When you decide to go on a voyage to Antarctica, one of the first things you'll need to decide is when you want to go. However, when is the best time to visit Antarctica? Here's what you should know.
About Antarctica's seasons
Like any other holiday destination, some times of year are better than others to travel to Antarctica. But what sets Antarctica apart from your average vacation spot is that its extreme seasons restrict tourist access to the frozen continent altogether.
Winter in Antarctica
Due to the Earth's tilt and relative position to the sun, the Antarctic region generally has two distinct seasons – polar summer and winter. During the six months of winter from around April to September, Antarctica is plunged into bone-chilling darkness. In fact, the sun doesn't rise at all for a few weeks in the middle of winter.
Sea ice in Antarctica almost doubles in size during the winter, and the only warm-blooded animal that remains on the continent is the staunch Emperor penguin, the males nesting with their one egg in a long, cold wait until their female counterparts return.
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The return of the summer
With the arrival of November, Antarctica sees a revival of its wildlife, as well as the return of daylight. In the height of summer, the sun shines for 24 hours a day at the poles, a stark contrast to the pitch black of winter.
Sea ice begins to break up, making it easier for ships to navigate the icy waters. The temperature rises to just above freezing, and can even reach up to 10 degrees Celsius by the coast!
As noted by the Australian Antarctic Division, the closer you move to the poles, the longer the periods of summer daylight and winter darkness, with the coastline characterised by more mild conditions.
When should I go to Antarctica?
Summer is the best time to visit Antarctica for many reasons, with warmer temperatures and more activity amongst the local wildlife making it ideal for exploring. From November onwards, you can spot orca whales returning to their hunting grounds, penguins engaged in their unique dance of courtship, as well as baby seals being born. You'll also get a glimpse of the residual sea ice from winter, giving you a hint of the extreme temperatures of the winter. The transition between seasons make for fantastic photo opportunities, so get down to Antarctica at the beginning of the tourist season for that sense of the deep polar spirit.
From December onwards, the conditions are ideal for our range of wonderful shore excursions, whether it's visiting a historic expedition hut or research station, or getting up close and personal at a penguin nesting site. Keep your eyes peeled for elephant seals with their pups, as well as humpback whales making the journey down to Antarctic waters.
As the summer draws to an end around late February, the days begin to shorten again and the young penguins born at the beginning of summer start to flourish in the crowded colonies. Fur seals and their pups thrive on South Georgia, and the sea ice begins to creep back, a sign of the approaching winter.
Whenever you decide to visit Antarctica, you can be sure that it will be an experience unlike any other. To start planning your adventure with Aurora Expeditions, get in touch with our helpful team, or explore our brochures online for more information.