It may be chillier than most travel spots, but a trip to Antarctica is one you'll never forget.
The first landing of a commercial passenger jet on the frosty continent happened last week on a blue-ice runway. Tour company Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions organized the flight of a Loftleidir Icelandic Boeing 757 to "prove the feasibility of landing commercial passenger airliners" in Antarctica, according to a company statement.
This paves the way (or the ice, rather) for future passenger jets to land on Antarctica, which could majorly change the way we visit our southernmost continent.
Currently, most visitors to Antarctica arrive by boat. ALE is one of the few tour companies that flies there, transporting passengers in cargo jets to which seats have been added to make them passenger-friendly. Making the switch to traditional passenger jets -- like the 757 that landed last week -- would make emergency evacuations easier and allow passengers more comfort, ALE spokesperson Leslie Wicks told HuffPost.
There's no exact timeline for incorporating passenger jets into ALE's tour service, she said, but it looks like they'd be able to do so within two or three years.
In other words, it's time to start planning a trip to Antarctica ASAP, before things really heat up (relatively speaking). Here's what you need to know:
So how DO you get to Antarctica?
As mentioned, cruise ships are still the main way to go for now. Ships often leave from Argentina, cross the Drake Passage and then bring guests ashore in Antarctica for guided visits of numerous cool (pun intended) spots. There are options to fly, too: ALE provides flights every week or so, leaving from Chile. It's best to browse flight and cruise services through the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which advocates for responsible travel to the continent.
What can you REALLY see there?
Cruises can take visitors to see the dazzling South Shetland Islands, go camping, try their hand at kayaking or to spot whales and penguins off the coast. ALE's fly-in program lets visitors climb Mount Vinson, Antarctica's highest peak, and visit the South Pole while staying at the company's basecamp at the remote Union Glacier, where the commercial airliner landed last week.
How much does this cost?!
ALE's fly-in excursions start at around $24,000 for the flight, accommodations and food for a week, Wicks told HuffPost. (It's no wonder they don't list the price on their site.) Indeed, flights for upwards of $20,000 are common: You might want to book a cruise for a less expensive deal, though it's still costly. Quark Expeditions, for example, offers trips starting at $5,995 for an 11-day sail from Argentina. Again, doing your homework will help you find the best deal.
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