The top things to do in Antarctica open new opportunities in the world’s southernmost continent by showing you exciting ways to explore and experience the wildlife, landscapes, and remote scenery.
From peaks capped with glaciers to blanketing ice sheets spreading to the horizon, frigid waters with unique marine life to barking seals lounging on the coastline, as you explore the frozen landscape, you can understand more about what happens in Antarctica to make it such an impactful destination.
Visit remote islands, witness whales swimming through a narrow passage, or marvel at the untouched scenery as you find inspiration with our list of the top eight things to do in Antarctica.
Antarctica embodies the word epic, in its size, seclusion, and wondrous scenery, inspiring scientists and researchers to visit. The research stations quickly become part of the adventure, with a variety of countries positioning their headquarters on the Antarctic Peninsula to study weather, climate, wildlife, and more.
From discovering the hole in the ozone layer to providing insight into the daily life of locals conducting business in one of the world’s most remote destinations, visiting a research station is a unique and unforgettable experience.
Best places to visit research stations: Vernadsky Station • Brown Station • Gonzalez Videla Base • Camara Station • Carlini Base
The landscape flush with snow and ice can feel like an opportune destination for skiing and the thrilling idea can take the adventurous onto the powdery slopes during a special expedition.
As the ultimate back-country with an average elevation reaching between 6,500 and 8,200 feet above sea level, the journey becomes one of untracked mountains with no infrastructure, coupled with sightings of penguins or immersion into spectacular scenery surrounded by peaks with hanging glaciers or valleys blanketed with untouched snow along the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, or beyond.
Best places for skiing: Ellsworth Mountain • Gerlache Strait • Antarctic Peninsula
Whale watching is one of the most anticipated things to do in Antarctica. The number of orcas, humpbacks, blue and minke whales, and more demonstrate the vibrant marine life living in the region and add to a spectacle enhanced by dramatic landscapes.
As one of the best destinations in the world to spot elusive blue whales, an Antarctic cruise can quickly take on the feeling of a whale-watching excursion as you spot killer whale pods representing the more than 70,000 living in the region or the impressive size of humpbacks as they lean their fins out of the water. Whether on the ship, a kayak, or zodiac boat, you can find unobstructed views and possibly sight all eight species during your trip.
Best places for whale watching: Wilhelmina Bay • Drake Passage • Lemaire Channel
Penguins are often the most sought-after wildlife when visiting the region. Colonies can grow up to a million nesting pairs and the landscape supports 18 species.
King penguins and Adelie penguins make the harsh interior terrain their home, while other species like macaroni and Gentoo live around the northern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the conditions are often less severe.
Viewing penguins waddling on the ice, resting on the coastline, or sliding across the terrain and into the water can make you feel as though you have officially arrived in the area.
Best places to see penguin colonies: Antarctic Sound • Penguin Island • Elephant Island • Deception Island
Active exploration can take on many forms, especially in the cold waters and snowy terrain of Antarctica. Whether looking for kayaking excursions, scuba-diving adventures, taking the Arctic plunge, or eager to enjoy a zodiac cruise, such exploration is an exciting way to immerse yourself in the wonders of Antarctica and its waters.
When diving into the frigid waters during a scuba excursion, you may find squat lobsters, spider crabs, sea butterflies, and starfish, each unique to the near-freezing temperatures. During a kayaking adventure, you may wave between icebergs while sipping hot chocolate and enjoying the serene ambiance near the shoreline.
Each form of active exploration provides a unique experience in which to interact with your surroundings for a richer journey.
Best for active exploration: Antarctic Peninsula • South Georgia Island • Pleneau Island • Cierva Cove
When considering the different ways to explore Antarctica, the dramatic mountain peaks become a familiar part of the skyline as you float along the watery borders. Few mountains in the world combine epic seclusion with extreme conditions for an exciting way to explore natural beauty.
With mountain peaks reaching over 16,000 feet above sea level, the ascent can feel empowering and exciting. From climbing the slopes of the world’s southernmost active volcano to reaching the top of the Antarctic Peninsula’s tallest peak, reaching the top of a mountain on the Frozen Continent is a rewarding and memorable experience.
Best mountains to visit: Vinson Massif • Ulvetanna Peak • Mount Sidley • Mount Jackson
The dramatic features of the frozen landscapes offer a marvelous setting to find unhabituated wildlife in its natural habitat.
Cold and dry, incredibly windy and unpredictably wild, Antarctica is rich in sightseeing opportunities on land and sea. With giant albatross taking to the sky, blue-eyed cormorants nesting on the elevated scenery, and penguin rookeries populating the coastal edges, you can find frolicking dolphins and passing whales to create your perfect photographic setting.
Capture the ice, witness glacial peaks, and experience the pleasures of the wilderness untouched by human interaction as you snap your preferred photos to commemorate your Antarctica trip.
Best places for photography: Antarctic Peninsula • The Shetland Islands • South Georgia • The Falkland Islands • South Sandwich Island
When visiting Antarctica, you can expect hanging glaciers and expansive stretches of snow, but you can also engage with scenery that will capture your imagination.
With fascinating diversity that stretches from waterfalls glowing blood-red to volcanic activity at the southern edge of the world, Antarctica is much more than a still-life painting and represents the active spectacles of life found on and in the landscape. From flying over the Ross Sea in a helicopter to visiting the heart of the South Pole, Antarctica’s surprises are endless and timeless.
Best places for surprising scenery: Blood Falls • Antarctic Ice Shelf • Mount Erebus • Zavodovski Island Penguin Colony
Antarctica turns familiar activities into new experiences as you embrace the diverse things to do. Every excursion becomes an adventure as you uncover hidden penguin colonies or witness the impressive display of calving icebergs, view unique waterfalls, or visit scientists in secluded research centers.
Find the best ideas for your trip with our sample Antarctica cruises, tours, and vacations, or discover more ideas on when to visit and where to go with our Antarctica travel guide.