Luxury Travel Advisor Ellen Bainer crossed the seventh continent off her bucket list with an expedition to the world’s most remote land mass. Aboard a luxury icebreaker ship, Ellen traveled to Antarctica and sailed past landscapes and horizons so beautiful, she could only describe them as otherworldly. Ready to experience it yourself?
Antarctica is a vast landscape of unexpected beauty with ever-changing views of sea, sky, and ice. While most expect the weather to be extreme, it is mildly cold more often, sunny and clear during the summer months. The world’s southernmost continent is best described as a polar desert, and its proximity to the sun guarantees dramatic skies at the end of each long day.
Magically, this rugged terrain has no vegetation. Underwater, life is as abundant as it is barren on land. From zooplankton, krill, and fish all the way up to squid, whales and seals, the ecosystem surrounding Antarctica is teeming.
It is no surprise that the White Continent is home to only three year-round research stations. The entire land mass was designated for scientific research in 1959 and is the only continent without a sovereign nation. You're truly exploring the world's last great frontier, complete with volcanoes, unscalable mountains, glaciers, and other fascinating barren scenery.
Paradise Harbor is home to Brown Station, an Argentinian research station made up of a small cluster of buildings along a rocky point. Ellen recommends taking a Zodiac to shore and hiking up the snowy promontory behind the base to the viewpoint above. During this exhilarating (albeit steep!) trek, you might shed your parka, but the picture-perfect views of the harbor will be worth it.
As suggested by its name, this horseshoe-shaped island is actually a sunken volcano. Its flooded caldera creates a sheltered harbor surrounded by a wide black sand beach. In the early 19th century, whalers set up a station here, which was later used as a scientific research station before being abandoned in the 1960’s.
As your Zodiac nudges onto the beach, Chinstrap penguins welcome you to the island. Hiking along the ridge, feel the thrill of discovering a new land as you lay the only boot prints in the fresh snow. Back onboard, enjoy modern-day comforts with hot tea and pastries.
While onboard your ship, be sure to wander up to the Observation Lounge on the top deck. It’s always the perfect spot for sunset gazing. On Ellen’s ship, Le Boreal, the lounge boasted floor to ceiling windows, a wide view, and a wrap-around back deck. Sip a cocktail and gaze at the ever-changing sunset, which depending on the time of year, may never fully set.
Ellen fondly recounts after-dinner conversations recalling snowy hikes, silly penguins, and stunning iceberg arches that were briefly interrupted by the beckoning of the kaleidoscope sky. Prepared with a down vest, Ellen spent her evenings outside snapping photos of the spectacular rays of light on the horizon.
Want to send a postcard from Antarctica? Head to the “Penguin Post Office” at Port Lockroy! The building started out as a British military base in 1944 and has since been renovated into a museum and gift shop. The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT), a British charity, operates Port Lockroy as a designated Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty.
You’ll also see Gentoo penguins nesting in the rocks around the building. This colony has grown in recent years, and the staff at Port Lockroy monitors their habits and changing population.