Getting to Antarctica

  1. Which route to take: While 98% of visitors approach Antarctica via the tip of South America, as this is the quickest and most accessible route, there are other ways to reach the white continent. Discover the main routes to Antarctica.
  2. Cruise or fly? Traditionally, sailing was the only way to reach Antarctica, and it still remains the most common route, but it's now also possible via a short 2-hour flight, for those for whom time is a luxury. Read our guide on sailing vs flying.
  3. How do I get to the start point for my trip? Discover flight routes and international airports so that you can plan your international travel.

How do I get to Antarctica?

  1. Sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina - The most popular gateway to Antarctica for 90% of visitors with the widest choice of voyages.
  2. Flying by charter plane from Punta Arenas, Chile - Reach the Antarctic Peninsula in just 2 hours, instead of 2 days at sea. Perfect for time sensitive or anxious travellers.
  3. Sailing from South Island, New Zealand - Only four voyages each season depart from here to Antarctica's remote Ross Sea, home to emperor penguins.
  4. Flying into Antarctica's interior from Punta Arenas, Chile - Land on a blue ice runway in the heart of the white continent. Limited departures each season.
  5. & 6. Flying to the South Pole - For a lucky handful each season, you can fly to the South Pole from either Punta Arenas, Chile or Cape Town, South Africa, and spend some time in Union Glacier Camp.

You can get to Antarctica by boat or plane. Sailing the Drake Passage from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula takes 48 hours. Flying to Antarctica takes 2 hours. Approximately 54,000 visitors make the journey each year, with around 50 expedition vessels sailing Antarctic waters each season.

Can I cruise or fly to Antarctica?

Cruising to Antarctica

Crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica

Sailing remains the most popular way to get to Antarctica, and for good reason. For purists following in Scott and Shackleton's footsteps, or for those looking to enjoy every minute of the adventure, sailing to Antarctica is all part of the experience. Cruise ships depart from Ushuaia, commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world, before leaving South America behind to reach Antarctica.

Pragmatically, an Antarctic cruise offers the widest choice of voyage types, ships, departure dates and prices, and has the advantage of departures in November and March when flights to Antarctica don't operate. The following Antarctic cruises are available:

Cruising to Antarctica involves crossing The Drake Passage, a fairly notorious stretch of water. Approximately 30% of voyages experience rough weather, however it can also be surprisingly placid too, at which time it's euphemistically called 'The Drake Lake'. The reality for the majority of our customers is that it's rarely as bad as it sounds, and it's certainly a 'price' well worth paying.

Reach the Antarctic Peninsula by boat

Getting to Antarctica by ship

Our Top Antarctic Cruises

Flying to Antarctica

There is an option to fly to Antarctica from Southern Chile before embarking your ship, which is becoming increasingly popular. The benefits in terms of time saved and the assurance of avoiding crossing the Drake Passage are undoubtedly compelling.

This fly cruise option means you can spend your time experiencing rather than travelling. A flight to King George Island sets you down right in the heart of the action. In just 2 hours you can step off your plane on the Antarctic Peninsula, feeling the nip of the air and ready to spot your first iceberg.

Can you fly to Antarctica?

Before you book in your Fly & Cruise voyage it's worth noting that your choice of ships, itinerary and departures dates is more limited than when cruising to Antarctica. You should also expect to pay approximately 20% more than if you were to sail.

Although the majority of flights each season run on schedule, flying also carries a higher risk of delays due to the rapidly changing conditions that make accurate forecasting a challenge. However, delays are often no longer than a few hours, and for many, the modest risk in opting to fly is more than outweighed by the significant gains.

Fly from South America to Antarctica and Union Glacier

What's it like to fly to Antarctica?

Our Best Fly & Cruise Trips

How to get to Antarctica from your front door

The majority of cruises leave from Ushuaia (Argentina), whereas Fly & Cruise trips leave from Punta Arenas (Chile). These two port cities don't offer international flights, so to get to the start of your trip you're likely to have to fly via Buenos Aires (Argentina), or Santiago (Chile).

Most trips depart from and return to the same location, but occasionally you may fly out from Punta Arenas and sail back to Ushuaia, or vice versa. Luckily, flying into one country and out of the other is not only do-able, but often no more expensive than returning the same way.

Our flights specialist can help find and book the right flights for you from anywhere in the world, just get in touch and we'll arrange your flights from your preferred airport.

How to get to Antarctica from the USA

Getting to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires: Daily direct flights to Buenos Aires operate from New York, Miami, Dallas and Atlanta (approx 9-10 hours). Once in Buenos Aires, there are regular flights to Ushuaia.

Getting to Punta Arenas via Santiago: There are daily, direct flights to Santiago from New York, Miami, Dallas and Atlanta (approx 8-10 hours). Once in Santiago, there are regular flights to Punta Arenas. There is also an indirect flight from Los Angeles to Santiago via Lima (approx 13 hours).

Huge icebergs in Antarctica

How to get to Antarctica from Australia

Getting to Punta Arenas via Santiago: There are direct flights from Sydney to Santiago 4 times a week (approx 12 hours). You may find it's more convenient to go via Auckland, New Zealand, which offers direct daily flights to Santiago. Once there, there are regular flights to Punta Arenas.

Getting to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires and Santiago: There are no direct flights to Buenos Aires, so the most efficient way to get there is via Santiago (see above). Once in Santiago, there are regular flights to Buenos Aires (approx 2 hours), and regular onward flights to Ushuaia (approx 4 hours).

Snowshoeing in Antarctica

How to get to Antarctica from the UK

Getting to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires: There are direct flights from London to Buenos Aires (approx 14 hours). Once there, there are regular flights to Ushuaia (approx 4 hours). Another option is to fly via Madrid, where there are daily direct flights to Buenos Aires. While this is often cheaper, it is also often longer.

Getting to Punta Arenas via Santiago: There are direct flights from London to Santiago. Once there, there are regular flights to Punta Arenas.

Sculptured ice in Antarctica

How to get to Antarctica from Canada

Getting to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires: There are direct flights from Toronto to Buenos Aires 5 times a week (approx 14 hours). Once in Buenos Aires there are regular flights to Ushuaia.

Getting to Punta Arenas via Santiago: There are direct flights from Toronto to Santiago 5 times a week (approx 11 hours). Once in Santiago there are regular flights to Punta Arenas.

For other areas of Canada it may be more efficient to fly via Toronto or the USA. Ask our specialist for assistance if you're unsure.

Gentoo penguins rushing in the snow
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What Our Customers Think

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My advice is to review the videos that are out there on a trip to Antarctica. Read the reviews of the different type of cruises and determine what works best for you. Get in touch with Swoop and let them help with narrowing down the choices.

Terrie Mandina United States Of America December 2018

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If you have never been, there is no way of preparing for the impact of being there. The untouched, natural beauty, the mighty icebergs, the silliness of the penguins. You will be spending hours just sitting in one spot adoring the view.

Zoltan & Stephen Nemeth Florida January 2018

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For ease and efficiency few things beat flying to Antarctica. If I'd have known it was that easy I would have gone years ago!

Agi Hungary December 2016

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The Swoop team has been fantastic, very responsive to all our queries and have been most helpful. We had a great holiday, so thank you for organising it.

Patrick Kwok Cheung Yee Singapore December 2019

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Dear Swoop family, we would like to thank you for all the amazing effort you made in getting us to Punta Arenas in time.

Erik & Natascha The Netherlands December 2015

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The level of personal experience Swoop's travel experts draw upon to make recommendations sets them apart from anyone else I've worked with.

Chris USA September 2018

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I would book with Swoop in a heartbeat and have already been recommending Swoop to others.

Elisabeth Eppich Canada February 2019

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Swoop was brilliant throughout, from making the initial booking to steering us through the pre-trip preparations. Even checking that we had arrived at our hotel in Buenos Aires.

Richard & Anne Abrahall United Kingdom December 2018

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A trip to a remote area always makes one pause to consider one's place in the universe. It re-awakened my commitment, and that of other guests, to care for our planet. I now want to come back and make a more extended visit to the Southern Ocean.

Elizabeth Hess United States Of America December 2018

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We lost a couple of days up front due to weather-related flight issues into the Falkland Islands, however, the crew did a great job maximizing our time on South Georgia so that we hardly noticed the lost time.

James Jarman United States Of America November 2018

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The joy of travel is to experience the unexpected. Experiencing the Antarctic is a mind-expanding event. Unless one goes there, no one can believe how vast and how wild the white continent is. This adventure should be on everybody's "bucket list".

Bob Clements United States Of America November 2018

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The service from Swoop was unparalleled. They were extremely informative and guided me throughout the whole process of booking and preparing. I don't think anything else could have been done by Swoop to make my experience any better.

Kristen Hilt United States Of America February 2019

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How to get to Antarctica: FAQs

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