This is the Way to See the Real Antarctica

Espen Mills

“It’s like nothing you could ever imagine.” This is how most people describe their first sight of the last continent on earth. 

Whatever you think it’s like to stand in the shadow of a sky-scraping iceberg or watch a pod of orca slicing through ink-blue waves, you can’t really wrap your mind around Antarctica until you’ve taken on its icy, soul-charging silence for yourself. 

Deception Island penguins

Antarctica is not a destination to sail past from a distance or view from the prow of a ship. To really uncover its secrets you’ll want to strap on snowshoes. Wrap yourself in a puffa jacket and walk on its shores. Make friends with a penguin – or 1000 penguins. Get closer. Feel what it’s like to stand at the end of the earth.

Get right inside an otherworldly landscape

Wilhelmina Bay

The savagely beautiful landscape of Antarctica touches everyone who sees it, somewhere deep and primal. The eerie stillness of the mountainous glaciers and icebergs. The wild waves of the deep Antarctic Ocean. The fjords, the inlets, the rocky beaches teeming with penguins and the steep, craggy peaks. 

Cruise company Hurtigruten Expeditions has been sailing through wild polar waters since 1896 and leading Antarctic expeditions from Chile, down through the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, across the challenging Drake Passage and into the White Continent for over 20 years.

Cuverville Island

“When we’re on our landings, I encourage people to find a place where there aren't many other people and simply sit and observe,” says Hurtigruten Expeditions leader and biologist Helga Kristiansen.

“Or when you get back on board the ship, stand still,” she says. “Breathe in the scenery. On the land there is so much to see that it can be overwhelming. When you stay still, that’s when you get the golden moments. It’s when you understand, ‘Wow. I am at the end of the world.’”

Witness wildlife untamed 


“Antarctica is where Mother Nature goes to show off,” says Kristiansen. Thousands upon thousands of penguins go about their family business in vast rookeries. Massive sea mammals – humpback and minke whales, crabeater and leopard seals – explode from the depths to hunt the creatures who survive these conditions. 

Whale in Antarctica

Nature can be cheeky – a penguin’s face tilted comically as it nudges its young. It can be tender – a mother humpback swimming protectively beside her calf. “It’s often cruel and raw,” says Kristiansen. You could witness the moment an orca snatches a seal or a predatory petrel swoops on a baby penguin – and you could see it all from metres away. In Antarctica, you are a guest of nature and all her moods and might.

Push adventure to the limits

Kayaking in Antarctica

Although you’re an observer in this untamed world, a Hurtigruten expedition allows you to immerse yourself more fully within it. On a minimum of two excursions from the ship each day, set foot on icy shores, such as the creviced cliffs of Half Moon Island and the protected harbour of Paradise Bay, that were until recently entirely unexplored by humans. “It’s unique – a real Jurassic Park moment,” says Kristiansen. 

Camping in Antarctica

Adventure lovers can go onshore for extended hikes into pristine landscapes, or join a kayak expedition that gives you the best chance of encountering penguins, seals and maybe even whales without the disturbance of a motor. A camping trip is another option where you can experience the continent like a 19th-century explorer, with nothing except a tent separating you from the elements. 

You haven’t lived until you’ve done the famous polar plunge from the side of the ship into the total blackness of a freezing ocean. “These expeditions push the limits,” says Kristiansen. 

Maximum adventure, minimum impact

MS Roald Amundsen

When the beauty of this unspoiled frontier has taken your heart, you’ll want to do everything you can to preserve it and to make sure that your journey leaves no trace behind. 

Hurtigruten prides itself on being a small ship expedition leader. Sustainability and low-impact exploration powers inform all that they do. Hurtigruten ships – including the two small Antarctic vessels MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen – are fitted with hybrid batteries that minimise emissions and carry no more than 500 passengers. 

“This commitment to sustainability is very important to me on both a personal and professional level,” says Kristiansen. “Every time you spend your money you cast a vote for the sort of world you want to live in.” 

MS Roald Amundsen

The Fridtjof Nansen was named the most sustainable cruise ship in the world in 2021. Fresh water is desalinated and purified on board, saving the power equivalent of that used by 6700 households per year. 

Guests are encouraged to join the company’s citizen science programs, collecting samples for analysis as directed by onboard biologists and geologists. 

Relax in rugged comfort

MS Roald Amundsen

Forget dressing up for dinner or parlour games. Hurtigruten ships are designed for low-key luxury, informality and relaxation. Each ship is fitted with spacious bars – mixologists create region- and occasion-specific cocktails for each voyage – and laid-back lounge areas designed in natural Scandinavian materials including birch, wool and granite. 

MS Roald Amundsen

Large windows allow for maximum immersion and viewing of the magnificent landscape outside. There are also saunas, a gym and wellness centre and, of course, the outdoor hot tubs which is where everyone heads after dinner to make the most of the star-speckled nights – the perfect way to end a day in the wild.  

Image credits: Espen Mills (Danco Island); Karsten Bidstrup (Deception Island); Karsten Bidstrup (Wilhelmina Bay); Karsten Bidstrup (Cuverville Island); Stefan Dall (Penguins at Orne Harbour); Karsten Bidstrup (Wilhelmina Bay); Stefan Dall (Wilhelmina Bay); Stefan Dall (Camping in Antarctica); Shane McGuire (MS Roald Amundsen); Dan Avila (MS Roald Amundsen); Oscar Farrera (MS Roald Amundsen sauna); Oscar Farrera (MS Roald Amundsen pool).

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