Not sure where to combine with Antarctica? We present the most common combinations in Argentina and Chile.
The question of where to combine with Antarctica is a relatively straightforward answer for most, because however you choose to visit Antarctica, you will almost certainly arrive there from Patagonia in South America. However, there are a number of different options for you to consider, which open up interesting combinations depending on your time, interests and budget considerations.
Antarctica Cruises from Argentina
The vast majority of expedition cruises, both those which head due south through the Drake Passage and those which first swing east to the Falkland Islands, depart from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego - the southernmost city in the world. Spectacularly located amid remote mountain scenery, this bustling port city sits on the fabled Beagle Channel in the heart of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Most visitors stay one night in the city, with a morning free to walk around and gain an introduction to its culture and landscape.
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego (photo by Sea Spirit)
You would likely reach Ushuaia via a flight from Buenos Aires. We would also recommend a three night stay to first enjoy the European heritage, old-time cafes and tango halls of the capital. Doing so in the company of a Veloso Tours local guide will give you a unique insight into the culture and political history of Argentina and a perspective on local life here. It is a wonderful way to add an extra dimension to your trip to Antarctica.
Flying to Antarctica from Chilean Patagonia
Another option involves choosing to fly to Antarctica and upon landing enjoy a cruise around the peninsula on the Ocean Nova or the Hebridean Sky. These boutique boats allow for intimate exploration of Antarctica, saving you the journey through the Drake Passage. and tend to depart from Punta Arenas, the Chilean base in Tierra del Fuego, often as a round-trip, but occasionally returning to Ushuaia. When departing from Punta Arenas you would be best served by first enjoying some time in Santiago, sampling some world class wines in historic family vineyards and exploring the city's fascinating recent political history and its grand Parisian-style architecture. You can fly there direct from London Heathrow with British Airways and then onwards to Punta Arenas after a two or three night stay.
Cruising to Antarctica via Cape Horn & Tierra del Fuego
As well as flying between Punta Arenas and Antarctica, there is an option to combine a crossing of the Drake Passage on the way out aboard the Hebridean Sky or Ocean Nova with a return flight to Chile. Rather than beginning in Punta Arenas, these Air-cruises start over the border in Ushuaia and allow time to explore the fjords and channels of Tierra del Fuego, one of the most remote inhabited regions of the world. You will also sail towards the legendary Cape Horn, meeting point of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. If weather permits then you will be able to set foot on this rarely visited island, before setting sail for the South Shetland Islands for penguin, seal and sea bird encounters. On King George Island you will have the chance to visit the Chilean Base Frei and the Russian Base Bellingshausen before flying back to Punta Arenas.
It should be acknowledged that this five night express itinerary will give you a wonderful introduction to the unique landscapes and wildlife of these remote regions, but will not actually reach the Antarctic Peninsula or give you a proper immersion in this special place as other itineraries do. It will also fail to give you the same in-depth exploration and understanding of Tierra del Fuego as the specialist Australis Expedition Cruises do.
Combining the Falklands & South Georgia with Antarctica
At the other end of the duration scale is the option to combine a cruise to Antarctica with the UK overseas territories of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Cruises depart from Ushuaia in Argentina and swing east to the remote Falklands, where visitors will encounter a huge variety and abundance of bird and marine life, including several species of penguins, albatrosses, fur seals and elephant seals, as well as the possibility of sighting whales and dolphins. There is also a cultural aspect to this part of the cruise, with war memorials and relics, cosy British pubs, an impressive cathedral and decaying shipwrecks to be discovered.
South Georgia is one of the world's very best and least explored wildlife havens. This most remote of islands is home to millions of sea birds, penguins and fur seals, with colonies gathering together on an unimaginable scale and whales regularly sighted in the waters surrounding South Georgia. The island is also the final resting place of the legendary polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and home to an excellent museum in the whaling station of Grytviken.
The Falklands and South Georgia are typically visited on three week cruises, which then head onwards to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Reaching Antarctica from Peninsula Valdes
As well as those departing from Ushuaia, the Sea Spirit vessel also offers a three week cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula from Puerto Madryn - the base for the wildlife-rich coastline of the Peninsula Valdes and one of the centres of Welsh Patagonia. Departing in October 2018 and February 2019, these cruises allow you to combine Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn and a cruise into a four week itinerary, ideal for wildlife lovers. Those visiting in November should stand a good chance of seeing Southern Right whales as they come to breed in the sheltered coves of the region and perhaps even orcas as they hunt near the shoreline.
As you can see, there are a number of ways to visit Antarctica in combination with Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. Consult our tours below to give you an indication of specific itineraries and costs and get in touch to discuss your options further with our expert Travel Consultants.
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