“Why would you go to Antarctica?!” This is by far the most common reaction when I mention my trip to Antarctica. I get it, it’s cold and remote. That’s not exactly enticing for everyone. But, you may be surprised that there are so many reasons to visit Antarctica!
For me, Antarctica was not always on my radar. As I fell further in love with winter adventures, it became more and more interesting to me until it was the only continent I hadn’t yet set foot on. During my pause from international travel during the pandemic, I decided it was time!
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- 1 | To see penguins in their natural habitat.
- 2 | To get up close and personal with whales.
- 3 | To observe all kinds of seals in the wild.
- 4 | To visit one of the most remote destinations in the world.
- 5 | To set foot on your 7th continent.
- 6 | For the photography.
- 7 | For the ultimate adventure.
- 8 | To connect with like-minded adventurers.
- 9 | To experience the midnight sun.
- 10 | For the bird watching.
- 11 | To learn about the history of polar exploration.
- 12 | To participate in science and research projects.
- 13 | To experience the incredible scale of Antarctica.
- 14 | For the dreamy reflections.
- 15 | To disconnect.
- 16 | To take the plunge – a polar plunge!
- 17 | For an active and educational vacation.
- 18 | For the icebergs and glaciers.
- 19 | Before it’s gone due to climate change.
Top Reasons to Visit Antarctica
1 | To see penguins in their natural habitat.
Penguins have always mesmerized me. I could watch them for hours. Seeing penguins in real life in their natural habitat is one of the most incredible experiences of my life. They are seemingly everywhere in Antarctica.
The most common types of penguins to see on the Antarctic Peninsula are chinstrap, gentoo and the occasional Adelie penguins. Emperor penguins are found on continental Antarctica.
Pro Tip: Always keep a safe distance (about 15 feet) from the penguins.
2 | To get up close and personal with whales.
As we arrived in Antarctic waters, at first I had trouble seeing the whales. Then, as my eyes adjusted, I could see them everywhere. A group of kayakers on my expedition even had a humpback whale pop up right next to them!
The most common types of whales to see in Antarctica are humpback, orca, and blue whales.
3 | To observe all kinds of seals in the wild.
Whether chilling on an iceberg or wheezing through the water, several types of seals can be seen in Antarctica. The most common types of seals in Antarctica are Weddell, crabeater, leopard, fur and elephant seals. Of these, the leopard seals are known to be the most dangerous. Expedition teams take great care to ensure they are avoided on any excursions.
4 | To visit one of the most remote destinations in the world.
Arguably, Antarctica is the most remote destination in the world. Each year less than 100,000 people visit Antarctica, though visits are trending upward. If you love going off-grid and experiencing remote destinations, Antarctica is for you.
5 | To set foot on your 7th continent.
Many people, like myself, have a goal of visiting all 7 continents. Antarctica is often the last one visited due to its remote nature and the cost of getting there.
As I first set foot on Antarctica, I felt overwhelmed with emotions knowing I’d achieved that goal. It didn’t hurt that this was also the moment I first got a glimpse of the penguins!
6 | For the photography.
Antarctica is a photographers dream destination. Whether you are a hobby or professional photographer, you will be inspired and challenged to capture the beauty of this place. Most expedition ships have photographers and videographers on board who host workshops to practice and improve your skills.
Pro Tip: Prior to Antarctica, I decided to upgrade my camera gear and I’m so glad that I did. If you decide to upgrade your gear, do so a few months in advance so you can practice and get comfortable with using it.
7 | For the ultimate adventure.
Antarctica is the embodiment of adventure. Each expedition is unique. The rapidly changing weather conditions, movement of wildlife, and safety risk factors require flexibility and adaptability by all. The expedition crew may decide to cancel a landing minutes before its scheduled to start if the conditions shift. This is part of the adventure and experience in Antarctica.
8 | To connect with like-minded adventurers.
It takes a certain type of adventurous person to go to Antarctica. It’s not for everyone! What that means, is that you’ll meet all kinds of like-minded travelers on board your Antarctic expedition. I met folks from all around the world and love hearing their stories about what brought them to Antarctic, photography tips, and travel experiences.
9 | To experience the midnight sun.
During the summer months in Antarctica, you can experience the phenomenon of midnight sun. This is when the earth’s axis is tilted toward the sun and the sun never sets. Experience sunlight 24 hrs of the day!
While camping in Antarctica, it was a cool and strange experience to have sunlight inside the tent in the middle of the night!
10 | For the bird watching.
If you love bird watching, you’ll love Antarctica! There are many species of birds to see on an Antarctic expedition. The most common birds, aside from penguins, found on the Antarctic Peninsula are albatross, snow petrels, , giant petrels, cape petrels, Antarctic skuas, blue-eyed shags, and sheathbills.
Pro Tip: Birds like to follow behind the ship when it’s cruising. Stand on the deck at the back of the ship for excellent views and photos of birds!
11 | To learn about the history of polar exploration.
As hard it is to get to Antarctica today, it’s unimaginable what early polar explorers experienced. Most expedition ships will have a historian on board who will give lectures on early polar exploration. On board the MS Fridtjob Nansen, our historian presented the lectures with both historical and factual information as well as a touch of storytelling.
Many of the landings, like Deception Island, provide a glimpse of the life of early explorers and researchers.
12 | To participate in science and research projects.
Why not participate in actual science and research projects while in Antarctica? Expedition companies tend to partner with universities and other researchers to gather data while in Antarctica. That can be anything from capturing underwater drone footage to collecting core ice samples to be analyzed in a lab.
Passengers are often invited to participate in collecting the data and even analyzing the samples on board the ship!
13 | To experience the incredible scale of Antarctica.
What most surprised me about Antarctica is the scale of everything. Somehow the landscape made whales and even the ship look tiny. Some of the icebergs are as tall as the ship’s upper mid- to upper decks. It was amazing just how I smell I felt, but in the best way possible.
14 | For the dreamy reflections.
Once you get past the Drake Passage and into Antarctic waters, much of the water is completely calm which allows for beautiful reflections of the landscape. The most beautiful reflections can be seen when passing through the channels such as the Lemaire Channel.
15 | To disconnect.
If you’re looking for a place to disconnect and reset, Antarctica can’t be beat. It’s a place that encourages you to just immerse yourself in the experience. Antarctica is an ideal place to reflect, reconnect with yourself and disconnect from distractions.
Pro Tip: Many ships include wifi, for free or at a cost, but the wifi is limited and inconsistent.
16 | To take the plunge – a polar plunge!
Did you even go to Antarctica if you didn’t do a polar plunge? Ok, yes but why not give it a try?! Aside from being exhilarating, there’s evidence that a plunge in cold water can reduce inflammation, increase circulation, boost mood, and boost your immune system.
Pro Tip: Some ships have you jump into the water for the polar plunge and others offer a walk-in option from the shoreline.
17 | For an active and educational vacation.
Antarctica is not a relaxing beach vacation. It is, however, an active and educational experience. Each day is comprised of a combination of landing site with hiking, zodiak cruise, lectures, workshops and more. I sat in on a workshop entirely about Antarctic fish! There were workshops on tying knots, knitting, and photography among other things.
18 | For the icebergs and glaciers.
Some may say that snowy landscapes are boring and white, but I don’t think those people have seen icebergs and glaciers up close! Icebergs are truly incredible to see up close. The different hues of blue and white create beautiful shadows and shapes.
In addition, learn about how icebergs form, rotate and move through the Antarctic water. We were fortunate to witness calving multiple times, which is when a portion of a glacier breaks off forming new icebergs.
19 | Before it’s gone due to climate change.
Climate change is real and, honestly, it was one of the biggest and most urgent reasons to visit Antarctica for me. While it might be a while before it’s gone entirely, there is evidence that shows the landscape and conditions for wildlife in Antarctica are changing at a concerning rate. Antarctica may not look the same for much longer.
I also believe that when people can experience the beauty of a place first-hand, they are more likely to advocate for and take action to protect it.
Two Reasons to Not Visit Antarctica
The reality is that despite all these reasons to travel to Antarctica, it’s not for everybody. Here are two things you should know before deciding if Antarctica is for you.
1 | Crossing the Drake Passage
If you suffer from seasickness, crossing the Drake Passage could be really difficult for you. The Drake Passage is the open water between Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s known to be some of the roughest seas in the world. This passage is the convergence of three bodies of water: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Southern Ocean. Waves of up to 40 feet are not uncommon and it can take ships up to 2 days to cross the passage.
There is a chance that you’ll get the “Drake Lake”, a rare occurrence when the passage is calm. But, it’s unlikely to be the case for both crossings.
Pro Tip: Read my complete Antarctica cruise packing list for tips on seasickness medications and treatments for crossing the Drake Passage. Always consult with your doctor to see what’s best for you.
2 | To see polar bears.
A common misconception is that there are polar bears in Antarctica. Polar bears can only be found in the Arctic (North Pole) region. So, you’ll have to head to places like Svalbard (Norway) or Manitoba (Canada) to get a glimpse of these creatures.
What Are Your Reasons to go to Antarctica?
Now that you’ve read these 19 reasons to travel to Antarctica, which resonate most with you? Whatever the reason, I hope you experience this incredible destination some day!
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