Eternal ice sheets. Summers of bright sunlight. Winters of forbidding shadow. A world without cities, frontiers, wars, oil or pollution. A kingdom of penguins and seals, walruses and blue whales, where man is an upstart, a curious guest observing, analyzing, studying and marveling at everything.
Here, everyday life is full of the unusual: six-month days, everlasting nights of circling stars that never leave the sky, glaciers that never melt and men that do not pollute or deplete the environment, or build skyscrapers; perhaps because they have a million questions to ask, perhaps because they are looking for clues to the nature of the planet on this frozen remoteness called Antarctica.
Up to a few years ago this part of the world was an area reserved for scientists and scholars. Now the situation is different, and groups of tourists arrive in Antarctica, the White Continent of monstrous icebergs that store 70% of the world's fresh water and of age-old solid layers of ice up to 4 kilometers deep in places.
A new destination is open to travelers at the end (or beginning) of the world. It is cold, distant and inhospitable, but... overwhelmingly beautiful.
Antarctica tempts globetrotters despite its whimsical and rigorous climate (temperatures drop to minus 50° Celsius in winter). The reason is that it is no longer so far away, since only 2 and 4 hours of flying time separate it from the Chilean cities of Puerto Williams and Punta Arenas, respectively. It is also accessible by sea.
By land or sea, a trip to the Chilean Antarctic, a 1,250,000 square kilometer frozen paradise, is a freezing adventure. Voyagers arrive at King George Island, a kind of capital of the South Pole, where they find Villa Las Estrellas and Presidente Frei Base, one of the 72 scientific posts built by 26 different nations on the White Continent.
Tours of Chile and Fildes bays (featuring an important penguin rookery), and walks through Villa de Las Estrellas, the main population center in the area, are some of the activities that visitors can do in the enormous Antarctic, whose 14 million square kilometer expanse is the equivalent of half the territory of the U.S.