Antarctica is the coldest, highest, driest and most remote continent on earth. Hidden beneath an enormous ice sheet, it was the last continent on earth to be discovered by humans, so it’s no surprise that it can feel impossibly distant! The good news is that Antarctica may be more accessible than you think. In fact, it’s never been easier for adventurous travellers to experience its unforgettable ice and wonderful wildlife.
Every year, thousands of travellers visit the Antarctic Peninsula, the most accessible region of Antarctica. In the summer of 2016 – 2017, more than 45,000 travellers came from countries all over the world, including the United States, China, Australia, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, India, and many more. So what is the easiest way to get to Antarctica?
How do you get to Antarctica?
No matter where you call home, the easiest way to get to Antarctica is from the southern tip of South America. You start by flying to Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina. These are both cosmopolitan cities with international airports connected to most places on earth.
Once you arrive in South America you need to transfer to Punta Arenas, Chile or Ushuaia, Argentina. These bustling port towns are busy hubs for charter flights and expedition ships whisking travellers away to the Antarctic Peninsula.
How do you get to Antarctica from South America?
How to get to Antarctica from South America by ship
Do you want to follow in the footsteps of the early explorers? If so, crossing the Drake Passage by sea is an Antarctic initiation you won’t want to miss. Most Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia and sail down the scenic Beagle Channel. It’s worth getting out on deck – you never know when you might spot dolphins frolicking in the ship’s wake!
From the Beagle Channel you will strike out across the famed Drake Passage, a 1,000 kilometre (600 mile) ocean crossing between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. You’ll usually spend between a day and a half and two days at sea, depending on conditions, and this is a great opportunity to spot majestic seabirds soaring around the ship.
For those looking for a more traditional experience, it’s also possible to cross the Drake Passage in a small yacht or sailing vessel.
How to get to Antarctica from South America by plane
If you want to experience the Antarctic Peninsula on an expedition cruise but would prefer to skip the Drake Passage, no worries! You can take a short flight from Chile to the South Shetland Islands and join your ship there. By taking a charter flight to Antarctica, you could be spotting your first iceberg within just a few hours of leaving South America!
How do you get to Antarctica from Australia?
How to get to Antarctica by plane from Australia
If you want to see Antarctica in a single day, a fly-over trip from Australia might be what you’re looking for. On this kind of trip you won’t have the chance to set foot on land or see much wildlife, but you can witness the breathtaking scale of Antarctica’s glaciers and sea ice in only 12 hours – and if you’re Australian, you don’t even need a passport!
How to get to Antarctica from Australia by ship
Other than fly-over trips, it’s very rare for travellers to go directly from Australia to Antarctica. This is mainly because the journey from Hobart, Australia to Antarctica usually takes between 10-14 days. That’s a long time at sea! However one very special group of travellers does sail regularly from Hobart to Antarctica: scientists and support staff working for the Australian Antarctic Division.
Every year approximately 1,000 scientists travel to and from Antarctica to conduct research at one of the many scientific stations on the continent. Most scientists travel on large resupply ships, many of them icebreakers capable of breaking through ice over 1 metre (3 feet) thick. One of these is the Aurora Australis, which transports staff to Macquarie Island and the Australian research bases at Davis, Casey and Mawson. The Aurora Australis has small cabins that sleep 3-4 people, as well as onboard laboratories, where scientists can take biological, oceanography and meteorological experiments and observations as they travel south.
Now we’ve covered how to get to Antarctica you might be wondering: how much does it cost and when is the best time to visit Antarctica? Or maybe you’d like to find out about some of the different voyages you can take to Antarctica. If you’d like to keep learning about Antarctica, this article with 10 fun Antarctic facts is a good place to continue.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to get to Antarctica, contact our expedition experts today.
Words by Nina Gallo, Aurora Expeditions’ historian and certified PTGA polar guide.
Nina has been drawn to the polar regions since her first otherworldly experience of the midnight sun in 2002. Since then she has spent time in far northern Canada, the Himalayas, the Alps and deserts in America and Australia, always seeking out quiet, wild corners to explore. She feels immensely privileged to travel to these places and shares her passions for the natural world, human stories and adventure with all the wonderful people she meets. Nina is the author of Antarctica, published by Australian Geographic in September 2020.