Best Time To Visit Antarctica

best time to visit antarctica

As a tourist, the best time to visit Antarctica is during the summer period from November to March. This is when wildlife is most active and the days are at their longest. The most popular period to visit is from December to February when the weather is warmest. 

Although the high period of summer is the most popular, deciding what month you wish to travel will very much depend on what you wish to get out of your Antarctica cruise adventure.

The Antarctica summer/tourist season is roughly 5 months long from ​early November through to late March. Although people do travel to Antarctica in winter, this is usually for a specific purpose, e.g. filming Emperor penguins.

Winter is a landscape of freezing darkness where temperatures regularly hit -50 degrees Celsius.

The best time to do an Antarctica cruise greatly depends on what you want to see – ice-scapes, penguins, mating season, chicks, whales – if you can decide on this the you’re well on your way to making a decision. However, if you’re constrained to a certain period, don’t panic – no matter the date you travel, your Antarctica cruise experience will be unforgettable.

Antarctica cruises that depart later in the season are often slightly cheaper, however, much of the wildlife has departed for open sea by this point. If your main goal is to see a whale, this is the perfect time to travel.

We often get asked if the Drake passage is calmer at any point during the season, sadly, the answer is no. The Drake Passage has the potential to be rough throughout the summer period. Saying this, the Passage is more often calm than not. 

Remember, when deciding upon what time to visit, also take into account what you are likely to see on the Sub-Antarctic islands such as South Georgia and the Falklands. Unlike Antarctica, these islands have a wide array of flora that may sway some passengers.

Below we have provided a graph detailing the best time to see certain animals, landscapes etc.


Image courtesy of Responsible Travel

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Best Time to Visit Antarctica – Monthly Breakdown

​Late October and November​​​​

Whilst few Antarctica cruises leave in October, the early season offers a number of bonuses.

Throughout the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula sea ice is prevalent. In fact, this is the only period to see large swaths of sea ice before it breaks up later in the season. 

Certain species during this period such as Adélie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins come ashore to begin their nesting. This is a great time therefore to see courtship rituals between adults as they find mates.

This is also similar for many of the Antarctic sea birds such as skuas, albatross and petrels. If you take a special icebreaker tour along the Wedell sea you will have a great chance of seeing the elusive Emperor penguin.

Spring flowers prevail throughout the Falkland Islands and elephant seals begin courting on South Georgia during November. South Georgia is also home to king penguins.

During November the females lay their eggs and can be seen waddling about with an egg balanced on their feet while the male hunts offshore. Fur seals litter the shores and their mating rituals are often quite aggressive.

During this period the landing strip also opens. This means that people looking to climb Mt Vinson can begin their expeditions on the new ice. It’s also good for people looking to take camping tours inland to spot emperor penguins.

​December and January

Particularly good time for photographers as the daylight hours are the longest during this period, roughly around 20 hours.

Weather is at its ‘warmest’ during this period with temperatures often exceeding 5 degrees Celsius on the Peninsula.

Early December is a great time to see penguin chicks hatching on the Falkland islands, followed in late December with chicks along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Seal pups are common on the beaches of South Georgia and sightings of baleen and toothed whales increase along the Peninsula. Because chicks are growing during this season, one of the best sights is seeing the parents come ashore and start a feeding frenzy among the thousands of chicks.

If you’re particularly interested in the history of Antarctica then this is a great time to visit as the sea ice surrounding East Antarctica breaks up and allows tours to rarely visited sites such as the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott.

This is also the most popular time for land expeditions as the long daylight hours make weather far more favourable.

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​February and March

​Later in the season is the best time to see whales. Also, fur seals become more common along both the peninsula and the islands.

Young fur seals tend to be quite playful and often make excellent photo subjects. The chicks are still on land and have begun molting. Almost all the adult penguins have let by this stage however.

Sea birds remain during this period and the weather begins to cool once again with temperatures usually a bit below freezing.

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Best time to visit antarctica 3

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Antarctica Guide do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist please complete the form.

Great recommendation, thanks!

Mark W



If you have any further questions or queries regarding the best time to visit Antarctica, please just leave a message below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours. Alternatively, please see our FAQ page here.

If this page has inspired you to visit the incredible continent, here are some useful links to get your trip started.

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Leave a Comment:

Monica says June 12, 2018

We will be traveling to the Antarctic peninsula with Lindblad. Our itinerary states that we will see gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguins. I would like to fine tune (to best weeks, not best month) the date of our trip so that we can observe baby penguins. What is your recommendation?

    Burnham Arlidge says June 12, 2018

    Hi Monica,

    Chinstrap penguins generally hatch in the last week of December/First week of January. Adelie penguins come about two weeks earlier whilst Gentoo’s hatch around the end of November.

    The chicks will still be small in January and you’ll be able to see them all then, so I would suggest early to mid January. If you prefer to travel in December then you’ll still see chicks, you may just miss the Chinstraps!

    Hope that helps,
    Burnham – AntarcticaGuide Team

Evan Elderbrock says August 9, 2018

I am writing a piece about the changing ice conditions of the Antarctic Peninsula. I was wondering if your company has changed tour dates or locations due to changes in extent and timing of sea-ice formation, glacial retreat, or newly exposed ice-free areas. I would really appreciate any information or contacts you may have regarding tourism changes due to changing ice patterns.

Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Major Rogers says October 16, 2019

I am a substitute teacher And freelance journalist on a travel budget. That being said, I’ve researched a little about the gamble of getting on last minute excursions out of Ushuaia. I hear chances are best late in the season. Do you have any advice on this type of journey?

    Burnham Arlidge says October 16, 2019


    Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, very early or late in the season often offers more last minute opportunities. For more information, please see our page on last minute Antarctic cruises –

    That being said, booking well in advance gives you a great shot at some excellent deals also. Plus you have the added benefit of knowing when you’ll be travelling. The specialist we work with frequently has great offers and sales that are worth checking out – just fill in the quote form and they will get in touch with you –

    Hope that helps,
    Burnham – Antarctica Guide Team

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