0. Arrival Day
We ask you to arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days prior to your scheduled Antarctic flight in order to fully prepare you for your upcoming experience. These days also allow a buffer for flight and luggage delays should your travels to Chile not go as scheduled. We do not hold Antarctic flights for delayed passengers or luggage. Do not forget to collect your checked luggage in Santiago, before clearing customs! Upon arrival in Chile, you will pass through immigration, collect your checked luggage, go through customs, and then go to the 3rd floor of the terminal and re-check your bags for your domestic flight to Punta Arenas. If your luggage does not arrive, complete a missing form for lost luggage before leaving the Santiago airport. Upon arrival at Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport (PUQ), our representative, holding a sign, will be waiting for you at the exit of the luggage claim area and will transport you to your hotel.
You will receive a Welcome Pack which includes your Gear Check time, your Clothing Rental time (if applicable), your Luggage Pick-Up time, and the time of the Welcome & Safety Briefing. These events are required and very important steps in preparing you for arrival in Antarctica. Gear Check We will arrange a specific time to come to your hotel and review your personal clothing and equipment. Please lay out all of the items on our Required Clothing and Equipment List in your hotel room so we can go through each item with you. We will help sort the items to pack in your checked luggage vs. your carry-on bag and what items to leave behind in Punta Arenas.
Please notify us in advance if you plan to have more than 66 lb (30 kg) of luggage. Ski aircraft have strict cargo limits and we may not be able to accommodate excess luggage without advance notice. Keep the following requirements in mind as you prepare your luggage:
• All luggage must comply with international air transport regulations.
• Fuels or other hazardous substances are prohibited on flights to Antarctica.
• Spare or loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked luggage and must be packed in your carry-on.
• For the safety of our staff, individual bags must not weigh more than 55 lb (25 kg).
On the morning before your Antarctic flight, we will come to your hotel at your scheduled Luggage Pick-Up time. Be ready in the lobby with
ALL of the luggage you will be taking to Antarctica including checked luggage and items that will be carried on. We will weigh everything and use these weights to calculate cargo totals for the ski aircraft flight to the penguin colony. We will only collect your checked luggage at this time.
You will need to separate your luggage into three categories: Checked Luggage, Carry-on Luggage, and Left Luggage.
Checked luggage is collected the day before your Antarctic flight in order to preload the aircraft so it is ready to depart as soon as the weather is suitable. Keep in mind, you will not have access to your checked luggage until it is delivered to your tent in Antarctica, even if the flight is delayed. Do not put anything in your checked luggage that you might need during your stay in Punta Arenas, on the flight, or for the first few hours in Antarctica.
Your checked luggage allowance is 66 lb (30 kg). Any checked luggage in excess of this amount will be charged at $35 USD per lb ($77 USD per kg). You can pay in US cash or we can invoice you for the excess luggage. Carry-on luggage, clothing worn aboard the aircraft, and sleeping bags rented from us, are not included in your checked luggage allowance.
Do NOT pack these items in your checked luggage -
• Spare lithium batteries
• Perishable food
• Sunscreen and sunglasses
• Clothing for your arrival in Antarctica
Pack all of your essential personal belongings in your carry-on. The Ilyushin-76 does not have overhead bins, so your carry-on bag must fit below the seat in front of you. Carry-on luggage is restricted to 18” x 16” x 10” (46cm x 41cm x 26cm). Carry-on items that do not fit under
the seat will be gate checked and may result in additional fees.
We recommend wearing the boots and outer clothing you will need for your arrival in Antarctica to board the aircraft. The temperature on board the aircraft will be adjusted accordingly, so don’t worry about getting too hot.
If you are bringing a camera pack that is larger than the carry-on size limit or as a 2nd carry-on, it will be considered part of your checked luggage allowance, and it will need to be weighed at the luggage pickup. You will keep the pack with you to board the aircraft but once on board, your camera pack will be stored behind the last row of passenger seats. You may not have access to your camera pack during the
flight. If you want to take pictures during the flight, keep that camera with you. Remember to retrieve your camera pack before disembarking the aircraft in Antarctica.
You can leave luggage in Punta Arenas if there are items you do not need in Antarctica but we do not recommend leaving valuables. We will provide Left Luggage Tags with a tear-off claim receipt. Please give the bottom portion of the tag to a staff member as you board the bus for your Antarctic flight. In the event you stay in a different hotel upon your return, our staff will need this claim receipt to move your left luggage for you. We are not responsible for lost or stolen luggage.
Welcome and Safety Briefing
The evening before your Antarctic flight, you are invited to our office for an important safety briefing. Here, we will describe the flight dispatch process, update you on the current weather, and prepare you for arrival at Union Glacier. Please stay to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and pisco sours served over Antarctic ice with your fellow travelers. And don’t forget to take your boarding pass and commemorative cocktail glass with you!
Day 1. Fly to Antarctica
We will call you at your hotel in the morning to advise you of current conditions in Antarctica. If the weather is suitable for our flight, we will pick you up at your hotel within the hour. Please meet us in the lobby with hotel bills paid, ready to board the bus.
At the Punta Arenas airport, we board our chartered jet for the 4¼ hour flight to Antarctica. Our route crosses the Drake Passage, then follows the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula and the spine of the Ellsworth Mountains. We land on a naturally occurring blue-ice runway on Union Glacier where you will take your first steps in Antarctica.
Climb aboard one of our specially-adapted vans for the 5 mi (8 km) shuttle to our main camp. Our friendly staff will provide a welcome tour of camp and show you to your tent.
Day 2. Explore Union Glacier
Guests usually enjoy a few days at Union Glacier as part of their experience.
A typical day at Union Glacier starts with a briefing after breakfast where you’ll meet with your guide to discuss the day’s options and choose an activity tailored to the weather and the group’s interests. Union Glacier excursions can include any of the following destinations:
Ride in one of our wheeled vehicles to this dramatic marble buttress overlooking the blue-ice runway. Geology lovers will be delighted to find this is a hotspot for ichnofossils. Our experienced guides can help you navigate by GPS to known trace fossils or accompany you on a mission to discover new ones. For photographers, beautiful ice pools and moraines offer endless opportunities to capture close-up frozen formations or wide angle glacial landscapes. Hikers can trek up to the base of Elephant’s Head or all the way to the top of Rhodes Bluff for panoramic views of Union Glacier and the Heritage Range
Board our one-of-a-kind Tucker Bus, a custom designed tracked vehicle, for the scenic drive to the remote Buchanan Hills. You’ll arrive at a high pass that offers expansive views of Union Glacier as it flows into Constellation Inlet. Higgins Nunatak pokes through the ice, like an atoll in a frozen ocean. For the fit and adventurous, there are two easy hiking routes that require no prior experience and grant you the rare opportunity to summit a peak in the heart of Antarctica.
Named in the 1960s after geologist Benjamin Drake IV, this impressive icefall tumbles off the polar plateau into Union Glacier. Winds from the South Pole carve huge waves into the blue-ice and polish the surface into a high shine.
Charles Peak Windscoop
Discover the power of wind on ice as you wander through a sparkling turquoise corridor. If you’re truly adventurous, this is a prime place to try ice climbing with one of our experienced guides. For the less vertically inclined, you can rock hunt to your heart’s content. Just remember to leave them in place, as nothing may be removed from Antarctica.
The Beach at Rossman Cove
Another spectacular setting for photography and panoramic views! Take cross-country skis with you or a picnic lunch and enjoy Antarctica’s version of a glacial beach getaway.
If you’d prefer to stay closer to camp, we have a variety of activities for all abilities. You can check out a pair of cross-country skis or a fat-tire bike and take a spin around our groomed 10k loop or you can enjoy a cup of tea, an Antarctic book, or fun game in our camp library.
In the evenings, we regularly offer lectures and films tailored to your experience. Before you depart for the colony, we will review the Emperor Penguin Colony Visitor Guidelines.
Day 3. Fly to the Colony
As soon as weather conditions permit, we will fly to the colony. The flight takes about 4 hours, traveling north-eastward over the Ronne Ice Shelf and Berkner Island where we may stop to refuel if necessary.
We land on sea ice where our staff has prepared a field camp 1-2 mi (2-3 km) from the colony. Our Emperor Field Camp Manager will give you a tour of the camp and review safety procedures for travel to and from the colony. In this unfamiliar environment and remote location, it is vital that you follow the instructions given by our experienced staff. Your safety and the protection of wildlife are our top priorities.
Day 4. Live with the Emperors
Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and rhythms of the colony. Walk to the colony with our experienced field guides to photograph penguins, seals, and seabirds. We provide small sleds and walking poles to help transport your camera equipment between camp and the colony. The sea ice generally provides a hard surface to walk on.
We make every effort not to disturb wildlife and strictly adhere to Emperor Penguin Colony Visitor Guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining a precautionary distance of 17 ft (5m) away from all wildlife. Our guides are on hand to answer any questions you may have about the wildlife and their unique adaptations to the Antarctic environment.
24-hour daylight allows us to adapt our schedule to the best weather and lighting for photography. While our guides are happy to accommodate individual requests, keep in mind this is a group activity and we may not always be able to offer 1 to 1 guiding. Please discuss your wishes with the guides in advance so they can tailor the camp schedule to include meals and sleep for everyone.
Day 5. Return to Union Glacier
Our field staff will stay in close contact with Union Glacier Camp to identify the best ‘weather window’ for your return flight.
Fly to the South Pole
Once weather conditions permit, you will board our ski aircraft and head for the southernmost point on Earth! Your flight is planned to return the same day but we will bring food and camping equipment in the event weather conditions change and an overnight stay is necessary. Our guest services team will assist you in packing your sleeping bag.
The flight to the Pole will take between 4-6 hours depending on the aircraft. You’ll fly over the high, polar plateau, viewing wind affected snow called sastrugi, crevasse fields, and an endless expanse of white.
You’ll pass the Thiel Mountains approximately halfway to the Pole and continue to fly over the plateau. As you near 90° South, you will catch sight of the South Pole station, a cluster of buildings surrounded by snow and sky.
Our aircraft lands on a groomed ski-way and you’ll deplane near the South Pole marker. Here all 360 lines of longitude meet and beneath your feet the ice is almost 10,000 ft (3000 m) thick! You have joined an exclusive group of people who have journeyed this far south on our planet. Congratulations!
Be prepared for extreme cold and the effects of altitude as you deplane. South Pole temperatures range from -31° to -13°F (-35° to -25°C) and even the slightest breeze can quickly freeze exposed skin. Put on warm layers and cover your hands and face completely.
The physiological altitude (how high it feels) at the South Pole is roughly 11,000 ft (3300 m). You may feel the effects of altitude, including shortness of breath and mild headache. Take it slow and steady to help your body cope with these unfamiliar conditions.
One of our experienced medics accompanies all South Pole flights and is ready to assist you should you have any issues with the cold or altitude.
The United States of America maintains a research station at the South Pole, named Amundsen-Scott Station in memory of those intrepid explorers.
In front of the station, you will have plenty of time to take photos at the Ceremonial Pole surrounded by flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations. Then walk a short distance to reach the Geographic Pole at 90° South. Enjoy this special place and imagine how it must have felt to stand here a century ago with only the sound of the wind and an endless expanse of white stretching northward in all directions.
Your visit to the Pole will last approximately 3-4 hours. Given the cold conditions and altitude, we’ve found this to be the perfect amount of time for guests to accomplish their objectives and enjoy the experience.
Day 6-8 Explore the Union Glacier
Depending on flights, you may have a few days at the end of your experience to explore more of Union Glacier. You will also enjoy a celebration dinner and receive a certificate to commemorate your Emperors and Explorers Experience in Antarctica.
Day 9 Return to Chile
When weather and runway conditions permit, our intercontinental aircraft will arrive at Union Glacier to transport you back to Chile. Our staff will meet you at the airport and transfer you back to your hotel.
Due to the potential for weather delays, we strongly suggest booking your flight home one week after your planned return from Antarctica. If you purchase a full-fare ticket, most airlines will allow you to move your departure date. We recommend booking tickets through a travel agent, so they can change your ticket once the return flight from Antarctica is en route. Please note, our staff are unable to assist with airline reservations.
Should you wish to explore Chile before you return home, our team can provide a list of local tour operators and excursions. When it is time for your flight home, we will provide transportation from your hotel to the Punta Arenas airport.