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.
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.
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.
January & February
- 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.
- 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.