Antarctic Peninsula: 10 must-see highlights of Antarctica

Antarctic Peninsula

The seventh continent is full of penguins and icebergs

The Antarctic Peninsula is most well-known part of Antarctica. You’ll find large colonies of several species of penguin in this amazing part of the World. And some other wildlife too.

One of the highlights of Antarctica is the peninsula, where it’s a lot less cold than it is on the south pole. In summer, some parts are even free of ice, this area is mountainous and popular with researchers.

Scientist view the Antarctic Peninsula as a mountain range, and practically as an extension of the Andes in South America. As the start of the peninsula you’ll find the 4.897-meter-high Vinson massif. These are the best places to visit on the Antarctic Peninsula. It includes some of the nicest tours as well.

The Seventh Continent

The moment you set foot on the peninsula you visit the last and most difficult to reach continent for many travellers. The trip to the Seventh Continent is usually accompanied by a drink. In which fresh ice is put. It is a wonderful moment.

Pinguin colonies

You’ll find large colonies of Adelie penguins, gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguin on the Antarctic Peninsula. At Brown Bluff you’ll find mostly Adelie penguins and gentoo penguins. 

And the remarkable harbour of Port Lockroy, a post office and museum, is surrounded by a colony of gentoo penguins. The distance between the Antarctic Peninsula and South America is 997 kilometers.

Snow Hill Island

Emperor penguins on Snow Hill Island.

South-east of the Antarctic Peninsula is Snow Hill Island, famous because its penguin colony hadn’t been discovered until 2004. Since then it’s become the spot of choice for emperor penguins, who choose to have their chicks here. You can only reach the island via helicopter or ice breaker.

Vinson Massif

At the beginning of the peninsula is the Vinson massif which is no less than 4,897 meters high. You can see the mountains looming in various places.

Paulet Island

On Paulet Island in the South-American part, you can see the remains of the huts of the Nordenskjold expedition from 1903, and also hundreds of thousands of pairs of Adelie penguins.

Paradise Bay

Paradise Bay is also located in the South-American part and is home to the timber research station Almirante Brown. It burnt down in 1984 but has been partially rebuilt since then. Visitors to this area say it’s one of the most beautiful landscapes of Antarctica.

Weddell Sea

One of the highlights of the Antarctic landscape is the Weddell Sea, a bay to the east of the peninsula. The sea is most well-known for its tabular icebergs. To reach it you’ll have to travel through the Antarctic Sound, also known as Iceberg Alley.

South Shetland Islands

You can find most of the South Shetland Islands’ whaling history on Deception Island, a small island in the east of the archipelago. It used to be an important port in the 20th century, these days it’s only used for Japanese ‘research’ whaling activities.

The name Whalers Bay says it all. And there are also many remnants of scientific research stations. The South Shetland Islands are located about 120 kilometers north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Visit a research station

On King George Island (part of the South Shetland Islands) you can visit one of the research stations. Researchers from all over the world spend one or two years here. The stations are tiny hamlets with a little school, a church, a café and sometimes even a shop.

One of the hot topics among the researchers is climate change, and they like to discuss this with the tourists. If you travel to this part of the world, you can’t help but wonder about its future.

Watch the emperor penguins migrate

In November you can watch how masses of emperor penguins waddle across the ice of Snow Hill Island. Their destination is the sea, to go hunting for fish. It is by far one of the most impressive sights in Antarctica.

Spot the many kinds of whales in Antarctica

Antarctica is a paradise for whale lovers. It’s likely you will see different kinds of whales, for example, humpback whales, sperm whales, blue whales, fin whales, and minke whales. You can spot them during your trip to and from the area, as well as when you’re traveling around. Some just pass by, others might show you how they catch fish. It could be just one, or even a pod of thirty. Make sure you have your camera ready, so you can capture those amazing moments.

Hiking on the Antarctic Peninsula

Walks of up to four hours are available in the summertime, and can be done on the peninsula as well as many of the islands. They really immerse you in the experience, mainly because most animals are not scared of humans. This will allow for close encounters that won’t disturb them. Make sure your trip here includes walks.

Swimming in the ocean

It might sound like madness, but the water around Deception Island is geothermally heated, so you can easily go for a swim around here. It’s something you’ll never forget, splashing around in one of the coldest places on earth!

Float around in a special wetsuit

It may seem crazy, but the amount of sports you can do in Antarctica is increasing. One of the things you can do is to scuba dive in the ice-cold water wearing special wetsuits. The sea is full of food (krill) and many animals go here for their meals, so don’t be surprised if something swims right by you. These excursions are usually organised from the ships, which carry the special wetsuits on board. Make sure you enquire about them when you book your trip.

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