When is the best time to visit Antarctica?
The best time to visit Antarctica is between November and March when temperatures begin to climb, the days are getting longer and sea ice melts enough to enable access for our cruise ships. Antarctica is located deep in the Southern Hemisphere, and its remote location makes accessibility a challenge outside of the summer months.
Antarctica's cruise season is short and visiting this icy destination isn’t possible from April to October outside of research purposes. However, each of the five months that you can visit will bring spectacular scenery and incomparable wildlife viewing. When choosing the best time for a polar trip, consider basing your decision on the types of animals that will be most active, or if there are activities you might want to do in Chilean Patagonia or Argentina before or after your cruise. Here's our month-by-month guide to visiting Antarctica.
Best for: icebergs, animal love connections and wildflowers (yes, you read that correctly)
The best time to see icebergs and other ice formations at their sharpest and most sculpture-like is in November before the summer sun melts them. You might even be able to walk (or snowshoe) on pack ice! November is also mating season for seals, penguins and seabirds, so if you've ever wondered what their courting rituals look like, look no further. No amount of Discovery Channel programming can prepare you for elephant seals' intense breeding ground battles or for penguins' slightly more demure nest-building rituals.
If your trip has a visit to the Falkland Islands on the itinerary, you can catch the springtime bloom of dozens of species of wildflowers, or if you find yourself on uninhabited South Georgia you might see a spread of bright yellow Antarctic pearlwort. The colourful flowers are an impressive contrast against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks and glaciers.
Best for: midnight sun and Peninsula ice camping
If you're approaching the Antarctic Circle in December, you'll get to experience the rare phenomenon of endless daylight. And real adventurers know that more light = more time for exploring. With 24 hours of sun and warmer temperatures, the landscape will be dazzling in the daylight and more of the region (like beaches and landing points) becomes accessible via Zodiac. This means frequent trips to the shore and overnight ice camping on the Peninsula are possible. Falling asleep under the glow of the midnight sun and sharing space with nearby nesting gentoo, adelie and chinstrap penguins is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will earn you bragging rights for life.
Best for: Antarctic Circle voyages, kayaking and seal spotting
January is the most popular month to visit Antarctica because the height of summer brings stable weather and temperatures reaching 10°C/50°F. This is the peak of the ice melt, making it possible to cross into the fabled Antarctic Circle (at latitude 66°33'S). Here you can spot adorably playful weddell seals that have adapted to this frozen environment by using their teeth to create breathing holes in the ice. January is also a fantastic time to enjoy polar kayaking, as the melting ice creates new pathways to explore spectacular landscapes, and you'll be able to bask in the summer sunshine.
Best for: whale watching and baby penguin fun
February is the best month for wildlife viewing, especially if whale watching is on your wish list. By now, migrating pods have made their way down to Antarctica's krill-rich waters, so be on the lookout for the continent’s most recognizable species: Antarctic orcas and humpback, blue and minke whales. If conditions are clear, a Zodiac excursion will get you even closer to these mighty marine mammals. Fluffy penguin chicks are active and curious in February, and you might spot them following around their parents, learning to swim in shallow spots on the beaches or bravely investigating human visitors.
Best for: epic sunrises and sunsets, wildlife viewing and late-season travel deals
March is considered the "late season" in Antarctica, with autumn approaching and temperatures dropping below freezing again. You might see a dusting of snow on land and a layer of ice starting to spread across the water. Many ships have cleared out, giving unobstructed views of the vast scenery and whale watching is still extraordinary. This is the best time to get good deals on low-season cabin pricing if you’re travelling on a budget.
While the days are getting shorter, the sunrises and sunsets are especially spectacular across the icy landscape as the region heads toward polar night (a phenomenon where the sun never rises over the horizon). King and macaroni penguin colonies are bustling with activity, elephant seals are moulting on the beaches and whales are still actively feeding before beginning their journey back up north.
Best for: planning and booking your cruise
We don't offer any trips to Antarctica during the wintertime in the Southern Hemisphere because once the polar night has descended and the temperatures have dropped our ships can't get through the thick ice. While deciding to embark on a polar trip can be incredibly exciting, it can also be daunting! We always recommend doing a little research on cruise itineraries to nail down exactly what you want to see and how long you want to travel, especially since a trip to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most.
Expedition itineraries on board the Ocean Endeavour usually start at 11 days, giving ample time to cross the Drake Passage, but some can be as long as 23 days. Once you've officially decided on a trip, we recommend booking as early to allow as much time as possible to plan travel arrangements and mentally prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
Our Antarctica cruises