The Shetland Islands are some of the most fascinating islands in the world, especially for those who are looking for that next great destination to explore. You can find this group of islands some 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula, and they usually figure on the itinerary of many Antarctica cruises. Deception Island is just one of the Shetland Islands that you might hope to visit on an Antarctica vacation, and there are certainly others that deserve some of your time. Like mainland Antarctica, the Shetland Islands are a sovereign land, and they are free for use by any number of signatory countries, provided that the use is non-military. There are several minor islands that help to make up the South Shetland Islands chain, though most visitors stick to the eleven major landmasses. In total, the Shetland Islands boast 1,420 square miles of land. More than 80 percent of this land is permanently glaciated, as is the norm this far south.
The Shetland Islands Antarctica research stations have long served the needs of international scientists, and while scientific research still brings many visitors in, others come to enjoy the general sightseeing opportunities. Deception Island is one of the most highly visited islands in the chain, as it boasts a unique landscape, not to mention scores of chinstrap penguins. If you want to see penguins on your Shetland Islands Antarctica visit, Deception Island isn't the only island that you'll want to keep in mind. The aptly named Penguin Island is also a good place to see penguins, as are many of the other Shetland Islands. As a side note, those who want to see Emperor Penguins, which are the species of penguins that were made famous by the movie March of the Penguins, South Georgia Island is arguably the place to go. Unlike the Shetland Islands, South Georgia Island is not part of Antarctica. It does, however, figure on the itinerary for many Antarctica cruises.
Shetland Islands Antarctica vacations are ideal not only for those who want to see penguins. These islands are home to a rich diversity of wildlife. In addition to chinstrap penguins and adelie penguins, Penguin Island, for example, is also home to fur seals, skuas, Antarctic terns, and giant petrels. King George Island, which is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, is an excellent place to visit if you want to see chinstrap and gentoo penguins, not to mention leopard, weddell, and elephant seals. In addition to being the largest island in the Shetland Islands, King George is also home to the bulk of the island chain's research stations. These research stations belong to a number of different countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and China, and they carry out research into areas such as paleontology, biology, and geology. Interestingly enough, King George Island hosts a summertime marathon that might interest you if you're looking for unique marathon experiences.
The South Shetland Islands that are mentioned thus far definitely aren't the only islands that you can visit on your Antarctica getaway. Another one that sees its fair share of tourists is Half Moon Island, which is home to chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls, and Antarctic terns, among other creatures. Whales are also spotted with frequency among those who visit this island, and the views of the surrounding mountains make a visit worth your while even when the animals are hiding. If spectacular natural views are what you have in mind, Livingston Island is another South Shetlands Antarctica landmass that you will do well to include on the itinerary. Here, the natural views are among the best around, and when you're not taking in the landscape, you can enjoy the variety of animal species. Antarctic fur seals are among the largest creatures that inhabit Livingston Island, and they share it with elephant seals, among other animal species.
Tourism in the South Shetland Islands started in the late 1950s, and while it's taken a few decades to get the word out when it comes to the masses, more and more travelers are looking to book a cruise here. Many of the Shetland Islands cruises also visit mainland Antarctica if you're interested. The Antarctic Peninsula deserves a look if you're short on time when it comes to visiting the mainland, and you can head inland to visit places like the South Pole if you have time to spare. Visits to islands like King George Island are the perfect complement to mainland visits, as they'll help you get the full Antarctica experience.
Whatever you have in mind for your Antarctica vacation, visiting the South Shetland Islands is recommended. Seal and whale hunting might have been the supreme industry in the past, but tourism is where it's at today. Some 95 percent of Antarctica tourists make it a point to tour the South Shetlands, and you will want to make some time for them yourself, even if you plan on spending most of your trip on the mainland. Just remember to prepare yourself for choppy sailing conditions when it comes to Shetland Islands visits. This island chain can be found in Drake Passage, which features some of the roughest seas on the planet. Medicine to ward off seasickness is definitely among the things that you will want to pack for your Antarctica vacation if you plan on sailing the high seas.