The Peninsula, Antarctica

The Peninsula is the first sight of continental Antarctica that greets travellers crossing the Drake Passage. It is a mere spit of land in relation to the overall immensity of the continent but it more than punches above its weight in terms of the impact it has on those that are fortunate enough to visit.

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.” Andrew Denton, Writer

  • Explore Bransfield Strait by zodiac for dramatic views of the icy peaks and glaciated mountains of continental Antarctica 
  • Take an Antarctic plunge in the icy waters of Paradise Bay – exhilarating or bonkers, depending on your outlook
  • Kayak among icebergs in Wilhelmina Bay, alongside curious penguins, seals and whales
  • Photograph the penguin rookeries of Cuverville Island – take a video as well to capture the deafening din
  • Cruise south along the peninsula’s spectacular coastline and cross the Antarctic Circle

Located off the north-west tip of the Antarctic peninsula are the South Shetland Islands. King George Island, the starting point for those travellers choosing a fly and cruise holiday to explore Antarctica, is the largest of the islands and in the far northern outer reaches, the ice covered Elephant Island can be found. It was here that Shackleton and his men were encamped under their upturned life boats after their ship, the HMS Endurance sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. Shore landings at Point Wild are notoriously difficult due to surging ocean currents and pounding surf on the rocky beach so a landing here is very special. Another highlight of the South Shetland Islands is entering the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. There is an exceptional hike here, high up onto the rim of the crater where views of the old whaling station, with rusted boilers and dilapidated wooden structures are superb.

The western coast of the Antarctic peninsula is strewn with dramatic ice cliffs, rugged islands and spectacular coves and bays, all of which can be observed from expedition zodiacs or on foot when landings are possible. Paradise Bay is no misnomer, with pristine scenery and beautiful light and the Lemaire Channel is where the icebergs seem to suddenly quadruple in size and is so dramatic, it earned the nickname of Kodak Alley (before the onset of digital photography!) Neko Harbour, Wilhelmina Bay and the southerly Petermann Island are favourite sites for wildlife lovers and photographers alike, renowned as they are for Weddell, crabeater and elephant seals, skuas and other seabirds as well as enormous penguin rookeries, especially the Adélie penguin which is found in vast numbers. Whale watching in the Antarctic is possible throughout the season but for best sightings consider going later in the season (February to March). Wilhelmina Bay is a hot spot for humpbacks and orcas are often seen up and down the peninsula, hunting for Weddell seals.

For more specialised visits to the peninsula, Steppes can arrange photographic voyages to Antarctica or voyages where kayaking, snow shoeing, ski touring, camping on the ice or even snorkelling and scuba diving are possible.

The Antartic peninsula may be the most accessible part of the White Continent but this is no way means it is any less spectacular. It is notable for as much as what isn’t there as what is and so for lovers of unspoilt wilderness and exceptional wildlife an Antarctic peninsula cruise is an absolute must-do.

Holiday Ideas in Antarctica

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