Four reasons to book your holiday early
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What destination is nearly uninhabitable, but has more than 12 million residents? The answer is Antarctica and, yes, we cheated; those residents tend to be adorable little black and white creatures waddling on webbed feet. It’s far from your average holiday destination, but stunning wilderness, unrivalled natural phenomena and the chance to travel somewhere out of the ordinary draws people to look for expeditions here.
When to go?
November – March. Why? Quite simply – it’s the only time it’s possible. Just enough ice melts to allow ships through and the 20-hour-a-day sun warms the air to above-freezing temperatures, so it’s bearable and passable for scientific expeditions and intrepid tourists. January to early March is the best time for penguin chicks, and late January to March is ideal for whale watching while breeding elephant seals can be spotted in November.
Is it responsible?
There’s something about the untouched landscape that has everybody spellbound: it's natural to be drawn to the unknown and (sort-of) unexplored. But a big worry for many sustainably-minded travellers is whether their adventure will have a negative impact on the surroundings. You can set your mind to rest, there are a select few cruises allowed here with very limited numbers and strict environmental guidelines. So you’re guaranteed exclusivity while this breath-taking environment is shown the respect it deserves.
What not to miss
If you think you’ve seen ice, you haven’t. The icebergs here are at their grandest and most surreal in November when the ice has barely started to thaw. The sheer size of them, and the icescapes and deserts around them, really lends some perspective. The glaciers, which you can get a close look at on our 11-day luxury tour, are also stunning in size and beauty, as too are the whales, which—if you're lucky—you could spot on the trip.
Speaking of perspective, some of the deepest and intense quiet you’ll ever hear will be in the Antarctic. Experience vast expanses of wilderness uninhabited by humans, with an often-howling wind, creaking ice and, if you glance up, an unfathomably beautiful night sky. This is definitely best discovered by kayak on a tour like our Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica itinerary.
On the other hand, if you get up close and personal with the penguin colonies on our 16-day Antarctic Peninsula tour, or hear the roar of seals on Elephant Island during our 18-day Antarctic Peninsula cruise, you won’t feel alone at all. There’s a cacophony of wildlife living in the waters, from the chattering dolphins and penguins to majestic whales, and the skies are abundant with noisy birds who thrive in these conditions.
The sky is phenomenal, whether it’s adorned with the glorious midnight sun or bejewelled by thousands of stars. But the ground below looks pretty incredible from the sky, too. If you fly the Drake Passage, not only do you skip one of the roughest patches of water and get the most direct access to the Antarctic, but you’ll also approach this strange land from a truly unique perspective.
The Antarctic Circle
This comes with the huge caveat of 'if you can', as relatively few expeditions achieve this due to the continuously changing and perilous nature of the weather. However if on our Crossing The Antarctic Circle tour, you do reach 66°33' S and cross the famed line, it will certainly be the highlight of your travels.
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