So, you’re thinking about traveling to the southernmost point of the southern hemisphere…?
BOOM. Mic drop.
Just try to top that one.
Less than 40,000 people a year get to visit Antarctica – primarily because, like the Galapagos islands in Ecuador, tourism is heavily restricted so as not to destroy the ecosystem. (Some big, ocean-going cruise ships get to skirt Antarctica, but their passengers are not allowed to disembark.)
This land of crazy cool icebergs is like Mars with cute animals. And because the place is so remote and otherworldly, there are specific things you need to know and do when traveling here.
- November to March is the best time to go – realistically, it’s the only time. Since it’s the southern hemisphere and seasons are reversed, this is their summer, when daytime temperatures can reach a toasty 20 or 25 degrees, and it only gets down to 0 at night. (Winter? Don’t ask.)
- January and February offer the perfect conditions for penguin, seal and whale watching. When visiting a penguin colony, your guides will likely ask that you keep about 15 feet away so as not to scare or distract them from their duties…but many of them are quite friendly and will waddle right up to you.
- The Drake Passage (the body of water between Cape Horn off the tip of South America and Antarctica) is one of the roughest stretches of water in the world. Avoid cruises that make this two-day passage unless you really want to bone up on bulimia. (On cruises that ply the Drake, virtually everyone is holed up in their rooms for the duration.) Brand g’s 2020 Antarctica vacation flies you roundtrip from Chile to King George Island, so you’re spared this delightful exercise in hurling.
- Bring the best binoculars you can afford, or a camera with a powerful zoom (at least 10x – 20 or 30x is even better). The latest iPhones have a 10x zoom, but because of the slim size of the phone body, zoomed-in photos are not great quality.
- Clothes: You’ll need specific items for touring, here: a good parka, waterproof boots and pants (essential), plus the usual cold-weather accessories: gloves, scarf, hat. (Note that the ship will provide you with a parka; no need to bring one.) Check out this article for details:
- Since you’ll be flying into either Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, consider spending a few extra days here. Buenos Aires is often called the “Paris of South America” for its French-influenced architecture and café lifestyle. (Be sure to take in an evening tango show – there are many fine dinner-and-show clubs offering incredible displays of this sexy dance.) Santiago – surrounded by the Andes – is a sophisticated city with booming nightlife, entertainment and shopping, along with the gorgeous el centro, the city’s historic center.
- South America is a surprisingly inexpensive destination to fly to in business class. Award seats are often available, and airlines like LATAM, Avianca and American frequently do business class sales here, with tickets in the $2,000-2,500 range roundtrip.
- At parties after you return, try to avoid loudly announcing, “Well, when we were in Antarctica last month…” Your friends will already hate you enough.