Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Antartica - A Big Trip for the Bucket List

Calm sea, Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
As experienced travellers know, holidays and journeys are not necessarily the same thing. Off-the-beaten-track destinations are becoming increasingly hard to come by, but there is still a place that manages to captivate the imagination of most people: Antarctica. This faraway continent is one of the most unknown yet intriguing destinations on Earth, and the sense of adventure that the very name of Antarctica evokes turns the white continent into the ultimate travel experience.

Travelling to Antarctica: some useful information

Antarctica is approximately 700 miles away from the nearest continent, South America. Australia is another popular starting point for trips to Antarctica, although the distance between both is even larger at 4,300 miles. While it is possible to fly to Antarctica from Chile and Australia, taking a cruise ship is by far the most rewarding option.

Antarctic cruises offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the surrounding area, which is dotted with frozen lakes, desolate deserts, hot springs, and volcanic islands. A cruise to Antartica makes the journey there part of the experience itself. Cruise length ranges between 8 days and 1 month. Azamara Club Cruises offers luxury cruises to Antarctica, as well as a variety of shore excursions. Other popular cruise companies include Antarctic Unbound, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and One Ocean Expeditions.

The best time to visit Antarctica is between November and March, when lower temperatures make navigation easier and daylight hours last longer.

Visitors must be prepared to face extreme weather regardless of the season. It is important to make sure that clothing and equipment is fully waterproof. Specialist clothing can be rented at cruise departing ports and may be available from some cruise companies.

What to see and do in Antarctica

Wildlife watching is one of the main reasons people travel to Antarctica. Penguins, whales, orcas, seals, and dozens of migrating bird species are commonly spotted.

Most cruises include excursions to the Antarctic peninsula. Within the peninsula, Anvers island and Torgersen island, which are across the bay from the landing point, are very popular places to watch and photograph penguins.

Deception island certainly does not live up to its name, as visitors leave invariably amazed at the variety of its wildlife and at the dramatic scenery. Those looking for contrasts can swim at the volcanic hot springs in Pendulum Cove, where water can reach temperatures of up to 70°C!

For a more typical and less strenuous tourist experience, a trip to Port Lockroy offers activities like souvenir shopping and visits to a museum.

Further away, the Ross Sea area offers fantastic hiking opportunities, as it is home to awe-inspiring Mount Erebus volcano. Experienced mountaineers can also have a go at Mount Kirkpatrick, the highest in Antarctica.

Antarctica might not be your usual holiday destination, but the white continent is well worth the effort involved in getting there. In fact, thanks to the range of cruise trips available and to their outstanding facilities, travelling to Antarctica is not effort at all, but rather an unforgettable and magical experience.

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