A21 Magellan Explorer

Classic Antarctica Air Cruise

Sail between the South Shetland Islands and western Antarctic Peninsula one of our most popular cruises

Classic Antarctica Air Cruise

On board the Magellan Explorer
8-day cruise
Antarctic Cruise
air cruise
100 Reviews
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Private Flight to Antarctica
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Medical Services
24h Doctor Station
The Classic Antarctica air-cruise is our most popular itinerary. Once arriving by flight to Antarctica, you will sail between the South Shetland Islands and the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Enjoy seeing ice-filled fjords and spectacular icebergs, while spotting penguins, seals, and whales that call the White Continent home. The Classic Antarctica air-cruise is available on all three of our expedition ships.

Your itinerary

Day 1, AM
Punta Arenas
Arrival at Punta Arenas
a wind-whipped, fractured land of islands, glacial fjords and mountains, which drop away towards Antarctica. A hardy city, where the temperature hovers in single figures throughout much of the year, Punta Arenas nevertheless offers a warm welcome and refuge, ahead of - and following - epic adventures and expeditions south across the Drake Passage. Captain Scott stopped here in 1904 – testing the postal service sending 400 letters of his successful return - and the city welcomed the rescued Ernest Shackleton and his Endurance crew to these shores in 1916. Punta Arenas is a remote place, but with custom-free status, and more than 120,000 people calling it home it's also surprisingly cosmopolitan. The commercial centre of Magallanes Punta Arenas is fueled by Chilean oil and gas - and establishing itself as a global centre for Antarctic research, with teams from various countries basing themselves here. The town is built around the Plaza de Armas, its central square - be sure to kiss the toe of the Monumento del Indio Patagon statue, said to guarantee you good luck on your return.
Day 2, AM
Business Flight to King George Island
Business Flight to King George Island
Enjoy a 2-hour flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island and back in Business Class Luxury.
Day 2, PM
King George Island
King George Island
King George Island is widely known as the “Gateway to the Antarctic”. More than 10 different nations have permanent scientific bases here, and that’s reflected in the different names the island is known as: “Isla 25 de Mayo” in Argentina, “Isla Rey Jorge” in Chile, and “Ватерло́о Vaterloo” in Russia. King George has the only airport in the South Shetland Islands, and its strategic location just 75 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula makes it the most important staging and connection hub in the region. By maintaining a base here, a nation is granted membership of the Antarctic Treaty, and hence there is a cosmopolitan population of scientists in residence most of the time. This might explain why there’s a Russian Orthodox church here (one of the very few permanent buildings in the whole of Antarctica) with a priest always in residence! All this is even more impressive when you realize that more than 90% of the 59 miles long by 16 miles wide island is permanently covered with ice and snow. This suits the native wildlife just fine, and King George Island is home to many different species including Weddell, leopard, and elephant seals, gentoo, chinstrap, and Adelie penguins, and many seabirds such as skuas and southern giant petrels.
Day 3, AM
South Shetland Islands
Sail to the South Shetland Islands & Lectures
As you sail towards the South Shetland Islands your expert guides will entertain and educate you with a series of lectures and talks. From natural history to human history, geology to marine biology, there's something for everyone. All of the crew are experts in the field chosen not only for their huge depth of knowledge but also for their passion and enthusiasm. They really make this most remote of the world's regions come alive.
Day 3, AM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Turret Point
Turret Point
Turret Point is well-named! As you approach this part of King George Island you will see the unmistakable rock “stacks” which made this the obvious name to be chosen when the point was first mapped in 1937 by a British exploration mission. King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, and Turret Point is on its south coast. Its remarkable landscape is formed by the glacier that is the backdrop to the gently sloping landing beach here. Its impressively gnarled and crevassed front makes a stunning backdrop to the wildlife activity here. The beach is extremely popular with Antarctic bird species. As well as chinstrap penguins, the area is frequented by giant petrels, blue-eyed shags, and kelp gulls. Elephant seals can often be seen wallowing in the shallows here, and fur seals are frequent visitors, too. You will be able to walk up to the face of the glacier, and your expert guides will lead you along the melt stream bed, to avoid trampling the fragile Antarctic flora that grows here at Turret Point.
Day 3, AM
Penguin Island Map
Penguin Island
Penguin Island was first recorded in 1820 during a British expedition. It was so-named because of the vast numbers of penguins that could be seen along its shoreline from the ship as it passed by. Penguin Island lies just off the south coast of the much bigger King George Island. It’s ice-free and is oval-shaped, some 1 mile long. It’s one of the smaller South Shetland Islands and it’s also known as Georges Island, Île Pingouin, Isla Pingüino, and Penguin Isle in various books and charts. Its standout geological feature is the 560ft tall Deacon Peak - a volcanic cone that is thought to have last been active about 300 years ago. Penguin Island is an internationally-recognized important area for birds. As well as colonies of Adelie and Chinstrap penguins, the island is also home to large breeding colonies of southern giant petrels, Antarctic terns, and kelp gulls. You can often see Weddell seals and sometimes southern elephant seals on the beaches here, too. For those feeling fit, there is a marked path that will take you up to the top of Deacon Peak. This offers unparalleled views over the whole island and beyond across King George Bay. Do note, however, that this part of the Antarctic is known for its quickly changing weather, so if the opportunity to take this walk safely presents itself, take it!
Day 3, PM
Northeast Beach map
Northeast beach of Ardley Island
Ardley Island is a small, rocky island about a mile long. It’s in Maxwell Bay, just off the coast of King George Island. It was first charted in 1935 by a British expedition but was mistaken for a headland. It was not until aerial surveys many years later that it was reclassified as an island. Ardley Island is an active summer research station, and you will often see scientists and researchers at work here. The huts that you can see from the beach are part of the research station and not able to be visited. The landing on the beach is just below the lighthouse, a distinctive feature that you will have spotted from out to sea. This gently sloping cobble beach is the only place that visitors can arrive on Ardley. Visitor numbers are restricted due to the importance of the island as a breeding site for antarctic bird species. During your excursion on the island, you will see a large gentoo penguin colony, as well as lesser numbers of Adelie and chinstrap penguins. You can also see southern giant petrels, Wilson's petrels, black-bellied storm petrels, Cape petrels, skuas, and Antarctic terns. The northeast beach of Ardley Island is a “must-visit” site for bird watchers!
Day 3, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Barrientos Island
Barrientos Island (Aitcho Islands)
Barrientos Island is one of the Aitcho group of islands, a sub-set of the South Shetlands chain. It’s an ice-free island that was used as far back as the early 19th century by sealers and whalers, despite only a mile long, and less than a third of a mile wide. It was given its name in 1949 by a Chilean Antarctic expedition. The northern coast of Barrientos is formed by steep cliffs about 230ft above the sea level. The east and west coasts are made up of black sand and pebble beaches. To the west, you can see impressive columns of basalt rock left over from the tectonic forces involved in the island’s formation. Barrientos is very popular with penguins - and because it is so small sometimes it can feel pretty crowded! Gentoo and chinstrap penguins breed here, and in peak season one colony can end up right next door to the other, making for a seamless vista of penguin nests! Other species that are commonly seen include fur seals, as well as nesting colonies of southern giant petrels. Your expert Antarctic guides will ensure you get close enough for some amazing photos while staying far enough away that you don’t disturb the breeding creatures.
Day 4, AM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Hannah Point
Hannah Point
Hannah Point is a dramatic peninsula on the south coast of Livingston Island in the South Shetlands. Its ridge forms the sides of two bays - Walker Bay and South Bay. The rocks climb steadily upwards to sheer cliffs and knife-edged ridges more than 160ft above the sea level. There are frequent rock falls, and your guides will point out the vein of jasper - a red mineral - that cuts through the cliffs here. The area was used for hunting by 19th-century sealers, and the British Antarctic Survey has a base camp here known as Station P for the winter of 1957. The Hannah Point area is rich with antarctic wildlife. Elephant seals haul out and travel to a clifftop wallow pool where they can oversee their domain. Antarctic fur seals are also frequent visitors. Gentoo and macaroni penguins love to nest here but are seen all year round. Kelp gulls are almost always wheeling overhead. Other bird species you will encounter are snowy sheathbills, blue-eyed shags, giant petrels, and skuas. There is sometimes such an abundance of wildlife here that you may have to wait for a suitable gap to open on the beach before you can land!
Day 4, AM
Antarctica- Visitor Site Whaler's Bay
Whalers Bay
Whalers Bay is a small natural harbor on Deception Island, one of the South Shetland Islands. An active volcano, the crater forms a natural sheltered inlet that was historically used by sealers and then whalers from the 1820s. The geography makes it a perfect place for ships to shelter in rough weather, and Whaler’s Bay contains some of the most significant whaling artifacts and remains to be found in the whole of Antarctica. As your ship sails through the narrow “break” in the volcanic caldera known as Neptunes Bellows, the wide, circular beach of Whaler’s Bay is found to the right. The beach runs uninterrupted for one and a quarter miles and was used as a runway in the 1950s and 1960s when the site was the main hub of British Antarctic air movements. The hangar that was built in 1960 can be visited at the northern end of the beach where you can also see a roller that was used to maintain the runway. At the southern end of the beach are large, rusted oil tanks, and behind them are buildings from the period 1906 to 1931. There was a significant whaling industry here, with the sheltered and shallow beach making it an ideal place to land whale carcasses and process them. While you explore all this remarkable human history, please remember that you are standing on an active volcano! The instruments you may see around the beach in the Whalers Bay area are seismic monitors, and the island is monitored for activity 24 hours a day. The last eruption was in 1969, and this was responsible for some of the mudflows and damage to the buildings and metal tanks that you see here. The penguins don’t seem to be worried, though! Chinstraps and Gentoos can always be seen along the beach here, and it’s not unusual to encounter fur seals who have hauled out to rest and watch the humans. There are also plenty of Antarctic seabirds to see, including petrels, skuas, Antarctic terns, and kelp gulls.
Day 4, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Baily Head, Deception Island
Baily Head on Deception Island
Deception Island one of the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. The island is actually the top of the cone (the caldera) of an active shield volcano that last erupted in 1969. This flooded caldera makes a remarkable natural harbor, although Baily Head itself is on the eastern outer flank of the cone. The geography here makes a natural bowl in the landscape, with the long rocky beach leading up to a curving ridge above. To the north is an impressive glacier. As you approach the beach at Baily Head you will begin to hear the amazing noise that a colony of over 200,000 chinstrap penguins can make! During the summer, the glacial melt stream allows them to create a penguin “highway” that the birds follow to and from the sea, hundreds moving back and forth at any time. Your expert Antarctic guides will take you to the edge of the breeding groups, allow you to experience this remarkable sight without disturbing the birds. Other regular visitors to the Head include Antarctic Fur Seals who regularly haul up on to the beach, with crabeater, elephant, Weddell, and leopard seals also sometimes being seen in the surrounding waters. Overhead you will find skuas, petrels, and sheathbills, all of whom also like to nest in the sheltered rocks of Baily Head.
Day 4, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Telefon Bay
Telefon Bay on Deception Island
Deception Island is the eroded cone of an active volcano, that last erupted in 1967. It sits in the Bransfield Strait and is part of the South Shetland Islands. Telefon Bay is on the northwest coast of the volcano and is overlooked by Telefon Ridge. Despite the name, the bay has nothing to do with communications! It was first mapped in 1908 and was named after a Norwegian ship, the SS Telefon, that had been damaged and was put aground here for repairs later that year before being refloated. The backdrop to the beach is dramatic. In the rising land behind it, you will see a number of volcanic craters, some of which are up to 150ft deep - although gradually being filled in with ice and sediments. To the east and west are cliffs made of ash that were the result of activity in the 1967 eruption that impacted Telefon Bay. You will be allowed to roam freely here, provided you stick to the main paths and give any penguins a wide berth! You will often see scientific equipment placed around the bay that is used for monitoring any seismic disturbances - it will be clearly marked to help you avoid it. The shallow beach here is a favorite place for seals to haul out, and you can often encounter both Weddell and fur seals as you come in for a landing.
Day 4, PM
Antarctic Peninsula
Sail to the Antarctic Peninsula & Lectures
The weather in the Antarctic can be unpredictable and conditions can change quickly. Your highly experienced captain and bridge crew will skilfully navigate these ice-laden waters, bringing you ever closer to your first landing on the Antarctic continent.
Day 5, AM
Antarctica Visitor Site- D’Hainaut Island, Mikkelsen Harbour, Trinity Island
D’Hainaut Island, Mikkelsen Harbour, Trinity Island
D’Hainaut Island is a tiny rock island in Mikkelsen Harbour. It’s less than half a square mile in size, and it’s approached through a small bay that’s lined with dramatic cliffs of ice. It was first mapped by a French expedition in 1910. The island often remains snow-covered until very late in the season, and the captain of your Antarctic cruise vessel will expertly navigate through the shallow reefs that are in the bay. This island was used extensively for whaling, and there are artifacts and bones dotted around the island. D’Hainaut is one of the few Antarctic visitor sites where you can roam freely around the whole island, taking care not to disturb any of the artifacts and watching your step on the rocks, of course. There is a small historic refuge here that was built originally by the Argentine Navy in the 1950s, then again in the 1970s, and most recently in 2017. However, the refuge can’t be entered except in emergencies. There is also plenty of evidence of the whaling industry on the island. You can find the wrecks of several boats as well as many whale bones. There is a lively Gentoo penguin colony here, and you can often find Fur Seals basking in the sun.
Day 5, AM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Portal Point
Portal Point
Portal Point is a narrow, rocky point on the northeast of the Reclus Peninsula off Graham Land. It was named by British explorers as it formed part of the “gateway” for the route to the Antarctic Plateau. In 1956, a refuge hut was established here, known as Cape Reclus Refuge. It was only used for two winters and then abandoned. In 1996, the hut was removed and is now in the Falklands Island Museum. All that’s left of the refuge on the Point are the remains of its foundations, often not visible under the frequent snow cover. Indeed, this year-round snow is why there are no penguin colonies here. However, Portal Point is a popular place for Weddell seals to haul out, and while you are landing you will often see them in good numbers.
Day 5, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Port Charcot, Booth Island
Port Charcot, Booth Island
Port Charcot is a small bay at the north end of Booth Island. Booth Island is a rocky and rugged Y-shaped island off the Kiev Peninsula in Graham Land. It was first mapped in 1904 when the French Antarctic expedition led by Jean-Baptise Charcot over-wintered here. After building a few rudimentary shelters and the cairn that can still be seen at the top of the hill, the expedition used Port Charcot as its base for exploring the area. There is a wooden pillar with a plaque here where you can still make out the names of the first expedition members who wrote them almost 120 years ago. The walk to the cairn is delightful, although you’ll be carefully led by guides as wandering off the path can be treacherous, with loose rocks and crevasses. Visitors can also walk to the east where there is a noisy Gentoo penguin colony. Chinstraps and Adelies can also often be seen on the beaches here.
Day 5, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Danco Island
Danco Island, Errera Channel
Danco is a small island in the southern part of the Errera Channel, a body of water that runs between Rongé Island and the coast of Graham Land. Only 1 mile long, Danco’s wide, flat beach rises to a permanently ice-covered hill which gives stunning views over the channel. Visitors often report being able to see Humpback and Minke whales from here as they travel between the islands The backdrop of crevassed glaciers in the surrounding mountains is stunning. The island hosts around 1500 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins. They like to nest away from the beach up the slopes, and so you can always see them making their journeys to and from the sea. Seals are also frequent visitors to the island, as are a variety of Antarctic bird species including skuas, terns, and kelp gulls. Danco was also the site of Base “O”, built by the British Antarctic Survey in 1954 as a base for geological research and exploration. The base was abandoned in 1959 when the expedition ended, and the huts were removed in 2004. On the beach, you can find a plaque with an inscription giving the story of the base.
Day 6, AM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Neko Harbor
Neko Harbour
Neko Harbour is an inlet on Andvord Bay off the coast of Graham Land in the Antarctic Peninsula. It was discovered by a Belgian expedition in the early 1900s. This sheltered inlet was named after The Neko, a Scottish whaling vessel that worked these waters between 1910 and 1925. Neko Harbor has a beach and a rocky outcrop that is surrounded by glaciers and towering cliffs. This is a popular site as the glaciers that surround this bay regularly carve during the season, leading to some stunning photo and video opportunities if you are lucky! There used to be a refuge hut here that was built by Argentina in 1949, and was in irregular use all the way until 2009 when it was destroyed in a severe storm. It has since been cleared from the site, with just a few remains now to be seen. The gentoo penguins that live here and used to surround the refuge hut don’t seem to mind that it has gone! Their noisy cries will great you as you land on the beach. You can often also see Weddell seals here in the sea or hauled out on the beach at Neko Harbour. There are also skuas and kelp gulls seen regularly here.
Day 6, AM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Georges Point, Rongé Island
Georges Point, Rongé Island
Rongé Island is high and rocky. Some 5 miles long, it’s the largest of the islands that form the west side of the Errera Channel, off Graham Land. Georges Point was first mapped in 1897 by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition and named after one of its members. You land on a rocky beach with a penguin colony at one end that your expert Antarctic guides will guide you around. They will also take you on a carefully marked trail up to the higher ground behind the beach giving you a great view down over the concentrations of penguins along the shore. There are also often Antarctic Fur Seals to be found at Georges Point on Rongé Island as well as plenty of sea birds. The rocky cliffs and height of the island make for some magnificent backdrops and great opportunities to capture the essence of the Antarctic in your photographs.
Day 6, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Jougla Point
Jougla Point
Found at the western end of Wiencke Island in Port Lockroy, Jougla Point is a very rocky peninsula with many small coves. It was first mapped in 1903 by a French Antarctic expedition and forms the entrance to Alice Creek. The approach to the point is nothing short of dramatic! You will have stunning views of glaciers, snow cornices, and steep, crevassed snowfields as you enter the harbor. Your landing here will be against rocks on the northeastern end of the point. Like many bays and coves in the area, Jougla Point has artifacts and remains from the whaling industry. You will see whale bones at the sites where the carcasses were dragged ashore for processing. Your expert Antarctic guides will take you along Jougla Point to observe the Gentoo penguin colony as well as the blue-eyed shag nesting areas. Other wildlife you can observe are kelp gulls and skuas, with seals also a frequent sight. You will be able to roam freely around the beach area to observe and photograph, with your guides on hand to answer any questions you may have and to ensure visitors keep away from any closed breeding areas.
Day 6, PM
Antarctica Visitor Site- Damoy Point
Damoy Point
Damoy Point is a rocky headland on the west coast of Wiencke Island, near the northern entrance to the natural harbor at Port Lockroy. It was discovered and mapped by the French Antarctic expedition of 1903 led by Charcot. The point is rather unassuming and at first glance doesn’t warrant a visit. However, it has a couple of hidden gems - two very well preserved expedition huts. The first, known as Damoy Hut, was built in 1973 and was used by the British Antarctic Survey as a summer air facility and a personnel transfer station, but hasn’t been used since 1993. The interior is in excellent condition and almost looks as if it could be put back into use straight away. There are even tin cups hanging on the kitchen wall as if ready to give travel-weary scientists a restoring cup of tea! Just outside Damoy Hut is a refuge built by Argentina in the 1950s. This is not open to visitors and is still in use as an emergency refuge should the need ever arise. Apart from these historic buildings, visitors will see a small colony of Gentoo penguins who breed here, as well as plenty of seals and sea birds.
Day 7, AM
A21 Magellan Explorer
Return Flight to Punta Arenas
Return to King George Island and bid farewell to Antarctica before boarding your flight back to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival from the 7th continent, transfer to your hotel for the night and enjoy an evening at your own leisure.
Day 7, PM
Punta Arenas
Arrival at Punta Arenas
a wind-whipped, fractured land of islands, glacial fjords and mountains, which drop away towards Antarctica. A hardy city, where the temperature hovers in single figures throughout much of the year, Punta Arenas nevertheless offers a warm welcome and refuge, ahead of - and following - epic adventures and expeditions south across the Drake Passage. Captain Scott stopped here in 1904 – testing the postal service sending 400 letters of his successful return - and the city welcomed the rescued Ernest Shackleton and his Endurance crew to these shores in 1916. Punta Arenas is a remote place, but with custom-free status, and more than 120,000 people calling it home it's also surprisingly cosmopolitan. The commercial centre of Magallanes Punta Arenas is fueled by Chilean oil and gas - and establishing itself as a global centre for Antarctic research, with teams from various countries basing themselves here. The town is built around the Plaza de Armas, its central square - be sure to kiss the toe of the Monumento del Indio Patagon statue, said to guarantee you good luck on your return.
Day 8, AM
End of Air Cruise
After a peaceful night in your hotel, you will board the transfer vehicle to Punta Arenas airport for your flight home.

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Your ship: Magellan Explorer

Welcome aboard the Magellan Explorer, an ultra-modern expedition cruise ship built for the Antarctic. An Antarctic trip aboard the Magellan Explorer is unlike the rest. Instead of boarding your cruise ship right away and spending long days crossing the Drake Passage to get to the Antarctica, you’ll take a two-hour plane ride from Punta Arenas straight to the continent itself. This flight will save you time, and you’ll be able to head straight to the Antarctic action. A Magellan Explorer is a pioneer air-cruise is designed for adventure and with your comfort in mind. To manage environmental impact, the Antarctic Treaty limits the numbers of visitors on shore to maximum 100 at one time. A Magellan Explorer air-cruise comfortably accommodates only 73 guests so everyone can go ashore at the same time. This means that you will spend more time ashore, rather than waiting your turn to disembark the ship. The Magellan Explorer cruise ship offers 7 different categories of accommodation, including dedicated single cabins. All cabins except for the Porthole cabins have a private balcony for your enjoyment. All cabins feature a wardrobe, an individually controlled heating system, a private bathroom, a sitting area, and heated floors. The Magellan Explorer cruise ship also features a beautiful glass-enclosed observation lounge deck for guests to awe over the incredible Antarctic views. Guests are welcome to take part in the polar discussions in the presentation room with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment. The polar cruise ship also offers a library, a boutique gym built by the professionals at Anytime Fitness, a sauna, and a medial clinic. The Magellan Explorer comes equipped with a fleet of 10 Zodiac boats, perfectly suited for an Antarctic adventure and a closer look at the flora and fauna. The observation deck aboard the cruise ship also leads to the bow of the ship where guests and crew can better spot marine wildlife. A Magellan Explorer air-cruise is the most modern way to explore the amazing Antarctic region. Time-saving, comfortable, and intimate, this air-cruise rethinks polar exploration for those who have a limited amount of travel time.


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Observation Lounge
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Conference Room
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Fitness Center
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Zodiac Fleet


All CO2 emissions of your trip (e.g. local transport, hotel) will be 100% compensated for you by a Gold Standard climate protection project.

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