The 10 best places to visit in Antarctica represent the diversity of the frozen continent and can give you an immersive view of ancient history found in the land, sea, and wildlife.
From volcanic activity to penguin colonies, whales to dramatic ice walls, the wonders of places to visit in Antarctica balance a winter wonderland with a secluded escape into nature’s unmatched power. There are no towns in Antarctica. Instead, you can find surrealist ice sculptures and research centers, the heart of the South Pole and fascinating meadows.
Whether eager for an adventure in the snow or interested in glassy waters reflecting the surrounding snowcapped mountain peaks, the landmarks of Antarctica demonstrate the continent’s uniqueness.
The South Shetland Islands are like a gateway to the Antarctic, with a landscape blanketed in ice leading to impressive fjords and hanging glaciers. A rocky coastline adds texture to the scenery, as elephant seals lounge on the shores and penguins dive into the water looking for fish.
Research stations from a number of different countries populate King George Island, while Livingston Island retains a number of historical structures from the 19th century that reflect the seal-hunting boom. With breathtaking views of remarkable landscapes and thrilling wildlife, the South Shetland Islands are an introduction to the wonders of Antarctica.
Highlights: Penguin colonies • Elephant seals • Icebergs • Research stations
The Antarctic Peninsula is often the first view visitors have and embodies the experience to come.
The northern tip of the continent offers great insight into arctic wildlife, where icebergs bob across the waterways forming narrow passages and cruise ships meander to natural harbors, reaching outlying islands that come alive with humpback whales and arctic terns.
Penguin rookeries thrive and cormorant colonies populate the land and sky. The glaciers tower, the killer whales spring from the water in search of food, and the glossy waters add to the stunning views.
Highlights: Whale watching • Glaciers • Icebergs • Penguin colonies • Arctic bird nesting grounds
The Drake Passage is where the dream of Antarctica becomes a reality. The infamous passageway separates South America from the northern tip of the Antarctic continent. It is known for having some of the roughest seas in the world, offering adrenaline, adventure, and unique views found in large swells of water.
Albatross glide on the wind and white water sprays upwards, creating a whirlwind of natural sights, sounds, and textures to accompany a boat journey. Part of the thrill of crossing the Drake Passage is the quiet but dramatic beauty on the other side and the excitement of sharing the experience with others when home.
Highlights: Giant albatross • Icebergs • Wildlife
The Lemaire Channel is the image many have when thinking of Antarctica. Glaciers glint in the sunlight, icebergs create wandering pathways through the water, and sheer cliffs dominate the skyline, adding extra spectacle to the surrounding landscape.
While the landscape often attracts visitors’ eyes to the sky, pods of humpback whales can draw your attention back to the water as they quietly pass through the channel.
Orcas are often viewed breaching the surface for air or to feed in the quiet stretch of water, famous for its beauty and narrowness at less than a mile wide. The bountiful icebergs and wildlife make it a popular place for photographers.
Highlights: Whale watching • Bordering cliffs • Iceberg groups • Wildlife photography
The Falkland Islands are technically part of South America, but their distance between the continents makes them a great stop during a typical Antarctic cruise. The windswept grasses create the ambiance of a remote landscape, surrounded by wild waters and populated by a wide variety of seabirds, including five species of penguins, on 4,700 square miles of land.
The addition of British culture found in the architecture enhances the uniqueness of flying albatross and museums dedicated to maritime histories, local heritage, and historical monuments. Whether the Falkland Islands are part of South America or Antarctica, they are truly an alluring place to visit during your exploration of the southern continent.
Highlights: Port Stanley • East Falkland Villages • Volunteer Point • Penguin colonies • Birdwatching
Whether you are interested in wildlife or landscapes, South Georgia is a marvel of nature, a narrow island covered with rising mountains. The picturesque scenery features low-lying grass in the foreground that lead to rugged, untamed peaks topped with glaciers and overlooking fantastical fjords.
The collection of storybook landscapes makes South Georgia one of the most visited destinations during an Antarctica excursion, enhanced by the thriving populations of penguins and seals. Preserved relics of whaling stations add a touch of civil history to the mesmeric wilderness present around the island’s picturesque coastline and foothills.
Highlights: Fortuna Bay • Penguin colonies • Glaciers • Albatross
Port Lockroy is a natural harbor located on Wiencke Island.
The major tourist spot has provided port for ships since World War II, but also served as a dock station for whaling ships long before military bases. Instead of offering refuge to naval ships and whalers, the port now provides space for a research station, with a post office and museum with a gallery that shares the port’s history.
The natural beauty makes this a great place to enjoy quiet views of the bordering mountains and gentle water, and the post office offers a unique Antarctica passport stamp.
Highlights: Penguin colonies • Local history museum • Post office • Antarctica passport stamp
King George Island is part of the greater Shetland Islands, but is popular for being the largest of the island grouping and home to the majority of scientific research stations, including those of Argentina, Russia, Chile, Germany, and more.
Flights to and from Antarctica also arrive on King George Island, making it the most active commuter hub on the continent. Coupled with active marine animals, impressive wildlife species, and the shared interest in the region by international scientists, King George Island has an ambiance that’s unlike anywhere else in Antarctica.
Highlights: Trinity Church • Seal colonies • Penguin Island • Research stations
The Ross Sea is one of the few places in Antarctica that requires a longer sail time. Situated impressively close to the South Pole, it is famous as the largest ice shelf on the continent, resembling a shimmering mass sweeping to the foothills of the distant Mt. Erebus volcano, the southernmost volcano on Earth.
Glaciers feel colossal, penguin colonies expand across the landscape, and the island landscape blends into the blanket of ice spreading over the sea up to two miles thick. A calving iceberg from the shelf can create impressive swells rippling away from the ice mass.
Highlights: Penguin colony • Scenic photography • World’s largest ice shelf • Natural wonder
Deception Island is one of the few corners of Antarctica where you can take the infamous plunge into the remarkably cold waters.
Known for volcanic activity beneath the land and sea, visitors to Deception Island can explore the caldera formed by an eruption more than 10,000 years ago. The harbor once offered refuge as a former whaling station, but now welcomes scientists and cruise ships, with passengers disembarking to view the impressive penguin colonies.
Find uniquely warm waters, antique whale skeletons, and beaches covered in black sand that offer very different perspectives of what many visitors expect when visiting Antarctica.
Highlights: Active volcano • thermal activity • Whaling station • Penguin colonies
From penguins to whales, whaling stations to active volcanoes, Antarctica has endless allure. Travel through a labyrinth of icebergs or step onto the tundra to view sensational bird colonies or seals lounging near the water.
Whether looking for a serene view of the landscape reflected in the sea or seeking to reach the infamous Ice Shelf, Antarctica is an unforgettable adventure.