Antarctica isn’t your average tourist destination, due in large part to the international conventions in place to protect both the continent and its wildlife from disturbance. Winters in Antarctica are inhospitable at best, so expeditions are only conducted during the summer months that run from November through March. In order to visit you must go with an organized tour, usually a cruise of some kind. The most popular tour option is to leave via expedition cruise ship from Ushuaia, Argentina, but fly cruises are becoming more popular. Fly-cruise participants leave Punta Arenas, Chile via plane and land on the South Shetland Islands where they rendezvous with their cruise ships. Many companies offer 20-30 day trips, but shorter 7-day adventures are also common.
Wildlife is a major draw for most tourists to Antarctica, but wildlife-viewing opportunities vary throughout the summer months. In the early summer it is common to see penguins begin the mating and courtship process, as well as other types of birds. Towards the end of the summer whales are increasingly common and many travel just for the whale watching opportunities. Luckily a robust seal presence is seen throughout the season. If you want a more ‘typical’ snowy experience, you should plan to visit early in the summer before the snow and ice has melted off. Regardless of the time of year you decide to go though, you are always guaranteed an experience of a lifetime.