There are few universal truths, but this is definitely one of them: penguins are unspeakably cute.
For many penguin enthusiasts, making a pilgrimage to see these birds in the wild is a bucket list item. Good news: penguins have no natural land-born predators, so wild penguins aren’t particularly afraid of humans. Yes, that means selfies with penguins are totally possible.
Penguins are almost exclusively Southern Hemisphere dwellers and often take up residence in some of the most off-the-beaten path stretches of the earth: Antarctica, sub-Arctic islands, the Galapagos.
After all, what other reason would travelers have to venture to the freezing cold bottom of the earth? Of the more than 40,000 people who visit Antarctica each year, most report going for the sole purpose of seeing penguins.
Cruise expeditions are ideal for spotting penguins (Silversea Cruises’ Silver Explorer, for example, navigates the Drake Passage and docks at a number of penguin rookeries, including South Georgia Island and Elephant Island—the Celebrity Xpedition ship routinely visits Galapagos Islands, including the ancient volcanic remains, Isabela, that are a favorite playground for the area’s namesake penguin species) though it's not impossible to find them frolicking on a busy strip of beach near metropolitan Cape Town.
If you’re headed below the equator to frolic with penguins, plan your trip for the warm season (November through March) when penguins typically spend more time on shore.
Whether you're planning a trip or are eager for a little late afternoon eye candy, here are some of the world's most famous penguin species (there are 17 or 18 total, depending on which expert you ask), and where to find them.