Ushuaia, Drake Passage, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Get into the holiday spirit of snow, sleighs, and the wildlife of your wintery dreams with a personalized Antarctica tour at Christmas. Your time spent around the Southern Ocean will be a perfect, unparalleled present as you traverse bays and channels crowded with icebergs and ice floes on a speeding zodiac boat that will bring you close up to the soaring figures. Kayak around the protected waterways as you search for passing whales and listen to the cacophonous calls of penguins. Embrace...
Ushuaia – Arrive in Ushuaia with the Andes Mountains and Beagle Channel
The port at Ushuaia draws adventurers from around the world with the promise of dramatic forests, exciting waters, and secluded islands at the end of the South American continent. The narrow city contains steep streets that ramble between the foothills of the snowcapped Martial Range and the shoreline of the Beagle Channel. The Andes Mountains sprawl across the continent for more than 4,300 miles touching Colombia in the north and plunging into the waters of the Beagle Channel at Ushuaia in the south.
Your private transfer will greet you at Malvinas Argentinas International Airport and escort you to your gorgeous hotel in view of the passing fishing trawlers and cruise ships on the water. The remainder of the day will be yours to enjoy the unique landscape that has lovingly claimed the title of the “city at the end of the world.” The century-old Iglesia de la Merced was erected using labor from convicts, and located on Avenida San Martin, reflects on the city’s distinctive past of missionaries, convicts, and sailors often from countries other than Argentina.
The aroma of hops emanates from the microbrewery and fades beneath the scent of the saltwater from the channel. Nearby, the art project and urban refuge of Parque Yatana embodies the contemporary city with a full city block of lenga forest preserved from encroaching development. Hiking trails weave through the trees and lead to a community arts center at the heart of the park where the Yatana practice their traditional crafts. The air of the Argentinian summer still holds a cold chill that blows in from the South Sea hundreds of miles away, blending with the bleached summits of the Martial Range to create an ambiance of Christmas.
Ushuaia – Board your Seafaring Vessel and Set Sail on the Beagle Channel
In the morning, the aroma of coffee will fill the dining room of the hotel, revitalizing your senses and leading your eyes to the view of the water. Fishing boats return from an early day at sea in search of sea trout that can grow nearly 40 pounds. Skiers, snowboarders, and hikers take the chair lift to the Martial Glacier ready to traverse the snowy slope near the eponymous glacier. The image of ice at an altitude of over 3,400 feet above sea level casts a glint against the protruding stone of the mountain range. In the summer, only the highest peaks and secluded slopes contain snow, calling to the most passionate skiers interested in the thrills of conquering the most dangerous portions of the 20-square-mile section of the range.
Hikers take to the paths to enjoy patches of snow and the breeze that carries the herbaceous aroma of the forest. The hikers must step with intent, careful not to crack the fragile ice bridges beneath the summer sun. Your private transfer will meet you at your hotel and escort you to the port where you will board your vessel bound for Antarctica. The ship has a hull strengthened to withstand the threat of ice and icebergs that float through the polar waterways, and the comforts and luxuries found inside the vessel will ensure comfort. Carrying no more than 115 guests, the ship will soon weigh anchor, and you stay on the deck to watch the landscape of the Beagle Channel pass you by.
Drake Passage – Travel across the Infamous Drake Passage in Comfort
The days will begin to stretch longer as you travel south through the Drake Passage, a 500-mile waterway between Cape Horn and the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula with no land ever in your sight. The vast horizon is intimidating at first, but you will quickly settle in and find it to be a welcoming and beautiful scene. The passage is known for its tumultuous waves that reach over 45 feet tall due to the warm water of the sub-Antarctic passing below the cold water of the South Sea. The sea will likely be calm as you make your way towards the shores of Antarctica while the scent of the briny water fills the frigid breeze.
You will want to keep an eye out for the passing whales, dolphins, petrels, and albatrosses known to travel through the pass. Lecturers aboard the ship will offer captivating information on the features of Antarctica, the existence of wildlife and plants on the frozen continent, and ways in which contemporary life is affecting the ice-covered terrain of South Pole. You can spend time inside to enjoy a seminar on the history of exploration in Antarctica as you sip a sweet and comforting hot chocolate away from the chill. Learn about the near-discoveries of the Antarctic ice sheets around the 18th century and the incidental findings of the South Shetland Islands between the 18th and 19th centuries that culminated in the first Antarctic cruise taking place in January of 1966.
Drake Passage – Search for Seabirds and Marine Life on the Drake Passage
The sunlight looms longer through the day, already beaming in the morning before you wake up. The aromas of coffee and hot chocolate complement each other in the dining room as the breeze carries the flecks of sea salt and the aroma of brine emanating from the water. The day is once again yours to enjoy the quiet comforts onboard the ship, enjoy the informative lectures, or pass the time watching for whale or dolphin pods. Even in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, the wind blowing over the deck is cold and bites at your exposed skin. The Antarctic convergence separates distinctive regions and marine life due to the dramatic shift in climates between the sub-Antarctic regions around the southern edge of South America and the Antarctic region ranging from the southern Drake Passage to the shores of the Seventh Continent.
The convergence specifically encompasses a range 20 to 30 miles wide extending across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. The calm passage has propelled you closer to the northern rim of the South Shetland Islands. You will likely hear a commotion from the deck as a group of people point into the water and draw their binoculars to their eyes as a pod of the rare hourglass dolphins plays in the wake of the ship. They are known for their distinctive black and white skin that creates the design of an hourglass on their sides and grow to nearly six feet long and only reside in circumpolar regions.
South Shetland Islands – Cross Hidden Bays and Channels to the South
The flexibility of the ship and your time in Antarctica allows the captain to travel through the open channels and waters dependent upon the ice and weather, choosing the best route to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew. You will travel between the narrow passageways that offer views to the distinctive islands found north of the Antarctic Peninsula. Your ship will dock near the shores of Half Moon Island, and then you can take a zodiac boat to reach the pebbled beach on the rocky surface of the island’s 420 acres.
Argentina keeps the Camara Base open in the summer accessible only by sea or by helicopter. The particular location of the island and its relationship to the cold provides a space on which plants, such as lichen and moss, as well as Antarctic Hairgrass, can grow. Witnessing plants living on a landscape presumed to be desolate and smothered in ice and snow delivers a different view to the possibilities of Antarctica amidst the first of its many surprises. Antarctic Hairgrass is one of two flowering plants native to the continent, through your guide will explain how recent warming has increased germination across the island and the shores of Antarctica.
You can traverse the rugged terrain along the 2,200-yard walking track on the southern edge of the island. Chinstrap penguins have a colony on the pebbled beach and call to one another with the harsh stone-cracking sound. Antarctic fur seals bask in the sunlight and absorb the warmth spreading across the rocks. They can grow to nearly seven feet long but have a fairly short but broad snout. The female coat shimmers with gray, but males have a dark brown sheen.
South Shetland Islands – Discover Penguin Rookeries on the Islands
Your boat will dock in a natural harbor at the southern end of the South Shetland Islands and Cape Sherriff, allowing you to board a kayak for a more intimate exploration of the waterways and landscape. The prominent outcropping at the north end of the rocky peninsula provides shelter from the unpredictable waters of the Southern Ocean. Explorer Edward Bransfield discovered the island in the 1820s, and a seasonal research base was erected in 1991 by a joint effort between the Chilean and United States government. You can take your kayak around the more than one square mile of water free from the ice forming on the northern extremity of the peninsula.
The water is ice-cold when you touch your fingers to it, and the crisp air around you contains hints of the salt. Your guide will point to the shore where 10,000 pairs of chinstrap penguins encompass the breeding colony on the island. You can hear their deep, loud call that sounds like two stones being struck together. The penguins can grow to nearly 30 inches tall and weigh over 10 pounds, and you will learn to tell the difference between the males and females by checking their flippers. The males have black and white edges against an interior white plumage, and their colors camouflage the colony from predators in the winter.
Antarctic Peninsula - Explore the Terrain and Wildlife of Port Lockroy
The nights have disappeared as you arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula and notice the bleached-white landscape of Port Lockroy at Wiencke Island. The snow and ice reflect the perfect winter wonderland in the Southern Hemisphere summer. The bay is named for Edouard Lockroy, a French politician who helped secure funding for the Antarctic expedition. Whalers used the bay in the early 20th century, and the British military established Port Lockroy during World War II, which remained in operation until the 1960s. The island itself has an area of 26 square miles and lies on the Palmer Archipelago located on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Glaciers, snow, and ice glint beneath the summer sun that spreads across the three major peaks of the island, the tallest of which reaches more than 4,600 feet above sea level. You will feel like a child searching for Santa’s workshop amidst the endless whitewashed landscape finding the preserved hut from the British military built during Operation Tabarin. The scientific works performed in the hut included measuring the ionosphere and obtaining the first recording of an atmospheric whistler. Outside the research center, you can dig your hand into the deep snow, grab a handful of the slush, and taste the ice melting into pristine water.
Antarctic Peninsula – Find Whales, Seals, and Penguins on a Zodiac Boat
You will take a zodiac boat along the Penola Channel, protecting your face from the wind caused by the boat’s speed as you travel. The 12-mile long strait separates Petermann Island and Hovgaard Island in the east from Graham Land in the west. Icebergs cast great shadows over the water that cause a break in the cobalt color of the sea by shifting the rippling surface of the water into a fascinating blend of turquoise and indigo around the base of the icy mass. The zodiac boat pulls onto the shore of Petermann Island where pebbles raise the rocky coastline that rises out of water from its volcanic origins. The crevassed icecap covers nearly half the island’s surface but leaves the ice-free areas to support mosses and lichens.
BirdLife International has labeled the island a vital breeding colony for the Gentoo penguins, who have grown to a colony of more than 3,000 pairs. Your guide can point to the color of the rocks on which the penguins stand. You can listen to the deep trumpet of the penguins calling to one another as they throw their heads back to amplify the sound, and their plumage embodies the iconic image of a penguin, reflecting the fun and familiar features of a tuxedo and tails.
South Shetland Islands – Navigate around Icebergs and Island Beaches
A comforting aroma of coffee will warm your insides as you enter the dining room and come in from the cold air of the outside as you move over the Antarctic continent and nearby islands. The ship has already started making its way north to return to Ushuaia, Argentina passing beside the shores of the South Shetland Islands once more. You can take a zodiac boat to reach Gibbs Island, located 16 miles south of Elephant Island. The slender landmass has an area of eight square miles with a small ice-free area acting as an important birding destination that supports chinstrap and macaroni penguins. A tomb on the island commemorates a German soldier of which nothing, other than the epitaph written on the grave, is known.
Your guide will offer a quick translation, remarking on the tumultuous expeditions explorers embarked upon in the name of country and glory. You can continue to the shoreline to view the nesting grounds that harbor 1,700 pairs of macaroni penguins. The distinctive animal bears a yellow crest on its head crowning a black face and back with white underparts. Adults grow to nearly 30 inches tall and can weight an average of 12 pounds. They subsist mainly on krill and small fish, using their fins to glide through the water the way birds fly through the air, reaching up to 15 miles per hour. Viewing the rare and unique macaroni penguin doubles as an unforgettable holiday gift.
Drake Passage – Relax on the Luxurious Journey back to Ushuaia
Your vessel will glide through the Drake Passage en route back to Ushuaia, Argentina. You can take your refreshing coffee onto the upper deck to enjoy the sound of the breeze coursing over the hull while the cold bites at your cheeks, but this will already feel warm in comparison to the temperatures experienced around the Antarctic Peninsula. The day is yours to bask in the relaxing ambiance of the boat. Attend a lecture in in the room lit by the Antarctic sunlight, or sit in a comfortable leather chair while sipping your coffee and listening to the fascinating theories about the microbiome in glaciers.
On a different trip, you may have found yourself yearning for soft tropical sands or an art gallery, but in the luxurious ambiance of the gallery after having witnessed the magnitude and majesty of glaciers up close, the prospect of learning more about the micro-animals that change the dynamics of the ice to be wholly absorbing.
Drake Passage – Attend Lectures or Search for Wildlife
The icebergs and floes from your time in the Southern Ocean will have disappeared from view by the time you wake up. The scent of hot chocolate provides a cozy ambiance in the dining room at breakfast, and the day is once again at your leisure to listen to more exciting lectures on the distinctive properties of Antarctica or enjoy the warming air outside of the ship while searching for the active marine life signaling your distance to land. A member of the ship’s crew can point out a southern giant petrel swooping down over the water as the tip of their bill has a greenish tint, differentiating the species from its northern counterpart.
Their wingspan can measure more than 80 inches wide while their body grows less than 40 inches long. Your eyes may catch sight of a gusher erupting like a bouquet of vapor from a surfaced humpback whale. Their surface behaviors make them popular for watching on the open seas as the whales travel up to 16,000 miles per year migrating between oceans and seas halfway around the world. They grow over 60 feet long and have large plates on along the sides of their mouths. You can watch as the whale breeches the water, propelling nearly halfway out of the Drake Passage before splashing back down and disappearing into the depths.
Ushuaia – Depart for Home
The quiet streets of Ushuaia feel loud when compared to the desolate and secluded scenery around Antarctica and its islands. The greenery from the subpolar forest filled with lenga trees has an herbaceous aroma lacking from the air around the snow-filled continent of Antarctica. Southern beech and winter’s bark spread across the foothills of the Andes Mountains and around the slopes of the Martial Range before reaching the Martial glacier. The harbor bustles with fishing trawlers, tankers, and cruise ships.
Your ship will pull into port and weighs anchor, ending your exceptional cruise around the fantastical landscapes that embody just a sliver of Antarctica’s 5.4 million square miles, which is nearly 2 million square miles more than the area of the United States. Your private transfer will greet you at the port and escort you to Malvinas Argentinas International Airport with plenty of time to check in for your flight. You could also extend your journey around South America by spending time in Buenos Aires to learn the tango, or perhaps bask in the wine region of Mendoza to bring in the new year.
- Celebrate Christmas, a holiday meant for snow, in the whitewashed wonderland of Antarctica
- Witness the daily lives of several different species of penguins as you visit the islands around the South Shetland Archipelago and Antarctic Peninsula
- Listen to captivating lectures about the unique topography, history, flora, and fauna of the Seventh Continent for deeper insight into its majesty
- Enjoy watching for wildlife from the top deck of your cruise ship as you travel along the secluded channels or through the Drake Passage
- Discover the fascinating affect the Antarctic convergence has on the sea and experience the weather firsthand as you pass through the Drake Passage
- Learn about the captivating life-cycle of different plants that are capable of growing in the frigid temperatures of Antarctica, which includes moss and grass
- Kayak under the safe guidance of a specialist that will lead you through the calm waters of a protected bay to get close to majestic icebergs
- Utilize zodiac boats to travel between the ship and pebbled shores of various islands, including Gibbs Island to search for the macaroni penguins
The holiday season is the perfect time for an expedition to the Southern Ocean on a 12-day Antarctica cruise that will depart from Ushuaia, Argentina. Even in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere, icebergs flow along the secluded channels and penguins nest on the pebbled shores of isolated islands. Elephant seals trumpet against unwelcomed visitors and whales surface without warning, blowing their spout nearly 15 feet into the air. The snowy continent provides incredible gifts on land and sea, represented in the untainted waters and pristine landscapes of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula.
Your Antarctica vacation will begin with your arrival at Ushuaia’s airport, Malvinas Argentinas International. Your time in the city at the southern tip of the South American continent will give you some time to settle in after your travels, and prepare you for your upcoming cruise with extra time to wander through the streets and enjoy the views over the edge of the Andes Mountains. You will board your ship in the port at Ushuaia and sail along the Beagle Channel to reach the Drake Passage. Your time spent aboard your luxury vessel will come with plenty of entertainment and relaxation when at sea while observation decks offer space to search for passing wildlife. The interior galleries host plenty of lectures with specialists and expedition leaders well-versed in the many splendors of Antarctica.
Travel around the South Shetland archipelago and visit a number of the islands that host everything from research bases to penguin and seal colonies, and even hot springs fed by subterranean geothermal activity. Travel by zodiac boat between the islands to get close to icebergs and the pebbled beaches in view of protruding glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and the barren expanse of the Antarctic Peninsula. Relish a chance to kayak around the fascinating waterways and learn the best methods of taking photos in the whitewashed scenery to capture the moments of your Christmas season on your Antarctica tour. Before returning home, you will have the option of extending your time in South America by spending New Years in Buenos Aires or viewing the enchanting ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.
$9,595 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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