With so many global destinations overflowing with tourists and high price-tags, there are precious places at the very bottom of the world that remain awe-inspiringly undisturbed as nature crated them.
Patagonia and Antarctica are two of the last thresholds in the travel world to be explored and to mark the release of its first, hosted cruise tour to Patagonia and Antarctica, Contours Travel – Australia’s longest-running tour operator in South America – has outlined the top 10 reasons to make the bottom of the world #1 on the bucket list of must-visit destinations.
1. Beat the queue
With the travel industry rife with talk of over-tourism and lining up for hours just to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo, Patagonia and Antarctica attract far less visitors in summer, with the only congestion coming from bulging colonies of penguins and seals. You won’t see selfie sticks amongst the icebergs, nor will you be jostling crowds to capture shots of their natural beauty. And the small expedition ships which explore the region carry just a fraction of passengers on mega liners so that’s another plus.
2. Did someone say daylight saving?
Well, it might not be called that exactly, but when you visit the lower half of the Southern Hemisphere in summer, it’s all daylight, baby. During summer, Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted toward the sun and is in constant sunlight, meaning you get dinners with a view, and as much exploring time as your heart desires.
3. Easy access
Unlike years gone by where getting to Patagonia or Antarctica was an enormous feat, especially with flights, it’s now a piece of cake to reach these destinations. There are regular direct flights to Santiago, Chile, from Sydney, and now also from Melbourne. Or from Auckland directly to Buenos Aires.
4. You don’t have to rough it
Do you envisage cold hostels and dirty campsites are the only accommodation in this area? That’s certainly not the case anymore. It might’ve once been the domain of backpackers and nature enthusiasts, but for those who like to travel in style and comfort (and warmth!), you’ll have plenty of four and five-star options to choose from. That means premium meals, luxury accommodation, and a comfortable staff-to-traveller ratio, every step of the way.
5. Pick up a few tricks
You might not expect expert guides or pro photographers accompanying your tour of the Louvre, but when you head to the bottom of the world, it’s definitely on the list. From photographers running workshops on how best to snap glaciers and penguins to educational experiences with Patagonian locals, tours in these destinations don’t do things by halves.
6. Bragging rights
Every man and his dog these days has a photo of themselves ‘pushing’ the Leaning Tower of Pisa or claims to have ventured “off the beaten track”. Well, you can’t really get any more ‘off the beaten track’ than some of the areas in Patagonia and Antarctica, with Contours Travel guests taken to spectacular ‘secret’ places few visitors know exist. These destinations are undeniably unique and will certainly give you an edge over everyone else’s shots of a European summer or their toes in some sand.
7. It’s truly one-of-a-kind
Everyone always touts their tours or destinations as being original and special – and they are – but there’s just something incredibly humbling about visiting the very ends of the earth. They’re isolated, serene, completely open and natural, and give you an experience you can’t replicate anywhere else. If you’re a travel junkie seeking truly defining travel moments, this is one of them.
8. Get up close and personal
Whether you’re visiting the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii or the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, they both have one thing in common: you can’t get too close. And it’s the same for most travel experiences these days. Tourists have poked and prodded so much that fences, barriers and closed doors have popped up where they never used to be. But not in Antarctica or Patagonia. Here, you have the chance to get up close to the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier – even trek on and through it, see migrating penguins, and hike amongst the rocky spires of Torres del Paine National Park. In Antarctica, the zodiac cruising will get you even closer to the floating icebergs and wildlife than you thought possible.
9. You can (actually) switch off
It’s a blessing and a curse really but that internet connection for your phone is a luxury at the bottom of the world. We’re not talking about your hotel room or expedition ship, but the mountains, national parks, ice cliffs and glaciers aren’t exactly Wi-Fi friendly. This means you can disconnect from the rest of the world and unplug, giving you the chance to really appreciate the breathtaking scenery around you.
10. It’s more affordable than you think
For most people, the idea of doing a Patagonia/Antarctica adventure is something pushed to retirement when they’re (hopefully) loaded up with spare cash. But this doesn’t have to be the case. With more flights making the region more accessible and affordable, the bottom of the world is open for anyone. And not only that, accommodation is Latin America is even more affordable and luxurious in comparison to Europe or North America. And while there are five-star lodges throughout Patagonia, you can also sleep under one million stars in deluxe camps or glamping tents nestled in the wilderness.
How to see it all
* Contours Travel has just released its first its first, hosted cruise tour to Patagonia and Antarctica, with two departures slated for the summer of 2018 and 2019. The 29-day Antarctica and Patagonia tour takes Australians to the vineyards, national parks, and glaciers of Patagonia before boarding expedition ship, Akademik Ioffe, for a 12-night, round-trip voyage where guests can take part in onshore camping, trekking, zodiac cruising, photography workshops and wildlife watching.
The tour stops off in Buenos Aires for two nights to explore the city and Iguazu Falls, before returning to Australia. Including flights from Australia, the tour is priced from $27,850 per person, twin-share, from Sydney and Melbourne, with connections available from other cities.
Fares also include flights in South America, accommodation, 64 meals, touring and sightseeing, and the services of hosts and guides. Contours Travel has two departure dates – October 28, 2018, and February 22, 2019.