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Best of the Best 2002: Travel: Best Destinations: Antarctica

The thrill and wonder of exploring Antarctica is something even the most jaded traveler would have trouble scoffing at. Regardless of the endless number of frequent flier miles you’ve accrued, or the number of destinations you’ve visited, you’ll find this 5.5 million-square-mile continent of ice a magical domain of pure wilderness and spectacular beauty.

The region experiences 20 to 24 hours of daylight, which leaves plenty of time to watch the native elephant seals, whales, and penguins; swim in hot pools, where volcanic fumaroles heat the water near shore; and kayak or hike amid the wintry landscape. It’s best to visit between December and February, the relatively temperate summer months.

Several companies offer upscale cruises to Antarctica, including Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com) and Mountain Travel Sobek (www.mtsobek.com). Most excursions begin in Puerto Williams, Chile, and end in Punta Arenas.

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