Antarctic Peninsula visitor sites: key points

  • The Antarctic Peninsula is 450 miles (725 km) long, with no shortage of incredible sights to see there and in the adjoining South Shetland Islands
  • A typical day might have you landing at a busy penguin rookery, zodiac cruising in an iceberg graveyard or calling in at a bay popular with whales
  • Local conditions means that visits to specific locations are never guaranteed. Itineraries can change daily, so no two voyages to Antarctica are ever the same
  • Some locations are famous but there are scores of lesser known places to be delighted by: Expedition Leaders are experts at showing you the best of the continent.
  • Ships coordinate itineraries with each other, so wherever you go you’ll always be the only people at your landing site or zodiac cruising spot.

Where to visit on the Antarctic Peninsula

Top locations for penguins

The Antarctic Peninsula is heaven for penguin lovers. Gentoo penguins are the species found in the greatest abundance.

The most visited penguin rookery on the Peninsula is the gentoo penguin colony on Cuverville Island. Large rookeries can also be found at Paradise Bay, Danco Island and Neko Harbour. Paradise Bay is also home to a chinstrap penguin colony, though they’re generally found in greater numbers in the South Shetlands, particularly on King George Island and Deception Island.

Adelie penguins don’t nest in great numbers along the Peninsula, though if your ship stops at Brown Bluff on the northeastern tip you’ll find a big colony there. South of the Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island is the only place on the Peninsula where you can find gentoos, chinstraps and Adelies nesting side by side.

Gentoo penguins on Cuverville Island

Gentoo penguins on Cuverville Island

Top locations for whales

Whales can be found throughout the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, and the later you travel in the season, the better the whale watching becomes.

The wide Bransfield Strait between the mainland of the Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands has good whale watching, but things get better further south. The Gerlache Strait has particularly excellent whale watching: you can often see humpbacks, fin whales, minke whales and orca here. The Lemaire Channel and Neumayer Channel are also great spots for whales. 

The Peninsula's endless deep bays and fjords all offer opportunities for cetacean spotting, but particularly popular places include Paradise Bay and Wilhemina Bay (sometimes dubbed 'Whalemania Bay' for the numbers of humpbacks seen there). 

Watching a humpback whale from a zodiac in Wilhemina Bay

A humpback whale in Wilhemina Bay

Swoop Says background image

Mike says

The Antarctic Peninsula is more than just the 'famous' sites. On my last trip, the flexible itinerary we visited one location so obscure that the Expedition Leader was the only person on board to have been there before: we all felt like we were on a true voyage of discovery together.

Mike Poppe Antarctic Sales Manager

Top locations for continental landings

The mountainous aspect of the Antarctic Peninsula means that there are surprisingly few places flat enough to land at and step foot on the mainland of the continent: most landings take place on offshore islands. That still counts as Antarctica of course, but expedition teams always do their best to offer at least one continental landing per trip.

Neko Harbour, with its scenic cliffs and gentoo penguins is always popular, but other places to fly the Seventh Continent flag include Portal Point, with its remains on an old survey hut, and Orne Harbour, where you can climb a hill for an amazing vantage point over the Gerlache Strait. Brown Station to the south and Brown Bluff on the northeastern tip on the Peninsula past Antarctic Sound offer further possibilities for continental landings.

Stepping foot on the 7th Continent at Neko Harbour

Continental landing at Neko Harbour

Top locations for dramatic scenery

The Antarctic Peninsula has no shortage of stunning landscapes, but some locations that stand out as being especially beautiful.

Possibly the most scenic cruise along the Peninsula is to pass through the Lemaire Channel, where raw mountains pinch the water into a narrow strait. When the sea acts like a mirror, it's a perfectly sublime scene.

Wherever glaciers descend to sea you'll find epic landscapes. Wilhelmina Bay is one of the best, especially when whales are sporting here. The aptly named Paradise Bay is just as lovely. 

Alternatively, the tall peaks surrounding Danco Harbour bring great drama, while at Spigot Peak on Orne Island, you can hike high for incredible views. 

Antarctic expedition cruise ship traversing the Lemaire Channel

Sailing through the Lemaire Channel

Top locations for Antarctic history

The Antarctic Peninsula is dotted with sights that evoke the first explorers and scientists who stepped foot here.

High on many people’s wishlist is the historic research base at Port Lockroy, which is affectionately known as the ‘Penguin Post Office.’ If your ship calls here, don’t miss the opportunity to send a postcard home.

Deception Island is littered with the haunting remains of the old whaling industry, with abandoned, while at Foyn Harbour you can even zodiac cruise around the wreck of the whaling factory ship Governoren, more than 100 years old. 

From the Gerlache Strait to Waterboat Point and beyond, almost every location evokes the names of Antarctic pioneers, all ready to be brought to life by the onboard polar historian guides. 

Shipwreck of the Governoren at Foyn Harbour

Shipwrecked whaler at Foyn Harbour

Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

Landing sites only allow 100 people on shore at any one time to to keep visitor impacts to an absolute minimum. Add in the fact that you can often go for days without seeing another ship, and you're guaranteed to have the best wilderness experience possible. 

Antarctic Peninsula Map

Illustrated Guide

Antarctic Peninsula visitor guidelines

There are scores of landing sites on the Antarctic Peninsula, with the most popular covered by special Visitor Site Guidelines drawn up by the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty to ensure all visits are carried out in the most sensitive manner to protect their environments. This guidance, conveyed to you by the expedition leader on your ship must be strictly adhered to at all times. Some locations are suitable for zodiac cruising only, while others are out of bounds to ships carrying more than 200 passengers.

Our list of Antarctic Peninsula landing sites is for guidance only. Ship itineraries and visits to specific locations in the Antarctic Peninsula are never guaranteed. While your operator will always do their best to maximise your time in Antarctica, plans can change as fast as the polar weather. Decisions on which locations to visit are always made on the day by the ship's captain and expedition leader.

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