2014 Travel Awards: Best Polar Trip

King Penguins on a beach in South Georgia. (Ole Jørgen Liodden/Naturfokus)
Photo: Ole Jørgen Liodden/Naturfokus 1. WHO 2. WHAT 3. WHERE AAA-OK Antarctica BIRDS_of_the_WORLD-vENG10F Birds ENVIRONMENTS GEOGRAPHY King Penguin Land Mountain PENGUINS Penguins SCENERY Salisbury Plains South Georgia Island Sub-antarctic Islands WILDERNESS TRAVEL Wildlife

Winner: South Georgia Island and the Shackleton Crossing, Polar Explorers

South Georgia is considered a stopover on the way to Antarctica, but it shouldn’t be. Guides and naturalists are more intrigued by this 1,450-square-mile island and its 1,445 recognized species, including hundreds of thousands of king penguins, than its icy neighbor 800 miles south. Add ­mountains, glaciers, and the Shack­le­ton mystique—the famous explorer crash-landed his lifeboat at King Haakon Bay in 1916—and South Georgia is downright sexy. Polar Explorer’s surprisingly ­affordable (for polar trips) 18-day expedition, based out of a comfortable research vessel, is ideal for couples or families with dual agendas. After a four-day crossing of the southern Atlantic from Montevideo, Uruguay, the ship arrives at King Haakon Bay, where the group splits in two: Skiers start a four-day, 25-mile retracing of Shackleton’s crossing. Those remaining on board explore Prion ­Island, breeding ground for the wandering albatross, and Salisbury Plain, the island’s second-largest king penguin breeding ground. From $9,300; polarexplorers.com

Runner-Up: East Greenland Winter Expedition, Icelandic Mountain Guides

This is a rugged, chilly, crazy ski expedition. But there’s no better way to experience Arctic life and Inuit culture than on a new 19-day, 170-mile nordic ski journey across the Ammassalik region of eastern Greenland. Most locals here still hunt seals, fish, and use dogsleds as their primary form of transportation. Skiers will pass by 6,000-foot granite peaks, traverse ice fields, cross from island to mainland villages on thick ice, and camp under the Northern Lights between stays in village communal houses. Best of all, the locals supply drippingly fresh halibut. $5,560; fjallaleidsogumenn.is

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