapes, once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spotting, and immersive Zodiac explorations, you get to witness a total solar eclipse. As you cruise towards Eclipse Point, look out for Adelie and gentoo penguins, leopard seals, sea birds, and whales.

Overnight, the ship will travel into what’s called “the zone of 100% obscuration.” Not to get too technical, but this is a specific region of coordinates where the eclipse will last the longest possible time. Very early in the morning, you’ll be invited on deck to experience the eclipse in all its glory through specialised goggles (provided). 

You’ll have an onboard astrophysicist and meteorologist on hand to explain this natural phenomenon. Plus, they’ll help you snap a professional shot – that way, you can take home the perfect souvenir from the most unique trip to Antarctica.

Antarctic Eclipse, Antarctica

Who is this tour best for?

Photographers, bucket listers, older travellers, astrology hobbyists. Couples – this is the best tour in Antarctica for a honeymoon!

Cons:

  • Very expensive 
  • You’ll need to pack carefully for this long trip – domestic flights within Argentina aren’t generous with their hold luggage

Best Short Trip to Antarctica – Antarctic Express

Trip Details

  • Number of days: 8
  • Price: $11,315 USD
  • Group Size: Max 132
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel
  • How many meals included: 7 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 6 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

If your heart is set on Antarctica but your annual leave allowance is holding you back, take the fast track. From Punta Arenas (Chile), you’ll fly over the infamously choppy waters of the Drake Passage to King George Island. Once at your dramatic embankment point, you can hop aboard your ship bound for the frozen wonderland. Cruise between towering icebergs floating in iridescent blue seas, and feel the thrill of catching the first glimpses of Antarctica’s icy shoreline.

Over the next four days, you’ll explore a number of islands and landings by Zodiac before flying back to Punta Arenas. This trip means you spend less time at sea but don’t miss out on the glacial sights of the Antarctic Peninsula or the islands. 

Antarctic Express, Antarctica
source: evenfh (Shutterstock)

Who is this tour best for?

Travellers with a time limit. You still get a decent chunk of time to explore the continent, but flying over the Drake Passage saves you a few days of travel time.

Cons:

  • A walk of approximately 1.5km is required between the runway on King George Island and the zodiac landing point. Your luggage is transferred for you
  • Flights to King George Island from Punta Arenas can be disrupted by adverse weather conditions. Travel insurance is a must, in case you encounter a delay

Best Camping Trip to Antarctica – Antarctica Classic 

Trip Details

  • Price: $6,882 USD
  • Group Size: Max 134
  • Fitness Required: Light
  • Accommodation type: Comfortable expedition cruise ship / 1 night hotel. 1 night camping on the Antarctic Peninsula (if selected at purchase)
  • How many meals included: 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners
  • Service Level: Marine comfort / high standard

If you didn’t think it was possible to camp on the Great White Continent, think again. With this trip, it is possible to add one night of sleeping on an iceberg under the midnight sun. Just try and get more adventurous than that. 

Now, one downside to this trip is that the camping element is an added-extra, so you’ll need to factor in the extra cost. However, this trip is slightly cheaper than other itineraries that offer camping. Plus, the scheduled dates align perfectly with the warmest months in Antarctica. If there’s ever an occasion to tick camping in the South Pole off your list, this is it. 

Antarctica Classic, Antarctica

Who is this tour best for?

Bucketlisters, couples, photographers. Anyone adventurous enough to camp on the South Pole. 

Cons:

  • You must book your camping slot at the time you book this vacation in Antarctica – spaces are capped at 60 people
  • If you want to add kayaking to your trip, that’s an extra in addition to the cost of the camping excursion

Quick Guide to Visiting Antarctica 

Best Time to Visit Antarctica 

Best Time to Visit Antarctica

The best time to book your vacation in Antarctica is during the five months of Southern Hemisphere summer – November to March. At this time of year, the sea ice melts enough for expedition vessels to power their way through the giant slabs of ice.

Visit early in the season (November to mid-December) for a chance to see the courting rituals of penguins and seabirds. You’ll also see the summer wildflowers come into bloom on the Falkland and South Georgia Islands. 

On the other hand, if you’ve got your heart set on camping, the milder weather of mid-December and January makes this more likely. Generally, this is also an excellent time for photography, thanks to the midnight sun. Look out for seal pups, too. Deeper into January as the temperatures peak, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of hatching baby penguins.

Towards the end of the season, temperatures cool, but you can experience sensational Antarctic sunrises and sunsets over the snow algae. This is also the climax for whale sightings, fledgeling penguin chicks, and moulting elephant seals. Come late March, the season for tours in Antarctica wraps up for the year. 

Travel Insurance for your Antarctica trip

It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re going – one thing you should always consider is some trusty travel insurance. Yeah, we know you’d much rather put that cash towards some new lenses for your camera, but if you get into a pickle, it’s that travel insurance that’s going to have your back. 

Also, don’t forget that all trips to Antarctica require travellers to have a valid policy. If you turn up at the harbour without proof of travel insurance, the CEO is obligated to turn you away. 

Cruising around the South Pole might not sound dangerous, but there is a high risk of travel disruption. You need that cover in case a flight is delayed or cancelled. And while we really hope you don’t need to use it, you will also need evidence of medical, repatriation and emergency rescue cover. If you’re taking fancy tech with you, don’t forget to add protection to your policy.

The legendary World Nomads provide cover for tours in Antarctica; you can read more about their policies here

world nomads insurance banner

What to Pack for Antarctica

What to Pack for Antarctica

Packing for your Antarctica vacation demands more thought than your classic beach vacation. You need to prepare for both near-freezing temperatures and intense sunlight. Plus, remember that you may be clambering in and out of Zodiacs several times a day. You’ll need to deck yourself out in clothing that’s waterproof, warm, and doesn’t hinder your mobility. 

Bear in mind that all tours in Antarctica do require some mandatory gear, which we’ve listed below. 

  • Camera 
  • Binoculars (highly recommended)
  • Waterproof day pack and/or drybag (mandatory for daily Zodiac excursions)
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight
  • Fleece / down jacket 
  • Waterproof trousers (mandatory for all Zodiac landings)
  • Thermal base layers
  • Polarised sunglasses
  • Footwear with excellent grip – open-toed shoes are not allowed in public spaces on any expedition ship
  • Hat, scarves and waterproof gloves
  • Sunscreen and SPF lip balm 
  • Seasickness tablets
  • Outlet adapter 
  • Swimwear for the Polar Plunge (some expedition ships also have heated pools onboard, if that sounds more appealing)
  • Face masks and hand sanitiser (mandatory)

Final Thoughts on the Best Antarctica Trips

There you have it – the eight best trips to Antarctica, plus all you need to know about visiting this breathtaking place. All the tours we’ve shared offer a comparable level of comfort and the chance to spot wildlife and plant your feet on the continent. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what wildlife you are most eager to see and how cold you’re prepared to get – and, of course, how much you want to spend on your vacation in Antarctica,

If we have to pick just one, our favourite tour is the Quest for the Antarctic Circle. This one gives you a thorough sweep across the Drake Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula, and even takes you beyond the Antarctic Polar Circle. Considering the length of the trip, the price isn’t unreasonable, either. 

Whichever one you go with, Antarctica holidays are the adventure of a lifetime.  

Final Thoughts on the Best Antarctica Trips

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