No, it's not the Sahara!
Welcome to The Largest Desert On Earth

(No, That's NOT The Sahara!)
Your eyes do not deceive you, you're looking at Antarctica; the largest desert on Earth. This ice covered continent, which contains 90% of the Earth's fresh water, measures in at a total of 14 million square kilometers, and receives a paltry 166mm of rainfall on average per year. The Arctic (the second largest desert in the world) is almost identical on both counts.  

Despite being poles apart (literally!) many adventurous travellers will look at the two options and assume that each offers much the same experience, but there are more factors in play here than Polar Bears Vs Penguins and so we've dedicated today's feature to looking more closely at the pros & cons of each of these incredible polar deserts. Enjoy!
The Arctic
When To Go
From October to March, large patches of the Arctic Ocean are frozen over and impossible to navigate, so the European summer is the perfect time to visit - if you're lucky the temperature may reach a balmy 4-6°C! Most departures will leave between June and August, but if it's the Northern Lights you’re after, then you'll have better luck in August & September.
The Main Attractions
The Arctic is home to far more animals than Antarcica (the largest land animal on that continent is a wingless insect) as the territory is connected by ice bridge to North America, Europe & Asia; whilst the Antarctic is completely cut off from the rest of the world.
Polar bears & narwhal are the big celebrities, which you won't find elsewhere. 

One other draw card for the Arctic is its rich culture. Numerous populations have inhabited the region for thousands of years. These include the Inuit, Sami & the Yakuts of Siberia.
Getting There
A large number of cruises depart from Europe - Spitsbergen in Norway being one of the most popular departure points - which means a 'bolt-on' Euro stopover on the way home is a great way to increase the value. There is also a terrific "Northwest Passage" route that often departs from North America which hugs the Canadian archipelago for much of the journey.  
When To Go & What To See
Things aren’t quite as 'cut and dry' when it comes to Antarctica, as what you'll see depends largely on when you go. Antarctic summer (November to December) is tipped to be the most awe-inspiring time to visit, with vast numbers of migrating animals, huge amounts of ice and pristine snow, and fascinating penguin courtship displays.

Late December & January is the warmest time of year (that's relative, we're talking 2°C), and so you're likely to see the first penguin chicks start to hatch, whilst late Summer (February & March) is great for whale watching and the ice allows for exploration further south, which increases the chances of running into some huge (up to 3,700kg!) Elephant seals. 
Getting There
Options here are few and far between, with the southern tip of South America being the preferred option for most. Tourist ships depart all summer from Ushuaia, Argentina, and take roughly 48 hours to make the crossing. For those not happy on the open seas there is a second option which is a 2 hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to King George Island.
WHO To Go With?
Whichever pole you choose, your options for host are actually more varied than you might think, with several cruise operators offering expeditions. We've featured just a handful below, which you'll notice are NOT your "mainsteam" cruise lines with 3000+ people on board; these are specialist operators with exceptional 'experience' driven itineraries. The main variable to consider is adventure on shore Vs luxury on board. 
With 125 years of experience, new ships, and a lower price point than luxury lines, they provide a more modern Scandinavian ambiance and coveted features such as outside cabins and private balconies.

The world's first cruise ships to run on hybrid battery technology are also more environmentally sensitive, designed to cut CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by sailing with electrical propulsion. 
The ice class-rated, 200-passenger Silver Cloud offers quite the luxury experience with spacious suites, five dining choices and an outdoor heated pool.

22 seasoned expedition experts are onboard to give passengers the most personal of attentions. When near the shore, there are 16 Zodiacs and 10 kayaks to ensure guests get the very most ot of their exploration time.
Lindblad-National Geographic
Combine Lindblad Expeditions' 50-plus years of experience with National Geographic's iconic photographers, experts and, often, researchers and scientists, and we're talking a match made in an educational adventure heaven.
Passengers seeking a gentler-on-the-wallet experience, or prefer some cruise ship comforts, but care little about private verandas or butlers will love options such as overnight camping, snowshoe hikes, mountaineering and cross-country skiing. 
Ponant offers a blend of luxury, exploration and great comfort, adventure and refinement... even in the heart of the most remote regions. You'll travel on board a luxury ship, whilst enjoying top-quality services, always accompanied by experts on the regions visited.
Two six-star discovery yachts feature 114 all-veranda suites, nine restaurants, eight lounges and bars, a spa, indoor and outdoor fitness areas and plunge pools. Exploration amenities include a marina deck, two six-passenger helicopters and one six-passenger submarine!

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