The best time to visit Antarctica is during its short summer season, which extends from November through March. The days are long, the sea ice at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is navigable, and the wildlife is active.
Penguins tend their fluffy chicks, while whales arrive in the cold, nutrient-rich waters to feed. But bear in mind that Antarctica is technically a polar desert, and you should be prepared for extreme conditions at any time, which is part of the appeal of this remote place.
Visiting Antarctica by Season
Summer in Antarctica is during the months of December, January, and February. Days are at their longest, giving you more hours of daylight to spot wildlife. February, for example, is peak whale-watching month.
Temperatures average around 43°F (6°C) in January. This is the best time to visit Antarctica for more stable weather. But having said that, even in the warmest season, you should be prepared for extremes; there could still be strong winds and the occasional blizzard.
On the other hand, there could be days so clear that the air practically shimmers, the sky is a deeper blue than you’ve ever seen, and everything sparkles.
March is the beginning of fall in Antarctica. It’s still a good time to visit and you can still expect to see whales and fur seals. The sea ice has melted, so opportunities for pushing further south present themselves.
Days are getting shorter and temperatures in March average a chilly 23° F (-5°C). By the beginning of April, the last expedition ships depart and by May, all that’s left on the White Continent are research stations and the occasional scientific survey ship.
Winter in Antarctica, from May to mid-October, is dark, bitterly cold, windy, and snowy. The sea freezes over and mountains are cloaked in snow and ice.
Penguins huddle against the blizzards. Whales have migrated north again, and the only humans around are scientists and their support teams. Temperatures on the coast range between 14°F (-10°C) and -4°F (-30°C), with even colder extremes on the high plateau.
Spring begins in October, and the first visitors arrive at the end of the month. Late spring, which is early November, is the best time to go to Antarctica if you’re a keen photographer, as the landscapes are pristine. Mountains glitter with snow, and the sea ice, although beginning to break up, extends as far as the eye can see.
The icebergs are bigger, too; look out for penguins and seals perched on the ice. Whales are only just beginning to arrive, so come later in the season if your mission is whale-watching.
When Is Rainy Season?
Any precipitation in Antarctica will fall as snow. It can snow at any time, summer or winter.
The huge blizzards that go on for days at a time occur in winter, from May to mid-October. There are no tourists in Antarctica during this season.
Whatever time of year you visit Antarctica, you’ll need to be kitted out for extreme conditions. Bring a polar jacket, long, insulated boots, gloves, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
When Is High Season?
High season in Antarctica is from December to February. Everything is relative, though, and you could still spend your entire time on the peninsula without spotting another human, beyond your own traveling companions. You won’t lose that sense of being completely alone in this vast wilderness.
Wildlife is active in the Austral summer, and you’ll see penguin chicks, seal pups, and plenty of whales.
When Is Shoulder Season?
Shoulder season in Antarctica is November, the beginning of the season, and March, which represents the end. This can be a great time to travel, with glorious, salmon-pink sunrises and sunsets, fresh snowfall, and exciting wildlife sightings.
When Is Low Season?
Low season is the winter months, the tail end of fall, and the beginning of spring—in other words, from late April until October. There’s no possibility to travel to Antarctica during this time unless you’re part of a scientific research team.