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Explorer’s Travel Guide: Hiking in Antarctica

4 min read

As far as adventurous treks go, there's very little in the entire world that can compare to an immersive experience on the 7th Continent. Antarctica is a majestic sight for those few who seize the opportunity to visit the southern polar peninsula, and the unforgettable sights, sounds, and adventures that await polar travelers—especially those who long to plant their feet firmly on the terra firma of the Antarctic.

Guests traveling with Quark Expeditions enjoy some off-ship exploration while hiking in Antarctica.

Guests traveling with Quark Expeditions enjoy some off-ship exploration while hiking in Antarctica. Photo: David Merron

Voyages onboard vessels like Ultramarine take you deep into the heart of the continent, and you can book excursions that allow you to explore the pristine beauty of Antarctica from the land, the sea, and even the air. In fact, when people experience their first polar moments in Antarctica, they're blown away by the sheer fascination with a part of the world that most people can only dream about. Anticipation for the off-ship excursions only builds from there.

Hiking across Antarctica

The most grounded (quite, literally) and traditional means of exploring a new land is by hiking or trekking across the continent. However, there are scant trails or sign-posted hiking routes in Antarctica, largely due to the ice-covered crevices and environmental purposes. That's where your experienced polar guides come in.

Companies like Quark Expeditions offer guided hikes that your expedition team can lead through on shore landings. Hiking in Antarctica is a different experience than typical trail hikes in forests or deep woods you may have enjoyed in the pastoral countrysides of Europe. Antarctica hiking tours and off-ship experiences require different types of equipment and clothing that's built to withstand the polar elements. This way, you can appreciate the majesty of what you will experience without feeling the intensity of the weather.

Your expedition team will put you into a group of travelers of the same hiking ability (and interests) who will guide you across safely across the terrain. Some travelers will want a walk-and-wonder type of hike, while others will want to pick up speed and forge ahead, perhaps covering a greater distance. Rest assured, you'll get to hike at a pace of our liking and you'll have the opportunity to see animals in their natural habitat, especially penguins who often congregate in the thousands.

Quark Expeditions guests encounter resident wildlife on a walk in Antarctica.

Hiking in Antarctica is an opportunity for travelers to plant their feet on the 7th Continent and walk
where few humans have ever set foot. Photo: Nicky Souness

In addition to enjoying short Antarctic hiking tours with seasoned guides during shore landings, Quark Expeditions' guests can also sign up for alpine heli-trekking, which is a little more challenging.

Antarctica hiking cruise

Hiking is only one way to explore the vast wonders of Antarctica. There are many off-land excursions that you can enjoy during your adventure to see even more of what makes the southern polar ice cap such a magical and mystifying part of the world.

One popular excursion is sea kayaking in the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica. You typically kayak a group of seafaring explorers—along with a highly-experienced kayak guide—between the icebergs and glaciers that surround the main continent. You'll forge potentially lifelong bonds with other travelers in your group as you paddle towards incredible fjords, beautiful glacial faces, and mazes of sea ice that your team leader will navigate you through.

The sea kayaking program is also built for all levels of experience. The expedition guides will coach you and demonstrate how to safely navigate these waters and answer any questions you may have. There's also a safety driver in a Zodiac who always follows the group and will offer any assistance should the occasion arise.

Antarctica hiking trails

As mentioned, travelers shouldn't expect to see sign-posted hiking routes throughout the Antarctic—with distances and place names clearly marked as you would, for instance, see if you were hiking in England or along the Appalachian Trail. Think of them as known hiking routes and pathways that the guides are familiar with after years of working in the Antarctic. Visitors can expect unforgettable shore landings during the 11-day Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent voyage that will take you across the Drake Passage and arrive in the Lemaire Channel to a magical continent that will fill you with wonder and awe. If you've got adventurer's blood, you won't be able to wait to start exploring.

In addition to fulfilling your dream of hiking in Antarctica, you also have the opportunity to camp out with your team in an unforgettable overnight experience. Remember to talk to your polar travel advisor when booking your trip.

Quark Expeditions guests prepare for overnight camping in Antarctica.

Quark Expeditions guests prepare for overnight camping in Antarctica. Photo: David Merron

Campsites are set up near the coast so you may even catch a glimpse of a humpback whale coming up for air before turning in for the night. Unlike camping and hiking trail excursions into deep wooded environments, you won't have to worry about bear attacks in Antarctica. Your team leader will fill you in on why polar bears are not in Antarctica even though they roam all across the Arctic.

The rugged terrain, while conductive to wildlife habitat, largely prohibits construction of buildings.

Long sign-posted hiking trails aren't necessarily part of the hiking experience in Antarctica, but guests will be able to trek through ruggedly
beautiful landscapes accompanied by guides who are intimately familiar with the terrain. Photo: Nicky Souness

Antarctica hiking tours

Earlier on, we mentioned that you can experience all the magnificence and wonder of Antarctica by land, sea, and by air. When you travel to the Southern Ocean aboard the Ultramarine, you have access to the most robust portfolio of off-ship polar adventures in the expedition industry, including the option to travel by helicopter over much of the land.

Onboard the Ultramarine are two twin-engine helicopters where you can enjoy flightseeing. Rather, you can think of it as an “Antarctic hiking tour by air“ without strapping on your hiking boots! You'll bond with an intimate group of travelers as you appreciate unforgettable views of the expansive polar landscape unfolding on the ground below.

You'll even get to fly to remote designated areas where you'll go on an invigorating walk, hike or snowshoe trek across remote ridgelines, glaciated terrain, and snow-capped peaks that are equally stunning and unforgettable. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see one of the most unknown parts of the world in a way that very few will ever experience.

So, where to from here to fulfill your dream of hiking in Antarctica, peruse the various voyages that pique your interest and refer to the “Adventure Options” section within each voyage. This trip, Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent offers an incredible selection of 10 off-ship Adventure Options—including, of course, hiking in Antarctica!

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