From kayaking with whales to swimming in the caldera of an active volcano, here are 17 awesome things to do in Antarctica.
There is no other destination on the planet more incredible, overwhelming or epic as Antarctica. The ‘White Continent’ has been a pinnacle for explorers, adventurers and travellers for generations, and as sustainable tourism improves, more opportunities are availble for people to visit the bottom of the earth.
While some people may think a trip to Antarctica involves sitting on a cruise ship and looking through binoculars, the truth is if you choose the right company your experience down there will be as active and exciting as you could ever imagine.
The Best Things To Do In Antarctica
The best things to do in Antarctica reads like an ultimate bucket list for just about any traveller. Kayaking with humpback whales, cruising between enormous icebergs, hanging out with thousands of penguins – these are the kinds of experiences that will stay fresh in your mind forever.
We visited Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions* at the beginning of March with a willingness to try anything that came up, and walked away with more memorable moments than we ever could have imagined.
Some activities on this list can be experienced by joining a regular passenger expedition from Ushuaia, while others require years of planning and dedication. No matter your ambitions, any adventure down there will be life changing.
If you’re getting ready for a trip, or even just thinking about it, don’t miss out on these 17 epic things to do in Antarctica.
*Note – One Ocean Expeditions have officially gone into administration in 2020, and they are no longer operating.
READ MORE: Check out our ultimate destination guide all about travel to Antarctica!
Camping Under The Stars
If you’re anything like us, you love camping. And there’s no place more unique to sleep under the stars than in Antarctica.
Armed with a high-quality bivy sack and warm clothes, camping in Antarctica will no doubt be something you talk about for the rest of your life.
Of course being in a place as volatile and extreme as Antarctica means the weather is a serious concern. That’s why it’s important to go with a company that has safety as its number one priority, and also has the kind of equipment suitable for this adventure.
You might not have the best sleep, but nothing will ever beat waking up to sunrise on the snowy continent or watching the stars glow above you.
Out of all Antarctica attractions, camping under the stars is one experience no explorer would dare miss!
It’s hard to beat a good day of paddling around on a calm sea, surrounded by stunning scenery and good friends. Whether you’re doing it in the Galapagos Islands or on a coastline in Europe, kayaking is always an amazing experience.
If you want to do something different though head to the polar regions, and kayaking in Antarctica is by far the most fantastic place to do this.
Kitted out in a dry suit and cold-water kayaks, head off into remote coves for the closest encounters with the marine life possible.
Nothing will take your breath away quite like watching a humpback whale breach right next to your kayak – one of the best things to see in Antarctica!
Visit A Science Research Station
Being one of the most remote places on earth, there is a lot of cutting edge research being conducted in Antarctica. And the cool thing is if you join an Antarctic Peninsula expedition, you can visit a few of the active stations.
One of the most famous, and popular, places in Antarctica is the Vernadsky Research Station. This Ukrainian base has a long and colourful history dating back to 1947, when it was first established as a British station.
Over time it was transferred to the Ukrainians, and the scientific focus was primarily on the weather and climate. It is here where they discovered the hole in the ozone layer!
The Ukrainians happily open their doors to visitors, and with a small-group trip you can have a tour of the base led by one of the scientists. A wonderful insight to what life is like in Antarctica, and the amazing work being conducted there.
A visit to one of the research stations is part of the Antarctica sightseeing experience!
Take The Polar Plunge
If you’re looking for one of the coolest things to do in Antarctica (literally), why not consider going for a swim in some of the world’s coldest waters?
Known as the polar plunge, this quick dip in one of the planet’s most extreme destinations is definitely something that will get your heart racing.
While some companies do this by letting you jump in off the back of the ship, our trip with One Ocean Expeditions gave us the opportunity to run in from the beach on Deception Island – that means we swam in the caldera of an active volcano in Antarctica!
Yes, the water is cold, and yes you’ll be shivering, but there will be guides standing by with safety lines, dry towels, and if you’re lucky even hot chocolate and Baileys or rum and hot apple cider.
This might not be for everyone but we encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Will you ever again have an opportunity to do this? Take the plunge and enjoy the stunning sights of the vastness and calmness of the ocean – it’s absolutely an Antarctica must-see!
Skiing On Snowy Mountains
If you’re a real daredevil and fancy yourself a bit of an expert skier or snowboarder, you can choose to shred the slopes at the bottom of the earth.
Choosing a special expedition at the beginning of the season, you can skin up to the top of some peaks on the Antarctic Peninsula and carve your way down, with epic
You will need experience in ski touring, but skiing in Antarctica could be the hardest challenge in riding the slopes on every continent on the planet.
Cross The Drake Passage
There are two ways to visit Antarctica – you can take an expensive charter flight, or you can travel by ship. For those with a sense of adventure, sailing from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula should not be missed!
This stretch of sea, known as the Drake Passage, has the reputation for having some of the most dangerous seas in the world. Huge oceanic currents flow through the relatively-narrow channel, churning up rough waves and large storms.
Despite the bad rap, the Drake Passage isn’t as dangerous as it used to be, thanks to much better ship-building techniques and satellite weather monitoring.
Still, the two-day journey is quite an experience, and the bragging rights of crossing the Drake Passage is well worth the adventure.
Practice Your Photography
Antarctica is the kind of place where it is almost impossible to take a bad photo. You can literally just point your camera in any direction, snap the shutter, and it will likely be a picture you would want to hang on your wall.
If you want to take your photography to the next level though, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to practice than in Antarctica.
Luckily if you sign up for a journey with One Ocean Expeditions they employ a professional photographer-in-residence that will not only give you pointers in the field to capture the best shots, but also give workshops and talks back on the ship for further inspiration.
While you can get away with a cheap point-and-shoot or a smartphone, it’s best to purchase a decent camera for your expedition to Antarctica.
Climb Antarctica’s Tallest Mountain
If you’re on a mission to climb the world’s seven summits, the most difficult one to achieve (in terms of logistics) is Mount Vinson in Antarctica.
Summiting this 4897m high massif is not for the normal traveller, and months of preparation and training must be taken before even considering it.
It takes a minimum of 14 days for a full expedition, if the weather and your body cooperates, but this mission is something you’ll remember forever.
Learn About The History Of Whaling And Science At Deception Island
There’s more to the Southern continent than just hanging out with penguins and whales – one of the most interesting things to do in Antarctica is learn about the human history that has developed in the harsh conditions.
Before Antarctica became an internationally-protected region, hundreds of boats would head to the marine-rich waters to hunt for whales.
The protected bay of Deception Island, which is actually an active volcano, became one of the major bases for sealing back in 1820, before aggressive techniques almost wiped the species out.
In the 1900s whaling for oil was growing at a rapid rate and processing plants were eventually established on Deception Island in 1912.
When new technologies led to better ship-based processing, production increased exponentially, almost collapsing the entire industry. The plants on Deception Island were closed in 1931, which then led to scientific research bases taking their place.
The volcano erupted numerous times in the 1960s and most bases were abandoned, meaning many of the structures on Deception Island have begun collapsing into the earth.
A visit to Deception Island these days allows you to walk through the rusted buildings and experience a true ghost town surrounded by black sand and ash.
Scuba Diving In Antarctica
If you’re the kind of person that loves exploring beneath the surface just as much as above, then scuba diving in Antarctica is one of the most unique places you can do it.
Rich marine life, crystal clear waters and shimmering icebergs give views that are hard to find anywhere else in the world.
Scuba diving in Antarctica is not for the average beginner diver however. You must be an open water advanced diver with your dry-suit certification wand over 20 logged dry-suit dives before you can apply to join a diving expedition in Antarctica.
One of the most incredible experiences in Antarctica is being able to see huge pods of whales up close at any time of day.
During our adventure with One Ocean Expeditions we were lucky enough to see minke whales, orcas and humpbacks surrounding our ship and zodiacs.
The kayakers had an even more amazing encounter, when nearly a dozen humpback whales came into the Gerlache Strait, swimming and breaching right next to them!
The most common species of whales found in Antarctica are humpbacks, orcas, minkes, blue, sei, sperm, fin and right whales.
Seeing some of the largest creatures on the planet with the backdrop of snowy peaks and icebergs is by far one of the best things to do in Antarctica.
Trek To The South Pole
Arguably one of the planet’s most remarkable, and dangerous, adventures, an expedition to the South Pole is sure to make even the most intrepid explorer giddy with excitement.
Just like climbing Mount Vinson, this is not the kind of journey that should be taken lightly, and you will need to do years of training and preparation work to be ready for it.
There is no guarantee you’ll make it, and it might just be the toughest thing you ever do, but if you’re up for the challenge trekking to the South Pole is definitely the most epic adventure in Antarctica.
Run A Marathon
For those super-fit travellers with an affinity for ticking things off a list, there’s always the opportunity to run a marathon in Antarctica.
Many long-distance runners love the idea of completing a marathon on every continent, and luckily there is an organised event held on King George Island every year exactly for this.
Once you’ve trained and are feeling ready, you can sign up for a special marathon journey with One Ocean Expeditions that starts off with the race, before eventually continuing on to explore the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Hang Out With Penguins
If there’s one thing everybody wants to do when they visit Antarctica, it is hang out with penguins. Luckily this incredible experience is just about guaranteed no matter how and when you visit!
There are 6 types of penguins in Antarctica (Emperor, Adelie, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Chinstrap and Macaroni), and you can find millions of these cute creatures wandering around the continent.
Personal and environmental responsibility says you have to stay more than 2 metres away from all wildlife, but with the penguins down in Antarctica being unfamiliar and unfazed with humans, don’t be surprised if some of them walk right up to you.
Send A Postcard From Port Lockroy
Out on Wienke Island, in the harbour of Port Lockroy, is the one of Antarctica’s most curious attractions, the Penguin Post Office.
Port Lockroy is home to a museum and science base, as well as the post office where you can send a postcard to your friends and family abroad.
Imagine the kick your grandma will get from receiving a postcard all the way from Antarctica!
Study With Polar Experts
When you’re not out on zodiac excursions and camping adventures, one of the most educational things to do in Antarctica is to spend time learning from the scientists, biologists and historians that accompany the One Ocean Expeditions journeys.
These men and women are the best of the best when it comes to Antarctic knowledge, and being able to learn from them during your expedition is what makes a trip to Antarctica so worthwhile.
Whether you’re into marine life, birds, history or environmental impacts, hanging out with these experts will change your perspective of the white continent forever.
Drink Vodka At The Southernmost Bar In The World
In case you didn’t know, the winters are long and dark down in Antarctica, so some of the scientists at Vernadsky Research Base have taken up the fun hobby of distilling vodka.
Rather than keep all the liquor to themselves, they like the idea of sharing tit around (typical Ukrainians), and now you can buy a shot of their homemade booze in the southernmost bar in the world!
For only USD$3 grab a shot and throw it down, and add it to your list of the most epic things to do in Antarctica!
This article was published as part of our partnership with One Ocean Expeditions. All thoughts, opinions, and incredible activities we did are, as always, our own.