Best time to visit Antarctica

Updated: 17th June 2021

Expedition zodiac and iceberg in Antarctica - On The Go Tours
Cruises to Antarctica only operate between November and March

Antarctica at a Glance: Best Time to Visit

Recommended time to visit: Your window for visiting Antarctica on an expedition cruise is restricted, as the ice is too thick, nights too long and seas too rough to navigate between April - September. October - March is when cruises operate and December - February is probably the most attractive time to visit, with temperatures slightly warmer - normally just above freezing.

Less popular time to visit: As mentioned, it is impossible to visit Antarctica from April - September. Temperatures plummet, seas whip up into a frenzy and it is generally considered far too dangerous to visit. October - November are still exceedingly cold, with temperatures often way below freezing.

Best time for wildlife: The relative warmth of December - January creates the perfect conditions for penguins and seals to have their young, so the continent is awash with baby animals at this time. It's also a good time of year for whale watching, though the later months of February - March are even better!

Best time for icebergs: Antarctica's famous bergs are at their biggest in November, gradually shrinking as the Antarctic summer progresses.

Want to know more about Antarctica? Check out our latest blog posts

What's Antarctica like in spring?

Spring in Antarctica lasts from October to November. In late October the ice that normally covers the waters starts to break up meaning boats are given access to the islands around the tip of the Antarctica Peninsula. Most cruises start operating in November when icebergs are at their largest and the scenery is spectacular with pristine ice and snow. Elephant seals begin their breeding season with the large animals actively courting in South Georgia.

What's Antarctica like in summer?

Antarctica's summer lasts from December to January. The months of December and January are considered high summer with the warmest temperatures the south pole will see all year. Daylight hours are at their longest with an average of 20 hours of light each day so it's the best time of year for photography though it's peak season with Christmas and New Year particularly busy. In the early weeks of December cute penguin chicks begin hatching in the Falklands followed by hatchings along the Antarctic Peninsula later in the month. At the end of January, it's possible to witness parent penguins returning to their chicks after replenishing their food supplies. Sightings of whales and seal pups are also good at this time of year. Landing areas start to get muddy as the expedition season picks up so the landscape is less pristine than in November.

What's Antarctica like in autumn?

Antarctica's short autumn lasts from February to March. Temperatures are still warm in February with excellent opportunities for whale watching with humpback, sperm and orca all likely to be spotted. Penguin colonies are very active and fur seals are a common sight along the Peninsula. It starts to get a little colder in March with many of the penguin chicks now grown enough to fledge and an increasing number of animals make their way out to sea so wildlife sightings are less abundant on the now-exposed edges of land as the snow melts.

What's Antarctica like in winter?

Antarctica's winter lasts from April to September. Expedition cruises stop operating during these months as temperatures plummet, winds become treacherous and daylight diminishes. The seas are at their stormiest and it's not possible for vessels to visit Antarctica.

Climate | Antarctic Peninsula

Temp Min °C0-1-3-6-8-13-16-17-13-9-5-1
Temp Max °C5420-4-6-7-8-4-224
Rainfall (mm)95764867762728073654627

Climate | Ushuaia

Temp Min °C66531-1-101345
Temp Max °C1515131075569111314
Rainfall (mm)433149473952343441373947