Best time to visit Antarctica

Best time to visit Antarctica


temperature & rainfall

Nov-Mar is the short expedition season – this is not only the best time to visit Antarctica, it is the only time it’s possible – as the ice breaks up allowing ships to pass. Icebergs are hugest in November, sculptural and surreal. The continent is colder but at its most untouched, with pristine ice and snow, and wildflowers blooming on the islands. The 20-hour sunshine in Dec-Jan brings welcome warmth; temperatures hover above freezing, creating perfect conditions for seal pups and penguin chicks – as well as whales. Later in the season, the rookeries are a rabble of noise and activity, as chicks fledge and sea ice drifts away.

When to visit Antarctica & when not to


a month by month guide

Visiting Antarctica in Januaryis a pretty good idea especially if you’re intending to see penguin chicks and seal pups in relatively warm temperatures. We’re talking just above freezing here.

February is also one of the warmest months in Antarctica with every chance of spotting whales and also offering a small window of opportunity to cross the Antarctic Circle.

Whales are still plentiful in March; however, temperatures will be returning to their normal below freezing levels, with treacherous winds and endless nights culminating in the ‘no go’ months of April, May, June, July, August and September.

Late October and November are still exceedingly cold although they do present the best chance of getting up close to some of Antarctica’s largest icebergs as well as breeding elephant seals.

As December dawns, Antarctica starts to see an upturn in temperatures, with an untouched quality promising some stunning scenes bathed in permanent sunlight.

December is considered the best time of year to visit Antarctica and is therefore the most popular - so book early to plant your pick in the ice.

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Best time to visit Antarctica


responsibletravel.com recommends

Charlotte Caffrey, from our supplier Aqua-Firma, shares her best time to visit Antarctica: “I really like Antarctica in March, as you see a lot of whales, the water is clearer for diving and you get leopard seals hunting penguins. There are also fewer boats around. It’s also a great time to go if you want to go across the Antarctic Circle; at the end of the season it’s easier to get through the melted areas to reach the southernmost point.”
Cassia Jackson, from our supplier Heritage Expeditions: “The Ross Sea is closed in by pack ice conditions for most of the year, so there is only a small window of opportunity to get there by ship. We only operate two voyages per season to the Ross Sea from New Zealand, the first in January and the second in February.”
Sarah Wightman, from our supplier Pura Aventura: “At the start of the season you get the most incredible ice formations – it’s just unbelievable. But sometimes the ship can’t get where it need to go as the ice blocks are so big – so quite often you can stand on deck and can’t get off as much. The bit in the middle – from December to early February – is the most popular because you can get off the ship, the penguin chicks and other birdlife are still there, and you get close to 24-hour sunshine.”

Festivals & events in Antarctica


Our Naturel pick from the Antarctica calendar

Did you know...?


December and January bring new life to the icy wilderness. On the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, newborn seal pups are blinking in the near-constant sunlight, and penguin chicks can be seen huddled in together on the islands and along the Antarctic Peninsula, while the adults head off to hunt for food. You’ll see the chicks chasing their parents across the ice when they come back with beakfuls of food!
Photo credits: [Top box: Christopher Michel] [Leopard seal: Christopher Michel] [Nature event: Brian Gratwicke]
Written by Vicki Brown
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