Facts About tourism in Antarctica
What time of year do tourists visit Antarctica?
The best conditions for visiting the Antarctic Peninsula occur between mid-November and early March. East Antarctica is less accessible: visits take place in late December–March. Summer means milder temperatures, less ice and more visible wildlife.
How do tourists get to Antarctica?
Most visitors reach Antarctica by ship. These voyages last from 10 days to several weeks, and ships range from the basic to the luxurious. Most (except the largest cruise ships, of 500 or more passengers) offer the chance to go ashore.
The vast majority of ships visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which is one and a half to two days’ sailing across the Drake Passage from South America. Voyages to East Antarctica are less common, and typically spend 10 days crossing the Southern Ocean en route to the continent, including visits to subantarctic islands, after departing from Hobart (Australia) or New Zealand's South Island.
Each year, some tourists fly to Antarctica. Several hundred board aircraft in South America, and then set off from a base camp to go mountain climbing or skiing, or join a cruise from the ice edge.
It's also possible to do a 12-hour round trip over Antarctica in a jumbo jet (e.g. from Melbourne or Sydney). This form of sightseeing or ‘flightseeing’ is the quickest and cheapest option, and while it doesn’t offer the experience of setting foot on the frozen continent, it generally includes films, lectures, spectacular views and live radio contact with Antarctic stations.
How much does it cost?
As a guide a berth on a typical tour ship capable of carrying 50-200 passengers to the Antarctic Peninsula (e.g. departing from Ushuaia, in southern Argentina) costs between AUD$5, 600 and $20, 000 per person. The price depends on the length of the tour (2 to 3 weeks) and the quality of accommodation.
Tourist vessels making the longer journey to East Antarctica (e.g. departing from Hobart to the Ross Sea or Australia's Antarctic Territory) charged between AUD$11, 500 and $35, 000 per person, again depending on the length of time at sea and the quality of the cabin.
It's also possible to charter yachts. The fee varies according to the sort of charter: some operators invite the customers to design their own itinerary, and offer a crewed yacht (e.g. three crew, with room for perhaps eight passengers) for roughly AUD$3, 000 per day; others offer a set itinerary over a month or longer, for approximately AUD$12, 000 per person.
Are there any tourists on Australian Antarctic research vessels?
No. The Australian Antarctic program’s vessels and aeroplanes only carry people to do science and support Australian research stations, and to undertake other official duties.