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When is the best time to visit Antarctica?

Want to go to Antarctica but not sure when to go? The best time will depend on what you want to see, whether it's huge icebergs, cute penguin chicks or breaching whales, find out when to go.
Written by: Helen Pettitt, Digital Content Manager and Polar Expeditions expert at Explore
Published on: 2 Feb 2023

November

• Start of season, be amongst the first to arrive
• Largest icebergs
• Nesting penguins


Head to Antarctica in November and you'll be amongst the first to arrive for the season, meaning the landing sites will have not seen many visitors yet. You'll see pristine snow and dazzling white landscapes, as well as the largest icebergs of the season. Each with its own unique shapes and tones of blue, these huge ice sculptures make for a photographers dream. As do the penguins, who will be beginning to nest. Look out for eggs at the feet of the penguins as they waddle along within their colonies.

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December

• Peak season
• Early December - Nesting penguins
• Mid-late December - Penguin chicks hatch
• Seal pups
• Large icebergs
• Long days (20-22 hours of daylight)
• Warmer temperatures and fair weather - good for access to landing sites
• King George Island airstrip opens


The peak season begins in December, as wildlife is active and the weather is fairer, meaning increased chances of being able to access the landing sites. Daylight lasts 20-22 hours so there's ample opportunity for spotting wildlife and taking in the stunning landscape, including the icebergs that are still large at this time.


For penguins, what you see will depend on the part of the month you visit. They are nesting in early December and then from mid-December the eggs start to hatch, so you'll likely get to see some young penguin chicks. You may also spot seal pups that have recently been born.


Fly/fly and fly/cruise trips start from December as the airstrip on King George Island opens this month.

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January

• Peak season
• Warmest month and fair weather - good for access to landing sites
• Near 24 hour daylight
• Penguin chicks
• Whales - Humpbacks arrive from January
• Sea ice breaking up - accessible landing sites


The peak continues into January as the weather is still fair with typically good access to landing sites. There is nearly 24 hours of daylight.


One of the main reasons that this is the peak season...the penguin chicks are at their fluffiest and cutest! So if baby penguins are what you want to see, January is the best time to visit.


You should see plenty of seals about at this time as well as migrating whales; humpbacks start arriving from January and you may also see orca.

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February

• Mostly fair weather
• Whale sightings increase
• Some penguin chicks and seal pups (parents at sea)
• Little sea ice - Good for beyond Antarctic Circle, Weddell and Ross seas
• Penguins moulting
• Increased sightings of leopard seals


February sees mostly fair weather, though temperatures start to lower. You may still see penguin chicks and seal pups at the start of the month. Chicks are active and adult penguins start to moult. With lots of penguins around, there are increased chances of seeing leopard seals in February.


February is a good time to go beyond the Antarctic Circle or to the Weddell Sea as the sea ice has broken up enough to allow for access.

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March

• End of season - fewer visitors and lower prices
• Best time for spotting whales
• Penguins moulting
• Shorter days - sunrises and sunsets
• Active seals


March is the end of the season, meaning there are fewer visitors and prices can be lower. Temperatures do tend to be colder and the weather is less predictable. The shorter days however do mean you'll get to see sunrises and sunsets.

If you want to see whales, March is the best month. You will hopefully see lots of humpbacks, minke and other whale species around with good chances of seeing that beautiful fluke as they dive.

You can also expect to see plenty of fur seal and plenty of penguins in the colonies, with many still moulting.

View March departures

April - October

These months are out of season for tour operators. There are no tourist ships visiting the region during these months because of the harsh climate and thick sea ice.

Some operators may go right at the end of the October but most start in November.

Found your best time to visit Antarctica?

So you've decided what you want to see in Antarctica and when to go...search our Antarctica trips to find your perfect voyage. 
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