Best Time To Visit Antarctica

best time to visit Antarctica

Because of the unforgiving landscape and climate, the best time to visit Antarctica is during Summer when cruises operate. This time period is relatively short and runs from late October through to March. 

During Winter tourist ships do not operate thanks to the thick pack-ice that makes cruising vastly impossible. 

Although the Summer cruise season is short, there is plenty to see and do! Deciding when you travel during the season will have a major impact on what you see, particularly when it comes to wildlife. 

Making a decision on what you want to see most during your cruise will generally help you decide when to visit. For example, some people want to see penguin chicks hatching, others want to see epic icebergs, whilst some people are interested in whale watching. Although these are often not mutually exclusive, certain periods will give you a far greater chance of witnessing each.

If you only have a short window to visit Antarctic, don't worry - no matter when you visit the White Continent, you'll always be amazed! Just make sure you pack some warm layers to avoid getting cold!

People often ask if there is a better or worse time to cross the Drake Passage. The simple answer is no. The Passage has the potential to be rough throughout the Summer. The simple facts are that, contrary to popular belief, the Drake Passage is actually calm on most crossings. Only occasionally does it really get rough. 

Below is a graph detailing the best time to see certain animals in Antarctica. We have also provided a month by month breakdown of what you are likely to see during your cruise. 

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Best Time To Visit Antarctica


Image courtesy or Responsible Travel

​Month By Month Breakdown


Because of the frozen sea ice, cruises will only begin departing late in October when the ice has meted a little. If you want to see Antarctica in her most pristine condition, this is the time to travel. The white sheets of ice incase the land, offering a beautiful landscape for photographers. 

Temperatures are cold during this time with the average day tie temperature staying around -15.5 degrees Centigrade. During October you'll have the chance to see penguins courting and mating, especially on South Georgia and the Falkland Islands where there are huge colonies. 


November is the start of the cruise season proper and the month when migrating wildlife return to the White Continent to breed. Temperatures begin to warm steadily with the average day time temperature being -6 degrees Centigrade. 

Minke, southern right whales and humpbacks arrive in the cool waters to feed. Albatross, blue-eyed shags and petrels are frequently spotted during November, and penguin and seal courtship continues.  

November is fantastic time see epic icebergs. It's also a great time for photographers as the long days bring with them magical sunsets and sunrises. 


December marks the start of the high season. Cruise are popular during December and you'll need to book early! Day time temperatures can reach the dizzying heights of 0 degrees, making shore excursions very pleasant.

Penguin chicks begins to hatch during December, making the rookeries very lively and fun to watch! Seal pups are also born during this month and many of the beaches around South Georgia witness millions!

December also offers 24 hours of daylight, giving passengers the maximum time to watch and photograph animals. 


January is also the high season and, for first two weeks, still offers 24 hours of daylight. Temperatures are at their warmest during this period and some days can actually reach 10 degrees centigrade!

Although much of the ice has melted, this gives cruise goers the opportunity to push deeper into the continent on certain itineraries such as Weddell Sea and East Antarctica. 

The penguin and seal colonies are a hive of activity as busy parents make their way in and out to sea in search of food for their hungry young. Whale sightings also begin to increase as more whales arrive for the nutrient-rich waters. 


During February the ice is at its lowest, allowing cruises to the South Pole. Penguin chicks and seal pups are now venturing out to sea, taking their first steps into the big world. 

Although February is not the best month for land based wildlife, the whale sightings during this period are probably the best. All of Antarctica's migrating whale species have returned by February, meaning that sightings are frequent. Species you may see include toothed, blue, sperm, baleen, orca, humpback, southern right, and minke whales. 


March marks the end of the cruise season. Although cruises still run during this month, they are not as popular. The ice has largely melted, meaning that the pristine landscape is no longer looking that pristine. 

The positives is that whale watching is still great during March and cruise costs are generally cheaper, with many deals frequently found. Temperatures are once again cold, and there will be less than 15 hours of light each day. 

best time to visit Antarctica 1

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Winter In Antarctica

Winter in Antarctica is a frozen wilderness where only the most hardy of creatures survive. Temperatures regularly get below -50 degrees celsius with winds reaching record-breaking speeds. 

Cruises do not operate during this period, however, researchers and scientists often endure the Winter on research bases. Because there is no way in or out, most researches have to spend at least four months there. 


Below is a short video by Nat Geo showing one of the largest penguin colonies on South Georgia during late January. 


If you have any queries or questions regarding the best time to visit Antarctica, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.

Thank you and happy travels!

Expedition Cruise Team

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Best time to visit Antarctica

About the Author Expedition Cruise is the web’s most authoritative information portal on adventure and expedition cruising. Our mission is to provide up to date and comprehensive information on traveling to the Arctic, Antarctica and further afield, so that your experience is as fulfilling and safe as possible.

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