Flights to the Interior
Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions was formerly the pioneering tour operator Adventure Network International, which was the first company to offer flights to Antarctica’s interior. Using Ilyushin IL76 aircraft, ALE flies from Punta Arenas, Chile, to its runway at Union Glacier (4½ hours). An older, secondary runway is 70km southeast at Patriot Hills. ALE’s private camp (opened in 2010) sits at the base of Mt Rossman.
- Emperor penguin rookery US$45,750
- Vinson Massif with guided climb US$42,350
- South Pole fly-In (four hours at 90°S) US$49,750
- Guided 12-day ski trip across the last degree to Pole US$63,250
Antarctic Company operates Ilyushin IL76 aircraft from Cape Town to Novo Airbase (six hours), 15km southwest of Russia’s Novolazarevskaya Station in East Antarctica. TAC also provides support for nongovernmental organizations, private expeditions and adventure travelers.
- South Pole and Emperor Penguins: €50,000
White Desert flies 12-passenger Gulfstream G-IV and Ilyushin IL76 aircraft from Cape Town to Novo Airbase. It uses a temporary camp, powered by wind and solar energy, and offsets flights with a carbon program. It's geared toward luxury with high-end fiberglass sleeping pods.
- Day trip €12,000
- Emperor penguins €48,000
- Emperors and the South Pole €68,000
Flights to King George Island
Aerovías DAP flies from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Frei Station on King George Island (South Shetland Islands) in summer (weather permitting), using 10-passenger Beechcraft King Air turboprops and 70-passenger BAE-146s.
- Day visit US$5500
- Overnight visit US$6500
Antarctica XXI flies from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Frei Station on King George Island (1½ hours) using 70-passenger BAE-146 aircraft. Passengers transfer to 68-passenger Ocean Nova or the 100-passenger Hebridean Sky for several days of cruising the South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula before their return flight. Fares begin at US$4695.
Several other cruise companies also offer fly-cruises.
Australia’s Qantas airlines uses Croydon Travel to offer day-long flights over the continent (with guides) on a Boeing 747 once or twice per summer. Flights depart from Sydney or Melbourne.
All seats, except Economy Center, rotate. Prices range from Economy Center A$1200 and Economy Premium A$3300 to First Class A$8000.
Passengers move about the plane for views from several vantage points. But you get what you pay for: some tickets don’t provide direct window access at any time, so you may have to look over someone’s shoulder.
Airports & Airlines
All airstrips are operated by governments with bases in Antarctica or private tour companies.
There are no departure taxes in Antarctica.
Nearly all visitors arrive by sea, most of them by ship from Ushuaia, Argentina.
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has a full list of cruise operators serving Antarctica.
Abercrombie & Kent Operates 199-passenger boats. All balcony cabins; luxury travel.
Aurora Expeditions Polar Pioneer carries 54 passengers and is equipped with Zodiacs for shore landings. Activities include scuba diving, polar snorkeling, kayaking, mountaineering, photography workshops and camping. Fly-sail expeditions available.
Bark Europa Three-masted tall-ship Europa with professional crew of 14 plus 48 ‘voyage crewmembers;’ trips include one from Ushuaia to Cape Town.
Compagnie du Ponant Sails 244- to 264-passenger luxury boats; French operator.
Fathom Expeditions Various small-ship cruises, with occasional kayak add-on offered.
Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten Luxury ice-strengthened ships: Hanseatic (188 passengers); Bremen (164 passengers). Occasional Ross Sea/Macquarie Island trips.
Heritage Expeditions Cruises to the Ross Sea side of Antarctica and Macquarie Island from New Zealand.
Holland America Cruise-only (no landing) trips; four days in Antarctica.
Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Orion (102 guests) and National Geographic Explorer (148 guests). Offers kayaking.
Mountain Travel-Sobek Offers kayaking, fly-cruise packages.
Natural Habitat Adventures Offers carbon-offset tours, including some to Antarctica.
Oceanwide Expeditions Sails small vessels with occasional Weddell Sea or Ross Sea trips; scuba diving, helicopters.
One Ocean Expeditions Akademik Ioffe (96 passengers) and Akademik Sergey Vavilov (107 passengers). Kayaking and camping.
Quark Expeditions Sails 108- to 486-passenger ships, including a carbon-neutral cruise on Ocean Diamond. Snowshoeing (free), camping, kayaking, skiing and climbing (for a fee); fly-cruise packages.
Students on Ice Tours for high-school and college students.
WildWings Travel Bird- and wildlife-focused tours; some to NZ sub-Antarctic Islands.
Zegrahm Expeditions Antarctic Peninsula cruises on several vessels; occasional Ross Sea cruises.
Several hundred fare-paying passengers visit Antarctica by yacht each year. Although the national Antarctic programs cannot regulate yacht tourism – since Antarctica is open to everyone – permits are required and most research stations require advance notice of several weeks or even months for a visit.
Visitors on yachts must follow the same rules as those aboard cruise ships; see the IAATO website (www.iaato.org), which also lists additional yachts.
Evohe A 25m steel ketch that sails with 12 passengers.
Golden Fleece This 19.5m steel schooner is skippered by Jérôme Poncet, a highly experienced Antarctic yachtsman; IAATO member; eight passengers.
Kotick A 15.8m steel sloop; IAATO member; five passengers.
Le Sourire A 19.6m aluminum cutter; IAATO member; eight passengers.
Northanger A 15.6m steel ketch; four passengers.
Ocean Expeditions Australis: 23m steel motor sailor, nine passengers; Philos: 14m steel schooner, five passengers; IAATO member.
Pelagic Expeditions Pelagic: 16.5m steel sloop, six passengers; Pelagic Australis: 23m aluminum sloop, 10 passengers; IAATO member.
Sarah W Vorwerk 16m steel sloop; eight passengers.
Seal A 17m aluminum cutter; six passengers.
Spirit of Sydney Expeditions An 18m aluminum cutter; eight passengers; also operates Icebird. IAATO member.
Tiama A 15.2m steel cutter; six passengers.
Tooluka A 14.2m steel sloop; six passengers.
Vaihéré A 23.9m steel schooner; 10 passengers; IAATO member.
Xplore A 20.4m steel cutter-rigged sloop; eight passengers.
The 114-passenger French resupply ship Marion Dufresne sails from Réunion to France’s Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (Crozet, Kerguelen, St Paul and Amsterdam Islands), to deliver personnel and provisions to research stations. Guides accompany tourists (about eight to 12 per rotation) on landings; the voyage lasts a month. Fares start at €8670; obtain full details and book with Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises.
- The Antarctic Pilot (8th edition; 2014) Britain’s Hydrographer of the Navy; the most comprehensive resource; available from New York Nautical (www.newyorknautical.com) and online.
- Sailing Directions (Planning Guide & Enroute) for Antarctica (10th edition; 2014) US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (www.nga.mil)
- Southern Ocean Cruising (2007) Sally & Jérôme Poncet; available from Environmental Research & Assessment (www.era.gs)
All cruises and packages are guided tours. You can also book through third-party organizations, such as universities, to have particular expert guides.
Harvard Museum of Natural History Travel Program Has top-notch guides and small groups.
Feature: Sustainable Travel
All of the cruise companies listed, most of the yachts, and many of the air operations, are members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, which promotes environmentally responsible travel to the continent. Its website lists guidelines for vessel operators and visitors.
Quark Expeditions works with a carbon-credit trading company to offset emissions from its ship Ocean Diamond (the first carbon-neutral Antarctic cruise). Natural Habitat Adventures offers carbon offsetting as well. Flight-adventure company White Desert does the same with its flights, and will even offset your flights to Cape Town, where they are based.