What is the Best Time to Visit Antarctica?

When should you visit the Antarctic Peninsula and Sub-Antarctic Islands?  Antarctic wildlife is most active during the Austral summer (November to February). Wildlife are also active in the islands near Antarctica (the Sub-Antarctic Islands) during October and March. These months—October to March—are the ideal time to visit the Antarctic region.  Most cruises operate in Antarctica only during these months.

A small expedition group in a zodiac exploring a glacial arch during a trip to Antarctica

October

Early Austral Spring

  • In the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, summer arrives earlier than in the South Shetlands or the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • Seabirds and marine mammals begin mating rituals and breeding on these islands in October.
  • As this is “shoulder season” for Antarctic visitation, landing site cancelations due to sea ice and high winds are more likely.
Two off-white crab eater seals resting on an ice shelf overlooking the arctic ocean, spotted during a wildlife expedition in Antarctica

November & December

(Austral Spring to Early Summer)

  • Landing sites are at their most pristine; snow is still fresh, with little evidence of human visitation.
  • In the Sub-Antarctic islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula, penguins begin mating rituals, nest building, and stone stealing.
  • Penguin, cormorant, and petrel eggs are laid.
  • By the end of December, penguin chicks hatch in the South Shetland Islands.
  • The golden hours of dawn and dusk extend, allowing for spectacular landscape and sea-scape photos long into the night.
  • Some research stations open to visiting guests
  • Crabeater seal pups arrive from September to November. Elephant seals guard their beach territories and harems until December.
  • Weaners (elephant seal pups no longer being fed milk) may approach visitors at landing sites.
  • Large migratory whales (humpbacks, minke, and southern right whales) arrive during these months.
  • The winter sea-ice breaks up, allowing navigation between ice floes.
  • During November, landing site cancelations due to sea ice and high winds are more likely.
Group of Antarctic Birds and Penguins on a cluster of rocks by the Antarctic Ocean

January & February

Austral Summer

  • Penguin rookeries are full of life: chicks are hatching and parents are feeding them.
  • Fur seal and leopard seal pups have arrived.
  • Whales are at their most numerous.
  • Receding ice allows for exploration farther south along the Antarctic Peninsula.
Small tan seal with cute face on rocky bank in Antarctica

March

Austral Autumn 

  • Adult penguins molt and curious young penguins take to the seas.
  • Whale watching is still excellent! The migrating whales have mostly arrived, and the ocean is rich with food.
  • Receding ice allows for exploration to the deepest points south along the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • Green and pink algae blooms become visible on snowy slopes and ice cliffs.
  • Spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
  • This is also the season when most Antarctic Circle cruises are scheduled.
Whale tail just over the surface of the Antarctic, photographed on an wildlife watching excursion focusing on the Animals of Antarctica

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