Polar Tourism
Antarctic and Arctic Travel

Cruise Antarctica and the Arctic, Adventure Travel With Cool Antarctica and Antarctica Travels

The Arctic and Antarctic seem at first to be very similar places albeit the original polar opposites. While there are some fundamental similarities of climate, scenery, abundant wildlife and almost endless wilderness with very few people there are also some very significant differences too. A trip to either polar region can start off as a once in a lifetime experience, though you run a risk:

Once wedded to Nature there is no divorce - separate her you may and hide yourself amongst the flesh-pots of London, but the wild will keep calling and calling forever in your ears. You cannot escape the "little voices".
Frank Wild - Antarctic Explorer from the "Heroic Age"

A first trip to either polar region will be unlike most other trips you have ever taken, you can look forwards to long days, up to 24 hours daylight, wilderness, wide open skies and a feeling of freedom you may have never experienced. Whether on foot or on board a ship you will look out onto a timeless landscape that is the same as it was 100, 1,000 or 100,000 thousand years ago almost untouched by the hand of man.


The Arctic centered on the North Pole
Sea surrounded by land
The Arctic, centered on the North Pole
Sea surrounded by land
Antarctica from space
The Antarctic centered on the South Pole
Land surrounded by sea

  The Arctic and Antarctic as Travel Destinations

The graphs indicate the months during which travel is possible in the polar regions, and the relative amount of visits that take place in those months. Cruises are limited by seasonal sea-ice, all polar travel is limited by winter darkness, temperature and weather.

Arctic

Season

  • Ship-based cruising late April to September
  • Land based trips March-November
  • Travel is possible outside these months though daylight is short or absent and temperatures are very low.


Access

Many points where flights can be taken into the Arctic

  • Major hubs are Reykjavik, Iceland, Oslo, Norway, Copenhagen, Denmark, Ottawa and Edmonton, Canada, Nome, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska, Petropavlovsk and Anadyr, Russia.


Weather and daylight

  • Temperatures more variable by destination than the Antarctic, typically expect 20F to 50F  / -6C to +10C for most areas, month and location make this quite variable.
  • Typically Arctic trips take place closer to the pole than Antarctic trips, the Arctic Circle is easier to reach and seeing the midnight sun is certainly possible in midsummer. Many High Arctic areas have 3-4 months of continuous daylight, on a trip in high summer, you may be in constant daylight.
  • It will be windy, dress accordingly.


Methods of Transport

If you are cruising in the Arctic, you will almost certainly fly to join your ship in the Arctic and fly home again, rather than travel there or back by ship. You are less likely to meet rough seas in the Arctic than the Antarctic, fjords, channels and a lack of long open sea sailing mean that sea passages are usually smoother.


Charismatic Megafauna

  • Polar Bears
  • Musk Ox
  • Reindeer / caribou
  • Whales
  • Seals

Polar Bears - you need to go to the Arctic to see polar bears, you won't see them anywhere else.

As the Arctic has been home to humans for thousands of years and as there is a continuing culture of hunting, the wildlife is often quite wary of people. It tends to be more spread out than in the Antarctic and less approachable. There is also the fact that polar bears could see you as dinner or at least a light snack, so keeping something of a distance is not necessarily a bad thing.


Culture

The Arctic has a permanent population of about 4 million, there are a whole host of native peoples who between them are circumpolar. All of these native peoples have a long and rich history of living on and with the land, whether Sami reindeer herders to those groups who build igloos as a traditional hunting shelter and many groups between. This human population and history is arguably the biggest difference between the poles.

Antarctic

Season

  • Ship-based cruising October to March
  • No tourist access outside of these months due to sea-ice closing off all shipping and flights, daylight is short or absent and temperatures very low.


Access

Two main access points

  • Tip of South America, ships leave from Ushuaia, Argentina or Punta Arenas, Chile, flights from Punta Arenas, Chile.
  • Australia and New Zealand, ports most commonly used are, Invercargill / Port of Bluff and Lyttleton / Christchurch, New Zealand and Hobart, Australia. Often cruises leave from one port and return to another. No flights.


Weather and daylight

  • December to February 20F to 50F  / -6C to +10C.
  • Most Antarctic trips do not cross the Antarctic Circle, so don't necessarily expect the midnight sun, though 20+ hours of daylight are likely.
  • It will be windy, dress accordingly.


Methods of Transport

To reach the Antarctic Peninsula you have to cross the Drake Passage, this is a 2 hour flight or a 2 day sail. Flying is very reliable but aircraft could be grounded due to weather conditions. The Drake Passage can be very rough, though conditions can vary widely. In the Eastern Antarctic, you will have an open sea crossing of 6 to 7 days from New Zealand or Australia, you are more likely to encounter rough seas there.


Charismatic Megafauna

  • Penguins
  • Albatrosses
  • Whales
  • Seals

Penguins - you need to go to Antarctica to see penguins, some species also live other places like parts of Australia, South Africa and the Galapagos, but for variety of species and authentic icy backdrop, there is no match.

Antarctic wildlife is more plentiful than Arctic and generally shows little or no fear of humans, neither will any of it try to eat you. You will be able to see the wildlife at closer quarters in the Antarctic.


Culture

There are not and have never been any native Antarcticans, no one even saw Antarctica until 1820 and the first year-round habitation was in 1898. There are no cities, towns or villages, the only human presence is on nationally run scientific stations with a total, continent wide summer population of up to around 5,000 and winter of 1,000. A cruise to Antarctica may well visit one of these stations which certainly delivers a dose of a kind of culture, though not as it is understood across much of the rest of the world.

antarctic cruise


  What kind of experience?

Most trips trips to the polar regions are as part of a relatively small group of like minded individuals who are seeking an experience that is overwhelmingly an outdoors one. A cruise here allows you to have the best of both worlds, a world class within-nature experience and the creature comforts of a hotel on the move from place to place every day. If the traditional idea of cruises doesn't appeal to you, these are as far from that as you can get.

If you do like the idea of a traditional cruise on a very large ship however, the wilderness experience is still available for you to some degree as there are larger cruise ships that sail in the waters around Alaska and some that spend a part of their voyage in Antarctica. Landings from ships carrying over 500 passengers are not allowed in Antarctica.

Independent Travel - this is possible in the Arctic but not in Antarctica where you must go as part of a package. Neither are budget destinations, though it is possible to arrange transport to an Arctic destination and camp wild or semi-wild, you may need to take appropriate precautions about polar bears depending on where you are. Svalbard and Canada have the greatest chance of contact with bears while camping while most of Greenland is pretty safe in the summer. Cheaper last-minute trips on cruises to Antarctica can be had at Punta Arenas or Ushuaia though are hit and miss as to availability, last minute flights to reach the cruise ports are of course much more expensive.


Gold Harbour South Georgia
King penguins in Gold Harbour South Georgia - picture courtesy Ella Derbyshire


Health Requirements - No specific requirements though you will be away from civilization for several days and getting in an out of small boats that bounce across the sea isn't for the infirm. Cruises usually insist on emergency rescue cover which can be readily arranged and is not as expensive as it sounds.

At both poles, weather and ice often set the schedule for journeys, particularly if cruising. Any itinerary is best seen as more of a wish-list.

More details about visiting the Arctic  |  More details about visiting the Antarctic

Antarctic Peninsula - Sample Cruises - 2024 - 2025

Trip Highlights Prices USD*
Classic Antarctic Peninsula Expedition

10 - 12 days
South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula, Penguin Rookeries, Lemaire Channel. $4,860 -
$32,695

typically
$10K-12K
Antarctica Peninsula Basecamp

13 days
Antarctic Peninsula trip with inclusive activities on offer such as hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, and camping out under the South Polar skies. $9,100 -
$11,750
Crossing the Circle

11 - 23 days
typically 12 - 14

Sail down the Antarctic Peninsula and cross the Antarctic Circle, South Shetland Islands, Wildlife, Scenery. $7,700 - $66,367
Fly-Cruise to Antarctica

Air-Cruise, Fly the Drake - Sample Cruises - 2024 / 2025

Trip Highlights Prices USD*
Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands. Fly across the Drake Passage

6 - 14 days
typically 8
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 - $36,495

typically
$12K-14K
South Georgia with the Falkland Islands and / or the Antarctic Peninsula

South Georgia with the Falkland Islands and / or Antarctic Peninsula
Sample Cruises - 2024 / 2025

Trip Highlights Prices USD*
South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula and Falkland Islands

17 - 23 days

Sub-Antarctic South Georgia has some of the most unique and abundant wildlife on earth including the world's biggest King Penguin colony, one of the world's largest concentration of Southern Elephant Seals, and many other  penguins, whales, seabirds and seals all with a background of the Alps dropped in mid-ocean.

Falklands Islands - a British colony in the South Atlantic with wild places and diverse abundant wildlife.

The Antarctic Peninsula is Antarctica proper with icebergs, glaciers and wildlife.
$11,556 - $48,191
South Georgia and Falkland Islands

17 or 21 days

$9,995 - $25,990
South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula

15 or 20 days
$13,200 - $37,116
Arctic Cruises and Land Based Trips

Early Booking Offers - Summer 2024 - Arctic Cruises

Iceland
Roundtrip

From  $5,150
was $11,499

 June 2024

 10 days / 9 nights 

Four Arctic Islands

From  $6,632
was $14,890

 Aug 2024

 18 days / 17 nights 

Spitsbergen
Wildlife Explorer

From  $5,542
was $10,090

 May and June 2024

 11 days / 10 nights 

Spitsbergen, Faroes, Jan Mayen

From  $5,892
was $11,090

 April 2024

 12 days / 11 nights 


Svalbard / Spitsbergen - Sample Arctic Cruises - 2024

Trip Departures 2024 Highlights Ships and Passenger Capacity Prices USD* Days Departure port
Introduction to Spitsbergen  May 20th
Jun 1st, 7th, 19th
Jul 22nd
Historic sites, sea-ice, glaciers, wild flowers, lush tundra, walrus, polar bears, reindeer, huge sea bird colonies $6,054 -
$20,031
10
North Spitsbergen June dates - 6, 10, 13, 18, 25, 27 $4,000 -
$7,750
8
Spitsbergen Explorer May 22nd, 28th
Jun 9th, 15th, 30th
Jul 30th
$7,361 - $23,391 12

Greenland - Sample Arctic Cruises - 2024

Greenland, Disko Bay Aug 16th Spectacular scenery of west Greenland, Inuit culture, historic sites. Fjords, mountains and ice, seabirds, look out for humpback and minke whales. $6,990 -
$12,990
8
In the Wake of Eric the Red - Iceland to Greenland July 29th The course of Norse settlers, Disko Bay, glaciers, icebergs, Inuit culture, Ilulissat Icefjord UNESCO site, Nuuk. $7,090 - $16,890 11

Canada - Sample Arctic Cruises - 2024

Northwest Passage, Canada and Greenland July 20th, Aug 3rd Historic Canadian and Greenlandic sites, abundant wildlife, rich Inuit culture and dramatic icy landscapes. Polar bears, whales and walrus, tundra hikes. $17,931 -
$38,966
17
Complete Northwest Passage, Greenland, Canada and Alaska Aug 17th West Greenland, Baffin Island, NW passage to Alaska. Ilulissat Icefjord, stunning geology and  fjords, Beechey Island, Franklin's expedition, musk ox, polar bears, beluga , walrus and narwhal. $32,216 - $66,236 30
Trip Departures 2024 Highlights  Pax Prices USD* Days Departure port

Iceland - Sample Arctic Cruises - 2024

Iceland Roundtrip / Circumnavigation Snaefellsnes Peninsula National Park bird cliff, geologically active region, cross the Arctic Circle, Heimaey. $4,300 - $17,916 9, 10 or 11
Dublin to Reykjavik May 24th Ireland to Iceland via Scotland, Shetland and Faroe. Callanish Stones, Lerwick, Tˇrshavn, watch for spouting and breaching whales. $10,900 9
Jewels of the Arctic.
Iceland, Greenland and Spitsbergen.
Jun 23rd
July 7th
Aug 21st
Wildlife, musk ox, arctic hare and whales, Scoresby Sund the world's largest national park and fjord system,  Glaciers, mountains and polar bears. $10,816 -
$17,495
15
Notes

* Prices are 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 such as kayaking may be at additional cost, may have limited availability and are usually booked when the cruise is booked - it may be too late once the cruise has started.

Contact me about my trip to Antarctica!

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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

Prices from $5,500 per person
10-12 day Peninsula cruise typically $10-12K
8 day Peninsula Fly-Cruise typically $12-14K

6 to 28 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

ice berg, antarctica
gentoo penguins



Picture credits: Map of the Arctic - maps used courtesy of Uwe Dedering under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.