The Arctic v Antarctic: Which Should You Visit?
As far as adventures go, a journey to the polar regions is a big one! But which should you go to? North to the Arctic or south to the Antarctic? We've put together a list to help you figure it out.
When do you want to travel?
Large patches of the Arctic Ocean are frozen between October to March, so sailing is almost impossible. June to September is the perfect time to visit the Arctic Circle when the ice flowers are in full "bloom" and the polar bears are roaming the ice. The Antarctic season is nowhere near as simple to define: November – December is when the animals are migrating in great numbers across pristine snow, mid-December – January is when the first penguin chicks appear, and February – March is the best time to go in search of whales!
How long do you want to be away?
An Arctic cruise can be done in a week and it's relatively easy to fly out to Norway or Iceland to meet your ship. Meanwhile Antarctic adventures need more time as you need to fly out to Chile or Argentina first. Standard cruises are 10 nights but if you want to visit the Falkland Islands or South Georgia – which is very popular – the cruise becomes 20 nights. It is also possible to do a fly-cruise in six nights, as it misses out the Drake Passage.
What activities are on offer?
There’s lots to do in the Arctic: from walking and mountaineering to diving and kayaking - but only for those who are experienced! - the Arctic is a treasure-trove for the adventurous. You can even take to the skies in a hot air balloon or helicopter and fly over this frozen wilderness. The Antarctic also offers guided hikes and snowshoeing, kayaking is offered to anyone with prior experience (mainly because there are no polar bears swimming in the water here) so you are more likely to be able to glide through those awesome ice structures.
Polar Bears or Penguins?
Quite simply, would you rather see penguins or polar bears? Penguins populate the Antarctic while polar bears roam the Arctic. Other than that, the Antarctic is also teeming with seals while killer whales dominate the seas and the Wandering Albatross can be found flying overhead. While, the Arctic is home to huge Walruses which weigh up to 1.5 tons, up to 17 different species of whales and vast bird cliffs.
Which is best for icebergs & glaciers?
Both the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Peninsular awe-inspiring landmasses but the Antarctic has the largest icebergs in the world. The Antarctic is home to towering ice structures which must be seen to be believed – the biggest iceberg in the world measures 11,000km2 which is larger than the island of Jamaica. However, the Arctic Circle enjoys some stunning sunsets which make the icebergs and glaciers glow pink.
Cold or very cold?
It may surprise you to know but the Antarctic is much colder than the Arctic. Temperatures in the North Pole can reach highs of 10°C, while the South Pole has been known to get as hot as -12°C, so if you want something a bit more temperate the South Pole is your best bet.