GORGEOUS GEORGIA SOUTH GREAT ESCAPE SPECIFIC
At any given point, you have a choice of two sets of Shetland Islands. One is just above (ish) the Scottish mainland. It stages the Up Helly Aa fire festival in January. The other is the South Shetland Islands, just off (ish) the Antarctic Peninsula. Less fire, more penguins. Explore.co.uk’s 13-day “Antarctica in Depth” expedition (sailing out of Ushuaia on Nov 11) will get you there. From £5,099pp; flights extra. Antarctica is the main course and frozen pudding of any trip to the planet’s base, but appetisers await on the way. One is South Georgia, the remote isle at 54 degrees south which Shackleton crossed in 1916 at the end of his Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Intrepid Travel (intrepidtravel.com/uk) will pop by via its “Crossing the Antarctic Circle” 23-day jaunt, leaving Buenos Aires on Feb 18. From £10,830pp; flights extra. Yes, OK – it seems obscene to mention Christmas when we are all still picking pine needles out of the carpet and the cat. But if the thought of playing charades with your in-laws ever again makes you feel murderous, ponder the alternative of the 13-day “Christmas in Antarctica” cruise that Aurora Expeditions will dispatch from Ushuaia on Dec 17. From US$11,900pp – flights extra (auroraexpeditions.com.au).