In travel planning – as in life – timing is everything. Particularly so if you’re planning a trip to Antarctica. But, When is the best time to Visit Antarctica and How far in advance should you start the planning process?
A common idea that comes up when trying to save money is booking a cruise at the last minute. While this can be a great option for backpackers and nomads who might have time to spend waiting for a good deal, if you are traveling for a vacation I do not recommend waiting for the last minute offer.
The last-minute deals are the same price as the prices you can get booking 18 months in advance, and because the ship will be mostly booked you will have far fewer options regarding optional activities, the location of your cabin, or even if you can share a room with a traveling companion. There’s also the possibility that you won’t find a deal at all!
TIP #1 BOOK YOUR CRUISE—AND ACTIVITIES—ASAP
Since you may not save any money by waiting and the risk of not getting on a cruise is high, book your cruise as soon as you possibly can, 18 months in advance or more if you can.
In addition to cashing in on early booking deals or discounts (if available), you will also have the opportunity to pre-book optional activities like camping or kayaking.
I booked my camping trip when I put the deposit down on our cruise, and I was glad I did when I got on the ship. Only 60 people were able to camp on the ice at one time, and the excursion was only offered once during the trip. There were dozens of people who wanted to camp but weren’t able to join us because they tried to book too late.
You can book your cruise 18 months in advance, to secure your spot, but you don’t have to pay the full amount right away. You have the option to pay a deposit and then had about a year before paying the balance. Be sure to lock in a great price with a deposit before any related discounts expire and the price goes up!
When is the best time to visit Antarctica?
You can only visit the area during the Antarctic summer, from November to March. Prices are cheaper at the beginning and end of the season, but there is less to see in the way of wildlife. Photographers wanting to capture classic images of pristine Antarctic ice will get their best shots in November, and at this time, penguins start to come ashore for courtship rituals and nest building, but the days are shorter and the ice thicker, restricting access to some areas.
From mid to late December penguin chicks start to hatch on the Antarctic Peninsula, and in January you can watch the feeding frenzy. By February, penguin colonies are busy, noisy and smelly as the young penguins begin their molt; February to early March is the best time to see whales and a good number of fur seals. By mid-March most penguin colonies are emptying as the birds return to the sea.
TIP #2 LOOK AT OFF-PEAK DATES
December, January, and February are the most popular months to visit Antarctica, and cruises are most expensive during those times.
Look at November and March, the shoulder season, when wildlife spotting might be a little harder (although still very possible) and the temperatures will be a bit colder. You’ll be treated to a few things other visitors won’t see, including stunning ice formations and even sunrises and sunsets (which are nonexistent close to December’s solstice!)
How long should you plan to stay?
Depart from Ushuaia Argentina or Punta Arenas Chile a shorter trip to the frozen continent lasts anywhere from 9 to 12 days, taking you to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. In addition to the Antarctic Peninsula, a longer trip ensures a visit to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Longer trips last from 12 to 23 days. Find here our Complete Guide for planning your trip to Antarctica.
In my next post I’m going to tell you more about some amazing places, many of which you may not have heard of, trust me, you won’t want to miss it.
Clara, Founder of Across Argentina
P.S. Remember, if you’re beginning to plan your trip, but you still aren’t sure when you’d like to visit, fill in a few details here and we’ll get back to you or Take a look at our suggested itinerary for Antarctica .