Travel SOS: When is the best time to travel to Antarctica?

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Catherine wants to tick off an item from her bucket list, but isn’t sure when she should travel.

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Q. Catherine
I have always wanted to travel to Antarctica and it seems I am not alone, as I have noted the prices of cruises slowly coming down to the point that I think I might finally be able to afford it. However, I am worried that the cruises in my price range may lock me in to an unsuitable time to travel. When is the best time to travel to Antarctica to ensure I have the best experience?

antarctica sailing

A. There is generally only a five-month tourist window to Antarctica, which is often called the summer season, and it runs from late October through to late March.

It is possible to visit Antarctica during the winter months, but there will not be any major tourism operators offering travel during these times when temperatures reach -50 degrees Celsius and most of the sights are hidden behind freezing darkness.

In terms of the best month to pick in the five-month window, it depends largely on what you want to see during your visit.

Antarctica cruises that depart later in the tourist season are often slightly cheaper, however, much of the wildlife has departed for open sea by this point. If your main goal is to see a whale, this is the perfect time to travel.

December and January are the months with the most sunlight (up to 20 hours per day) and daily temperatures are at their warmest. This is also the best time of year to see penguin chicks hatching.

If you want to see the beautiful icy landscapes, you are generally better off taking a cruise in the early part of the season before the landing areas become muddy and dirty with all the tourism traffic. Some operators discourage travelling in this part of the season as temperatures tend to be cooler and polar ice is still breaking up, which can limit access to some areas. It is more difficult to spot whales at this time of the season, although it is not impossible.

What places are on your bucket list?

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Written by Ben

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