6 reasons to book an Antarctic Circle adventure

  1. Join an exclusive club of polar travellers who have sailed further south than anyone else on the planet
  2. Enjoy more time in Antarctica with extended itineraries that are longer than a traditional Peninsula cruise
  3. Immerse yourself in the unbridled remoteness and beauty of parts of Antarctica few ever get to visit
  4. Connect with the past at the perfectly preserved historic huts of an earlier generation of polar explorers and scientists
  5. Experience the unearthly strangeness of up to 24 hours of daylight south of 66 degrees latitudes
  6. Contrast the wilder remote face of Antarctica with the attractions of the Peninsula on the same voyage
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Ian says

After our first landing south of the Circle, we celebrated with champagne while the Expedition Leader read from Shackleton’s diary. We were the only human beings for miles around – it really felt like we'd had a close encounter with Antarctica’s wild heart.

Ian Young Antarctic Sales Manager

Highlights of the Antarctic Circle

Crossing the Antarctic Circle

For many polar travellers, just making it to the 7th Continent is achievement enough, but crossing the Antarctic Circle is where you’ll find the most select group of enthusiasts, inspired by the romance of some of the world’s greatest explorers.

This frozen line of latitude of almost mythic proportions lies at 66°33’ south. Crossing the Arctic Circle in the north is a relatively straightforward proposition, but very few travellers ever get to make it this far south. Achieving the Circle means sailing much further south than on a classic Antarctic Peninsula trip – which in turn means that these cruises get to spend more time exploring Antarctica.

As you sail south, the landscapes become starker and even more untamed, until the ship’s navigation announces your arrival. While there’s no ‘sign’ that you’ve crossed the line, the crew and expedition team traditionally hold an on board celebration, to celebrate your graduation into a very select travel club indeed.

Tourists celebration crossing the Antarctic Circle

Remoteness

Sailing below the Antarctic Circle is an opportunity to truly see another side of the White Continent. While the Peninsula can feel like a relatively intimate environment, the landscapes south of the Circle offer up a complete change: expansive, raw and rugged. Antarctica here feels even more untamed than you can imagine.

Locations visited on an Antarctic Circle cruise can include the stunning Crystal Sound, where many ships cross the Circle, the epic glaciers of Marguerite Bay and Red Rock Ridge, one of the continental landing sites south of the Circle. A true highlights is attempting to pass through The Gullet, a strait so narrow you can almost reach out and touch the rocks either side of you. Add in the ice floating in the water and it's one of the most dramatic passages in Antarctica. 

Sailing beneath the Antarctic Circle feels like entering a land no one else has encountered: with relatively few visitors making it down here, yours are sure to be the first footprints in the snow.

Marguerite By south of the Antarctic Circle
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Swoop says

Antarctic Circle itineraries can vary greatly, from just dipping below the Circle for the kudos of making it so far to spending an extended period exploring the more southerly latitudes, so check carefully which ship is going to be right for you. 

History

Sailing south of the Circle allows you to connect with a history of Antarctica that has been literally frozen in time. The region has a number of abandoned research bases that transport you back to the early frontiers of polar science.

Horseshoe Island, Detaille Island and Stonington Island are all home to a series of British research bases established in the 1940s and 1950s. They have been perfectly preserved by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, and several of their buildings are open to be explored – even with original tins of food still on the shelves. Base E, on Stonington Island is especially notable as the place where Edith ‘Jackie’ Ronne stayed in 1947-48: the first woman to overwinter in Antarctica.

Other pioneers are remembered in the landscapes here: the delightfully-named Pourqoui-Pas Island for instance takes its name from the ship of Jean-Baptiste Charcot’s French Antarctic Expedition in 1907.

Stonington Island in Marguerite Bay, south of the Antarctic Circle

Wildlife

Visitors to the Antarctic Circle often anticipate that the further south they travel, the richer the wildlife experience, and are surprised to learn that this isn’t actually the case.

The large penguin colonies that are a feature of the northern Antarctic Peninsula are absent south of the circle. If you see penguins, they are likely to be individuals or in isolated groups. Adelie penguins are the most likely species to spot.

There will be a small number of seals, with a chance of seeing crabeater seals, which are more dependent on sea ice for their lifestyle. A notable exception to the scarcity of wildlife is if your ship makes it to Jenny Island, which is known for its fur seals and elephant seals, particularly late in the season.

While the Circle is more about the scenery than the wildlife, the voyage here still passes along the northern Peninsula, so there will be plenty of opportunities for classic Antarctic wildlife watching.

Adelie penguins south of the Antarctic Circle
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What our customers think of Antarctic Circle Cruises

Antarctic Circle Cruises trips scored 4.4/5 from 100 reviews

We had just crossed the Antarctic Circle and the captain held us stationary as we watched the sunset. The sounds of whales were all around us and the light was perfect. I’m a sucker for sunsets and this one brought tears to my eyes. I will never forget this moment! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Mike Stafford - USA

This trip was the trip of a lifetime and I’m already trying to find a way to get back someday. It’s life changing in some ways I already know… and some that I have yet to realize. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Gina Vickrey - USA

We were so taken care of and everyone on the team and crew's enthusiasm was contagious. I loved that we got to go south of the Antarctic Circle and spend more time on the journey. I could have spent even more time. I was heartbroken to disembark as I fell a little in love with the people and the place. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Courtney Caldwell - USA

10/10 - It's exactly what we wanted to do, go where very few have gone. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Joanne March - USA

The scenery goes beyond what any photograph can show you. You have to experience it for yourself. It's also so cool to be able to walk around wildlife that, pretty much, ignores you and just goes about its daily life. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Joanne March - USA

Most memorable moment? Enjoying the whole experience of being in the Polar Circle with fantastic and educated crew. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2024

Diane Luhrs - Australia

10/10 - Crossing the Antarctic Circle and getting to the 7th Continent were the last of my bucket list items. We lucked out on the weather and were able to spend 3 days below the circle going into different bays and seeing different islands. VERY FORTUNATE! Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Wendy Williamson - USA

Most memorable moment? A perfect day on Stonington Island. The temperature was about 45°F, no wind, and bright sun. We were off ship to go visit the earliest remaining US Antarctic camp (circa 1940). The magic started as we headed back. The ship was in this small bay waiting for all the zodiacs to get back to ship. We were in no hurry... but heading back, the floating sheet ice was continually moving with the current and making a "jigsaw puzzle" effect in the entire bay. None of the 5 zodiacs could follow the same path back. It was such a surreal feeling zig-zagging back and forth through the sheet ice... each zodiac finding its own path in the quiet and still bay. No one spoke... no one wanted to break the magic. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Wendy Williamson - USA

10 - It was truly a trip of a lifetime. My goal was to go below the Polar Circle. That was only the beginning of my incredible adventure. Every day was more inspiring than the next. What I was most pleased with was that being on such a small ship afforded us so much more than the large ships could provide. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Wendy Williamson - USA

This was the perfect trip for us. We loved being south of the Antarctic Circle on the solstice as well. We felt very lucky to go places that most ships don’t go. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Patti Shelton - USA

Most memorable moment? Crossing the Antarctic Circle. I had been to Antarctica 26 years ago, so I knew the wonders of the area. They are still there. Wanted the "bragging rights" of the southern destination. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2023

Elaine Janet Dahl - USA

The Expedition Team were engaging, experienced and a professional group. All of them offered a wealth of knowledge about Antartica and its wildlife. We enjoyed the daily lectures where they shared their expertise. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2023

Cris Flippen - USA

Just loved the rawness of the trip. The raw beauty and abundance of animals was amazing. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Stuart Prey - USA

I could go 100 times and still feel excited about that spectacular place. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Richard Badger - USA

The entire trip was wonderful and the staff was great and very knowledgeable in their respective fields. We were able to get farther south of the circle than was anticipated from the beginning and we were able to accomplish all that was expected. There were of course changes in the schedule as Antarctic weather is always changing, but no real negative changes during our trip. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

John Buschman - USA

My expectations about the wildlife in Antarctica were blown away! We saw colonies of Adelie, gentoo, and chinstrap penguins. There was a whale sighting just about every day. We mainly found humpbacks, but saw a few minke whales and one afternoon we ran into a pod of killer whales! They must have been hunting or potentially practicing because we saw a group of humpbacks in the crowd and many seabirds checking out the scene. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Maricela Alaniz - USA

On our second day in Antarctica, we celebrated crossing the Antarctic circle. All guests and expedition guides gathered on deck 8 as we joined in an Antarctic circle ritual: stamping a circle on our foreheads! Afterwards, we enjoyed the most fantastic views of The Gullet - a narrow passageway surrounded by towering mountains covered in thick layers of ice. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Maricela Alaniz - USA

10/10 - Life changing! I would not have traded this for a shorter Antarctic tour! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Rich Manalad - Philippines

The entire trip greatly exceeded all expectations! From the great weather affording us the opportunity to leave the ship on zodiac cruises, landings and other excursions twice most days, to also travelling as far south of the Antarctic Circle as we did. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Jamal Perry - USA

Cruising below the Antarctic circle near Crystal Sound (can't remember the exact location) and witnessing the otherworldly site of a sea of bergy bits, growlers and icebergs tightly packed together as far as the eye can see. Like a broken-up ice shelf with pieces so close it looked like you could hop from one to another for miles. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2022

Jamal Perry - USA

Surprised how wonderful the experience was. Being on the bridge, with the Captain, navigating the Lemaire Channel, which had a HUGE iceberg towering over us! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Jim Tietjen - Malaysia

It was helpful booking with Swoop - you all did a great job pairing me up with the right trip for me, from roommates to ship size to just the right amount of fancy but not too fancy. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Mykkah Herner - United States Of America

The captain took the ship south into sea ice for a few hours. That was as far South as we ever went. Just when I thought I had seen Antarctica, the new scenery blew me away. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Kung Chung Lee - Canada

The scenery was breathtaking, the wildlife like none in a temperate climate, and the weather was capricious, and ever-changing, every aspect providing a thoroughly unique experience. Not only did Antarctica live up to expectations, but it surpassed them easily. Read the full review

Travelled: November 2018

Vincent Micelotta - United States Of America

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Crossing the circle was an achievement, especially as so few tourist ships make it that far south. Learning about the history of the place while being there also made a great impact, as did the other talks about the wildlife.

Travelled: February 2018

Sue - Australia

The Polar Circle experience was a perfect choice to meet my expectations. We touched upon many spots which are unheard of. I would recommend this journey to anybody who wants to see the real landscapes of Antarctica, and to experience a place beyond imagination.

Travelled: February 2018

Kushal - UAE

If you are going late in February or March I would highly recommend a circle crossing. The feel and look of Antarctica certainly changes down there. Spectacular. Otherworldly. Impossible to convey what it's like to some one who hasn't been there.

Travelled: February 2018

Sandra & Keith - UK

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The highlight was watching a leopard seal peeping up to check the icebergs, diving back in, swimming under our zodiac and eventually deciding on a flattish iceberg. Rolled on its back to give himself a good scratch, then fell asleep in the sun!

Travelled: January 2018

Lucien & Marie-Eve - South Africa

The service that Swoop provided was excellent. John was very helpful in assisting us to select our cruise and we were very satisfied with the Vavilov. Crossing the Antarctic Circle was very special.

Travelled: January 2018

Joan & Michael - New Jersey

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For me, the highlight was crossing the Antarctic circle. Unbelievable landscapes and wildlife. Loved the whole experience, very impressive. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2018

Tony & Penny Devries - United States Of America

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Incredible! Every day was surprising, filled with adventure. I would encourage anyone considering it but who might be nervous to go for it!

Travelled: December 2017

Deidre - New York

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Top marks to Swoop Antarctica - we can’t thank you enough for going over and beyond your remit. Advice for future visitors: these guys know their stuff - listen and ask. They have a passion that they just want to share.

Travelled: December 2017

Sam - UK

We absolutely loved the trip. We had a difficult time getting south of the Circle due to heavy ice conditions but we finally made it to 66 – 59'S.

Travelled: December 2015

Nor - Shanghai

Review:

Planning your Antarctic Circle cruise

Sailing to the Antarctic Circle

The majority of Antarctic Circle cruises sail from Ushuaia in Argentina, although a small number of voyages every year also operate from Punta Arenas in Chile, flying across the Drake Passage to direct to Antarctica.

Due to the extra time needed to sail south to reach the Antarctic Circle, these cruises spend longer in Antarctica than traditional Peninsula cruises. They typically enjoy the classic Peninsula sights before heading south.

At the end of the trip beneath the Circle, they may return by the same route or head directly back to port, means that you may have an extra day at sea instead. The decision on the itinerary is made according to local weather conditions.

Greg Mortimer cruise ship south of the Antarctic Circle

When to go to the Antarctic Circle

The cruising season for the Antarctic Circle runs from late December through to March. Outside these months, the routes south to the Circle are mostly inaccessible due to sea ice.

Some Peninsula cruise ships may attempt to make opportunistic visits earlier if ice conditions allow them to venture further south than normal, but this cannot be guaranteed or predicted.

If possible, we advise making your Antarctic Circle trip after the new year, to give the best chance of ice-free conditions.

Zodiac cruising from Seaventure

Fly & Cruise the Antarctic Circle

Special Offers:Swoop has access to the widest range of offers and can help you find the right trip, cabin, & price.

66 Degrees South Fly Cruise

By offering time saving flights, extended time in Antarctica and the chance to reach the Polar Circle, this 10-day voyage maximises the polar experience. Minimum travel time and maximum exploring time and all the benefits of only 76 people…

  • 10 Days
  • $15,995
Fly & Cruise Polar Circle

This impressive voyage combines all the comfort and speed of flying in both directions with extended time in Antarctica (7 full days), allowing you to head south towards the remote Antarctic Circle. Explore from the comfort of your outstanding purpose-built…

  • 10 Days
  • $22,495
Crossing the Antarctic Circle

Spend 6 full days exploring Antarctica with the Polar Circle at 66 degrees south as your most southerly objective, on board one of the most exciting new vessels. A maximum of just 132 passengers, with spacious cabins, state-of-the-art technology and…

  • 13-14 Days
  • $16,195

Luxury Antarctic Circle Cruises

Special Offers:Swoop has access to the widest range of offers and can help you find the right trip, cabin, & price.

Traversing the Antarctic Circle

For an unparalleled Polar Circle experience spending 8 full days in Antarctica, choose this trip. Head south when penguin and whale activity is at its peak, accompanied by a highly experienced team. This elegant 139-passenger ship combines true comfort and…

  • 15 Days
  • $15,555
Beyond the Polar Circle

For a breathtaking tour of the very best of the Southern Ocean - including the rare combination of both South Georgia and the Polar Circle - this 17-day voyage is hard to beat. All aboard a modern, fast super-yacht with…

  • 17 Days
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What are the most visited landing sites on a Circle trip?

Illustrated Guide

Antarctic Circle cruises: FAQs

  • Am I guaranteed to cross the Antarctic Circle?

    All Antarctic cruises are expeditionary in nature: this is a place of extreme environments and Mother Nature always has the final say in any itinerary. 

    Your ship's Captain and Expedition Leader will make all efforts to cross into the Antarctic Circle. It is rare for a dedicated Antarctic Circle trip to fail to complete its main objective, but the crossing is always subject to local weather and ice conditions.  Getting to travel through this remote and logistically challenging region is part of what makes reaching 66 degrees south such a thrill. 

  • Where will I cross the Antarctic Circle?

    The Antarctic Circle is crossed at 66°33' latitude south.

    Most Antarctic Circle trips sail along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, typically crossing the line in the vicinity of Crystal Sound – a stunning body of water littered with ice. There is no sign or obvious change in the landscape when you reach this monumental latitude, but the ship's GPS – and the celebrations of the crew and expedition team – will prove you've truly made it to the end of the earth.

    It is not possible to cross the Antarctic Circle on a Weddell Sea cruise on the eastern side of the Peninsula because of sea ice. Ross Sea cruises typically cross the Antarctic Circle in open water, on their way to latitudes lying even further south.

  • What is the best time of year to visit the Antarctic Circle?

    For expedition cruise ships to be able to cross the Antarctic Circle, their passage must be free of sea ice. Because of this, Antarctic Circle cruises start later in the season than cruises that just visit the Peninsula. Departures tend to begin from late December, but travelling in the new year gives the best chance of ice-free waters.

  • How long will I spend south of the Antarctic Circle?

    There are two types of Antarctic Circle cruise. Some itineraries push south from the Antarctic Peninsula to give the thrill of crossing the Circle, but only spend a limited amount of time exploring further south. Other cruise ships offer longer itineraries to spend more time getting to know the region. Swoop’s polar specialists can help guide you to the departure that best suits your desire to achieve this southerly latitude.

  • Why are there fewer trips to the Antarctic Circle than to the Peninsula?

    The extra time needed to sail south to cross the Antarctic Circle means that there are fewer departures than for a classic Antarctic Peninsula cruise. Most ships that offer this itinerary only sail to the Circle once or twice every season, which puts places on these cruises at a premium 

  • Is the wildlife different below the Antarctic Circle?

    The further south you travel in Antarctica the colder it gets, and wildlife begins to thin out as a result. The large penguin rookeries you see at the northern end of the Peninsula are absent here: if you see penguins here they will be as individuals or in small groups. There is a good chance of whale sightings, but as a rule it’s the landscapes that are the draw south of the Antarctic Circle rather than the wildlife.

  • Will I experience the 'midnight sun'?

    The Antarctic Circle is the line of latitude during which the sun never sets below the horizon during the summer months. This midnight sun phenomenon peaks during the Summer Solstice on December 22.

    The midnight sun can actually be experienced up to 55 miles (90 km) outside the Antarctic Circle, giving long days to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Even further north along the Peninsula, it never gets truly dark in the summer; to ensure your rest, ship’s cabins are fitted with blackout blinds on the windows.

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Why our customers love Swoop

The Antarctic Experts.
No Compromises

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Our team has visited Antarctica over 150 times and has 100 collective years of polar experience, so from which trip is right for you to what shoes to bring - there’s no question we can’t answer.

Expert impartial advice at no extra cost

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Choosing the right voyage is complicated, Swoop makes it easy. We offer no-nonsense advice on 1500 voyages across 30 ships to find you the right trip, cabin, price - and we don’t charge a fee.

The only B Corp certified Antarctic specialist

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We want to protect Antarctica for future generations - which is why we became a certified B Corp and set up our own conservation fund. So your adventures can be a force for good.

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We leave nothing to chance in delivering your perfect trip and have over 6500 happy travellers to show for it. With a dedicated Antarctic co-ordinator & support throughout - you’re in safe hands.

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?

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We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.

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Match

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Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.

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We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

With over 100 years of Antarctic experience between us, we can help guide you to exactly the right trip for you.

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