For decades, exploring Antarctica or ‘The Ice’ as it is known, was unfathomable for most. Its pristine glaciers, gently drifting ice bergs and iconic penguin colonies have been one of Earth’s best-kept secrets for so long, but avid explorers are now able to battle their way into the cold to discover one of the most extraordinary places on the planet. If you’re tempted to explore this vast wilderness, read on for our guide of things to know before travelling to Antarctica...

Climate and Weather in Antarctica

Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth. Although temperatures occasionally reach between -2°C and 8°C during the summer along the coast, most of Antarctica sits between -57°C and -90°C, so it is essential that you properly prepare and pack clothing that is suitable for temperatures that you will likely never have experienced before. Generally, the best time to explore the snow-covered continent is between November and March, when you’ll see Antarctica’s wildlife at its busiest and can make the most of 24-hour daylight.

Food and Drink in Antarctica

Due to its vastly remote location, Antarctica doesn’t have a huge amount of native food. While you may not see a single piece of fruit or veg, seafood is hugely popular with shellfish being a particular favourite. With the temperatures being as low as they are, food with a high fat content is essential, so pemmican, a mix of ground and dried meat, is an Antarctic essential. Hoosh, a mixture of pemmican, biscuits and melted ice is a warming staple, as are sledging biscuits themselves, as they are easy to make and are high in energy. Beer is a particular favourite for warming up and in Antarctica and it comes dark and strong. 

Languages in Antarctica

With around 20 languages spoken across the world’s fifth-largest continent, there will be no shortage of communication when exploring Antarctica. English is the most prevalent, followed by Spanish and other European languages, Russian, and Mandarin.

Must-sees in Antarctica

Much of Antarctica is snow and ice, but it is also home to plenty of must-see spots that ought to be at the top of any bucket list. Peruse the emperor penguin colony at Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea where you will be able to catch a glimpse of little fluffy penguin chicks sheltering in the shadows of their majestic elders. For a splash more adventure, hop aboard a kayak or a sturdy Zodiak boat and head out into the chilly waters of the Neumayer Channel or around Petermann Island and watch as glacier fronts, icebergs and even a few surfacing whales drift gently by. If whales are what you are in Antarctica for, then a whale-watching cruise is a must. The waters around Cuverville Island, Danco Island and Pléneau Island are particular hotspots and you may even be able to spot families of seals, soaring skuas and groups of tottering gentoo penguins too. When you have had enough of the great outdoors, head to Earth’s southernmost post office at the former research base of Port Lockroy, otherwise known as Penguin Post Office, where you can post a letter home filled with tales of your great Antarctician adventures.

Health and Safety

With such extreme weather conditions, it is essential that you come prepared for any and all situations as there is no shortage of hazards in the Antarctic. The unfathomably cold temperatures put travellers at risk of frostbite and hypothermia while the snow itself can cause snow blindless, so warm clothes and sunnies are a must. Sunblock is essential to prevent sunburn, and we recommend packing seasickness tablets and altitude medication if you are on an exploration expedition. As the largest desert in the world, Antarctica is surprisingly dry, so when you are there, be sure to drink enough water in order to prevent de-hydration.

Additional Information

Although you will need extra warm clothing in Antarctica itself, remember you will be spending a few days on the foot of South America, so make sure to bring some warm-weather items too. With much of the travel around Antarctica being on a boat, it might be worth packing some sea sickness medication, just in case your stomach suddenly decides it doesn’t like the sea. Last, but certainly not least, the environment is hugely important to Antarcticians, so ensure that when you are on this icy continent, you have utmost respect for your surroundings.

Contact one of our Antarctica specialists