Travel Inspiration: Antarctica & the Arctic

Pleneau Bay, Antarctica

My decision to take a six month career break in 2013 created some incredible travel and photography opportunities.  And although I’ve now returned to the office to replenish the bank account for some exciting 2014 plans, I still have a short break to the Lofoten Islands to look forward to at the end of the year, where I hope to see and photograph the Northern Lights for the first time. 

Although the year has been full of amazing experiences, there is no contest when I’m asked what my favourite location has been.

“Antarctica and the Arctic.”


The Polar Regions have been inspiring explorers, adventurers and scientists for centuries.

The harsh and wild environment has been the stage to both tragedy and triumph as human ability and spirit has been pushed beyond its limits.  The North and South Poles were the Holy Grails of explorers in the early 1900’s and remain a milestone for adventurers today.  The wildlife that calls the region home rides a survival rollercoaster, thriving in unspoiled and protected areas, yet battling ignorant and greedy hunters and a changing environment.

And whilst the cost, distance and effort to get to these regions keep them well and truly off the beaten track, the opportunity to explore them as a tourist has increased in recent years.  More and more travellers are adding Antarctica and the Arctic to their bucket list and some of them – including myself – are lucky enough to get there.

Monacobreen in Liefdefjord

I still remember the moment I first dreamed of visiting Antarctica.

It was autumn 2010 as I sat on my couch in North London, hypnotised by the voice of Sir David Attenborough and mesmerised by the footage of BBC’s Frozen Planet.

Of course I’d had other moments over the years when a photograph or story from the frozen continent created a wistful moment of polar wanderlust.  But it wasn’t until I saw the incredible scenes on the Frozen Planet that this fleeting dream evolved into something else.

But it was still just a dream.

Antarctica felt unattainable.  It felt out of reach.  It felt like a destination for scientists, for documentary makers and for retirees with the time and savings to get there.

But then I found myself flicking through a travel magazine, trying to pass time on a long haul flight.  A full-page photograph of an iceberg caught my eye, an article about the author’s recent experience aboard a tourist expedition ship captured my imagination and the realisation that I was in a position to do the same ignited a feeling of excitement I had not felt since I believed in Santa Claus as a child.

Within 24 hours of landing I had researched polar travel companies, explored different itineraries and booked my first polar adventure with Quark Expeditions.

A few months later I boarded a ship in Ushuaia and my addiction to polar travel began.

Zodiac Cruising - Neko Harbour, Antarctica

“It is an addiction like no other.”

It has the ability to eliminate all thoughts of the past and future from your mind and lock you in a bubble called “the moment”. 

It introduces you to a landscape that feels like that of another planet. 

It invites you to participate in your own wildlife documentary as you step into an unspoiled environment, a world where the wildlife makes the rules. 

It humbles you as you sail through a small part of a continent so inhospitable that no one has ever made it a permanent home. 

It ignites your imagination and has the potential to lift you to creative and spiritual levels you didn’t know existed within you.

“It is an experience like no other.”

So it is no surprise that most people return from an Antarctic adventure and immediately book an expedition further north to the Arctic.  It is also no surprise that those who make the Arctic their first polar adventure make Antarctica their second.  And it’s certainly no surprise that many of us dream of challenging the perception that polar travel is a “once in a lifetime travel adventure”.

Antarctica v Arctic?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to visit both Antarctica and the Svalbard Arctic in the past year.  And I am constantly asked “what was better”?

It is an unfair comparison.  In my mind, there is no place in the world that can compete with Antarctica.  In fact, I was a little nervous that I might find the Arctic underwhelming.  But a friend of mine who has visited both told me not to underestimate the Arctic – and he was right.

They have similarities and they have differences.  But both locations will fuel you polar addiction and both locations will leave you wanting more.  I am constantly dreaming about a return visit to both regions and I’m determined to make it happen – after all, life is for living right?


If you are trying to decide between Antarctica and the Arctic or are curious about the similarities and differences of travelling in both regions, you may want to read my comparison between the two regions.


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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at


  1. Gorgeous. From your photos, I can see how you felt drawn to these regions of our planet. Sometime, I’d be interested in reading about the thrills and challenges you faced on these trips.

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Travel Destination Comparison: Antarctica v Arctic
Photos: Deer Rutting in Richmond Park, London