The Ultimate Guide To An Adventurous Antarctica Vacation
From glamping in space-age sky pods to arctic off-roading in the “White Desert.”
The idea of wilderness plays a crucial and curious role in the ongoing evolution of travel. Conquering the wild was once central to our pioneer narratives of progress. Nowadays exploring the “frontier” can take on a myriad of meanings for different travelers. Whether the notion conjures remote lands, or the thrilling prospect of tracking apex predators, here are ways to get your wild on—from the South Pole to the South Sandwich Islands.
An entirely 21st Century upgrade in travel to the White Continent is finally here, ready to quite literally rock your world and properly blow your mind. White Desert’s newest camp, Echo, debuts this December. The new camp is located inland of Antarctica’s north coast, three miles from Wolf ’s Fang, a sister camp that opened in December 2021 on a glacier in Queen Maud Land.
A power player in the sustainable polar travel arena, White Desert is the only luxury hospitality company in the world to fly business jets to Antarctica. Their 9,800-foot runway is exclusively for private jets, either the company’s Gulfstream G550, a privately-chartered A340 or those of camp guests, which have included the likes of Prince Harry, Bear Grylls, and Buzz Aldrin.
Echo is the next best thing to a stag party on Mars. Intimately scaled, it’s ideal for exclusive use by affluent families, C-suite executives, and bachelors gone rogue. On arrival, a welcome cocktail chilled with 10,000-year-old ice awaits in the central lounge.
Accommodating up to 12 explorers in serious style, Echo’s high-end execution of deliriously thrilling expeditions raises the bar on next-gen “pop up” possibilities. As with all White Desert’s camps on the 7th Continent, Echo is designed to be completely dismantled, leaving no trace on the environment.
Inspired by the golden age of space exploration, the idyllic design of the “Sky Pods” is striking, to say the least, like superstructures from a parallel multiverse. Futuristic and nostalgic all at once, Echo is quite an aesthetic coup. Six heated pods were created using composite fiberglass with floor-to-ceiling windows—lose yourself in the lunar-like landscape from the comfort of your bed. Waking up at Echo, encircled by otherworldly geological formations, feels like you’ve lifted off the planet without actually leaving Earth.
Each pod features original photography by Colonel Terry Virts, former International Space Station Commander, taken from the ISS. Virts was an early guest with White Desert, and the terrain spectacle clearly made a massive impression. Take it from one of the few astronauts who can legitimately boast this frame of comparative reference; says Virts of the Echo camp landscape, “The mountains are the most beautiful I have seen across Earth, Venus and Mars.”
Patrick Woodhead, White Desert founder and CEO, tips his hat to pop culture in his latest passion project. “The inspiration behind the interiors of Echo Base comes from too many years of watching Star Wars as a kid,” says Woodhead.
“I loved the 1970s vision of what the future would hold. The real difficulty was trying to get the interior designers to fuse together the retro feel of the Millennium Falcon with the luxury of a boutique retreat!” The polar explorercum-camp entrepreneur finds the greatest validation from those who’ve ventured into orbit, divulging, “We’ve hosted a couple of astronauts over the years, and hearing them speak about the beauty of the Antarctic landscape is quite something.”
Fill your days with as much fat biking, skiing, and Ski-Dooing as you like. Or forge trails in a 4×4 arctic truck to ice-climbing and mountaineering sites. An expedition to the 28,000-strong Emperor Penguin colony is the peak bucket list moment for most guests. Be sure to avail yourself of the arctic-specific SPF100 on hand at camp or face the high-UV consequences, like the group of Saudi royals, who thought they were immune.
By nightfall, captains of industry sip snifters of Speyside Scotch served from a “snow bar” sculpted from Jurassic-era ice. A dining room serves up epicurean delights such as savory lamb shank, or velvety tagliatelle in a Parmigiano wheel, no small feat, considering you’re carb-loading this close tothe South Pole. Beam us in a hologram of Wonderwall-era Jane Birkin, we’re hooked. This five-day fantasy can be yours from $780,000, for up to a dozen of your friends.
Nearly a century after the heroics of early Antarctic exploration, the elusive continent remains largely undiscovered. We can’t think of a more thrilling frontier than the impassable Weddell Sea and imposing Larsen Ice Shelf. The big buzz on the high seas for the coming Antarctic cruising season? Ponant recently launched Le Commandant-Charcot, the world’s first luxury hybrid electric ice-class vessel, powered by LNG (currently the cleanest fuel on the market).
Le Commandant-Charcot is capable of sailing to parts of the Bellingshausen Sea that have been inaccessible until now. The volcanic Peter I Island—where fewer people have visited than have set foot on the moon—is suddenly an option, to put this auspicious launch into rather wild perspective. Navigating the route first explored by Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1909, National Geographic enthusiasts will surely be smitten by the oceanographic laboratory onboard. Far from a mere pleasure cruise, take part in what Ponant dubs “participative science” by helping to set up a station on an ice floe or taking water samples. Ponant polar itineraries also include the South Sandwich Islands and the Ross Sea.
Our continental frontier remains the Lamar Valley—the Serengeti of North America—in Yellowstone National Park. If wolves are your spirit animal (or just on your boo’s wish list), the Four Seasons Jackson Hole unveils a new encounter this summer designed to dive deeper into this connection. The resort’s partnership with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris allows for unrivaled access to view Greater Yellowstone’s apex predators in prime natural habitats. An expert naturalist guides you in safely tracking and photographing wolves, grizzlies and megafauna in a landscape right out of Jeremiah Johnson.
With Grand Teton and Yellowstone in their backyard, the Four Seasons Jackson Hole boasts a “Swiss Army Knife” of solutions when it comes to creative expeditions to Willow Flats, Pacific Creek, Hayden Valley within the parks—all with an upscale spin. To disappear into the wild at dawn, revel in an emotional epiphany with wolves by dusk (or at least a certain awe), then feast on dry-aged Piedmontese ribeye slathered in black-truffle bone marrow butter is pretty priceless.
If you value lashings of personal attention and handcrafted, five-star meals, nirvana awaits at Westbank Grill, overlooking the resort’s base camp. Many of this particular Four Seasons’ custom experiences are in some way geared towards physical and mental exploration, if not enlightenment. For those short on time, but big on rugged adventure with all the trappings of a posh holiday, this is as good as it gets.