Which Months can you Visit Antarctica?

By TMA / 22 November 2018

Which Months can you Visit Antarctica?

‘When can you visit Antarctica?’ or, more specifically, ‘Which months can you visit Antarctica?’. Find out here!

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Here at Expeditions Online, we get a lot of questions about Antarctica and about our range of cruises and expeditions in Antarctica. Given that most people have never been to the Antarctic or even know someone who has, it is completely reasonable that there is a certain degree of mystery around it, prompting many many questions. One of the most common questions we’re asked is ‘When can you visit Antarctica?’ or, more specifically, ‘Which months can you visit Antarctica?’. Because there is so much confusion and doubt about this subject, we thought we’d write a blog explaining why you can only visit Antarctica at certain times of the year, which months you can visit Antarctica, and what you can expect from Antarctica in the different months making up its season. 

When Can You Visit the Antarctic? 

With a cruise or an expedition to Antarctica, the rules are completely different from most other tourist destinations. It’s not a matter of the best and worst times to visit Antarctica; it’s simply not possible to reach the southernmost continent outside of the summer season, which is between November and March. From April to October, there is too much sea ice and ships can’t actually reach the land. However, from November onwards, the ice melts enough to allow ships through and the Icebergs are large and easily spotted.

What is the Antarctic temperature like from November to March?

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When people imagine visiting the Antarctic, they picture huge snowstorms and epic snowy tundra in all directions. While this does happen in the summer months, it’s still rare. Precipitation, in general, is rare. December to March is the southern hemisphere’s summer and, as such, you will find extremely long days and short nights, and while the temperatures are still usually below freezing, they aren’t nearly as extreme as the winter lows. Throughout the summer, you can expect Antarctica’s coasts to have the most moderate temperatures — usually sitting around the freezing point, but not much lower. The northerly part of the Antarctic Peninsula can even climb above 0 °C (32 °F). The inner plateau is still exceptionally cold in summer, as it rarely climbs above -20°C (-4 °F). However, when you compare this to the -60°C (-76 °F) in winter, the summer temperatures seem a lot more reasonable!

Temperatures vary through the continent, as relief, proximity to the ocean, etc. can all affect the overall temperature. There have been some exceptional temperatures recorded in the Antarctic summer in recent years. In March 2015, for example, a temperature of 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) was recorded, which is an all-time summer high. And on the 25th of December 2011, we saw the highest temperature ever recorded in the South Pole: it reached a balmy −12.3 °C (9.9 °F)!

January is the warmest month of the year for Antarctica, so if you want a great adventure but want it to be as warm as possible, January is the best month for your expedition. The Antarctic Peninsula is a little warmer again, so you may like to consider our Ocean Diamond Antarctic Cruise or one of our most affordable Antarctica cruises: the MV Ushuaia Antarctic Peninsula cruise.

Antarctic Whale Watching is at its Best in February and Early March

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As we said above, Antarctic temperatures are at their warmest in January and they’re still tolerable in February and March. This is great news for whale enthusiasts (who doesn’t like whales, really?) as this is the best time for whale watching. You can expect to find the highest number of whales at this time, so look out for minke whales, humpback whales, orcas, fin whales, right whales, sei whales, sperm whales, and blue whales (the largest animal known to have ever existed). To learn more about them, read our whales in the Antarctic blog. If whale watching is a priority, you should consider our Ocean Endeavour Antarctic cruise and our M/V Plancius Antarctica cruise.

November is the Best Time for Antarctic Icebergs

If it’s the icebergs and incredible landscapes and seascapes that impress you most — perhaps you’re a photographer — then November to Early December is perhaps the best time for you to visit Antarctica as this is when the icebergs are at their largest and most impressive. If you’re hoping to get plenty of incredible shots, you may also be interested in our Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica cruise. November is also a great time to observe elephant seals in large numbers during their mating season. December is the perfect time to see fluffy penguin chicks as they are usually walking around by this point.  

December is widely regarded to be the best time of the year to visit Antarctica, so make sure you book your cruise or expedition early to avoid disappointment. If you’re not sure what kind of trip to choose, you may like to read our How to Choose an Antarctica Cruise blog post. If you have any questions about our range of Antarctica cruises, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Start planning the greatest adventure of your life!

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