When to visit Antarctica

Antarctica is open for business when the sea ice breaks up in November, and before it starts to close up again at the end of March. It’s possible to kayak all the way through the cruising season. Camping will be very cold in November, but is best done before the snow gets too slushy in March. Diving trips tend to depart in February and March, when the water is at its clearest. ‘Best times’ aside, if you’re looking to have a more adventurous holiday, you should book based on where the availability is, rather than having your heart set on a certain week.
Simon Evans, from our Antarctica holiday specialists Chimu Adventures, had an adventure under canvas: “I camped on Antarctica in mid-November and we had a sort of dusk from ten ‘til two in the morning, but it didn’t get pitch black. If you camp in mid-summer you’ll get 24-hour daylight.”

What to see when in the Antarctic

When to visit Antarctica chart
When to visit key
When to visit Antarctica for icebergs, penguin chicks, whales and access to Ross sea
When to visit Antarctica for Antarctic circle crossing, breeding elephant seals and warmer weather

Our top Antarctica adventure Holiday

Antarctica semi-circumnavigation cruise

Antarctica semi-circumnavigation cruise

Scott & Shackelton Huts, Mount Erebus, Maquarie, Helicopter

From €22150 4 weeks ex flights
Small group travel:
2021: 13 Jan, 16 Feb
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Antarctica adventure or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Antarctica, month by month

January is a great time to visit Antarctica. The temperature is just above freezing – about as warm as it will get here. The Ross Sea, between Antarctica and New Zealand, finally defrosts enough to let ships cross. What’s more, it’s the peak time to see penguin chicks and seal pups. February is one of the best times to spot whales in Antarctica. Take your pick: it’s possible to see seven common species, including blue whales. In February it’s been warm for long enough that you can cross into the polar circle. Some ships even let you do a ‘polar plunge’, wearing just your swimming costume. During March there are still lots of whales around, and the water is especially clear for divers. But the nights are starting to draw in. By the end of the season, the temperatures are dropping and the weather is getting worse. April, May, June, July, August, September and October are off-season for a reason: there are violent storms, punishing winds, and seemingly endless nights. Spare a thought for researchers who stay during winter, totally cut off from the rest of the world by pack ice. November is the start of cruising season after the long, dark months of austral winter. The days are lengthening, but it’s still very cold. It’s the best time to see really large icebergs. This is the start of ‘spring’ for the southern hemisphere, and you might see elephant seals hauled out on the ice; it’s their breeding season. December is the start of peak season in the Antarctic, and cruises fill up quickly, offering a ‘money back guarantee White Christmas’. It’s getting warmer and the days are at their longest. Hatched penguin chicks are everywhere.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ondrej Prosicky] [Top box: SarahNic] [Month by month: Riviera Travel]
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