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.

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

Antarctica is a trip like no other, there are landscapes and wildlife like nowhere else, the air is the cleanest in the world, as a smog escape or for lung cleansing there is no finer destination.

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  3)

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 little if any other shipping and get a greater feeling of isolation and being at the end of the world, this is a rarely 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 penguins.

  • 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 Mawson, Scott and Shackleton depending on where your particular 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 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 - 2020 / 2021

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Adventures in Antarctica South Shetlands, Antarctic Peninsula, Penguin Rookeries, Optional kayaking $8,995 -
Antarctic Peninsula with Circle Crossing Classic Antarctica, pristine scenery, classic sites of scientific and historic interest, experienced naturalist guides. Optional kayaking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountaineering $11,995 -
Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise Fly over the Drake Passage in both directions, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Wildlife, Scenery, Ice Optional kayaking and snowshoeing $11,495 - $21,495 8
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

Antarctica Ross Sea Region - Sample Cruises - 2021 / 2022

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
The Ross Sea and Helicopters, Antarctic Peninsula to the Ross Sea East Antarctica, Ross Sea, Emperor Penguins, West Antarctica, Peninsula, Sub-Antarctic Islands. $27,400 -
The Ross Sea Region - Historic Huts Auckland Islands, Macquarie and Campbell Islands, Explore the Ross Sea, Historic Huts, Ross Ice Shelf, McMurdo base. $23,000 -
Antarctica Ross Sea Region Cruise

South Georgia / Falkland Islands / Antarctica - Sample Cruises - 2020 / 2021

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands Vast Colonies of King Penguins, Breathtaking Scenery, Historic sites, optional kayaking $25,940 -
Antarctica and South Georgia and the Falklands Two great destinations, anticipate penguins, whales, seabirds and seals as well as scenic highlights $14,070 - $26,480 20

* 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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2020 - 2021 Season
Departures from late October 2020 to early March 2021

133 trips - unique combinations of ship + itinerary

30 ships - 50 to 530 passenger capacity

281 departures

$4,795 to $99,990, twin cabins from $5,210 per person

6 to 35 days

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