As far as ultimate wilderness goes, Antarctica tops the charts. A sea of staggering icebergs and glaciers at the end of the earth, the continent is virtually covered by a gargantuan ice cap that spans almost 14 million square kilometres.
Retrace the footsteps of famous explorers such as Ernest Shackleton as you explore hauntingly beautiful landscapes, see whales breach and smash glassy water into smithereens, watch clumsy elephant seals wallowing and busy penguins rush in and out of the sea. The austral summer sees over 20 hours of dazzling sunlight per day, with gorgeous skies illuminated in every shade of pink, orange and purple at dawn and dusk. Antarctica offers a truly unforgettable adventure into one of our planet's last frontiers.
Boat options range from luxury cruise ships offering modern comforts for navigating the frozen desert in style, to expedition-style ice breaking vessels which cut through the surface ice to access otherwise inaccessible landing spots.
A fascinating archipelago surrounded by the churning South Atlantic, many Antarctic cruises take in a few of the 700 historic, wildlife-rich Falkland Islands. Be sure of a warm welcome from the locals, despite the area being so sparsely populated. Discover huge colonies of seabirds which feed at sea then fly to the beaches and clifftops to nest. Explore Stanley, the islands’ capital, on foot and visit the Historic Dockyard Museum.
South Georgia is a remote, mountainous island offering wildlife-packed beaches and the opportunity to visit the resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Penguin fans should include South Georgia on their itinerary for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with thousands of King Penguins, as well as many other bird species including the endemic South Georgia pintail duck. If you are prone to sea-sickness and wish to avoid the infamous Drake Passage, speak to an expert regarding the fly-cruise options.
South Shetland Islands
After braving the Drake Passage, the South Shetland Islands, home to 16 research stations, are often visited en route to the Antarctic Peninsula. King George is the largest of the islands and is a popular nesting site for penguins, cormorants and petrels.
A frozen wilderness where the silence is only interrupted by vocal penguins seemingly shouting at one another and the boom of calving icebergs breaking free, the Antarctic Peninsula is truly Earth’s final natural frontier. The surreal remoteness magnetises photographers and intrepid travellers alike. Epic icebergs and glaciers add an extra element of uniqueness to the most spectacular sunrise and sunset shots, while adventures on the ice sheet provide unforgettably close encounters with inquisitive creatures, unperturbed by human presence.
Explore the frozen shoreline by zodiac to witness the wildlife from another perspective, visit remote research stations or try a range of activities including sea kayaking, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. The Antarctic ice is at its most pristine in November, while December sees penguin chicks hatching. Marine life flourishes from January to March, when elephant seals seek sanctuary from hungry orcas hunting the icy waters.