Getting to South Georgia: key information
- South Georgia is a two day sail from its nearest neighbour, the Falkland Islands and a similar distance from the Antarctic Peninsula
- Visitors typically reach South Georgia on a small expedition ship on a classic voyage that also includes Antarctica and the Falklands
- A small number of fly-sail cruise options exist for those wanting to cut down their time at sea
- For those with time and a good set of sea legs, South Georgia can be reached by yacht from the Falklands in around five days.
Cruising from Ushuaia to South Georgia
Sailing from the southern Argentinian port of Ushuaia by expedition cruise ship and incorporating visits to the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, this is the traditional way for visitors to visit the island. This great arching loop cherrypicks the highlights of the Southern Ocean and is ranked among one of the world’s great sea journeys. This classic route remains as popular ever. Voyages vary in length between 17–23 days, depending on the time spent in each destination, and operate from late October to the end of the austral summer in March.
Under normal sailing conditions it takes two days to sail from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia, and two days to cross the Scotia Sea from South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula
Although there is no airport on South Georgia (there simply isn't enough flat land to build a runway), a couple of options exist for fly-sail cruises for those looking to reduce their time at sea.
A small number of departures leave every year from Stanley in the Falkland Islands. These voyages typically take in just the Falklands and South Georgia. Air access to the Falklands is via a weekly scheduled flight with LATAM from Punta Arenas in Chile (airport code PUQ) to Mount Pleasant (airport code MSD), 55km from Stanley. The flight takes 90 minutes and will save you around 36 hours at sea travelling from Ushuaia. On arrival in the Falklands, if you’re booked on a voyage you will be transferred to your waiting ship to set sail.
There is also a twice-weekly direct flight from RAF Brize Norton in the UK. The flights takes around 18 hours, with a short refuelling stop in Cape Verde (passengers are not allowed to disembark here). Civilian passengers may only request seats on these flights directly via the London office of the Falkland Islands Government.
A small number of expedition cruise ships also offer fly-sail cruises to South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Passengers fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island in the South Shetlands, allowing them to bypass the Drake Passage crossing from Ushuaia.
In this modern age there is something truly special about only being able to reach a place by boat. The two days you spend at sea to reach South Georgia are the perfect warm up to this incredible island, and give much-needed time to process all you've seen after your visit.
Sailing to South Georgia
It is 750 nautical miles from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia, a crossing under sail of approximately five days in good weather. This is expedition sailing in its truest sense: taking on everything the Southern Ocean has to offer. A round trip from Stanley to South Georgia and back typically takes three to four weeks, depending on the usual variables of sailing in this region. Skippered yachts are available for charter from the Falklands. Alternatively, some yachts offer set date departures and can simply be booked by the berth.
If arriving by yacht, you'll need to complete a detailed Yacht Application Form prior to your voyage from the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, and take an online assessment after viewing a permit holder briefing (expedition leaders on cruises ships must do the same). Yachts must call at Grytviken, where the vessel is inspected by a government officer. Visitors must also submit a Post Visit Report within 30 days of departure for monitoring purposes. For more information see the website of the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.
It certainly wasn’t part of the original plan for his Endurance expedition, but the 800 mile/ 13000 km open-boat journey in the James Caird which Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of five men made in 1916 from Elephant Island to King Haakon Bay on South Georgia remains one of the greatest feats of seamanship ever recorded. While a brave few over the years have re-enacted the crossing it's unlikely to catch on as a regular route. When you see the replica of the James Caird in the South Georgia Museum in Grytviken and reflect on its tiny size compared with the ship you arrived on, you'll understand why. Far better to toast 'the Boss' at his grave in the Whalers' Cemetery and reflect on his achievements there.
Our most popular South Georgia and Antarctica trips
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Discover South Georgia, Antarctica and Falklands
This voyage stands out by visiting the Antarctic Peninsula first and keeping the wonders of South Georgia for the second half. Plus you’ll be travelling on board one of the most exciting new Polar ships with spacious cabins, state-of-the-art technology…
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With a good choice of departure dates through the season across four medium-sized ships, this 19-23 day trip stands out for its value for money and the broad range of cabin categories available, including Quads, which are…
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Fly-Sail Antarctica & South Georgia
This unique express trip saves time by flying to Antarctica, cutting out 2 sailing days and skipping the Falklands. Maximising your time amid the spectacular wildlife and scenery of Antarctica and South Georgia is the focus of this voyage. The…
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Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands In Style
Voyage south in Shackleton’s footsteps, exploring the highlights of the Southern Ocean as part of this ‘classic’ 20-day adventure. A well-balanced itinerary and the choice between 3 well-appointed expedition ships (capacity 128-199 guests) really marks this trip out. Plus, you…
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An epic 23-day voyage which packs in an astonishing 7 days in Antarctica, 4 days in wildlife-rich South Georgia and the Polar Circle at 66 degrees south. It's very rare to find a trip combining all three places. Limited departure…
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Getting to South Georgia: FAQs
Can you fly to South Georgia?
No, all visitors must arrive by sea. The closest airport to South Georgia is at Stanley on the Falkland Islands. Under usual sea conditions it takes two days to sail to South Georgia from either the Falkland Islands or the Antarctic Peninsula.
Do I need a visa to visit South Georgia?
No, you don’t need a visa to visit South Georgia. All visitors require a visitor permit, which is automatically arranged for you by your expedition cruise ship operator. They'll even make sure your passport gets stamped!
How much time will I spend in South Georgia?
This depends on which voyage you choose. Most voyages spend between 3- 5 days exploring the island. If South Georgia is the main focus of your trip in comparison to the Antarctic peninsula we suggest four days is the optimum period, as it allows plenty of time to explore even under changeable weather conditions.
When is the best time to visit South Georgia?
The visitor season runs from November to March. There isn’t a ‘best time’ to visit as such because South Georgia is such a wildlife dense destination with amazing sights throughout the season. You may also want to balance the timing with your preferred time to be on the Antarctic peninsula.
For more information see our page When to go to South Georgia.
How rough are the seas around South Georgia?
The Southern Ocean can certainly be lively around South Georgia, although landing sites are concentrated on the northeast coast which is more sheltered from prevailing weather systems. Modern expedition cruise ships have stabilisers to help reduce movement in heavy seas, with the newest x-bow ships offering even more stability. Our specialists are experienced with the whole polar fleet – if seasickness is a concern, they can help choose the right ship for your voyage.
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With over 50 years of South Georgia experience between us, we can help you to exactly the right trip for you.1-855-369-8288