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Hiking in Antarctica

Hiking in Antarctica enables you to explore less-visited parts of the continent and surrounding islands. There are no trails, the terrain is rough and the scenery of rocky expanses of land dotted with snow patches differs from the typical vistas you see from the cruise ship or on shore landings. Here's what to expect and how to prepare for these remote excursions.

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What is hiking in Antartica like?

Hiking in Antarctica and the surrounding islands is an excellent way to witness otherworldly panoramas you may not see from the cruise ship or on standard shore landings. You'll traverse incredible, rugged landscapes, but don't expect to follow any sort of trail. The peninsula's surface is not ideal for hiking because it consists of lots of rocky terrain with sliding pebbles, and often involves circumventing craters. But you'll be heading into remote areas and seeing a different side of the South Pole. Overall, the best hiking options are on the South Georgia Islands and the South Shetland Islands. It's particularly popular on Deception Island, which features an active volcano and over 100,000 breeding pairs of Chinstrap penguins. There are usually a few options with different levels of difficulty, from easier walks to more challenging hikes. Because of the tricky terrain, short hikes are most common and usually take up to three hours, occasionally longer.

What to consider before embarking on an Antarctica hiking activity

Hiking in Antarctica is not like hitting a well-trodden trail with a bit of snow. Keep a few details in mind before you sign up to go hiking in Antarctica.

  • Be reasonably fit--none of the hikes are like a stroll on smooth pavement. There are no trails and the terrain is rugged and is not the easiest to walk on.
  • Consider the fact that you can't, er, just pee behind a bush. Leaving human waste of any kind is strictly forbidden on Antarctica, so if nature calls during a hike, you'll need to use a special bottle. Oh, and there are no bushes, though you might find a rock to hide behind. Luckily, most hikes are only a few hours long.
  • Consult with your tour operator and find out what fitness level is required. Each hike varies in difficulty.
  • Venturing inland means you are even more remote and far away from the cruise ship. If you have major health issues, only basic help can be provided in the event of a medical emergency. If you have serious health problems it's not advised to take part.

View from Danco Island in the Antarctic Peninsula
View from Danco Island in the Antarctic Peninsula

FAQ

  • Is hiking included in the price?

    Yes, usually, but it depends on the tour operator. If it's not included, the additional price is generally around 200 USD per person.
  • Do I have to be physically fit for hiking in Antarctica?

    Yes. To fully enjoy the activity and not slow down the whole group, participants should be in good physical condition. But there might be few easier hiking and walking activities during the Antarctica cruise that cater to different levels of fitness. Your tour operator will guide you through your choices.
  • Is hiking in Antarctica safe?

    Hiking in Antarctica is as safe as hiking anywhere else. The activity is always supervised by a specialist guide. Do keep in mind that it's a very remote area so people with serious health conditions are not advised to participate. 
  • How can I book hiking on my cruise?

    When booking your cruise, ask your tour operator if there is a hiking activity. If hiking is not included in the price, you'll need to sign up. There are often a few hiking activities offered so people with different levels of fitness can participate, from short walks to three-hour hikes. Your tour operator can explain what physical level is required for each activity.
  • What equipment is provided?

    Some operators provide walking poles, but we suggest you confirm this with your tour operator prior to departure.
  • How often will I go hiking?

    Depending on the weather, hiking and walking activities are generally organised a few times.

How to prepare for hiking in Antarctica

Be in good physical shape to enjoy this Antarctica activity so you can keep up with the group. Try to go hiking or do some cardio work before your trip, ideally on more challenging terrain like uneven ground and rocks.

Tips

Keep these tips in mind and bring the following for your hike in Antarctica. Some items may be supplied by your tour operator, but ask in advance to verify what they will provide and which items you need to bring.

General gear

  • A urine-collection bottle. Due to strict regulations, no human waste can be left on Antarctica. Specialised versions for women are available at outdoor shops.
  • Sunblock and sunglasses. The sun is strong and reflects off the snow and ice, so it can quickly give you unexpected burns.
  • Stainless steel water bottle. You'll need to stay hydrated.
  • Backpack.
  • Optional: Binoculars to enjoy better views, trekking poles.

Clothing
  • Bring standard hiking clothing. Most of it will be useful for the entire Antarctica cruise. 
  • Waterproof, breathable trekking jacket and trousers.
  • Hiking boots.
  • Two pairs of socks (thin and thick). Wear both simultaneously to stay warm and prevent blisters.
  • Layers of thin and thick thermal gear. When the sun shines and it gets warm, one layer can be always removed. 
  • Thermal gloves and hat.

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