WHEN TO TRAVEL

BEST TIME TO VISIT ANTARCTICA

The White Continent the furthest outpost of our planet vast, remote, forlorn, windy, bleak and frozen. Yet captivating, otherworldly, beautiful, silent and pristine…

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WHEN TO TRAVEL TO ANTARCTICA

The best time to visit Antarctica is from November – March, during the southern hemisphere’s summer months. Days become longer and warmer and the harrowing polar winds calm. Temperatures rise to just above freezing, allowing the sea ice of the Southern Ocean to melt permitting safe passage by boat. During these warmer months, this frozen and breathtaking wilderness becomes alive with animal activity as the breeding season gets underway. The warmer seas of the Antarctic region also attract migrating whales, which come to feed on the rich seas and to calve.

Travel Tips

  • The warmest months (by Antarctic standards) are December through until February.
  • January & February are the best months to see penguin chicks and seal pups.
  • Whale sightings are common throughout the season, but especially from January through until March.
  • Massive icebergs can be observed in December and January.
  • Antarctic circle and Ross Sea cruises typically operate in February and March.
  • Peak months are December through until February. Book well in advance for Antarctica luxury Cruises over Christmas and New Year.
  • November and March are colder months and less desirable.

MONTH BY MONTH GUIDE

NOVEMBER

This is the start of the season and when most polar cruises initiate operations. The beginning of the month is colder with shorter days, but as the month progresses days become longer and temperatures gently rise. Cruise prices also rise as the month progresses. Pack ice begins to melt and the weather calms, permitting boat navigation and better access to the Southern Ocean. November is the start of the mating season for penguins in South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Fur seals establish breeding territories and can be observed lounging on icy shores.

a pair of Chinstrap penguins sat on rocks overlooking the sea in the background

DECEMBER

December is considered the best time to visit Antarctica, due to the warmer weather and higher levels of wildlife breeding activity. Cruise prices during December peak, especially over Christmas and New Year. Icebergs magnificent in size with interesting dynamic flows start to form as the sea ice slowly melts. Warmer sea temperatures increase the chance of spotting migrating whales. Sea birds like albatrosses and petrels can be seen flying over the Drake Passage. South Georgia beaches are now home to new life as cute seal pubs and penguins are born. The longest day of the year is midsummer’s day on December 21.

A pair of Albatrosses flying in South Georgia Island, Antarctica

JANUARY

January sees long days with twilight nights. With the breeding season is well underway, January is considered the best time to visit Antarctica. This is peak season; cruise prices are high so advanced booking essential. Temperatures are at their highest in January averaging 0 – 5 °C (30 – 40 °F). Shorelines are abundant with massive colonies of penguins and their fluffy newborn. Cute seal pups can be observed lounging in the sun with their parents. Polar cruises can now access eastern Antarctica and the Ross sea, an area where few visitors venture, but where magnificent vistas await those who do.

Weddell seal pup looking directly at camera, sat on snow.

FEBRUARY

With receding sea ice, February is a good month for cruises that navigate further into the Antarctic Circle. February is also the best month for observing migrating whales in Antarctica. Commonly sighted species include orca, sperm, humpback and minke. Fur seal pups and leopard seal pups are now more frequently observed. Penguin chicks are growing stronger and more curious, with adult penguins dedicate their time to hunting for krill.

Icebergs and tail of a whale in Antarctica

MARCH

The Antarctic summer starts to come to an end, and as the month progresses temperatures drop back below freezing and the harsh Antarctic weather returns. This is the last month of the season and might not be considered the best time to visit Antarctica. This is, however, a good time to get great deals on cruises. Sea ice is about a quarter of what is present at the start of the season and navigation into the Antarctic circle good, making more remote landing sites more accessible. Adolescent penguins are finishing molting and growing adult feathers ready to swim. Many of the now rocky snowless beaches are now empty. Whale sightings are still good in March.

APRIL - OCTOBER

The harsh cold weather and rough seas make Antarctica inaccessible through April to October. Cruise companies do not operate during these months. For these reasons April – October is not the best time to visit Antarctica.

Antarctic sea with melted ice, mountainous scenery
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