You go to Antarctica, I’ll go anywhere else

17:00, May 18 2014
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Raw beauty: a Zodiac with the Polar Pioneer in the background.
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Whale at sunset.
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A seal pup.
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A gentoo penguin.
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A seal with its catch.
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Trinity Island penguins.
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Cierva Cove.

I have absolutely no interest in going to Antarctica.

There. I've said it. I've said the heretical words for a travel writer or adventure traveller.

Antarctica is the sexy destination. The "hey, Martha" destination. The super-expensive, erudite destination.

But to me, it just sounds tedious. The idea of visiting a remote outpost of ice while sharing the experience with a bunch of talky tourists crammed on a ship day after interminable day - well, it just doesn't sound like fun.

Among well-travelled types, though, I'm in the minority. Most people do have Antarctica on their bucket list.

"I definitely would like to go there," says my friend Ed McKenna, a US-based sales manager for the big tour company Collette.


He has been to nearly every amazing destination in the world and says Antarctica is definitely on his list. "I want to cross the channel (Drake's Passage)," he says. "I want to say I have been to the continent."

I guess it all comes down to this: Which places in the world do you most want to see in your lifetime so you don't have regrets on your deathbed?

These days it seems as though everyone and his intellectual brother has boarded a ship bound for the frozen Antarctica shores. In the last 10 years about 356,000 people have been there, according to visitor data.

If you have friends who travel, you probably even know someone who's gone.

While large cruise ships with 500 or more passengers cannot disembark on Antarctica because of environmental concerns, smaller ships venture regularly into Antarctica's treeless land of nothingness, where tourists cavort with penguins and snap photos to prove to their Facebook friends back home that they conquered the continent.

McKenna points out that his company and others offer interesting angles on their Antarctica trips.

For instance, their small-ship trip starts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where you can get your cultural fill of tango and Evita before donning your hooded parka for the vast emptiness south.

You also get to go to Ushuaia, Argentina, the world's most southern city, in the scenic Patagonia region.

After that, it's 10 days of ice. Lots and lots of ice.

(My suggested alternative to Antarctica remains Ilulissat, Greenland, from which I reported last year. It is closer, cheaper and, for my money, more interesting.)

Now, before you write in to defend your life-changing, beloved Antarctica trip, I want to say that if you want to go there, go.

I am not here to rain on your penguin parade.

I am just saying that if I had $12,000 for a trip, I'd spend it on a splendid African safari on the Masai Mara, a grand tour of Europe and Asia, or possibly an entire year at Glacier National Park sitting under a tree.

I could die happy never having been to Antarctica.

But I would never want to die without having seen Glacier National Park.

 - MCT