Where You Should Go If You Can’t Afford Antarctica

Its a dream to make it to the white continent but with prices starting off at $3,000 its no wonder why only about 37,000 people made it to Antarctica last year.  It is by no means a cheap adventure and that doesn’t include the costs of getting to the port where you leave.

Last minute Antarctica cruises are much cheaper than most will still run you back in the neighborhood of $3500 to $500 with flights included.  If you have been dreaming of making it to Antarctica but find yourself short on the green stuff then worry no more!

I have an alternate trip for you where you can experience everything you will see in Antarctica on a similar scale in the country of Argentina.  You will be traveling throughout Patagonia to the cities of Puerto Madryn & Ushuaia.

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The first view when arriving in Antarctica

Don’t have 3 to 4 grand to spend on a last minute Antarctica cruise? No worries!  Dont have 10-15 days to spend on a cruise to visit Antarctica? No worries!  There are two cities in the vast country of Argentina that you can visit to get a similar (not exact) experience of visiting the 7th continent.  I will not be responsible when you lie to your friends however.  The main attractions in Antarctica are no secret:

  • Penguins
  • Glaciers
  • Penguins
  • Swimming in Antarctic Waters
  • Penguins
  • Snow Capped Mountains
  • Did I mention Penguins?
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Yes I did it.. and the EPA doesn’t have to know about it

I introduce you ladies and gentlemen to the Penguin capital of Argentina that hosts the largest Magellan Penguin Colony in the world, Punta Tombo.  Hosting nearly 1 million penguins every year, I actually prefer the penguins in Punta Tombo because they are less afraid of people in comparison to the penguins in Argentina.  They will allow you to get inches away from them without even hesitating.

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Chillin with the family

You can access the Punta Tombo penguins by flying into Trelew or Puerto Madryn (Argentina) and driving to the colony.  Tours if you haven’t heard aren’t cool anymore.  It is quite a drive away from both cities but it is well worth it.  If you are like me and like to drive 100 mph (161 kmh) you will make it there in no time but plan 1.5 – 2 hours to arrive.  Highly recommend that you arrive right when they open at 8am.  Less tourists means more penguin activity and they usually are more active in the evening and in the early morning.

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One of the pictures I took on the cruise

Now to complete the glaciers, crisp water, and snow capped mountains you should head to a city about 900 miles south west to where you have access to glaciers that are fed by the 3rd largest ice sheet in the world, El Calafate.  I just came back from Calafate last weekend and I can tell you that parts of the surrounding area reminded me of Antarctica.  You will also be able to see one of the most impressive sites in the world, the Perito Moreno Glacier.  Its truly picturesque check out this picture (click here).

Make sure that you take the glacier cruise where they take you to see the many of the glaciers in the surrounding area.  Glacier Upsala is where the magic happens, due to global warming, there is a massive iceberg field near the Upsala bay providing picturesque images of crisp blue iceburgs, snow capped mountains, and even greenish blue water.

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Notice the blue green water of Lake Argentina

If you are short on time you can do both cities in a full week 6 -7 days.  You would need 2-3 days in Puerto Madryn and another 3-4 days in El Calafate.  If you really want to do everything in Calafate you can also go to Torres del Paine on the Chilean side which is an amazing site to see.


  1. These are really inspiring photos, Marcello. I mean, I really am not a fan of the cold. When there’s a blizzard, I seek cover and want a fireplace. But your photos are inspiring–who knows, I might take your advice. When I make it big in trading though 🙂

  2. Cute penguins! I went to Puerto Madryn years ago to see the whales but don’t remember spotting penguins. Sounds much much cheaper than Antarctica!

    1. Hi Marcello,

      Just been reading your blog and love it, have also signed up to follow you 🙂 Was wondering if you could possibly give me some advice. I really would like to do Antartica so would like to try and get us on a last minute deal, however time is also pretty tight in me leaving eaurope and getting there by Mid November. So this is the itinerary I was thinking of, please let me know if you think it is efficient and can work.

      So hoping to arrive around 20th November. Planning on heading straight to the South to start off in Patagonia spend about 2 weeks there, then head to Ushiaia to try and get a last minute deal (fingers crossed we do), then head North up the coast Puerto Madryn etc, Buenos Aires, then over to Bariloche and into Chile from there. From Chile to Salt flats, Lake Titicaca and onto Peru etc from there.

      What are your thoughts? Ultimately we are wanting to travel South America for as long as we can stretch our finances, wanting to start from the South and head North. I have already done Brazil so was going to skip that this time. Do you have any recommendations on how to streamline a solid itinerary, thats tailored to a tight budget?

      Your feedback would be greatly appreciated 🙂
      Thanks Tanya

      1. Good to hear from you Tanya best thing would be to speak to the operators directly and they can definitely help you out in that respect and those questions.

  3. There’s a great book to read – Berserk by David Mercy. He desperately wanted to visit Antarctica but was dead broke. He ended up sailing there with someone he just met on a crappy boat with a third guy who was also new to sailing. He had no experience and it’s a miracle he’s alive today. A true adventure and a very good read.
    I do however like your suggestions…and pictures.

  4. Your pose with the penguin is too cute.  You could use that little sucker as a football…not that you’d want to of course.  What a great alternative!

    1. Jeff, I am normally more warm blooded than most so don’t go by me.. most people were wearing big jackets but it does get quite warm when you are walking around in the sun. The snow does reflect the light instead of absorb it.

  5. Thanks for the information.
    There’s also a place in new Zealand. It is an indoor place, and is designed just like Antarctica, with -20 temperatures, and even Penguins.. It is also an alternative.

  6. Thanks for the post Marcello! Do you know whether last minute cruises in Ushuaia require payment in cash or credit card, and in which currency? I heard it’s impossible to get the blue dollar rate in Ushuaia.

    1. You can pay with either Peta. You actually pay the operator of the tour directly and most of them pay in dollars. I’ve already asked about that and they stated that they pay you (person taking the tour) pay the tour operator directly.

  7. I’m planning to take this trip this December 2016. I haven’t seen any updates to this post and was wondering how the prices look now. Can I still find last minute opportunities for $3000-$4000 USD?

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