Unlike overland travel, cruises can take you to some of the globe’s remotest, most inaccessible corners and deliver you an adventure from the comfort of your cabin. It’s no wonder that expedition cruises are taking the tourism industry by storm and that more people than ever are opting for this style of travel.
Not ones to shy away from offering our own suggestions for the world’s top adventure destinations, we’ve compiled this short list of intrepid traveler’s top choices when it comes to venturing to the planet’s most breathtaking – and exciting – places by ship.
Why: Although Norway is only slightly larger than the state of New Mexico, it has the seventh longest coastline in the world, totally 15,626 miles (25,150km) and made up of a complex and irregular system of fjords, including the world’s narrowest, Nærøyfjord.
Cruises here are unique in that not only can you explore the recesses of these deep, picturesque valleys but there are also ample chances for viewing the spectacular shimmering colors of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Svalbard (known for its rich diversity of Norwegian wildlife) and Honningsvag, Norway’s northernmost city, often feature on these itineraries.
When: June through August is when most visit Norway by cruise ship. However, to see the Northern Lights, the winter months are best.
Why: The Seventh Continent is a land of extremes that still captures the imaginations of people across the globe. It is a place of hardy yet magnificent wildlife, icebergs that loom larger than apartment blocks and an environment that both attracts and repels with its inhospitable yet majestic grandeur. Those who take a cruise to this place at the end of the earth agree on one thing: there is nowhere else on the planet quite like Antarctica.
When: With pack ice building up during the winter, it’s only possible to sail to Antarctica between November and March, with the majority of cruises departing from Ushuaia in Argentina.
Why: “Rounding the horn” became the stuff of maritime legend in the centuries after the discovery in 1616 of Cape Horn. As the fastest way between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, thousands of ships sailed this route, with many dying as a result of the cruel winds and powerful waves that plague these waters.
Although cruises around Cape Horn are a far safer undertaking these days, landing on Hornos Island and seeing the monument to the thousands of sailors who lost their lives to these waters is a sobering experience.
When: Cruises set sail from Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia during the austral summer (September through March) when the waters are calmer and the chances of landing on fabled Cape Horn are greater.
The Galapagos Islands
Why: Few places on earth can rival The Galapagos Islands when it comes to unique and fascinating flora and fauna. Since Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking study in the 1830s of the endemic creatures that roam these islands, they have come to represent the incredible history of evolution.
Cruises around The Galapagos Islands allow you to visit places such as spellbinding Tortuga Bay and to learn about the myriad strange but amazing facts about the area including about tortoises that can go without eating or drinking for a year, lizards that can swim and the only species of penguins to live above the equator. Sailing around The Galapagos on a cruise ship is not just an adventure but a lesson about life and the world.
When: December through June are the warmest months of the year and offer the best underwater visibility. Expect short rain showers but otherwise excellent weather for wildlife watching.