The 7th Continent is universally regarded as a frozen land, but it's a beautiful destination with a tapestry of incredible sights to explore. Antarctica glows bright white under the beams of the sun, inviting adventurous explorers to bear witness to the hidden beauty that lies throughout this remote land. It's an incredible journey filled with never-ending photographic scenery for you to share with friends and family.
However, the untamed domain of Antarctica is a place you should plan to visit at the right time of the year. As the home of one of the polar ice caps, the winters are extremely harsh, making it a challenge to appreciate the beauty of the land. The powerful winds stir up the ocean currents across the Antarctic region, challenging the most powerful of ships.
Guests on a Quark Expeditions voyage to Antarctica set foot on the 7th Continent during a
guided shore landing. Photo: Nicky Souness
So when is the best time to visit Antarctica Peninsula? In this guide, we'll help you gain a better understanding of how to enjoy an adventure to the southern tip of the world—and when.
What is the Antarctic Peninsula?
The Antarctic Peninsula is considered the northernmost part of the Antarctic continent. It spans 1,500 km across the Southern Ocean, reaching as far north as the tip of South America. The Antarctic region also incorporates sub-Antarctic travel destinations such as South Georgia Island, King George Island, and the South Shetland Islands.
Where is the Antarctic Peninsula?
The Antarctic Peninsula falls within the boundaries of West Antarctica, one of the two main bodies of land that encompass the southern continent. West Antarctica is separated from the larger East Antarctica by a natural barrier known as the Transantarctic Mountains.
While it includes an impressive collection of islands and ecological wonders beneath the ice sheet of the mainland, the Peninsula's northbound extension across the Antarctic Circle distinguishes this region from the rest of the continent. Extending towards the tip of the Drake Passage, the Peninsula is the only part of Antarctica that comes within reach of Patagonia along the southern tip of South America.
The experience on Patagonia is an adventure you can undertake by booking the Essential Patagonia: Chilean Fjords and Torres del Paine expedition. This 15-day adventure will allow you to explore the shores of Patagonia and the Diego Ramirez Islands. You'll have the chance to see Antarctica itself glistening in the distance from aboard the ship and you may even see pods of whales swimming throughout the Southern Ocean as they hunt for their next meal.
Icebergs, in all shapes, sizes and colors, are photographic highlights during polar voyages to
the Antarctic. Photo: Quark Expeditions
Antarctic Peninsula weather
The winters are extremely harsh in Antarctica, but the pack ice begins to melt when summer air blows across the land. Natural light from the sun lasts for longer periods during the summer, creating those photogenic moments when the light shines upon icebergs and floating masses across the southern sea.
The winter begins to recede in November as wildlife emerge from hibernation and explore the shorelines of the Peninsula. From December through February, the longer days melt some of the thicker patches of ice, allowing animals to venture into less explored regions of the Peninsula for a limited amount of time. It's during these moments when you're apt to film f penguins, seabirds, and humpback whales that emerge into the open.
How to get to the Antarctic Peninsula
Booking a trip aboard a vessel like Ultramarine that's built to withstand the powerful waves of the Southern Ocean is your best option to explore this pristine southern wilderness. The Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent adventure is one of the best ways to get to and explore the Antarctic Peninsula.
You can book a 10-, 11- or 12-day voyage that will take you across the infamous Drake Passage to the Peninsula, traveling in an area that's also home to the South Shetland Islands. You'll eventually travel along the shoreline of the Antarctic Peninsula with options to enjoy Zodiac excursions from the ship to explore local bays, channels, and landing sites. Your guides will point out areas where local penguins, seals, minke whales, and the occasional humpback whale will dwell on or near the shoreline of the Peninsula so make sure you have your camera ready to snap some memorable moments.
Chinstraps are one of the numerous species of penguins guests will see in abundance during polar voyages to Antarctica
with Quark Expeditions. Photo: Dave Merron
Best time to visit the Antarctic Peninsula
The best time to visit the Antarctic Peninsula is during the summer months when daytime lasts longer and the conditions are more welcoming to travelers. If you're from the northern hemisphere, remember that summer is the opposite time of year in the southern hemisphere. Winter in the north equals summer in the south, and vice versa.
This is the ideal time of year to book a spot aboard the Celebrating Shackleton: Journey from Antarctica to South Georgia expedition. This is a 20-day adventure that celebrates the life and achievements of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who led an expedition to the South Georgia Islands in the middle of World War 1. You'll hop aboard Quark Expeditions' technologically advanced vessel Ultramarine and venture across the same navigational route explored by Shackleton and his crew during their famed adventure a century ago.
Ornithologist Adrian Boyle introduces Quark Expeditions guests to a rookery of King penguins in Gold Harbour, South Georgia,
which is often included in Antarctic voyages. Photo: Acacia Johnson
Along the journey, you'll make stops at remote destinations like Elephant Island, and you'll even get to celebrate New Year's Eve in the middle of the Southern Ocean. Once you arrive at South Georgia, you'll visit the island and explore bird sanctuaries that are home to some of the rarest animals on the planet, as well as observe other wildlife—including multiple species of penguins—that frequent the remote island. It's all packed into this unforgettable adventure!