If you thought nobody except very dedicated scientists braved Antarctica, think again. The barren continent is quickly becoming a destination for luxury travel and thrill seekers alike, offering closeups of penguins, whales, giant icebergs and even steamy volcanic beaches. The number of people arriving on Antarctica is expected to exceed the annual record of 46,000 this year, reports . Statistics from the show that the majority of tourists hail from the United States.
So go ahead: Kayak, run (really, there's a marathon) or hike your way through this stunning destination — but first, start by taking inspiration from the photos below.
Antarctica certainly draws adventurers seeking a thrill, with its frigid temperatures (we're talking an average of minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, to minus 129 Fahrenheit) and uninhabited stretches of land. As the world's fifth-largest continent, it is covered completely in ice, offering incredible views of glaciers, icebergs and the sea.
, one of the few places on Earth where you can sail into the middle of an active volcano, is located in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. In 1906, whalers built a base on the island, bringing factory ships and large iron boilers for extracting whale oil with them (which, by the way, most countries ban now). Though the operations ceased in 1931 because of a drop in whale oil prices, the tanks, boilers, rotting boats, wooden buildings and a cemetery of 45 whalers are still on the island, according to .
Four of the 17 species of penguins , and three more live on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands. If you come across colonies, expect loud (and reportedly smelly) sightings made up of up to half a million birds or more. You'll also find plenty of seals, which are notably comfortable around humans. Unlike northern hemisphere seals, they have no native land-dwelling predators.
Zodiac boat tours are popular in Antarctica, and offer an up-close-and-personal glance at the continent's gorgeous icebergs and wildlife (like whales that surface in the water beside you). and both offer boat tours as part of travel packages. Alternatively, see the gorgeous Antarctic sites though cruises like and .
Operating during Antarctica's summer months, isn't a new hotel (guests such as Prince Harry and Bear Grylls have stayed there), but it recently underwent a total luxury overhaul. The lodging includes "sleeping pods" — aka heated fiberglass domes with bamboo headboards, furry throws, parkas for each guest, Saarinen chairs and en suite bathrooms — and each suite is situated between a frozen lake and giant walls of ice. Both of White Desert's two trips (one is eight nights, the other eleven) are $72,000 per person, all-inclusive.
If you'd prefer to see Antarctica from above, rather than trek through its icy waters and glaciers, a tour with wings might be the best option for you. One luxurious option is , which fly over the frigid continent for 12 hours. The trip departs from various Australian cities, and includes Antarctic experts, two full-service meals, full bar service and in-flight entertainment (you can choose between Antarctica documentaries or "Happy Feet"). Prices range from $1,199 to $7,999, depending on where you choose to sit.
As paradoxical as it may be, the world's coldest area is home to steam beaches you can cozy up in sans coat. Deception Island, in particular, because of its volcanic nature.
Yes, people like to run in Antarctica. The 18th will take place March 10 and March 11, 2017, and entails a course on King George Island. Located just off the Antarctic Peninsula's tip, that island has marked gravel roads that link the scientific research bases of Uruguay, China, Chile and Russia.
Found mostly in the North Atlantic Ocean near Greenland and in Antarctica, when chunks of ice break apart from glaciers, ice shelves or a larger iceberg. With their glimmering curves and crevices, icebergs are truly Antarctica's architecture — and it is stunning.
The coldest place on Earth surprisingly sees a lot of sun. The continent's seasons are determined by the tilt of Earth's axis in relation to the sun. When it's facing the sun in Antarctica's summer (the Northern Hemisphere's winter), the — so you can, say, kayak through the icy waters at midnight. However, when the sun does set in Antarctica's winter, it does so for a while. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is located at the South Pole, . It will finally rise again in the coming weeks.