Answers to your questions
This all depends on what you want to experience.
November to December
This is a beautiful time in Antarctica. The continent is just waking up from its long winter and everything is covered in fresh white snow. The penguins are back on land and mating rituals are in full swing. You’ll see nest building, stone stealing and all kinds of penguin drama as they prepare to become parents once again. The penguins lay their eggs, taking good care to keep them warm, and many chicks will hatch before the year’s end. Around this time, whales return to Antarctica to feed. Minkes, southern right whales and humpbacks all swim in Antarctica’s waters.
Fun fact: December has the longest days, with up to 20 hours of proper sunlight.
January to February
These are the warmest months in Antarctica, when the animals that call it home put on quite a show. Penguin chicks start to hatch and their parents take it in turns going out to sea to catch krill for feeding time. Predators, like leopard seals, grow bolder as the chicks hatch and enter the ocean for the first time. Amongst all the action, whales arrive at the peninsula to feed.
Fun fact: Snow tends to melt around this time, revealing remarkable historical relics.
This is considered late season as the sun sinks further below the horizon. The snow cover is at its minimum, which allows for longer walks and hikes during landings. (You may even be lucky enough to see one or two of the species of flowering plant found in Antarctica.) Whale watching continues to be a highlight, and penguin chicks are now adolescents who are curious about tourists, although still dependent on their parents for food.
Fun fact: Receding ice allows for further exploration south along the Antarctic Peninsula and, in some cases, access to scientific bases that were closed off earlier in the season.
It depends on your itinerary. The Antarctic Classic trips are usually between 9 and 11 days. “Crossing the Antarctic Circle” trips and “Weddell Sea” specials can sometimes be 10 to 13 days, and longer “Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctica” voyages are between 18 and 21 days. There are even longer expeditions that take you to the Ross Sea in East Antarctica, and these can be around 30 days.
By expedition ship. You can depart from Ushuaia, the southernmost port in Argentina. However, if you wish to avoid crossing the notorious Drake Passage (the seas can be rough), then you can fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, down to the Antarctic Peninsula and embark on your expedition ship in the calmer Antarctic waters. This is also a good option if you’re short on time—but it does cost more. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and have more time to spare, you can hire a private yacht or sailboat.
A year in advance, if possible. You’ll have more options to choose from, and if you’re interested in adventure activities such as kayaking or camping, participation is limited and spaces sell out quickly.
No, not for Antarctica. And most countries do not need a visa to enter Argentina. But please be extra careful and check the list at the following link:
Antarctica is a beautiful but remote and wild place where Mother Nature is in charge. Every ship that goes to the Antarctic peninsula plans for a minimum of two excursions per day, but these depend on the weather. It’s important to remember that the itinerary that’s outlined in your pre-voyage materials may change depending on weather conditions. All expedition leaders work closely with the ship captains to survey weather charts, and we ask passengers to be flexible and trust that the team is doing their best.
Expedition ships are in regular contact with each other, so if another ship sees something noteworthy while sailing down the peninsula, the ship you are on may change course to take advantage of that. Every ship aims for at least one continental landing, and, ice conditions permitting, a stop at Port Lockroy where there is a post office.
Many people get seasick, so it’s important to come prepared. If you have used medication for motion sickness in the past, bring it with you. In case you don’t know whether you suffer from seasickness and have never used this type of medication before, all ships have a doctor on board who can provide counsel and seasickness medication if you’re not feeling well.
You won’t need cash on board, but you should register your credit card at reception for any onboard purchases, such as at the bar or in the gift shop, if there is one. If you stop at places like Port Lockroy, or if you’re on a longer trip including the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, it’s good to have cash in Great British Pounds (GBP) or United States Dollars (USD) for souvenir shopping. Even though gift shops accept credit cards, the machines don’t always work due to their remote locations.
The season runs from May to September. Polar bears can be seen throughout the season, but if you’re interested in birdwatching and headed to Svalbard, then you should arrive before August. It’s around this time that 60,000 Brünnich’s guillemots finish their breeding activities at the famous bird cliffs of Alkefjellet.
Fun fact: The beginning or the end of the season is a great time to visit if you're a photographer and hope to take advantage of natural light variations.
Expedition cruises in Svalbard are around 7 to 13 days. Voyages that include Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland can be 10 to 12 days, and Northwest Passage trips are usually about 12 days.
The best way to experience the Arctic is by expedition ship. Polar Tracks’ small expedition ships give you freedom and flexibility and can take you into the remote wilds.
Expedition cruises depart from Longyearbyen, Svalbard, so you’ll need to fly via Oslo, Norway, up to Svalbard. Some voyages do begin in Iceland, Northern Canada or even Greenland.
A year in advance, if possible. You’ll have more options to choose from, and if you’re interested in adventure activities such as kayaking or camping, participation is limited and spaces sell out quickly. If you do decide to go last minute, let us know, as there are often a few spaces still available for the trip of a lifetime.
It depends on what you’d like to experience.
For animal lovers
If you want to maximize the likelihood of polar bear encounters, book a longer (10 day) Svalbard voyage.
For nature enthusiasts
Look for an itinerary that includes Greenland – think epic landscapes, massive mountains and icebergs. If you want a bit of everything the Arctic has to offer, we’d recommend a trip that includes Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland.
For history buffs
The Northwest Passage is a wonderful place to see and feel Franklin’s world, as well as to experience the unique lives of the Inuit in remote northern villages.
Svalbard. It is the farthest north of all the Arctic ship cruise options. The sea ice from which polar bears hunt extends down quite close to this Norwegian archipelago.
Many people get seasick, so it’s important to come prepared. If you have used medication for motion sickness in the past, bring it with you. In case you don’t know whether you suffer from seasickness and have never used this type of medication before, all large ships have a doctor on board who can provide counsel and seasickness medication if you’re not feeling well.
There is no doctor on board smaller ships (12–24 passengers), so be sure to consult with your own physician before leaving home and bring some medication with you.
In larger towns like Longyearbyen in Svalbard, credit cards are accepted everywhere. But in smaller villages in Greenland or Northern Canada, cash is required.
On larger ships you can add any tip (entirely voluntary) to your onboard account and pay by credit card at the end of the voyage. On smaller ships (12–24 passengers) it’s easier to tip the crew in cash. A good guideline is $10–12 USD per passenger per day. For example, a 7-day cruise would equal a $70 to $84 tip at the end, which would be distributed evenly to the crew by the expedition leader.
What To Bring
- The polar regions are cold, so bring layers made of wool, silk or synthetic fabrics, (rather than cotton) as well as a thin down jacket or fleece.
- Bring a lightweight parka or winter jacket that’s wind- and water-resistant, and in a bright color. The polar environment is mostly monochrome, so this is for safety reasons.
- Pack winter waterproof pants that are roomy enough for you to layer long underwear and hiking pants underneath. It’s important these are waterproof, as sea spray is common on board the Zodiacs and you can sometimes get soaked in bad weather.
- We recommend thin liner gloves (merino is a great material) to wear under warm water-resistant outer gloves. This will make things easier when you need to remove your outer gloves to operate your camera but still keep your hands warm and dry.
- Bring more than one pair of gloves in case your main pair gets soaked or misplaced.
- Pack a warm hat that covers your ears, and a scarf or neck cowl that can provide neck and face protection in the event of inclement weather.
Check with us ahead of time, as many ships provide complimentary boots. If you’re required to provide your own, pack high rubber boots, or Wellingtons, as you’ll be stepping into water up to 10” deep on wet landings around the peninsula. They must have non-skid rubber soles and must come up to just below your knees. It’s also important that your boots are loose-fitting so that you can wear 2–3 layers of socks in them for warmth on longer excursions.
It’s comfy and cozy on board, so bring casual clothing. Lightweight and rubber-soled shoes are ideal footwear that can be worn easily indoors or on deck during wildlife or iceberg sightings.
- A small day pack or camera bag with waterproof cover or plastic bag (for protection from sea spray)
- High-SPF sunscreen and lip protection
- Camera, extra memory cards, and extra batteries. The cold temperatures will chew through your camera batteries in record time. Always have an extra battery charging in your room
- Sunglasses with polarized lenses
- Water bottle
- Seasickness pills or patches
- An international electricity adaptor
- Any essential medications
- Passport (a passport with at least 6 months validity is required for entry into Argentina)
- Photocopies of your passport, stored separately
- All travel vouchers and pre-departure information
- Travel insurance documentation
- Airline tickets
- Credit cards and cash
The luggage allowance on the domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia is 15 to 23 kg (33 to 50 lbs) per person. Passengers who have bought their international ticket with Aerolinas Argentinas are allowed the higher international luggage allowance. Please be aware that the airline will charge for any excess baggage over the appropriate allowance. If you’re flying with LATAM, be sure to research their baggage restrictions ahead of time.
The airlines that fly from Oslo to Longyearbyen are Norwegian Airlines, SAS and Wideroe. They each allow one checked bag (the weight restriction is between 20 and 23 kg depending on the airline) and one piece of hand luggage. Please check your airline’s luggage restrictions when booking your flight. All airlines allow you to pay an extra fee for excess baggage.