Flights to Antarctica

Guides · 7 min read · Jul 27, 2022
flights to antarctica

Antarctica has no regular air service. Travelers may only arrange private flights to Antarctica, which are only offered as part of a deal rather than separately by a tour operator, like reserving a ticket on a regularly scheduled aircraft. Unlike the other six continents in the world, Antarctica lacks a dedicated airport and runway for airplanes. Consequently, with little to no technical assistance from the ground, the planes land on ice strips and often fly through snow storms. This landing is impossible for ordinary pilots to execute, necessitating specialized bush pilot training.

About the Antarctic Peninsula

Antarctica is the most southerly continent and home to the South Pole, an ice-covered area that is mostly devoid of life. Most expeditions to the region end at the Antarctic Peninsula, which extends into South America.

It is well-known for the Lemaire Channel, a beautiful waterway encircled by icebergs, as well as Paradise Harbor and Port Lockroy, a former British research facility turned museum and other nearby places. The peninsula’s secluded landscape is home to numerous creatures, including many penguins.

How challenging is traveling to Antarctica?

It is actually not that difficult if you plan ahead. The simplest way to get to Antarctica is by flying to Ushuaia, Argentina, and then taking a ship from there. In reality, this is how 90% of all Antarctic visitors arrive. As a part of a voyage, you can indeed also take a flight to Antarctica. Antarctica can be reached in a variety of ways.

Continue reading to learn more about how to get to Antarctica from South America, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

Icy cliffs and icy water in Antarctica.

Passport and Visa requirements for Antartica

For a trip to Antarctica, neither a passport nor a visa are required. However, depending on your origin country, you may need a valid travel documents such as a passport and possibly a visa as well as travel insurance for the region you pass through to get to Antarctica, such as Argentina, Chile, Australia, or New Zealand. Americans can enter these countries without a visa. Your passport should be valid for six months after the date of your trip, depending on your country of residence.

Visitors from countries that have ratified the Antarctica Treaty, such as the US, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, and Australia, must apply for permission before visiting the continent. The travel agency frequently provides all of these.

Alternatives for getting to Antarctica

The most convenient way to travel to Antarctica is by cruise liner or airplane from the southernmost point of South America. All summer long, cruise ships carrying tourists depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, and travel to Antarctica in about 48 hours.

The alternative is to take a ship from King George Island after a two-hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile.

Fly and cruise (King George island)

Flying to an airport of entry that is already in the Antarctic region is a portion of a fly-and-cruise journey. For example, passengers can fly to King George Island, board a cruise liner there, and continue their journey there before flying back to the same spot to catch a return flight to South America.

People with limited time should consider a flying and sailing trip because it avoids having to spend numerous days crossing the Drake Passage. Although many tourists view crossing the Drake Passage as a must-do experience, the waterways can be extremely bumpy; therefore, if you are nauseous, a flight and sailing plan is the best option.

Arrivals are made in Punta Arenas, Chile. There are flights to the South Shetland Islands, King George Island, and the Falkland Islands. The journey typically lasts 8 to 19 days. The cost of trips starts at around $9,000 USD per person, but it varies based on how long the tour is.

Fly-in (Antarctica flights)

Flying and sailing are both involved in a fly-in journey. By selecting to fly to Antartica, you can save time while still taking pleasure in the allure of an Antarctica voyage. Compared to flying and cruising, this mode of transportation offers more flexibility for trips and is significantly less expensive.

On one leg, you’ll travel by air, and on the other, by sea, and inversely. While there are flights into and out of Punta Arenas, Chile, there are also cruises that depart and arrive from Ushuaia. The Weddell Sea, Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, and the Falkland Islands can all be included in a travel plan.

This is best for time savings without sacrificing a pleasurable cruise. The tour starts at about $8,000 USD per participant and typically lasts between 8 and 22 days, but the cost fluctuates depending on how long the tour is.

Fly-over (Antarctic air cruises)

Travelers can take a charter flight across Antarctica for a day. Even though travelers are in the sky for 12 hours, only a portion of that time is spent flying over Antarctica. This is a good option for people who want to feel the excitement of the region without embarking on a difficult Antarctic expedition. This region’s unpopulated coastal areas can only be experienced from a special “bird’s eye” vantage point.

Because it is a day trip, this alternative offers the swiftest option to take in Antarctica’s biodiversity and natural surroundings. Australia is the only nation from which a fly-over is presently available. The majority of flights leave from Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. The best option for saving time while flying over the least-explored regions of Antarctica is this one.

The tour lasts for 12 hours, and the price is determined by the seat that is selected. A window seat in the front of a cabin can cost up to $8,000 USD, but the middle seat will only cost $1,200 USD.

A seal in snow and a cruise ship in the background in Antarctica.

The all-cruise option

Most tourists who travel to Antarctica do so on cruise ships that depart from South America, usually from Punta Arenas, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina. Even though it actually occurs less commonly, very few cruise ships also go from Australia and New Zealand to Antarctica. The expeditions are frequently led by small companies with a reputation for adventurous cruising, like Oceanwide Expeditions, Hurtigruten Expeditions, Quark Expeditions, and Lindblad Expeditions.

Nevertheless, a few more well-known cruise lines, including Silversea Cruises, Viking, and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, also run expedition ships that are intended specifically for journeys to Antarctica and other polar regions.

Cruise to Antarctica From South America

Ushuaia, Argentina, is the harbor that is most often used to enter Antarctica. Travel to Ushuaia, which is also known as the end of the world. We suggest travelers arrive early in order to take advantage of the southernmost point of South America and to avoid any challenging connections.

The fact that you can’t experience the Drake Passage on an all-cruise Antarctica trip may be its biggest disadvantage. The “Drake” has a reputation for being rough. It is regarded as one of the cruelest waterways in the entire world. It’s not uncommon to encounter waves that are 10 to 15 feet high during a Drake crossing. The distance between the port of Ushuaia, Argentina, and the Antarctic Peninsula is just over 620 miles, or 1,001 kilometers. Ushuaia and the Antarctic Circle are separated by about 1,300 kilometers, or 800 miles.

A small ship can reach the Antarctic Peninsula from Ushuaia in about two days. Most cruise ships will sail in both directions. A typical 11-day cruise will therefore take 4 days to travel through the Drake Passage and 7 days to explore the Antarctic Peninsula.

Cruise to Antarctica from Australia & New Zealand

A few special cruises may leave from Australia and New Zealand each year. When compared to cruises from America, these are authentic expeditions and take considerably longer. Invercargill and Dunedin are the most frequently used boarding ports for New Zealand cruise lines to Antarctica. Hobart, Tasmania, is the usual departure port for cruises from Australia.

Sub-Antarctic islands like Macquarie Island, the Auckland Islands, or the Campbell Islands will be visited by cruises. Wildlife and birdlife are abundant in these isolated hideouts. Australia and the Antarctic continent are separated by more than 2,600 kilometers or 1,600 miles. More than 3,500 kilometers or 2,100 miles separate Australia from the Ross Sea. Depending on weather conditions, the voyage from Australia to Antarctica may last up to 7 days.

Some cruise ships to visit Antarctica leave from Australia, make a stop on the White Continent, and then make their way back to the same harbor. Others travel in opposite ways, starting in South America and ending in Australia. These cruise ships, in either case, are much prolonged than those from America. From Australia and New Zealand, antarctic boat trips last 25–35 days. 

Benefits of an all-cruise trip

Although it may only appear to be a negative, for many tourists, making the perilous crossing to Antarctica is an integral part of the trip itself. Because it gives us a glimpse of the struggles that famous Antarctic explorers like Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton endured during their perilous expeditions to the continent a century earlier, it enhances our understanding of the phenomenal heritage of Antarctic discovery.

It also helps to understand how far away Antarctica really is because the adventure covers such a large area of the ocean. Travelers on an expedition ship exploring Antarctica through the Drake Passage have the opportunity to see incredible bird species, such as the giant albatross, which is unusual to find in Antarctica.

Additionally, the two days spent in the Drake Passage at the start of an all-cruise Antarctica trip give the tour guides a chance to familiarize passengers with the surroundings and landmarks they will see, something an Antarctica flight cannot provide. Experts in subjects like Antarctica’s geography, history, and wildlife will typically present introductory talks during the crossing to help put things into perspective once you arrive.

A small airplane landed in snow after completing a flight to Antarctica.

What is the best way of travel to Antarctica?

Most tourists who travel to the White Continent do so on cruise liners that depart from South America. Typically, these trips start with a two-day trip through the notoriously treacherous Drake Passage, which links South with Antarctica. Then they spend another five or six days time exploring the continent’s coastline before returning across the Drake.

Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Hobart are a few of the commercial airports with commercial flights to Antarctica. All fly cruises are 12 to 14 hours long and leave and arrive on the same day, with the exception of a New Year’s Eve cruise that travels overnight.

Icebergs start appearing after three hours, and Antarctica flights spend at least four hours over the continent. The flights fly about 10,000 feet above Antarctica but do not actually land there. On the continent, there has never been a sightseeing flight landing. Compared to a cruise, Antarctica flights required less planning, money, and time.

However, since the two experiences are “totally different,” it is unfair to compare sightseeing by airplane with Antarctica air cruise. When taking a cruise, passengers arrive on land and see about 40 kilometers (25 miles) of coastline. Around 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of coastline, ice caps, mountain ranges, and various research centers are covered by the flights.

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Eglė Bartaševičiūtė
A passionate traveler and an avid aviation enthusiast bringing you the most well-founded, accurate and up-to-date industry content.

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