If visiting all 7 continents at least once in your lifetime is a goal, then Antarctica is a "must do" for the seasoned traveler. Also known as the White Continent, this southernmost Continent and site of the South Pole is one of the most remote and pristine locations on earth. The easiest and most comfortable way to visit is by an expedition ship (smaller cruise ship).
Most cruises to the Continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America. The peninsula is known for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor. You will see striking iceberg-flanked passageways, pristine landscapes, and Port Lockroy that has the former British research station turned museum. The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins.
With no indigenous people or permanent residents, Antarctica is home to more wildlife than people. There are no commercial industries, towns, nor cities. No Country “owns” Antarctica so no visas are required. The only settlements with residents who stay from a few months to a year or two are scientific bases.
You can follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers like Ernest Shacketon and Roald Amundsen and cross the infamous Drake Passage or fly Business Class from Chile to the Antarctic Peninsula. The fearful reputation of the Drake Passage stems from the dangerous crossings that sailors once made in wooden ships without the aid of GPS, weather forecasts and other modern-day technology. Today it is not scary or dangerous anymore. However, the seas can be rough and some people do get sea sick. On calm days in the passage, you can enjoy the experience known as “Drake Lake”, but other days you get the “Drake Shake”.
What time of year is best to visit Antarctica? Their Summer season is October through March. The best time to go depends on what you want to see. For pristine ice conditions you’ll want to go early in October and November. Seal pups are usually born mid-November to late December so the best time to see them is December and January. The best month for whale watching is February. The penguin chicks on the peninsula start hatching at the beginning of January and the colonies are busy with parents going back and forward to feed. February is when chicks start gathering into creches and begin to moult into adult plumage.
How about a total solar eclipse? There will be a total solar eclipse in the Scotia Sea near the Antarctic Peninsula on December 4, 2021. If experiencing a total solar eclipse is also on your bucket list, this is your chance to cross off two items at once. There will not be another total eclipse in this part of the world for another 400 years or so.
If you are interested in experiencing a total solar eclipse but unable to travel this December, signup for my Astronomical Events list. You will get notices for travel opportunities that include various astronomical events a couple times a year.