Want to know where you can get more hours of sunshine than any other place in the world for your winter travels? Antarctica. No, it isn't a desert island, but there is quite a lot of sunshine during the southern summer and it can be surprisingly warm. Antarctica is very much the final frontier for travelers. In days of yore, you had to be a whaler or a well-funded explorer to make it to this least visited continent. These days Antarctica is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. This particular trip isn't really on the radar for budget travelers, but you'd be surprised at the deals you can get if you have some spare time on your hands in Argentina.
There are several ways to get to Antarctica, thus obtaining bragging rights for years to come.
The easiest and most popular way is by boat. Cruise ships depart from Ushuaia, Argentina regularly from the months of November to early March. You can spend as little as 8 days up to a month or more visiting the continent. Before you go, be aware that you may not make every landing on the itinerary due to the harsh environment and unpredictable weather conditions. If you book your trip from your home base, wherever that may be, plan on at least $3,500 without airfare. Special rates on shorter cruises are occasionally going for as little as $2,600 per person, although this is not the norm. If you're on your around-the-world trip or just backpacking around South America, you can book at less than half the retail price from the travel agents in Ushuaia. Think in the range of $1,800 for an 8 day trip. Private boats may also be booked in Ushuaia.
Tour operators are now offering flights directly to the South Pole from Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, Chile. Standard trips are about a week in length, though you'll need to arrive in South America several days prior for briefings and information. While this sounds fabulous, don't plan on jetting in and out on your week's vacation. This is the most inhospitable climate in the world for air travel and flights are frequently delayed. If you're on a tight schedule, go someplace else. For this type of Antarctic tour, plan on spending the equivalent of the average American yearly income. Prices are in the $30,000 range.
Raytheon Polar Services Company actually employs year round staff at McMurdo Station, as well as providing some opportunities at the South Pole Station, Palmer Station, in remote field camps and on the research vessels. Plan on committing a year of your mentally stable, well-adjusted life in Antarctica.
Where to Stay
No matter how you book your trip to Antarctica, you will be provided with a place to lay your head. It may be anything from a place at the camp to a luxurious cruise cabin, but rest assured you will not have to book accommodations on this trip.