Antarctic iceberg, Antarctica

Antarctica Holidays

Antarctica is an incredible place of epic proportions, a vast continent of pristine white wilderness with towering icebergs, a huge variety of wildlife and a rich history dating back to the early explorers. The Antarctic Peninsula offers the biggest variety of wildlife, the Weddell Sea has huge icebergs and emperor penguins, the Ross Sea is more remote with an unbelievable ice shelf and the iconic explorer huts.

One of the best ways to visit Antarctica is by ship, the key to a successful Antarctic cruise is choosing the most appropriate. There are many different ships offering Antarctic cruise holidays, from the expeditionary in nature through to the more luxurious. At Steppes we have over fifteen years experience travelling to Antarctica and planning Antarctic holidays, so can help you make the right choices. 

Explore the Antarctic Regions


The Peninsula

  • Great overview of Antarctica with magnificent glacial scenery and ice-strewn waterways
  • Most accessible part of Antarctica, reached from South America
  • Home to the widest range of Antarctic wildlife - penguins, whales and seals
  • Visit historic and modern research stations along with the remotest post office in the world

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South Georgia and the Falklands

  • Remote and rugged islands, teaming with wildlife, great to combine with Antarctic Peninsula
  • The Falklands can be reached by ship or plane from Chile or Argentina
  • Wildlife-rich islands, home to albatrosses, king penguins, elephant seals and fur seals
  • Visit the graves of Shackleton and Wild on South Georgia

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Ross Sea

  • The Ross Ice Shelf, the largest floating body of ice in the world, roughly the size of France.
  • This is the most remote and challenging region of Antarctica, reached from Australia and New Zealand.
  • Emperor penguins, orca whales, both leopard sea and wandering albatrosses can all be found here.
  • Rich history with the iconic huts of Scott at Cape Evans and Shackleton at Cape Royds.

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Weddell Sea

  • A sea renown for vast tabular icebergs in the clearest sea water on earth
  • Home to millions of penguins with both Adelie and emperor rookeries
  • Synonymous with Shackleton and his men, here the Endurance ship became trapped in the ice
  • This is a more remote, less visited area than the Antarctic peninsula, accessed from South America

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Our Antarctic Specialists Recommend

Experience Beyond the Ordinary in Antarctica

  • Spend an unforgettable night out on the ice in a bivi or tent with a cosy sleeping bag and a blanket of stars
  • Sail around the Antarctic Peninsula on a 22 metre yacht for a experience like no-other
  • For the real adventure you can fly into a specially constructed camp near the South Pole
  • Get closer to the water in a kayak, near-silent but for the clink of the sea ice against the sides, penguins are particularly curious and often pop up next to you
  • Enter the water (seriously) - don a dry suit and snorkel with penguins to see just how much ice really is below the surface

What to expect on your Antarctic cruise holiday

If you are sailing from Ushuaia in southern Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula, remember that it will take two days to get there and two days to get back, out of the standard ten day cruise. This stretch of water, the infamous Drake’s Passage, can offer up some interesting weather and if you are at all prone to seasickness make sure you go prepared.

During the crossing you will have lectures from your expedition crew as well as time on deck watching the flight of the pelagic birds. Upon arrival in Antarctica your daily routine will typically involve two landings by zodiac in different areas. If whales are spotted then the zodiacs may well be lowered again to try and get you a closer view.

The onboard expedition staff are key to a successful Antarctic journey. They use their experience to get you ashore when the weather is challenging and provide you with alternatives when the weather is inclement. They are on hand to give you insight into the wildlife, geology and history of this unique part of the world. Their insight vastly enriches your experience.

The expedition team give lectures throughout the voyage which will leave you reeling with knowledge, information and trivia. For example:

  • The daily intake of krill of a blue whale would feed a human for four years.
  • Snow falling on Antarctica takes 100,000 years to ‘flow’ to the coast before carving off as an iceberg.
  • Worryingly, if Antarctica's ice sheets melted, the world’s oceans would rise by 65 metres.

Why we like Antarctica

Experiencing Antarctica first-hand can be overwhelming - the smells, the sounds and above all the scale. Penguin poo has a particular perfume. There's the honking bray of penguins, the shrill party whistles of young chicks trying to find their voice, the bleating, mewing, strangulated cries of a crèche of young fur seal pups. The deep visceral gurgling of the stomachs of elephant seals. The staggering size of the icebergs, the vast numbers of penguins.

That’s the trouble with visiting this part of the world: sensory overload. The weather, the seas, the scenery, the marine life, the bird life, the colours, the contrasts. You scour your memory database for superlatives, you are constantly reaching for your camera – thank goodness for digital cameras – but however much you try, you are never quite able to capture the experience.

Find the right boat for your Antarctic cruise


Our Antarctic Holiday Expertise

Sue our Polar specialist first visited Antarctica 15 years ago and has been captivated by the place ever since. She has crossed the notorious Drake Passage five times, visited the Antarctic Peninsula, the Weddell Sea, crossed the Antarctic circle and been to South Georgia and the Falklands during her three visits. She has experienced Antarctica during the early, mid and late season; has kayaked through and camped on the ice and even jumped into the freezing water doing the ‘polar plunge’. Sue has also sailed or been on the vast majority of boats we offer. She is a true Antarctic specialist and can offer first-hand knowledge on most aspects of a holiday to Antarctica. 

Advice from our Antarctic Experts

“It is probably not as cold as you expecting but the wind chill makes a difference, take lots of layers, a good hat to cover your ears, thick socks, neck gaiter and spare gloves in case they get wet. Extra-large washing up gloves make a simple and effective waterproof coating for gloves.”

“If you are a keen photographer then kneepads are great in the zodiacs and for getting down low to take penguin shots. Don’t forget to put your camera down and just take it all in, the images that are in your memory are much more vivid than those on your memory card will ever be.”

 Talk to Sue today to start your Antarctic adventure, call 01285 885333 or enquire here.

The Antarctic season is quite short and voyages depart from late October through to mid-March, with January & February being the most popular months.

Early season is particularly good for seeing large icebergs and sea ice, the penguin colonies will be at their most pristine and nest building and courting will be taking place. In the Sub Antarctic islands spring flowers will be at their best.

Mid Season chicks will be hatching and as they grow older the chicks become far more active and inquisitive. It is during this time that the days are at their longest.

Late season is the best time for whale sightings and marine predators are at their most active with many chicks and seals venturing into the waters.

Most voyages sail from Ushuaia in southern Argentina; there are also a small number of departures from Buenos Aires and Puerto Madryn, Argentina or Bluff in New Zealand if you are visiting the far side.

If you want to save yourself up to 4 days of sailing across the Drake Passage then the fly-cruises depart from Punta Arenas in Chile. There are chartered flights into King George Island in the South Shetlands and a weekly scheduled service into Mount Pleasant on the Falkland Islands.  

This depends on the style of travel you prefer. Expedition research ships are usually converted research vessels which are robust, functional and authentic but nothing glamorous.

Expedition cruising ships are more modern and specifically designed for this type of travel with a greater degree of comfort. All the vessels we promote, offer zodiac excursions and landings and with small numbers you will not find yourself waiting your turn or simply sailing by looking from a distance. Get close enough to smell the breath of an elephant seal and tread in penguin guano.

There are a wide range of cabins from the functional quad and triple shares through to luxurious suites with balconies. All cabins we offer have at least a porthole, and most have en-suite facilities. Having sailed aboard or inspected all the ships we can advise you on the best options.

For single travellers we can look at single cabins on some ships. If you are happy to share a cabin with another same sex traveller then we will take on the responsibility of finding you a companion. This means you will avoid paying a single supplement.

All itineraries have their own nuances but the main options are:

1) Classic South Shetlands and Antarctica Peninsula, from 10 – 14 days taking in the highlights of the peninsula and in some cases, crossing the Antarctic Circle.

2) Fly cruise to South Shetlands and Antarctica Peninsula. From 8 days, the quickest of all options which avoids sailing across the Drake Passage.

3) Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, from 17 – 22 days. A comprehensive trip combining the Antarctic Peninsula with South Georgia and its phenomenal king penguin colonies and Shackleton history.  If you are only going to do this once and you have the time and budget this is the trip. 

4) For those who have been bitten by the polar bug and have more time to spare then there are a selection of voyages that take in the Weddell Sea in search of Emperor Penguins, the Ross Sea and East Antarctica for the historic huts of Shackleton, Scott and Mawson or even flights to the South Pole.

You can make your expedition as relaxed or adventurous as you like. With no predators on land you are free to explore or if you prefer, sit quietly on the edge of a penguin colony. Close encounters are common as penguins are curious creatures.

If you want to stretch your legs and get some height, extended guided walks are provided sometimes with snow shoes or skis. The opportunity of a night out camping on the ice should not be missed – it may not be the most comfortable night of your life but certainly a memorable one. Kayaking on crystal clear waters surrounded by porpoising penguins is an exhilarating experience. For the height of adventure and a unique perspective, snorkelling and diving are available on some voyages.

Dress code on board the boat is very informal and leans strongly towards the practical. When not undertaking excursions, people dress casually, even for dinner in the evenings. You may want a smarter shirt for the captain’s dinner on the final night. The boat itself is always warm inside.

One of the great bonuses of travelling in this region is there is no mobile phone signal. If necessary it is possible to make outgoing calls by satellite phone and you can send and receive emails via the ship’s email address, all of which is charged to your tab.

Antarctica is one of the most interesting places in the world when it comes to keeping time. Technically, Antarctica falls under all time zones currently followed by the rest of the world. This is because the longitude lines that are used to define time zones all meet at the poles.

The lack of an official time zone in Antarctica is not a problem each research base determines the time zone it wants to operate in. For practical purposes, some research stations follow the time zone of their home country. Others, like the McMurdo station and Palmer station, both run by the US, synchronize their time to the closest point in the inhabited world.

We will provide you with a full suggested clothing list but you do not need to spend a huge amount of money on kit. Plenty of layers is the way to go so you can regulate your temperature easily. Keeping your hands, head and feet warm is most important.

Waterproof over-trousers are essential (provided on some ships). Don’t forget your swimming togs for the polar plunge.

This is an active cruise with optional daily walking excursions over uneven terrain and to be able to get the most out of it you should be in good general health. In order to join the excursions, you must be able to easily get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level and to be able to get in and out of the awaiting zodiacs, which can be awkward, particularly in choppy seas. Staff will be on hand to assist all passengers, so don’t worry about this, it’s just something to be aware of.

Probably not as cold as you imagine as you will be travelling during the austral summer. There is very little change in temperature between day and night, which usually hovers around 0 – 5 degrees. The wind chill however can make this feel considerably cooler.

The simple answer is ‘No’, there is no maximum age restriction, your health and general outlook on life being far more relevant criteria. Many of our clients over the years have been well into their seventies and eighties. 

Antarctica will undoubtedly make a lasting impression on a child; however we would discourage travellers under the age of 12. These voyages simply do not cater for children and do not offer any specific activities for children, child minding services, a child friendly food menu or smaller life preservers. 

As you will possibly be crossing the Drake Passage twice you should anticipate potentially rough seas at some stage on the voyage. Should you be prone to motion or sea sickness, we suggest consulting your local pharmacy or GP for advice on anti-seasickness medication. 

This is an often asked question for many potential Antarctica travellers. It’s a tricky one as the crossings can be anything from a millpond to a force nine hurricane, the latter being the less common. Ultimately it’s down to a little luck, but most people find that their own experience wasn't as bad as they thought it would be.

We can certainly help to hopefully reduce concern by recommending boats known for their stability. For those still worried, it’s possible to avoid sailing the Drake Passage altogether by taking a 2 hour flight rather than undertaking a 2-day seas journey, see the Fly & Cruise option for details.

As these voyages offer a collective experience in the company of like minded people, they’re very well suited for single travellers. You have the option to either share a triple or twin same sex or to cover the supplement to secure your own cabin. If sharing, a cabin mate will be allocated to you by the boat operator. 

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23 hours from UK
(via Buenos Aires to Ushuaia)

Useful Links

BBC: Life in Antarctica in Pictures
Antarctica - Know Before You Go
Antarctica Travel Expert Blogs

Shelf Improvement

We  recommend the following books in  preparation for your Antarctic holiday

Your Antarctic expedition team will give lectures throughout the voyage which will leave you reeling with knowledge, information and trivia. For example:


The daily intake of krill of a blue whale would feed a human for four years.
Snow falling on Antarctica takes 100,000 years to ‘flow’ to the coast before carving off as an iceberg.
Worryingly, if Antarctica's ice sheets melted, the world’s oceans would rise by 65 metres.

Holiday Ideas in Antarctica

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