Planning & Tips

The 10 Best Places to Visit in Antarctica

As one of the planet’s most remote and inhospitable destinations, Antarctica remains undiscovered by the average tourist. But to the most adventurous of travellers who take the great leap south, there is plenty to be enticed and amazed by, no matter where you explore on the continent.

Antarctica’s icy landscapes are dotted with islands, glaciers and vast ice sheets that are home to pristine wilderness and an array of lesser-spotted wildlife. From the huge colonies of chattering penguins to the world’s most southerly active volcano (Mount Erebus) the wildlife and landmarks of Antarctica are truly a sight to behold. 

So, for those itching to discover its frozen landscapes, you may be asking yourself one question: where exactly are the best places in Antarctica to visit? We’re glad you asked, and our team of experts have shared the top 10 places to visit in Antarctica to see the very best of the continent during a once-in-a-lifetime polar adventure.

The Antarctic Peninsula

The Antarctic Peninsula is the most accessible and popularly visited  place in Antarctica. Situated around the northernmost tip of the continent, this is the area that most cruises incorporate into their itineraries when visiting Antarctica.

Gentoo penguins in Antarctica
Gentoo penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula

The Antarctic Peninsula is bursting with life, and there are many species to be spotted here. Top of most people’s lists are the penguins: gentoo, chinstraps and Adelies that nest in large rookeries. Hauled out on the ice around them are predatory leopard seals, along with crabeater and Weddell seals. 

During the summer migration season, whales can be seen throughout the waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula. February and March in particular are known for being the two best months to spot whales in the continent’s waters, especially humpbacks and minke whales. 

The  scenery in the Antarctic Peninsula is some of the continent’s most impressive. Its narrow passageways carved their way through the ice and are woven between islands and natural harbours, offering a fantastic position to spot glacier upon glacier pouring out from towering white mountains. When choosing which Antarctica destinations to visit, for the quintessential polar experience, venturing to the Antarctic Peninsula is the absolute place to start.

The Antarctic Circle

The Antarctic Circle is found at 66 degrees south latitude, and is an intangible line that encircles the entire continent. Travelling below it is the sign of a truly epic Antarctic adventure. 

Stonington Island in Antarctica
Historic base at Stonington Island, south of the Antarctic Circle

Sailing south of the Antarctic Circle is only possible late in the season when the sea ice has receded enough to allow access. This is where travellers can expect to have an unvarnished Antarctic experience, filled with towering glaciers and vast icebergs, and rich opportunities for whale-watching. 

It’s also where those visiting Antarctica can expect to have some of their most memorable and exciting experiences and expeditions, whether this be kayaking near glaciers or even (for the most daring of sorts) taking a polar plunge! 

Cruises that sail across the Antarctic Circle are also generally longer than regular Peninsula cruises, so afford more time to actually explore Antarctica.  So, to fully appreciate the wonders of the world’s most southern destination, the Antarctic Circle should be high on any polar traveller’s list.  

South Georgia Island

One of the planet’s wildest destinations, South Georgia Island is a sub-Antarctic haven for wildlife. This 100-mile-long mountainous island is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean and is part of the South Georgia and the South Sandwich group of islands – a British Overseas Territory.

King penguins on South Georgia
The king penguins of South Georgia

The wonders of nature on the South Georgia Island are spectacular, making this destination one of the top places for wildlife enthusiasts cruising to Antarctica. King penguins are found in colonies of almost unimaginable size, while keen birdwatchers will also get a kick of rare endemics like the South Georgia pipit and pintail duck, along with nesting wandering albatrosses. The beaches are packed with an almost uncountable number of fur seals, alongside massive elephant seals.Photographers will hardly know where to point their lenses – both at the sheer numbers of wildlife and the breathtaking scenery.  

South Georgia Island is also one of the best places to visit for Antarctic history enthusiasts. The Anglo-Irish polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton died on South Georgia in 1922, and is buried in Grytviken. This lonely outpost was the birthplace of the Antarctic whaling industry, and its old Norwegian Church and museum are relics of this troubled history. 

The Weddell Sea

Found on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Weddell Sea is one of Antarctica’s more elusive destinations. Its waters are clogged with pack ice and enormous tabular icebergs, caught in its slowly moving currents. 

Pack ice on the Weddell Sea seen during a helicopter flight in Antarctica
Pack ice of the Weddell Sea

The particular challenges of visiting the Weddell Sea mean that only a handful of ships sail here each year, visiting in the warmer months of summer when the ice is at its loosest. Those that do reward travellers with some of the most extraordinary icescapes, and an indelible connection with history, as this was the sea that Shackleton sailed on during his ill-fated Endurance expedition. 

The Weddell Sea is also home to Antarctica’s northernmost colony of emperor penguins, who can be visited on Snow Hill island by helicopter, along with some of the largest accessible Adelie penguin colonies on the continent. 

The Falkland Islands

Another of the best places to visit on an Antarctic Peninsula cruise is the Falkland Islands. In contrast to the snow and glaciers, you may expect to see in every corner of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands are home to green and gold landscapes that are brimming with flora and fauna.

Albatross colony on the Falkland Islands
Black-browed albatross colony at West Point in the Falkland Islands

In fact, it’s the Falkland Islands biodiversity that surprises many visitors. The island supports a wide array of species. Birdwatchers are particularly rewarded, with five types of penguin, several albatrosses, many South American species and the island’s own endemic Falkland steamer duck. In the Falklands’ waters, look out for Commerson’s dolphins and sei whales.

Aside from its exceptional wildlife, the islands have their own capital known as Stanley, where most of the population lives. The capital has a uniquely British character (we recommend its pubs and locally brewed craft ales and beers), as well as a superb maritime museum. 

The Ross Sea

Sometimes nicknamed ‘the Last Ocean’ for its extreme southerly location, the Ross Sea is one of the most pristine marine ecosystems on the planet, as well as one of the hardest to reach.

Adelie penguins in the Ross Sea
Adelie penguins on the Ross Sea

 Around every corner of this remote polar bastion, you’ll find Antarctica’s extraordinary landscapes in their full glory, from gigantic ice shelves to massive tabular icebergs, and the gently smoking peaks of the volcanoes Erebus and Terror  

Emperor penguins can be found in significant numbers along the Ross Sea’s coastline. The region is home to roughly one-quarter of all Emperor penguins, as well as enormous Adelie penguin colonies.  This is one of the best places to visit in Antarctica to spot these species.

The Ross Sea was also the crucible for the race to the South Pole, and still contains several of the historic huts of explorers like Shackleton and Captain Scott, still preserved as if they had just stepped outside.

Anyone who ventures to the Ross Sea is honoured indeed, as the region sees fewer than 500 visitors each year. So, if you’re looking for one of the most remote and interesting places to visit in Antarctica, the Ross Sea should be high on your list.

The Drake Passage

The Drake Passage is known for its unpredictable and undoubtedly rough nature, but that’s what makes this destination so adventurous – and wins it a position on our list of the best places to visit on an Antarctic trip.

Sunset over the Drake Passage
Sunset over the Drake Passage

Historically this passage that lies between Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel on the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula was a route feared by even some of the most intrepid of explorers, but now it’s a common path taken by tourists from across the globe, and a rite of passage for anyone heading to Antarctica. 

Taking roughly 48 hours to cross by ship, it is possible to fly across the Drake Passage in less than two hours for those who would rather give this a miss. But, in our opinion, it’s not the full Antarctic voyage without valiantly journeying across this passage for the most rewarding of experiences. As you venture through its water, you can spot albatrosses and other seabirds on the wing, and if you’re lucky, whales and dolphins.

The South Pole

Visiting the South Pole is a dream for many, but few have ever made it to the planet’s southernmost point. But it’s all the more possible as specialist operators have amped up offerings to help the most adventurous of travellers fulfil a lifelong ambition and follow in the footsteps of explorers like Roald Amundsen and Captain Scott.

Flags at the South Pole
The South Pole

The South Pole is Antarctica’s jewel in the crown – the ultimate polar destination. Positioned at the very centre of the continent’s largest ice sheet, it is one of most iconic and elusive landmarks in Antarctica.  The spot itself is marked by a simple red and white striped pole ringed by the flags of the signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. Near it is the permanently manned Amundsen-Scott research base. 

You can actually fly to the South Pole itself on  charter flights from Punta Arenas in Chile. If you don’t fancy recreating the days of the early explorers and hauling your own sledge here, opt for one of these flights instead to take you to the very heart of the continent. 

The South Shetland Islands

The South Shetland Islands lie to the south of the Drake Passage and are often among the first places that are visited during an Antarctic Peninsula cruise. Those who step onto the South Shetland archipelago can expect prime wildlife watching, wild scenery and Antarctic history, with each island offering something new and unique to uncover. 

Elephant seal on Deception Island
Elephant Seal pup on Deception Island

King George Island, is the largest of the South Shetland Islands and one of the most commonly visited. First claimed in 1819 by the British (and gaining its name from King George the Third), it is home to a multitude of scientific research stations, as well as the airport for fly-fly cruises. The island is also home to much wildlife from elephant and leopard seals to gentoo and chinstrap penguins, making it the perfect introduction to Antarctica for travellers.

Deception Island is another of the South Shetland archipelago’s most famous isles. It is, in fact, not even an island. It is actually an active volcano and has a landscape composed primarily of volcanic slopes, ash-covered plains, and gently steaming beaches. Those entranced by epic geological landscapes will be mesmerised by Deception Island and its impressive geothermal activity and rock formations like the narrow Neptune’s Bellows, while history buffs can walk through the rusting remains of one of Antarctica’s last whaling stations.

The Lemaire Channel

A celebrated  destination amongst those visiting Antarctica, the Lemaire Channel is a spectacular 11 mile-long channel known for its calm waters and extremely photogenic nature. Traversing the narrow ice-filled passage is one of the most highly anticipated aspects of any Antarctic Peninsula cruise, as travellers experience cliffs of rock and ice cliffs dramatically surrounding their ship.

Lemaire Channel
The calm waters of the Lemaire Channel

From its wild mountains draped with glaciers in tops to its mirror-like blue waters, it’s the Lemaire Channel’s quiet beauty that makes it seem like it’s been plucked straight out of a dream. Although visits to the Lemaire Channel can never be guaranteed, for those visiting the Antarctic Peninsula for the first or hundredth time, the chance to sail through its waters is always an undoubted highlight.


Antarctica is a marvel that many dream of being able to visit, but when it comes to where to explore during an adventure here, you’re spoilt for choice. Here at Swoop Antarctica, our team of experts have a passion for exploring the White Continent and are dedicated to finding you the best trip for your wants and needs. We hope this tour of the best places to visit in Antarctica  has you wanting to start planning your trip of a lifetime – if it has, you can get in touch with our team today.