14 Best Things To Do In Antarctica To Do On Your Expedition

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If ever given the chance to visit the seventh and arguably the most enchanting continent of Antarctica, take it! I can assure you there is nowhere on the planet quite like it.

Although you might be thinking Antartica is all just icebergs and penguins, you’d be wrong. In fact, there are many unmissable things to do in Antartica that make it a unique and thrilling destination to adventure to.

Two penguins dreaming sitting on a rock, mountains in the background

After having the chance to spend nearly 15 days on a Chilean Naval Icebreaker with a National Geographic team, we learned there is much to discover and enjoy in the cold continent.

In this guide, we’ve shared some of the top attractions in Antartica and the highlights to experience.

We recommend the Antarctica tours from reputable company G Adventures. Not only will the G Expedition steer you closer to some of our planet’s most amazing places, their professional and highly-skilled team of on-board experts offer keen insight, unique perspectives, and hands-on attention not found in a guidebook. See the G Expedition tours and availability here.

15 Best Things To Do In Antarctica

1. Marvel at The Magnificent Landscape At Paradise Bay

icebergs in the water in antarctica

The Antarctic summer starts in December and runs through till about March. The skies are usually bright and the temperature is no colder than a crisp, sunny winter’s day.

The summer is the best time to see Antarctica at its most beautiful, and arguably the best place to witness the beauty of Antartica’s landscapes is at the pristine Paradise Bay.

Paradise Bay is on the West side of Antarctica and the still waters and fascinating icebergs make it the epitome of Antarctica.

icebergs in the water

Visiting this harbor is simply put—magical.

On a typical summer day you would see exquisite ice sculptures standing tall and majestic, clear skies reflecting all the mightiness of the mountains into the clear bay.

Albatrosses spreading their 11ft wings and filling the skies as leopard seals bask in the sun on an ice float. Time stops still here.

The beauty is breath taking and is the go-to place if you want to experience the magical wonder that is Antarctica!

2. Run the Antarctic Half-Marathon or Marathon

On King George’s Island in nearly sub-zero conditions there are the Antarctic Half-Marathon and Marathon for those that are the most hardcore!

How great would finishing a race with a nice little medal be, to commemorate the trip to Antarctica?

3. Lick an Iceberg

a boat next to icebergs
Up close and personal

The first things that I noticed when entering Antarctic territory were the beasts that were the icebergs.

They speckled the water and stood tall against the clear sky. It had always been on my bucket list to lick a real iceberg and where better to cross this off my list than in Antarctica!

Icebergs are never still and are constantly shifting positions due to the wind. For this reason a lot of bigger ships tend to steer clear of these ‘bergs. No one wants a repeat of the Titanic!

The chances come with smaller vessels, primarily Zodiacs. They are must smaller and can navigate around icebergs with ease.

boat moving between icebergs

We had the chance to pull up next to a rather small iceberg and see how far into the water it actually went. The old adage is true, what we saw really was “just the tip of the iceberg!”

Getting exciting at the possibility of being able to lick one of these great ice blocks we convinced our zodiac driver to pull in between two icebergs. Needless to say, this was a bad idea.

The imperceptible motions of the icebergs were lost on us and soon we found ourselves trapped between them.

Luckily, a flatboat from a base was returning to shore when they spotted us and were able to aid in our rescue!

4. Send A Postcard From Port Lockroy

british flag in rock surrounded by penguins Port Lockroy Antarctica

If you stop by Port Lockroy make sure to send yourself a cool postcard stamped from Antarctica.

The Port Lockroy Museum used to be the British Base but is now a full time post office.

It is a cute little structure from which you can send yourself mail stamped with Antarctica’s stamp!

5. Take A Selfie With A Penguin (and enjoy the other wildlife)

penguin on the rocks next to seal

The best place to enjoy the frolicking of penguins would be on Paradise Bay. The snow capped mountains in the background with the little creatures in tuxedos happily scampering about is quite a sight.

They love to slide around on their bellies and splash around in the water. Their squawking and cooing is a pleasurable cacophony. Here is the ideal place to watch them play and take photographs.

The penguins on Antarctica aren’t used to humans but they sure aren’t scared of us either. They happily run up to you and circle your feet.

There are several species of penguin in Antartica, such as King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, and Emperor Penguins. The penguins at Paradise Bay are Gentoo Penguins.

In terms of wildlife there is more to see than just penguins. Sometimes Leopard Seals, Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and Weddell Seals beach themselves on shore to relax after a meal, or even to lie in wait for the oblivious penguins to walk within reach.

seal on iceberg in Antarctica

These creatures aren’t used to humans either but they are not as friendly as the penguins.

We were advised by the people from the base and the National Geographic Team to leave the seals (and any other creature that wasn’t a penguin) alone, for our own safety.

In fact, it’s not a good idea to pick up or touch the penguins either. Many people do, but it’s not ethical practice and may frighten the penguin so we don’t advocate for this.

6. Take A Helicopter Ride for an Aerial view of Antarctica

Aerial View of Antarctica iceberg
Antarctica, Weddell Sea, iceberg

It is breathtaking to get an aerial view of Antarctica and its magnificent landscape.

Using a helicopter is probably the best way to travel around the continent and witness the Emperor penguin colonies, or even fly amongst albatross.

A popular spot to fly over is the Weddell Sea region, which is known for its wildlife.

You may also be in with a chance of seeing humpback whales, orcas, right whales swimming in the ocean, or see seals basking on ice floes.

7. Take a Shot with Someone at A Research Base

red huts at Argentinian Esperanza Base at Hope Bay
Argentinian Esperanza Base at Hope Bay

It’s an odd thing when you ask someone where home is and their answer is Antarctica.

This is quite the case for the roughly 4,000 people that call Antarctica home during the summer months and the 1,000 that stay there during the winter as well!

Having a look into a base you wouldn’t even realize that you were on Antarctica. In fact, there are 70 permanent bases on the continent, each belonging to a different country – though not all of them are open to the public.

There’s a rather up-to-date facility at Base O’Higgins, a base belonging to Chile. They are staffed with all the amenities one could hope for including a basketball court!

Some other research stations you can visit as a tourist are Vernadsky Station, which is owned by Ukraine, Brown Station, Carlini Base, and Cámara Station which belong to Argentina.

So go ahead, be bold, as to take a shot (whether a drink or with a camera) with a person from within one of these awesome bases.

8. Check Out Observation Hill for a Stunning View

If you’re looking for an incredible view of the snowy peaks and icebergs, then head to the McMurdo Station and trek up Observation Hill.

It is not that much of a trek from the station (roughly 30-40 minutes) with an elevation of 754-foot (230 meter), but the view from the top is stunning. Though be warned, it’s a steep trek!

There is a beautiful view of the Ross Ice Shelf and views of Mt. Erebus; the perfect spot for quiet reflection.

9. Visit the South Pole

building on The South Pole

The South Pole lies at 90°S and 0°W. The best way to access this point is via helicopter, because it’s quicker and safer.

However, you can also reach the South Pole by trekking. The trek is not for the faint hearted though – you need to be equipped with specialized polar gear, designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the icy continent.

You can also reach the South Pole by vehicle.

Standing at the South Pole is how one can claim that they have indeed reached all the way to the bottom of the Earth. You can also visit the US Scientific research base known as the Amundsen – Scott South Pole Station.

10. Take a Dip in Deception Island’s Hot Spring

people sitting in Deception Island's hot spring Antarctica
Soak it up

Another bucket list thing to do in Antartica is experience the joy of bathing in a hot spring in Antarctica. Yes, you heard me! Strip down and swim around in warm Antarctic waters!

On Deception Island, at the South Shetlands in Antarctica, there is warm volcanic soil and even warmer water underground. This is because the island sits in a caldera above an active volcano.

If you’re feeling particularly brave you can wade into the warm shore water or else just dig up some of the volcanic soil and climb into a steaming hot pool of water right on Antarctica’s mainland!

11. Go Kayaking Around Antartica Peninsula

kayaks in antarctica

One of the best ways to see Antartica is to get out on the water. Grab your paddles and life vest, and kayak around the icebergs and sheets of glacial ice.

While most cruise expeditions will have smaller zodiac cruises that take you to land, a kayak tour is a great way to get up close and personal with the landscape and wildlife.

While you might be anxious about the water conditions, the water around the Antarctic Peninsula is usually very still and calm, since it’s protected by the glaciers.

Sometimes it’s even possible to be greeted by curious whales in the waters.

Check out kayak tours in Antarctica here!

12. Go on A Whale Watching Excursion

orcas in antarctica

Not trip to Antarctica would be complete without taking a whale-watching adventure to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Antarctica boasts an abundance of whale species, including humpback, orca, minke, and blue whales. The sheer size and grace of these magnificent animals as they breach, tail-slap, and swim alongside your zodiac vessel is a sight to behold.

Not only do you get to witness their behavior, but you can learn about their conservation needs through expert guides and educational lectures onboard your expedition vessil.

13. Do a Polar Plunge

Does the idea of taking a dive in cold water scare you? That’s exactly why you should do it!

The most thrilling thing to do in Antarctica is to take a cold plunge. This is when you strip down to your swimsuit, attach a safety rope around your waist, and dive in.

Sometimes shots are supplied so you can warm your insides up before and after. After all, you may need to be a little tipsy to take this challenge on!

14. Go Snowshoeing

Another great way to see the landscape of Antartica is to for a hike in snowshoes.

Imagine strapping on snowshoes and traversing through vast expanses of untouched snow, surrounded by towering glaciers, majestic mountains, and an endless white horizon.

It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Antarctica, exploring areas inaccessible by other means.

Best Time To Visit Antartica

Inflatable boat full of tourists, watching for whales and seals, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

The best time to visit Antarctica is during the summer, which runs from November to March.

During this time, the temperatures are relatively mild, ranging from -2°C to 8°C (28°F to 46°F).

The days are longer, with up to 20 hours of daylight, allowing for more time to explore and admire the stunning landscapes.

Wildlife is also abundant during this period, with penguins, seals, and whales being easily spotted.

The best time to see nesting penguins and baby penguins hatching is from November and early December, while late February and March are the best months to do whale watching as they migrate through the Drake Passage.

We recommend the Antarctica tours from reputable company G Adventures. Not only will the G Expedition steer you closer to some of our planet’s most amazing places, their professional and highly-skilled team of on-board experts offer keen insight, unique perspectives, and hands-on attention not found in a guidebook. See the G Expedition tours and availability here.

How to Get to Antartica

Researcher in Antarctica next to penguins

Antartica isn’t a destination where you can simply book a flight and go. There’s only one way to visit the continent as a tourist, and that’s on an Antarctic Cruise or by joining as a volunteer/research on an Antarctic Expedition.

Before booking a cruise expedition, be sure to research reputable tour operators.

Most travelers reach this icy paradise by boarding a cruise ship from Ushuaia, Argentina, which serves as the gateway to the Antarctic Peninsula and the Falkland Islands.

Alternatively, some opt for fly-cruise options, where they first take a flight to Punta Arenas, Chile, before boarding a ship.

It’s important to choose a voyage that suits your preferences and budget, though the cheapest cruise that we’ve come across is still around $4000 USD per person for ten days.

Note that the only way to reach Antarctica is to sail through Drake Passage, a notoriously rough section of ocean where waves can reach 12 meters (40 feet). Be sure to pack plenty of motion sickness tablets.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, those are the best things to do in Antartica, and as you can see, there’s a lot of cool things to see and do.

Since most people visit Antartica as part of a cruise, be sure to check out what excursions and activities they have planned to help you decide on what to do.

Some cruises have workshops and educational talks, as well as additional excursions you can take.

The beauty of visiting Antartica is that much of the planning is done for you when you purchase an expedition package, but we hope this guide gave you some inspiration for what activities to look for when booking an expedition.

Have you been to Antarctica before? Is it on your bucket list now? Let us know in the comments.

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