Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica
Often considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Antarctic Peninsula is the most northern part of the Antarctic continent. Boasting magnificent scenery and teeming with unique wildlife, the peninsula is a common stop for adventure cruises exploring the greater area.
The Antarctic Peninsula is a popular destination for tourists largely because it has the warmest climate on the continent. As Antarctica’s most prominent peninsula, this location is home to the highest concentration of research bases, all working towards maintaining the scientific, natural and historic importance of this icy continent.
With sweeping, desolate landscapes, icebergs full of penguins and seals of all varieties, and frozen glaciers that could unnerve even the most hardened of travellers, the Antarctic Peninsula is well worth the long journey south.
The Antarctic Peninsula is navigated via ship with a number of anchorage points available for cruise ships to disembark at. Its northernmost port is approximately 1,000 kilometres south of the southernmost point of South America. It lies between the Bellingshausen and the Weddell Sea. Popular port locations on the Antarctic Peninsula include Deception Island, Paradise Harbour and Port Lockroy.
The facilities available at the various ports of call on the Antarctic Peninsula vary depending on the location, accessibility and primary port use. Most include a dock and basic amenities such as fresh water. The scientific outposts on the peninsula also feature basic facilities and amenities; however, it is best to be as prepared as possible in terms of clothing and equipment before disembarking.
How to Get Around
All visitors travelling to the Antarctic Peninsula arrive by sea, usually aboard cruise ships. Ships make port at various locations to allow guests to disembark. There are some established tracks on the peninsula that can be accessed on foot. As there are few roads, there are no taxis or cars are available for tourists. Inflatable Zodiac boats are a popular choice for moving through the calmer waters of some of the islands, including Paradise Harbour, as they offer a much up close and personal experience for viewing wildlife.
- Currency – There is only one shop on the Antarctic Peninsula, at Port Lockroy. This shop takes British Pounds (£). You should be able to buy anything else you require on board your arrival ship with currency dependent on the nationality of the carrier.
- Time Zone – There are multiple time zones in effect across the Antarctic Peninsula; however, most areas function 3 or 4 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Many cruises to the Antarctic region use the time zone associated with the closest non-Antarctic port of call. On the Antarctic Peninsula, this is usually Argentina (UTC-3:00); however, your cruise staff will advise.
- Weather – The temperature on the peninsular is highly reliant on location. The west coast has temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius during the summer months but drops to -10 degrees Celsius in winter. The south and southwest areas of the peninsula are the coldest, with temperatures dropping below -25 degrees Celsius during winter.
- Lemaire Channel – A popular destination for tourist cruise ships, the Lemaire Channel is a treat for the senses. Sheer cliff tops rise dramatically from the sea, and on occasion, imposing icebergs will float slowly past your cruise ship. Eleven kilometres in length, this channel narrows to just 800 metres at its smallest point. As you cruise past Booth Island, you’ll see the impressive summit of Wandel Peak and if you’re lucky you might even spot minke or humpback whales.
- Paradise Harbour – One of the peninsula’s most visited areas, Paradise Harbour is best visited on board an inflatable Zodiac craft. The glaciers, ice cliffs and mountains reflect off the calm surfaces of the water of this wide, impressive bay for a rather magical experience. Visitors may also have the option to disembark and wander amongst the resident Gentoo penguin colonies.
- Antarctic Bases – Due to the milder climate, the Antarctic Peninsula is home to the most research facilities of any Antarctic region. Each facility offers visitors an insight into the history, science and nature of this barren continent. Research stations include Base General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme, Rothera Research Station and the San Martin Base.
- Aitcho Island – One of the first amazing locations you will see when reaching the Antarctic Peninsula, Aitcho Island is home to a variety of wildlife including Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, and Elephant and Weddell seals. Take a walk to Whalebone Beach for the rare opportunity to see a vast collection of whalebones, some which may be hundreds of years old.