Things to Consider
- South Georgia is a 2 day sail from its nearest neighbour, The Falkland Islands
- The most common way to reach South Georgia is by small expedition ship (approx. 100 passengers) on a classic voyage which includes The Falklands and Antarctica
- Traditionally these voyages set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina calling in at The Falklands en route, however an increasing number now begin by flying to The Falklands and embarking there
- Flights to The Falklands from Punta Arenas, Chile are limited to a once weekly scheduled service. There is also a direct flight from RAF Brize Norton, UK
- For those with the time and sea legs, South Georgia can also be reached by sailing yacht. Charters are available out of The Falklands
Cruising from Ushuaia, Argentina
Departing from the Argentine port of Ushuaia by ship and incorporating visits to The Falklands and Antarctica, this is the traditional way for visitors to visit the island. This great arching loop cherry picks the highlights of the Southern Ocean and has to be one of the world’s great sea journeys. It remains a ‘classic’ and as popular as ever.
Voyages vary in length between 17 - 23 days, depending on the time spent in each destination, and operate late October - end March. A wide choice of ships both in style and capacity (50 - 200 guests) is on offer. Select departures also include the rarely visited South Sandwich Islands.
Flying via The Falklands
The airport at Mount Pleasant on The Falklands is the nearest to the island. While it's over 800 miles away, an increasing number of voyages are starting from there as it saves 36 hours at sea from Ushuaia.
The once weekly scheduled Punta Arenas/ Falklands flight on Saturdays operated by LatAm which takes 1 hour 35 minutes is the only regular air access. On arrival in The Falklands, if you’re booked on a voyage you will be transferred to your waiting ship and set sail for South Georgia.
If your main focus is maximising time on South Georgia with less interest on The Falklands and Antarctica there’s a small number of voyages each season which only visit South Georgia, spending +7 days exploring the island. These specialist trips are particularly well suited to wildlife and photography enthusiasts.
Sailing to South Georgia
It's 750 nautical miles to get from The Falklands to South Georgia, a crossing under sail of approx. 5 days. This is expedition sailing in its truest sense - taking on the Southern Ocean. A round trip Stanley - Stanley typically takes approx. 21 - 28 days, depending on the usual variables of sailing in this region. October through to May is the preferred season.
Skippered yachts are available for charter from The Falklands. Alternatively yachts offer set date departures and can simply be booked by the berth.
There is something truly special in this modern age about only being able to reach a place by boat. The two days at sea to reach South Georgia are the ideal prelude to all you will experience once there.
It certainly wasn’t part of the original plan, however the 800 mile/ 1,287 km open-boat journey which Shackleton and his small band of men made from Elephant Island to King Haakon Bay on South Georgia remains truly Herculean. While a brave few over the years have re-enacted the James Caird’s crossing - most recently in 2013 in 12 days aboard the replica Alexandra Shackleton - it's unlikely to catch on as a regular route.
For experienced mountaineers, however, the Shackleton Crossing over the mountains of South Georgia to Stromness is possible to do as part of a small group. The crossing distance varies from 35 - 50 km depending on the routing and takes 2 - 3 days, weather dependent. Shackleton, Crean and Worsley made this epic crossing in just 33 hours in late May 1916 in hob-nailed boots and threadbare clothing.
Most Popular South Georgia Cruises
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Getting to South Georgia: Your Questions Answered
No, there’s no airport on the island. The closest airport to South Georgia is on The Falkland Islands. The only way to reach the island is by boat.
No, you don’t need a visa to visit the island, only a visitor permit which the operator will arrange if arriving by cruise ship.
The visitor season runs from late October to the end of March. There isn’t a ‘best time’ to visit as such, there’s always huge amounts of wildlife and the weather is changeable. November and March are chillier, but the softer light is favourable for photographers. Keen birders should be aware that Prion Island is only accessible from 7th January each year.
Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the seas around South Georgia can certainly be challenging, which is why choosing the right ship is important. Anyone concerned about potential seasickness are advised to choose a ship with good stabilisers.