Antarctica is a land of extremes: it is the coldest and driest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation. As the fifth largest continent in the world, Antarctica is also the most Southern, overlying the "South Pole". Scarcely touched by humans, the frozen land boasts breathtaking scenery, broken by only a handful of scientific bases and a "permanent" population of scientists numbering only a few thousand. Visitors to Antarctica generally must brave rough sea crossings aboard ice-strengthened vessels, but those who do are rewarded with amazing scenery and tremendous and unique wildlife.
Antarctica is notable for being the only continent with no significant land plant life and no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. (There are no polar bears; they are only at the North Pole.) However its shoreline serves as nesting ground for many species of migratory birds and penguins, and the Southern Ocean surrounding it is home to many fish and marine mammals, including whales.
For tourists, Antarctica is accessible only during the austral summer season from November to March, during which sea ice melts enough to allow access, coastal temperatures can rise up to highs of 57°F and there are twenty four hours of daylight. During the winter the sea is impassable. Temperatures can fall to -40°C/F and there are twenty four hours of darkness.
The above temperatures apply to the islands and coastal regions that tourists ordinarily visit. Temperatures in the interior, such as the South Pole, are far harsher, with summer highs of around 5°F and winter lows plummeting to -112°F.
Antarctic Peninsula - Antarctica's principal destination, nearest to Tierra del Fuego, with the impressive topography of the Antarctic Andes, island hot springs, the continent's densest concentration of research stations
East Antarctica - The Eastern Hemisphere's vast icy desert wasteland that makes up most of the continent is probably the least well known to tourists, but there are a few interesting destinations, including Mawson's Huts, and the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility
Ross Sea - The principal destination for cruise ships leaving Australia and New Zealand has some of Antarctica's most impressive sights around volcanic Ross Island and the huge Transantarctic Mountain Chain
South Pole - Unlike its northern cousin, the South Pole sits upon stationary ground, and therefore supports a permanent research station and a ceremonial "pole"
West Antarctica - With the exception of the Antarctic Peninsula, West Antarctica is barren and empty, even of research stations (except for the Brunt Ice Shelf), but it does contain the continent's highest & lowest points, the former of which you can climb on a guided expedition