Why this might be the best year ever to visit Antarctica

Jun 17, 2021

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If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Antarctica, this might be the year to make it happen.

There’s a narrow six-month window each year when you can visit Antarctica, and this December the stars (and sun and moon) are aligning so you can also view a total solar eclipse during your trip — and it’s not too late to book this journey of a lifetime. If you’ve been hoping to see a total solar eclipse, it’s your last chance until April of 2024.

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Commercial voyages can only reach Antarctica from late October to March when the sea ice opens up enough to allow ships through. And it’s a lengthy journey: Short trips start around eight days and some can extend to three weeks.

Tourists have become increasingly interested in the southern continent, and there are now a number of tours that vary in price and duration, though even the least expensive itineraries will run you several thousands of dollars. Cruise lines and tour operators such as Silversea, Viking, Quark Expeditions, Seabourn, Intrepid and Abercrombie & Kent all lead Antarctica expeditions.

There are even travel providers with itineraries dedicated to seeing the solar eclipse this year.

Even the best tour company, however, can’t guarantee you’ll have clear skies. Poor conditions can obviously affect your ability to see the eclipse, and Antarctica is known for its unpredictable weather.

According to NASA, a total solar eclipse is predicted for Dec. 4, 2021, and Antarctica may be the only place on Earth you’ll be able to get a complete view of the eclipse this time around. The view will be best the closer you are to the so-called path of totality.

Total Solar Eclipse (Image by SA Expeditions/Nick Dall)

After the eclipse in December, the next time a total solar eclipse isn’t expected until April 8, 2024. That one, however, won’t require a trip across the globe. Instead, it’s set to carve a path through Mexico, the central U.S. and eastern Canada.

But if 2024 is too far away and you have Antarctica on your travel list, you might want to consider seeing one of nature’s happiest accidents this December.

Of course, COVID-19 could still pose a challenge for travelers looking to visit Antarctica this year. Right now, tourism isn’t banned from the continent, but there are only a few avenues to get to Antarctica, and you’ll have to follow the rules of entry for those countries.

Related: You can now cruise from the Arctic to Antarctica on this over-the-top new voyage

Most Antarctica voyages depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile. Both countries are closed to tourists at this time, but the situation could change in time for the solar eclipse sailings.

Even if you don’t see a perfect total solar eclipse, you’ll still get to experience Arctic waters, pristine glaciers and penguins. Not a bad deal, right?

Featured image by Jo Crebbin/Shutterstock. 

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