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Very narrow appeal but extraordinarily high ratings from true Venturers and some Mid-Venturers

Did You Know … ?

  • The continent has 25 airports and 53 heliports; runways are solid ice.
  • The marker for the geographic South Pole is moved each year because the ice is always moving.
  • The ice holds about 70% of the world’s fresh water; if it melted, Earth’s oceans would rise nearly 230 feet.
  • The continent’s largest land animal is a fly.
  • In summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than is received at the Equator.

The white continent

Antarctica is the world’s fifth-largest continent, but it has no native human population and hence no indigenous culture; it is the coldest, windiest and driest place a tourist could ever visit; touring season is confined to November through March, and visitors are limited to one hour ashore per landing to protect the environment.

It would seem Antarctica, dubbed the white continent because it is 98% covered by ice, hasn’t got a lot going for it from the touristic standpoint. But travelers who see it give the destination among the highest ratings of any place on Earth. The reviewers are the most adventurous of travelers; few others ever go.

These adventurous sorts rave about spectacular beauty, pointing to icy mountains, glaciers and plateaus under a low-hanging sun and very, very long summer days. They rave about the animals, particularly the penguins and whales. The penguins, seals and other wildlife are still unafraid of humans. Expeditions may include kayaking among icebergs while watching penguins swim by.

A trip to Antarctica is also a learning experience at several levels. For one thing, the issues related to climate change and care for the environment are thrown into sharp relief. Such trips are typically accompanied by lecturers and well-informed guides who provide the relevant insights.

In addition, veterans of an Antarctica trip have a new sense of wonder regarding the grandeur of Mother Nature, and often, a new humility about man’s place in the universe.

Nearly all visitors arrive by sea, most of them by sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina. That sea journey involves crossing the tumultuous Drake Passage, the body of water between Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. Visitors travel in ships of various sizes, ranging from yachts to purpose-built expedition ships to larger cruise ships. However, passengers aboard the largest ships are only making a sail-by visit and cannot disembark because of risk of damage to the environment.

Antarctica has recently seen rapid growth in the number of tourists as well as more accidents, leading to calls to limit the size of ships and number of visitors to the world’s most pristine destination.

Things to do

In this, a destination for the venturesome, the list of things to do is determined by international treaties, which put fences around activities to protect the environment — and by the creativity of the tour operators who determine the nature of shipboard activities and the types of expertise offered by tour guides. Weather conditions also could curtail the number of visits ashore or, if they are very good, could guarantee near-perfect photographs to go with life-changing experiences.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) at  For a list of its members, consult