Harsh, remote and brutally cold, Antarctica is a continent of utter extremes where only the toughest survive. Yet, since the great rush to reach the mythical South Pole in the early 20th century, Antarctica has captivated explorers and scientists worldwide. Today, you don’t need to be a hard-core adventurer to explore Antarctica. The White Continent is the ultimate soft adventure travel destination, with regular cruises in summer.
Antarctica is the coldest and driest place on earth, making it a bucket list destination. There are a surprisingly large number of landmarks in Antarctica dotted all over the white continent. Whether it’s braving the elements and trekking to the South Pole like Roald Amundsen in 1911 or exploring one of the many research stations, these are the top Antarctica landmarks.
- 20 Antarctica Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks In Antarctica
- Historic Landmarks In Antarctica
20 Antarctica Landmarks
Natural Landmarks In Antarctica
Even though the continent of Antarctica is well known for its desolate snowy plains and icy glaciers, the continent has a surprisingly large number of hidden gems.
One of which is Tsarsporten, a massive naturally-formed arch that serves as the gateway to one of the continent’s very few beaches, Norvegiabukta.
It’s no surprise that Antarctica lacks beaches, given that the average temperature on the continent’s around -60 °C in the summer.
Tsarsporten is so remote not even Google Maps can find it.
Tsarsporten is on Peter Island, a volcanic island 450 kilometres (280 mi) off the Ellsworth Land coast claimed by Norway.
2- Deception Island
Deception Island is Antarctica’s number one tourist attraction with over 15,000 annual visitors.
Part of the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island is the exposed part of an active shield volcano with a diameter of 30 km.
Ships can sail into the flooded caldera and the volcano’s centre through a narrow channel at Neptunes Bellows.
It’s a bit of a thrill to be in the caldera, knowing that the volcano last erupted violently in 1970.
Deception Island (62°57’S, 60°38’W) is off the Antarctic Peninsula in the South Shetland Islands.
3- Neko Harbour
Named after Neko, the Scottish whaling ship and floating factory stationed here from 1911 until 1924, Neko Harbour is a prime spot in Antarctica to spot a massive glacier and Gentoo penguins.
Neko Harbour is a haven for all sorts of animal species and, thanks to its relatively easy accessibility, a great destination to experience many of Antarctica’s famous features all in one place.
Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlach discovered Neko Harbour in the 20th century.
Neko Harbor (64°50′S 62°33′W) is an inlet on Andvord Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula.
4- Penguin Colonies
Perhaps the continent’s best-known landmark and certainly its most captivating and entertaining, Antarctica’s large penguin colonies draw thousands of visitors to the continent every year.
Whether it’s emperor penguins on Snow Hill Island, chinstrap penguins on Gourdin Island or adélie penguins on Devil Island, be prepared to be shocked at the sheer size some of these colonies can reach.
Easy to spot and very much unmissable, large colonies of penguins can be found all over the continent.
The best way to observe them up close is on an expedition cruise where you’re allowed on land.
5- Mount Vinson
The tallest peak in Antarctica and one of the world’s seven highest summits, Mount Vinson is one of the world’s most challenging mountains.
Although it’s not technically difficult to climb, it’s windy and cold; the average temperature of the range is about minus 20 degrees F (minus 30 C).
It’s also expensive to attempt to summit this 4,892m (16,050 feet) behemoth, and only around 1000 people have reached the summit.
Mount Vinson (78.6341° S, 85.2135° W) is in the Ellsworth Mountains, 700 nautical miles from the South Pole.
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6- Ross Ice Shelf
Antarctica has no shortage of icy peaks and glaciers to give you chills just looking at them.
However, few sights are as perplexing and colossal as the Ross Ice Shelf.
Spread across a vast area about the size of France and over a kilometre thick in some places, the Ross Ice Shelf is a landmark of Antarctica that must be seen to be believed.
Forming part of a large ecosystem of birds, whales, penguins and seals, Roald Amundsen reached the Ross Ice Shelf en route to the South Pole in 1911.
Cruise along the vertical front of the ice shelf, where you might see the occasional chunk of ice dropping into the ocean up close.
The Ross Ice Shelf covers the southern section of the Ross Sea and is within the Ross Dependency claimed by New Zealand.
7- Mount Erebus
The mountain is an outstanding natural landmark in Antarctica.
The world’s most active and southernmost volcano, Mount Erebus is a popular Antarctic landmark famous for its lake of lava that can reach temperatures up to 1,700 °F (927 °C).
The terrain is inhospitable and Mount Erebus was the site of the tragic 1979 Air New Zealand crash, which claimed all 257 passengers and crew on board on 28 November.
Marvel at the ice caves and chimneys shaped by the constant magma and toxic volcanic gas billowing out from the volcano’s caldera, or hike to the top on a guided expedition if you’re experienced enough.
Mount Erebus is on Ross Island overlooking McMurdo research station.
8- Blood Falls
Located in Antarctica’s bizarre McMurdo Dry Valleys, the natural phenomenon known as Blood Falls is as important scientifically as it is striking to look at.
The reddish, blood-like colour of Blood Falls is due to the large amounts of iron oxide in the area, with Australian geologist Griffith Taylor the first to discover this strange Antarctic landmark back in 1911.
A window into a world left alone to evolve for over a million years fully protected from outside influences, Blood Falls attracts scientists and geologists from all over the world.
Blood Falls flows from the tongue of the Taylor Glacier in Victoria Land.
9- Cape Renard
Located in the Antarctic Peninsula, what many refer to as Antarctica’s most beautiful region, Cape Renard amazes visitors with majestic snow-topped peaks, thundering glaciers and razor-sharp cliffs.
Its distinctive Una Peaks, also known as Cape Renard Towers, rises almost vertically into the air.
The cape and the surrounding region is a haven for spotting all sorts of birds, penguins and whales.
Cape Renard has inspired many intrepid adventurers and explorers since it was discovered in 1898 during the Belgian Antarctic Expedition led by Adrien de Gerlache.
Una Peaks (65.1067° S, 63.9406° W) guards the northern entrance to the Antarctica Peninsula’s Lemaire Channel.
10- Onyx River
As Antarctica is covered in thick layers of ice year-round, you would be surprised to learn that the continent has several rivers and streams that do not freeze over during summer.
Antarctica’s Onyx River is the continent’s largest and longest, flowing toward Lake Vanda while gradually picking up salt in the ground, turning the river into a saltwater flow.
Not only is the river an incredible sight, but the desolate-looking Wright Valley through which the river flows is starkly different from the ice-covered image most people associate with Antarctica.
The Onyx River flows from the Wright Lower Glacier to Lake Vanda.
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Historic Landmarks In Antarctica
11- Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Hut
Erected during Robert Falcon Scott’s famed first expedition, which stretched from 1901 till 1904, Robert Falcon Scott’s Hut or Scott’s Hut as it’s also known, has been a historic landmark in Antarctica ever since.
After Scott’s expedition, the hut played a significant role in many subsequent expeditions during the early 1900s, serving as a staging post and scientific base before the construction of more permanent research stations.
Today visitors can tour the perfectly preserved hut and get a glimpse of what life must have been like for some of the first explorers ever to set foot on the continent.
Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Hut (77°50′45″S, 166°38′30″E) is on Cape Evans on Ross Island.
12- Lenin’s Bust
With a long list of countries that have either funded expeditions to Antarctica or set up research stations on the continent, Antarctica’s landscape is dotted with all sorts of quirky buildings and monuments dedicated to various people.
The quirkiest and most out of place is Lenin’s Bust, a statue erected in 1958 next to the Soviet Union’s Pole of Inaccessibility research station.
Lenin’s Bust is one of few artificial structures still visible after layers of snow blanketed most of what the Soviets built before they deserted the station in 1958, after only 12 days of researching meteorological patterns.
The Pole of Inaccessibility is at the continent’s furthest point from the coast.
Lenin’s Bust (44° 41′ 39.79″ N, 10° 31′ 58.88″ E) is at the Pole of Inaccessibility.
13- Shackleton’s Hut
Shackleton’s Hut served as the base for Sir Ernest Shackleton during his Nimrod expedition to Antarctica, which lasted from 1907 till 1909.
Much like the hut of Robert Falcon Scott, whom Shackleton accompanied during Scott’s discovery expedition, Shackleton’s Hut is a historically significant landmark in Antarctica.
Located at Cape Royds, Shackleton’s Hut is well taken care of and is an excellent representation of the cramped quarters lived in by the men of Shackleton’s expedition.
Shackleton’s Hut (77°33′11″S 166°10′06″E) is at Cape Royds on Ross Island.
14- Trinity Church
The world’s southernmost Eastern Orthodox church, Trinity Church, was built in Russia during the mid-1990s and transported by ship to its current location near Bellingshausen Station, Russia’s permanent Antarctic outpost.
Perched atop a rocky cliff, the church is manned year-round by monks of the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra monastery, which is considered the most important Russian monastery of all.
The church can accommodate up to 30 visitors and performed the first-ever wedding in an Antarctic church, making it a significant landmark in Antarctica.
Trinity Church is on King George Island.
15- Vernadsky Research Station
There are 70 research stations in Antarctica, thanks to the continent’s scientific significance worldwide.
The Ukrainians have operated Vernadsky Research Station since it was transferred to them by the British, who built the station in 1947.
The station is famous for discovering the hole in the earth’s Ozone layer, among other significant scientific discoveries.
The research team at the station took it upon themselves to start distilling and selling vodka, effectively creating the world’s southernmost bar.
No doubt the liveliest spot in Antarctica, the Vernadsky Research Station welcomes visitors with open arms.
Be sure to check it out whenever you’re on the continent and don’t forget to bring along a bra, as donating one will earn you a free shot of vodka.
Vernadsky Research Station (65˚15’S, 64˚16’W) is at Marina Point on Galindez Island in the Argentine Islands Archipelago.
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16- Shackleton’s Grave
During his Antarctic expeditions, Sir Ernest Shackleton paid many visits to South Georgia Island.
He completed one of the most famous journeys in Antarctic history on this island, sailing from London aboard the Quest.
The ship broke down and forced him to disembark in South Georgia on 4 January 1922, where he died of a heart attack.
His widow chose South Georgia Island as the site where he’d be buried.
Shackleton’s Grave, near the now-defunct Grytviken whaling station, is the place to toast (ideally with whiskey) the explorer at his final resting place.
17- Grytviken Whaling Station
Established in 1904 by Norwegian Explorer Carl Anton Larsen, the Grytviken Whaling Station on South Georgia Island was once the main location for all land-based whaling in the Southern Hemisphere.
Now abandoned, the whaling station is a popular stop for cruise ships and near Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Grave.
Norwegian sea captain, Carl Anton Larsen, set up a whaling station in 1904 to extract oil from the meat, blubber and viscera. They hunted whales and elephant seals and used the meat and bones for fodder and fertilizer.
Now a ghost town, all that remains is a cemetery, cinema, church and the South Georgia Museum.
The museum has whaling, sealing and Falklands War exhibits displayed in the former home of the station’s manager before whaling ceased in 1965.
Grytviken Whaling Station (54.2811° S, 36.5087° W) is on South Georgia Island in South Georgia, a British Overseas Territory.
18- Port Lockroy Post Office
One of Antarctica’s most visited landmarks is the Port Lockroy Post Office, which is the southernmost post office in the world.
It’s a popular cruise-ship stop and you can write an old-fashioned letter and mail it from the post office while gazing at the Gentoo penguins wandering about outside.
There’s a small gift shop that sells Antarctic souvenirs.
Port Lockroy Post Office (64º49’S, 63º30’W) is in Port Lockroy Harbour on Wienke Island on British Antarctic territory.
19- The South Pole
The South Pole is the most southern point on earth.
Much like it was during the rush to reach the South Pole, trekking across the endless miles of ice and snow whilst being battered by freezing wind is still as challenging and dangerous as ever.
Months of preparation and an experienced guide are crucial to reaching the South Pole, and while many fail along the way, those that make it are left with unforgettable memories.
20- King George Island
Several countries have research bases on King George Island, including the USA, China, Chile, Uruguay and Russia.
Of all the things you’d expect to find on the harshest and most desolate continent, a marathon is undoubtedly the last event you’d imagine.
The island hosted a rock concert performed by Metallica back in 2013 and is where the King George Island marathon has occurred since 1995.
Despite the extremely challenging conditions and the massive logistical effort it takes to reach the starting line, over 100 runners participate in the event every year.
King George Island (61.9882° S, 58.0196° W) is in the South Shetland Islands.
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