Antarctica can be reached from China and SE Asia via Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America or from New Zealand (less frequently Australia). There are many more South American departures, the distance is closer, shorter trips are available and you can fly or sail, New Zealand departures are to the deep South.

Antarctica Travel From China and South East Asia

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Regions: Antarctic Peninsula | South Georgia | South Shetland Islands | Falkland Islands | Arctic

Antarctica is a trip like no other, there are landscapes and wildlife like nowhere else, the air is the cleanest in the world.

The approach to Antarctica is either via ports in the south of Australia and New Zealand or via the tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego. China is closer to Australia and New Zealand than it is to South America, though South America is closer to Antarctica with a greater range of trips available and shorter travelling times leading to lower prices and longer in Antarctica. It is possible to fly from South America to join a cruise ship in Antarctica. The journey to Eastern Antarctica is by ship only, it is not possible for tourists to fly to Antarctica from Australia or New Zealand.

Distances km / miles / flight hrs.
Beijing - Ushuaia, Argentina 18,350 / 11,400 / 40
Beijing  - Hobart, Australia 9,930 / 6,040 / 20
Beijing  - Invercargill, NZ 10,900 / 6780 / 26
Hong Kong - Ushuaia, Argentina 16,410 / 10,200 / 50
Hong Kong - Hobart, Australia 8,010 / 4,980 / 15
Hong Kong - Invercargill, NZ 9,390 / 5,830 / 21

China to Antarctica

Fig 1. Access to Antarctica
1 - Beijing, China,  2 - Hong Kong, China
3 - Ushuaia, Argentina,  4 - Antarctic Peninsula
5 - Hobart, Australia, 
6 - Invercargill, New Zealand
7 - Commonwealth Bay,  8 - McMurdo

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The world's cleanest air

Antarctica is used to set a pollution base-line for the planet, there is less air pollution there than anywhere. The WHO guideline for PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter in the air) is an average of 25 micrograms per cubic metre over 24 hours, levels in Antarctica sometimes peak at 0.4, in heavily polluted cities, the figure frequently exceeds 150 and sometimes reaches 400+. (refs: 1  2)

The great majority of trips that leave for Antarctica are ship based cruises or fly-cruise trips leaving from the Argentinean port of Ushuaia or Punta Arenas in Chile. On a fly-cruise trips you fly across the Drake's Passage from South America to join your ship in Antarctica. These trips visit the Antarctic Peninsula and sometimes sub Antarctic islands too, fig.2. Peninsula trips typically take 10-12 days with 6-16 day trips available, taking in the Falkland Islands and/or South Georgia as well takes from 15-24 days.

A smaller number of cruises depart from Australia or New Zealand visiting the opposite side of the continent to Eastern Antarctica. These trips are longer and therefore more expensive with a sailing time of 6-7 days there and the same back again in a total trip duration of 26-30 days. They usually leave from Hobart, Australia or Invercargill, New Zealand, frequently leaving from one and returning to the other.

Antarctica is a relatively expensive niche destination, cold and clean, voyages focus the wilderness and aesthetic experience. A coast-line rich in wildlife backed by snow covered mountains and glaciers with an extreme climate make this a truly magical place to visit unlike any other on the planet. The remoteness and experiences make it the ultimate destination for many adventurous travellers.

  Travelling to the Antarctic Peninsula

The majority of tourist trips visit the Peninsula 6 and nearby islands such as the South Shetlands 5 (where the Chinese Great Wall scientific station is located). Longer trips may also take in the Falkland Islands 3 and / or the wildlife rich island of South Georgia 4, described as the "Alps in Mid-Ocean".

Ships almost always cruise along the western side of the Peninsula, the eastern side and Weddell Sea frequently have much heavier sea ice which is potentially problematic for shipping.

Distances km / miles
Ushuaia - Falklands 770 / 480
Ushuaia - South Georgia 2,020 / 1,255
Ushuaia - South Shetlands 980 / 610
Ushuaia - Peninsula tip 1,165 / 724
Punta Arenas - Peninsula tip 1,395 / 870
Peninsula top to bottom 1,230 / 765
Peninsula top to Antarctic Circle  450 / 280

Need a Little Guidance? contact our travel partners who will help you find the best cruise for your requirements

Fig 2. Trips to the Antarctic Peninsula.
1 - Ushuaia, Argentina, 2 - Punta Arenas, Chile
3 - Falkland Islands, 4 - South Georgia
5 - South Shetland Islands, 6 - Antarctic Peninsula

  Travel to the Ross Sea / Commonwealth Bay Region - Eastern Antarctica

These cruises (and they are always cruises) depart from Australia or New Zealand, Hobart, Australia 1, Invercargill / Port of Bluff in New Zealand 2, Invercargill has the airport, Bluff, 30km away by road has a deep-water port. Less commonly trips may leave/return from or other ports in New Zealand such as Dunedin or Lyttleton.

Trips may depart and return to the same port though often leave from one and return to another alternating between cruises. It takes about seven days to sail to Antarctica, the journey there and back is broken up with visits to the wildlife rich islands such as Macquarie 3 and other island groups such as Snares, Auckland and Campbell that lie between Macquarie and New Zealand.

Once in Antarctica trips spend their time either in the Commonwealth Bay area 4 or the Ross Sea region between Cape Adare 5 and McMurdo 6 with possibly a short trip along the front of the Ross Ice Shelf R

Distances km / miles
Hobart - Commonwealth Bay 2640 / 1640
Invercargill - Commonwealth Bay  2760 / 1720
Hobart - Macquarie Island 1500 / 940
Invercargill - Macquarie Island 1110 / 690
Commonwealth Bay - Cape Adare 1300 / 805
Cape Adare - McMurdo 760 / 470

Fig.3 the remote and less visited Eastern side of Antarctica
R - Ross Ice Shelf, 1 - Hobart - Australia
2 - Invercargill / Port of Bluff - New Zealand
3 - Macquarie Island, 4 - Commonwealth Bay
5 - Cape Adare, 6 - McMurdo / Scott bases

Eastern Antarctica, Ross Sea Region v Antarctic Peninsula Cruises

Ross Sea region

  • Remoteness - You will see few if any other ships and get a greater feeling of isolation and being at the end of the world, this is a little visited part of the planet. You are going where the world's biggest icebergs are and the most extreme weather conditions.

  • Greater chance of rough seas due to longer spent crossing the open ocean which can take 6-7 days in each direction, no flights available.

  • See Emperor Penguins, the birds of the deep south that rear their young in the depths of the Antarctic winter, the largest of all penguin species.

  • See Mount Erebus, the world's southernmost active volcano and the Ross Ice Shelf, a 600km long wall of ice between 15m and 50m high.

  • Visit the huts of Scott, Shackleton, Mawson and other Heroic Age explorers depending on where your cruise goes. This is the area where much of the early exploratory history of Antarctica was played out and where historical remains still stand.

  • Exclusivity - of the people who go to Antarctica, only a small proportion visit regions other than the Peninsula, there are relatively few trips here and they are often fully booked up well in advance.

  • Trip length of 26-30 days, sometimes there may be the possibility of a semi-circumnavigation over a similar time period from the Ross Sea to the Peninsula.
Antarctic Peninsula

  • It takes 2 days to cross the Drake Passage to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, rough seas are possible though short-lived, you can also fly across it in 2 hours on a fly-cruise trip.

  • Varied mountainous scenery with glaciers and icebergs, some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

  • The most wildlife rich area, with huge penguin colonies, and many other breeding birds, seals are common and whales may be seen. The sub-Antarctic islands you may visit en route are particularly wildlife rich, especially South Georgia.

  • Historic preserved British Base, now a working Post Office at Port Lockroy, you may also visit other currently active research bases and historic sites.

  • Easier to reach, The closeness of the peninsula to the tip of South America  means that travel time to reach Antarctica here is much less than in the East. It also means that a greater portion of the trip is spent in Antarctica rather than travelling there and back.

  • A larger number and variety of trips available, duration from 6-24 days, a wide range of ships and choice of travel dates and itineraries.

Need a Little Guidance? contact our travel partners who will help you find the best cruise for your requirements

Antarctic Peninsula - Sample Cruises - 2023 - 2024

Trip Highlights Prices USD*
8-22 days

Classic Antarctic Peninsula Expedition
South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Penguin Rookeries, Lemaire Channel. $4,860 -
13 days

Antarctica Peninsula Basecamp
Antarctic Peninsula trip with several inclusive activities on offer such as hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, and camping out under the Southern Polar skies. $9,100 -
10-16 days

Crossing the Circle
Sail down the Antarctic Peninsula and cross the Antarctic Circle, South Shetland Islands, Wildlife, Scenery. $7,700 - $25,995
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Air-Cruise, Fly the Drake - Sample Cruises - 2023 / 2024

Trip Highlights Prices USD*
6 - 15 days

Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands. Fly across the Drake Passage
Fly across the Drake Passage in 2 hours to join your ship, cruise the South Shetland Islands and western Antarctic Peninsula. Spectacular scenery, glaciers, icebergs, penguins, seals and whale sightings. Limited number of sail one way, fly the other trips. $4,995 - $19,206
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

South Georgia / Falkland Islands / Antarctica - Sample Cruises - 2023 / 2024

Trip Highlights Prices USD*
17 - 23 days

Antarctica, South Georgia, and Falkland Islands
Trips to some of the most unique and abundant wildlife on earth, penguins, whales, seabirds and seals as well as magnificent scenery, ice and seascapes. $11,556 - $48,191
15 or 16 days

Antarctica and South Georgia
$10,500 - $29,196

* Prices are based per person, the lowest price is usually for triple occupancy in a basic cabin, the highest for double occupancy in the best available suite.

Options may be at additional cost and are usually booked when the cruise is booked - it may be too late once the cruise has started.

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Departures from late October to late March

Our partner company, Antarctica Travels, passionately help people to reach their ultimate destination.

All enquiries will be answered from our office in Patagonia, Argentina.

Dozens of trips - unique combinations of ship + itinerary

Choice of ships - 67 to 199 passenger capacity

$5,500 to $43,995

6 to 23 days

Please note - we cannot help directly to find employment in Antarctica, please do not use this form to request any other information than for Antarctic tourist trips

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