The specific ship and itinerary you select for your Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia expedition cruise will determine which destinations you visit. This section contains descriptions of the various locations included in the selected journeys that we offer. Please consult your specific ship's itinerary, listed on the Ships
page, to find out which locations are included on your Antarctica trip.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The South American arrival point for most Antarctica expedition cruise guests is Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital and major city. One of the largest metropolitan areas in Latin America, Buenos Aires is a top tourist destination, known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle, vibrant cultural melange and European-style architecture reflecting its colonial heritage and the influence of its many 19th-and early 20th-century immigrants.
Ushuaia, at the bottom of Tierra del Fuego, lies at the very foot of the southern Andes. There’s no mistaking the "end of the world" feeling about the world’s most southerly town, which is the point of embarkation for expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
A deepwater port, commercial center and tourism destination, Puerto Madryn is the gateway to the Península Valdés, a wildlife sanctuary for birds and marine mammals. Long after Spanish explorers landed, this area was also settled by Welsh colonists who left Great Britain seeking autonomy for their culture and language. Though the town still bears a Welsh name, there is little else that remains of that heritage. Most visitors arrive here from the airport in Trelew, 40 miles south.
The Drake Passage is legendary among mariners. Named for the 16th-century English privateer Sir Francis Drake whose ship was blown far off course in these waters, this 600-mile-wide channel that separates Cape Horn from the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for its frequent high winds and rough seas. At these latitudes there is no significant land anywhere on the planet, which allows the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to flow unimpeded, carrying a tremendous volume of water through the Passage. Midway across it lies the Antarctic Convergence, the zone where the cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the subantarctic. This area of mixing and upwelling creates a highly productive marine zone, especially for Antarctic krill, the favored food source for whales, seals, penguins, squid, albatrosses and other sea birds. Once we reach this zone on southbound voyages, we’re likely to be escorted by whales, dolphins, Cape petrels and wandering albatrosses, a hint of the wildlife to come. En route, educational programs led by the expedition team prepare us for all that lies ahead.
Also called the Islas Malvinas, this windswept archipelago is a study in stone, sand and peat, with rugged cliffs battered by the ocean. Its isolated shores are home to marine mammals and prodigious birdlife. Flightless steamer ducks, nesting black-browed albatross, blue-eyed shags and several penguin species, including Magellanic, gentoo and rockhopper, are abundant, and dolphins often ride our bow waves near the islands. Though the Falklands, a British colony off the coast of Argentina, are still disputed territory, culturally they are British through and through. English and Scottish immigrants arrived in the 19th century, bringing sheep in the late 1800s, and wool is still produced. The photogenic capital of Stanley, with its tin-roofed houses, rose gardens, pubs and other emblems of the Falklands’ colonial heritage, is a quaint place to explore.
Remote South Georgia is best known for the riveting saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914 expedition aboard the sailing ship Endurance.
The magnitude of Shackleton’s heroic trek across South Georgia to secure the rescue of his crew can only be fully grasped on a visit to the island, with its spine of glaciated peaks rising precipitously from the sea. J. Gunnar Anderson, who encountered the island in 1902, described it as “mighty fells with snowy crowns and sharp, uncovered teeth, around the valleys through which enormous, broad rivers of ice came flowing to the sea.” Yet the land, for all its ruggedness, is rich in animal life. Zodiac trips permit visits to desolate beaches and glacier-carved fjords, and curious fur seals often approach the boats. Millions of king penguins live here, in colonies stretching to the horizon. South Georgia’s waters are home to blue, sperm, fin, sei and southern right whales, though they were nearly wiped out in the 20th century when whaling was still a commercial industry. At the former whaling outpost of Grytviken, abandoned processing factories lie derelict, and elephant seals have taken over the grounds. Those who wish to pay respects to the legendary explorer can visit the grave of Shackleton, who died here in 1922.
Far-flung Elephant Island is located in the outer reaches of the South Shetlands group off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The mountainous, ice-covered island was named by early explorers who sighted large colonies of elephant seals on its shores. The crew of Shackleton’s Endurance
took refuge here while he and five men sailed nearly 800 miles across the South Atlantic in one of the most heroic and improbable journeys ever recorded. In the rare case that weather conditions allow, we’ll go ashore.
South Shetland Islands
The heavily glaciated South Shetlands lie off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and it is here that we usually see the first frosty blue icebergs indicating our approach to the Antarctic continent. Though claimed historically by the United Kingdom, Chile and Argentina, the South Shetlands are part of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and are open to use by any signatory country. Several countries maintain research stations in the islands. While the South Shetlands were a focus of sealing and whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, today they harbor large populations of these marine mammals, as well penguins and other seabirds. When weather conditions permit, landings here may be possible, though frequent intense winds often prohibit this.
A grand and otherworldly kingdom of ice, rock, sea and sky, the Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the continent of Antarctica. The first explorers laid eyes on it in the early 19th century, and it has held a storied place in the annals of global adventurers since. Covered beneath a nearly perpetual ice sheet, the peninsula rises in a line of serrated peaks. Glaciers pour into their valleys, flowing into the massive ice shelves that hug the sea. Though this frigid land hosts no permanent population, it is the site of a vital international scientific research community. The peninsula’s relatively mild climate in comparison to the rest of the icebound continent explains its status as the preferred location for most research stations, as well as a destination for tourist vessels.
Almost constant summer daylight provides ample opportunity to explore this frozen white frontier with the guidance of the seasoned expedition team that accompanies each ship. Millions of animals thrive here, and visitors find a rich assortment of marine life including Weddell, Southern elephant, crabeater and leopard seals, and minke, humpback, sei and fin whales, as well as orcas. Motorized Zodiac rafts allow us to get close to wildlife and make landings on shore, where we walk among noisy colonies of penguins. Four species are found on the peninsula – chinstrap, emperor, gentoo and adelie -- mostly toward the tip and islands. Other prolific seabirds include kelp gulls, various petrels, snowy sheathbills, skuas, shags and Antarctic terns. A popular destination on the Antarctic Peninsula is the Lemaire Channel, where steep cliffs hem in a narrow passage filled with a magnificent parade of icebergs bobbing past.
South Orkney Islands
Discovered by English and American sealers in 1821, the South Orkneys are a group of mountainous islands in the Southern Ocean about 375 miles northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Named by James Weddell in 1823 for their counterpart in Scotland, the islands lie at nearly the same latitude – 60° -- as the Orkneys of the north, though the Antarctic climate makes conditions in the South Orkneys much harsher, with weather that is typically cold, wet and windy. The landscape is daunting, with bold headlands, steep cliffs and deep, glacial-filled valleys, yet the islands support a variety of life. Hardy mosses, lichens and algae flourish during the brief summer, while seabirds, penguins and seals feed in the surrounding waters that thaw for several months.
Days at sea are an opportunity to learn and relax. Your expedition ship has a full complement of on-board naturalists, scientists and historians eager to share information about geology, climate, wildlife and human presence in Antarctica and the southern polar region. Lectures and slide shows will add to your appreciation of all that you see and experience during your voyage. In addition, most ships have facilities on board for leisure and recreation such as a gym with fitness equipment, massage therapy and/or a library with a collection of books on Antarctic natural history and polar exploration. Traditionally, most Antarctica expedition ships have an open bridge policy, and passengers are welcome to come up to visit with the captain and officers.