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Visiting Antarctica in November! Best Time To Visit Antarctica?

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Want to know what it’s like to visit Antarctica in November? The pros and the cons including the best time to visit Antarctica?

Keep reading because I have just got back from a 10-day Antarctica expedition with Chimu Adventures and Intrepid leaving from Ushuaia, Argentina sailing via the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsular!

I started my tour on 12th November and arrived back on 22nd November 2022, so I’m going to tell you my experience of cruising Antarctica in November, plus, all the stories I heard about visiting Antarctica in other months and why each month has its pros and cons (which I didn’t fully realise until I had been myself).

Antarctica in November

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, penguins on snow island
Keep reading for information on Antarctica in November and the best time to visit Antarctica

Weather Conditions in Antarctica

One huge thing I want to stress is that Antarctica is unpredictable and this all comes down to the weather.

This means, during any summer cruising month, it may be extra cold, extra snowy, extra stormy, or even extra hot!

This sudden change in weather can affect your excursions off the ship when you reach the Antarctic Peninsula (I talk from experience!), it can affect the calmness of the ship in the water, AND whether the famous Drake Passage you HAVE to pass through from Ushuaia to Antarctica will be the Drake Lake or the Drake Shake (and yes, I again, speak from experience!).

No two groups will have the same experience in Antarctica so although you can research all you want in regard to the best month to visit Antarctica, the weather, and the wildlife, cannot be predicted or changed by us.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, blue skies and icebergs
We had blue skies one morning..
Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, cloud and ice in the water
And cloud and fog by the afternoon,

When to visit Antarctica?

Well, you don’t have to consider too many options when it comes to when to visit Antarctica because Antarctica cruise expeditions and tours as I have just done and that you are probably considering, only run from November to March (sometimes in October) anyway which is the Summer Season in Antarctica and Argentina as you are most likely looking to leave from Ushuaia in Argentina (aka the bottom of the world) too!

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, ice bergs on sea and blue sky
This is summer in Antarctica!

Best time to visit Antarctica?

With 4-5 months to choose from and regular departure dates on offer from many Antarctic Expedition companies, although you have clicked on this post with interest in November in Antarctica, you are probably interested in general, what is the best time to visit Antarctica?

And who can blame you? These trips to Antarctica are not cheap and you want to get the best experience!

The great thing is though, all of the months have their positives and negatives and many of these change between the months, so deciding when to visit Antarctica depends on what your priority is when booking a trip.

Below including the positives and negatives of Antarctica in November based on my experience but I’ll also touch on what it’s like in Antarctica in December, Antarctica in January, Antarctica in February and Antarctica in March based on what I had previously read and heard from expedition staff on the ship who have spent many seasons in Antarctica!

Although I said there are pros and cons to each month, the differences between the months like the wildlife that might be more popular or the snow might be more fresh is subjective to what you personally see as a pro or con based on what interests you and what you want from this trip of a lifetime to Antarctica so instead of listing these as specific pros and cons I will speak about a few different points and you can decide what’s best for you when deciding when to book a cruise to Antarctica!

November in Antarctica

Price of trips to Antarctica in November

Without a doubt (and I huge positive to many people I’m sure), is that tours to Antarctica are notably cheaper in November compared to other months, especially December and January because this is the start of the season.

And that’s maybe why you’re on this blog post about Antarctica in November and when is best to visit Antarctica because why are tours less expensive in this month??

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, Intrepid flag and ship going into land in Antarctica

Weather in Antarctica in November

Ok, this is where you really need to take note when thinking of travelling to Antarctica in November because honestly, we had to leave Antarctica a day early because a storm was approaching the Drake Passage!

We caught the end of the storm on our second and last day in the Drake Passage but had we stayed for the full 4 days as we should have spent at the Antarctic Peninsular our entire 2-day trip through the Drake Passage would have been awfully rough and would have actually taken 3 days instead meaning we’d miss all our flights out of Ushuaia and the next group would be a day late leaving!

This isn’t always going to happen but an example of a storm approaching is more common in November because it’s so close to winter (and there is a reason expeditions to Antarctica don’t run in winter!).

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, ship with snow and icebergs behind
Snowy scenes arriving in the Antarctic Peninsular

On our first day in the Antarctic Peninsular, we woke up to snowy conditions which looked pretty cool but does challenge the team in getting us onto the zodiac boats and onto the shore.

We also experienced more ice at one site than the team expected meaning we had a great zodiac cruise of the area seeing Penguins, Seals and Whales however we couldn’t reach the land like was planned.

On the morning we were told about the storm and us leaving a day and a half early from Antarctica, we went out on one expedition in the zodiacs. It started snowing a lot and by the time we got back to the ship our zodiac boats the waves were pretty high and it made getting back onto the ship more difficult, especially for people with limited walking abilities and balance.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, Ellie on Zodiac boat in snow
A very snowy excursion!

During our 2.5 days in the Antarctic Peninsular, we only had blue skies for 1 morning (which was glorious)!

Visiting Antarctica in December or January will generally give better blue-sky weather and not only do blue skies look great and show off the contrasting white snow and blue and white icebergs but with blue skies come calmer weather and water and with that comes the ability to get off the ship onto zodiacs for planned excisions and additional excursions that you may have booked like Snow Camping, Kayaking and Shoestring walking will be more likely to happen!

All additional excursions didn’t happen on our trip and the kayakers only got out 2 out of 5 opportunities, which really, if we had stayed for the full 4 days should have been 8 opportunities.

The groups that paid more for these additional excursions did get their money back with Intrepid but this is also something to check with your tour company!

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, ship and sea kayakers in water with blue sky
The Sea Kayakers leaving the ship on our best weather day!

Wildlife in Antarctica in November

Penguins are an animal most people come to Antarctica for, or at least are very excited to see in Antarctica, and the good news is that Penguins are around for all of the summer months in Antarctica however, they go through different stages within these months.

In November, the penguins are courting, mating, and waiting for the snow to settle over the coming weeks so they can lay their eggs.

In December the eggs should be hatching, and in January, February and March the chicks will be growing up ready for their winter ahead.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, penguin stood on snow
Who doesn’t visit Antarctica to see Penguins?!

In January, February and March, the eggs will hatch and you’ll see baby Penguins when in Antarctica then.

This might be a huge highlight to some and I’m sure it is so lovely to see but something we were told and is good to know is that when the Penguins have their eggs or babies around, tour groups on land with them cannot get as close because of course they are protective of them.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, tour group near penguin colony
Being able to see the penguins this close in November was a huge highlight!

At all times in Antarctica, there are regulations set by the IAATO on how close you can get to wildlife but in November, because the penguins don’t have a baby to look after, you adhere to the ‘standard regulations’ which are the closest to the penguins you can get.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, penguin stood on ice with boat behind
A chinstrap penguin stood on a small iceberg

Whales are a huge reason people visit Antarctica! The best time to see Whales in Antarctica is from December to March.

However, we saw Humpback Whales every day of our trip in November plus a few Minkie Whales which our expedition leaders were really surprised about as it seems they had migrated earlier than usual down south, so who knows, maybe this is when they’ll migrate going forward and maybe they’ll stay just as long or they’ve leave earlier than usual…

This is a great example of not being able to fully predicate and expect certain things from Antarctica and particularly the wildlife in Antarctica!

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, humpback whale fin in ocean
Seeing Whales in Antarctica in November was unexpected and so amazing!

Seals are another animal you’ll see a lot of in Antarctica and they are also super cute!

Seals are around for all cruising months in the Antarctica Peninsular and although we didn’t see them on as many occasions as we did a colony of penguins, we still spotted a fair few!

Elephant Seals are more popular in October and November before summer really starts (although we didn’t see any in November) and Fur Seals are common again in March at the end of summer.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, seals and penguins on the snow

Snow in Antarctica in November

If you want the very best fresh snow experience in Antarctica, November is the month for this!

I mean, it makes sense that after a long winter of constant snow, no humans and barely any animals when group tours start arriving in November the snow is fresh and pristine.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, Ellie on fresh snow with penguins behind
Fresh snow like this is a benefit of visiting Antarctica in November!

What I didn’t realise until I was on my 10-day tour to Antarctica is that white snow turns black and red pretty quickly over the summer months because of the penguins and their poop, also known as Penguin Guano!

This article on why Antarctica’s snow is red is really interesting and explains more about how it is from Algae and penguin poop!

I didn’t realise how lucky we were to be in the second set of tours visiting Antarctica in the season with fresh white snow and apparently, by January time you can just see patches of black and red because of the Penguin Guano plus because the snow has naturally thawed over the summer months.

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, Penguins on snow surface
You can see the snow is red under the penguins and this only gets bigger as the summer goes on!

Tourists and humans also add to this of course.

There are select landing sites on the Antarctic Peninsular for tour groups and although all groups rotate and you are unlikely to see another group at the same time as your group due to strict number regulations, your group and tour company isn’t the only one stopping so the snow where many people will walk and stand becomes slushy and icy over the summer months.

Meaning March, the opposite shoulder season to November will have bad snow conditions compared to the pristine snow of December.

First Out in the Season

I was in Intrepid’s and Chimu Adventure’s second group of the season and to be honest, I really loved the energy from the staff and expedition team about this.

I’m kind of glad I wasn’t in the first group out, not for a particular reason but it felt nice that the team had been there just the week before and had organised certain landing zones with the first group which were then ready for us.

I cannot talk highly enough about the expedition team with Intrepid, they were so passionate, so friendly, knowledgeable and full of energy and I’m sure this does last throughout the season, plus new staff come on all throughout the season too but in February or March, you know the staff have said the same thing to 10+ groups before you!

Antarctica in November, Best time to visit Antarctica, people in snow in the distance
Our groups on the land in fresh snow in November!

No Connectivity and Working Online in Antarctica

I’m just adding this in because it applies to me and it applies if I go back to Antarctica in the next few years with my husband, which I really hope to do!

There really is no connectivity on your ship in Antarctica. Argentinian sim cards go to no signal about 2 hours after departing halfway down the Beagle Channel, and although most ships like ours have wifi, it is expensive.

Our wifi was $20.00 for 30 minutes or $100.00 for 200 minutes and didn’t always work well.

This means if you can work remotely, you can’t work remotely in Antarctica and you will have to have time off work!

December is a higher tour cost because it’s the high season for Antarctica but also a high season for people wanting to travel as most of us have time off from work over the Christmas and New Year period.

In our case, although the tour cost is higher, my husband would benefit from going to Antarctica then instead of a lower-cost month like November because he would have to take a good 12 days off work in November whereas in December, planned well, it could be 7-8 days or so!

I hope this has helped you get a true and honest insight into what it’s like to visit Antarctica in November compared to other months of the year.

Overall, I don’t have any regrets about my decision. Yes, it was a shame our days in Antarctica got cut short by a storm but this still could have happened another time of year and the 5 excursions we did have in Antarctica were amazing!

I also loved that it didn’t feel touched by the tourist season, we got to see pure white snow which many others don’t, and we got to see Whales which I honestly didn’t expect to see in November at all!