8 Best Outdoor Activities in Antarctica (and the sub-Antarctic Islands)


An Antarctic cruise sounds pretty cool. It’s something you haven’t done before. It’s something nobody you know has done before. It’s unusual. It’s an adventure. But… what will you do when you get there? Isn’t it all just ice and snow and more ice and snow?

It turns out there’s all sorts of activities you get to try out when you reach the south end of our lovely little planet. Here’s a list naming just 8 of the adventures for you to experience.

Hiking and snowshoeing

Hiking and snowshoeing is an activity offered by almost any cruise (but not every cruise – make sure you do a wee bit of research first).

Usually you’ll be offered a variety of hikes growing in difficulty. They’ll range from an easy stroll along the Antarctic shores up to rugged walks that can take half a day across uneven ground with an amazing vista as a reward at the end of all that huffing and puffing.


Quite a few Antarctic cruises offer you the chance to hop in a kayak and paddle around in a sheltered bay. Kayaking itself is fun and relatively easy to learn, but its awesome factor grows exponentially as you pair it with the location. You’ll get the chance to check out seals sunning themselves on ice flows or penguins making goo-goo eyes at each other by the millions. You might even get the chance to get up close to one of Mother Nature’s greatest works of art – icebergs.


Mountaineering has one foot in the hike category – you’ll generally have to walk a bit to get to the mountains. But once you’re there you’ll be strapping on some crampons (spikes that attach to your boots) and you’ll follow your experienced guide up to where you can get a higher view. You’re definitely going to want to bring a camera.

Photography workshops

Speaking of cameras, whether you can’t tell the front end of your camera from the back or you’re an experienced shutterbug looking to pick up some Antarctic-specific tips, some Antarctic cruises offer photography workshops with experienced pros.

How much gear (tripods, extended telephoto lenses, etc.) you can bring will depend on an individual cruise line’s rules, but keep in mind that you’re likely going to be zipping from the cruise ship to the shore in a Zodiac (a rubber outboard engine boat) so keep space considerations in mind. Also, the boats can get splashy, so bring your waterproof casings.

Ski trekking

Here’s an Antarctic cruise activity for those who really want some bragging rights. Your cruise ship drops you, your fellow passengers, and an experienced guide or two on the shores of South Georgia and then you’re on your own.

You’ll cross-country ski your way across the island over a period of days pulling all of your camping and survival gear behind you on a little sled. You’ll follow part of Shackleton’s route until you’re finally picked up at the other end of your trek by your cruise ship.


Yes, that’s right, some Antarctic cruises let you camp out under the Antarctic skies. The cruise ship should provide the tents, sleeping bags, etc. that you and your fellow passengers will set up on shore far enough away from any animal sites so as not to disturb them.

Polar diving

If you really want to make some Antarctic region magic happen take a plunge under the ice to the surprisingly lively ecosystem that lives below the waves. Keep in mind that most Antarctic cruises will need you to be an experienced diver (diving under the ice requires some diving know-how in advance).

Helicopter tours

Now you’re really just showing off. Some very special Antarctic cruises offer helicopter rides off of their cruise ships. You’ll zip across the Antarctic landscape and venture inland to meet with hordes of Emperor penguins (you’ll land far enough away so as not to disturb their rookeries).

Antarctic cruise activity tip #1

The number of passengers allowed on shore at any one time is limited by law. So if you want to get the most activities in as possible then we’d suggest heading out on a ship that has 200 passengers or less. The lower the number of passengers, the more chances you’ll have at your activities of choice.

Antarctic cruise activity tip #2

Check with your particular cruise line before embarking – many activities need to be booked ahead of time.

Antarctic cruise activity tip #3

If you can’t decide which activities you want to book then look for Antarctic cruises that offer “basecamp”. Basecamps use your ship as you home “camp” and from there you get to spread out and try various activities which are covered by one price.

If you find yourself dreaming about icebergs and penguins when you get home and want more of Antarctica, consider a job abroad! Read about Michelle’s adventure in working as a science researcher in Antarctica. She recommends to leave room for the unknown on your trip.

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