A Vegan Traveler's Antarctic Experience: What to Expect on a Visit to the 7th Continent

June 8, 2017 Special Guest Author

This is a selection of a post originally published on Yummy Plants by Rebecca Gilbert, a passenger on  one of Quark’s Antarctic Expeditions.

Get ready for the vegan adventure of a lifetime! It is absolutely possible to visit Antarctica as a vegan. The tour company I used, Quark Expeditions, ensured that there were excellent vegan meals throughout the tour. They also use equipment (boots and parkas) made from animal-free materials. To ensure that Antarctica remained pristine, the company made sure we carried all equipment away from the land after each excursion.

Gnocchi- Food aboard ship to Antarctica Vegan Gnocchi, Dinner on the Quark Expeditions Antarctica Tour

How to get to Antarctica:

The most common route to Antarctica, because it’s the shortest, is to leave from the quaint port town of Ushuaia, Argentina (located just 1000 km from the Antarctic Peninsula). Travelers arrive into Buenos Aires, and then take a 3-hour flight further south to Ushuaia.

Ushuaia is located in a region called Tierra del Fuego. Visitors to Antarctica often spend a few days hiking in Ushuaia first to enjoy its beauty. (See the videos!) Next comes brave travel by boat across the Drake Passage, just 1000 km, and then that magical moment when you step onto the Antarctic Peninsula! (Note: The Drake Passage has some of the roughest seas in the world! Bring your Dramamine!)

Ship leaving Ushuaia, enroute AntarcticaLeaving Ushuaia on the Way to Antarctica! Photo by Monica Kervin

If you’re traveling with Quark, once you get on the boat, there will be plenty of vegan food available.  But let’s talk about what provisions you’ll need to make it through Ushuaia and onto the boat.

Exploring Ushuaia, Argentina:

Ushuaia is known in Spanish as “Fin del Mundo.”  It’s the southern-most civilization in the world! Items that we think of as common, like soy milk or almond milk, are actually quite difficult to get there. Because of the harsh climate, few vegetables grow there.  Much of Ushuaia’s food is imported from Buenos Aires or other regions. While I was in Ushuaia, I discovered that most folks there had a very limited knowledge of a vegan lifestyle. So, they truly had no idea what to offer as a 100% plant-based meal. In fact, in my hotel, I was the first vegan the staff had ever met! The staff and management at Hotel Tolkeyen were wonderful. I would absolutely stay there again. Just let Roberto know you’re vegan and he will take great care of you!

Delicious Vegan Meal at Hotel Tolkeyen in Ushuaia, ArgentinaDelicious Vegan Meal at Hotel Tolkeyen in Ushuaia, Argentina

What food do you need to bring? 

There are definitely provisions I would recommend bringing to tide you over until you can get on the boat. Some domestic flights within Argentina have a 30ish pound weight limit, so read the fine print on your ticket and keep this in mind when you’re packing food.  All the foods I am recommending are lightweight and nutritious; if they need to be cooked, you can make them with boiled water.

  • Small instant oatmeal packages
  • Nuts and dehydrated vegan camping foods
  • Powdered soy or other non-dairy “milk” (or liquid in aseptic packaging)
  • Protein bars

By the time you visit, things may have changed and vegan food may be more easily available (I hope so!), but if not, the foods I just mentioned above should help you during your stay in Ushuaia.

I made a few videos to document the voyage starting from the airport in the US, to Buenos Aires and throughout the journey all the way to the end of the Antarctic voyage. If you’d like to share in the adventure, you can watch the Antarctica videos on the Yummy Plants YouTube channel.

In Antarctica, I found a magical land so pristine, so teeming with life, and so fragile, that I came away with a feeling of wonder and awe – and a lasting feeling of responsibility to do my best to help preserve this special place. 

Final thought: In Ushuaia, it’s not common to think of grilled vegetables and rice as a meal, so staff there may not even think to suggest this to you as a possible entree. When you ask about the possibility of basic plant-based meals, you’ll be spreading the word about a vegan lifestyle and making it easier for all the vegans who come next!

This article was previously published on Yummy Plants by Rebecca Gilbert.

To learn more about the full itinerary of Rebecca’s expedition, and others like it, click here.

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