How To Get To Antarctica

how to get to Antarctica

Planning a trip to Antarctica is an incredibly exciting time. The White Continent is a magical landscape that stays in the hearts and minds of all who visit. But how do you get to Antarctica? 

Considering the remoteness of the landscape, there are actually plenty of options when it comes to getting to Antarctica. Each option comes with its pros and cons and it's really down to personal preference (and sometimes location) as to which you choose. 

The main option you need to consider is whether to fly or sail. Antarctic cruises are far more popular, but flying offers a quicker turnaround. Once you decide this, you also need to think about entry points to Antarctica and how to get to each airport or port.  

Don't worry if this sounds confusing, everything is laid out below in separate sections. Please use the quicklinks to jump to a preferred section. 

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Cruise Options To Antarctica

how to get to Antarctica - cruises

Cruising is by far the most popular way of reaching Antarctica. This is largely due to the numerous options compared to flying. However, it's also due to the landscape. 

As a tourist, the only way you can explore the Antarctica Peninsula is by ship. This means that even if you decide to fly into Antarctica, you will need to board a ship to explore the Peninsula. This is known as a 'fly-cruise' itinerary.  

Over 90% of all cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia - the world's most southerly city. From Ushuaia you follow in the footsteps of Scott and Shackleton as you traverse the Beagle Channel before crossing the infamous Drake Passage. 

Although the Drake Passage has a reputation for rough seas, most of the time it is calm. In fact, it's often so calm that it's called the 'Drake Lake'. Saying this, there is no predicting the weather and some crossings can be very choppy. If you suffer from seasickness, a fly-cruise option may be best. 

Because most operators do not offer a fly-cruise option, the standard cruise give potential passengers far more choice. You can choose between luxury vessels, expedition vessels, or research vessels. You can also choose between many different itineraries such as the Antarctic Circle itinerary, Weddell Sea, or the South Georgia and Falkland Islands itinerary.  

Other Cruise Departure Points

Invercargill, New Zealand

Less than 5 cruises depart from Invercargill each year. These cruises are often longer due to the crossing time which can take a week. Saying this, you visit some amazing islands along the way.

Although you do not visit the Peninsula, you explore the Eastern side of Antarctica - a region few people have ever witnessed. The whole itinerary generally takes 3-4 and you'll be travelling on a research-style vessel. 

Hobart, Australia

Like Invercargill, there are a select few itineraries each year that depart from Hobart in Tasmania. In fact, some of these cruises depart from Hobart and return to Invercargill. 

Cruises departing from Hobart also explore the eastern side of Antarctic and are often called 'In The Wake Of Mawson' or something similar. Direct flights to Hobart are available from most of the main city airports in Australia including Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. Melbourne is generally the cheapest. 

Fly Options To Antarctica

how to get to Antarctica - flights

Flying to Antarctic is much more limited thanks to a lack of infrastructure. For tourists, there is essentially one option in South America - fly from Punta Arenas in Southern Chile.

The flight actually lands on King George Island which lies off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The gravel runway often concern passengers at first glance, but landings are very safe. 

As mentioned above, once landed you must then board your ship. There are very few itineraries apart rom the standard peninsula cruise when you choose to fly. However, you save a good deal of time and avoid the Drake Passage crossing.  

Fly-cruise options tend to be slightly cheaper in general. Although this does depend on when you travel and how far ahead you book. It's also important to note that flight delays are more common than cruise delays as the weather affects flights far more easily than it does cruises. 

Flying VS Cruising

Why Fly?

  • Saves time
  • Slightly cheaper
  • Good for sufferers of seasickness
  • plane
    See Antarctica from the air

Why Cruise?

  • The crossing is an adventure
  • See more wildlife
  • Less susceptible to delays
  • Ship
    Far more itinerary options
  • Ship
    Seeing Antarctica come into view from your ship is special

The video below shows a plane landing on the gravel runway at King George Island. 

Fly-Over Option

There is also the option to take a flight over Antarctica in a single day trip. This is certainly the easiest and most simple way of seeing the White Continent. It's also the most comfortable as you'll be sat in a nice leather seat with a glass of wine in hand. 

However, the continent is only seen from the air as you will not land. This means you won't get close to any wildlife or experience the cold air of Antarctica. You will save a lot of time though - 12 hours vs 10 days!

The 12-hour round-trips only depart from Melbourne, Sydney and, occasionally, Perth. They are operated by and cost between $AU 900 - 7,500. 

How To Get To Ushuaia & Punta Arenas From...






Work In Antarctica

how to get to Antarctica 5

The final option of how to get to Antarctica is to work there! This way you get paid to go, and you also see a lot more places that regular tourists do not get to see. 

Don't panic if you're not a scientist, there are numerous roles in Antarctic research stations from chefs and cleaners, to operation managers and drivers. 

Each country has their own base and you'll need to look them up online to see their job postings. 

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.


If you have any queries or questions regarding how to get to Antarctica, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.

Thank you and happy travels!

Expedition Cruise Team

About the Author Expedition Cruise is the web’s most authoritative information portal on adventure and expedition cruising. Our mission is to provide up to date and comprehensive information on traveling to the Arctic, Antarctica and further afield, so that your experience is as fulfilling and safe as possible.

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