Patagonia's month by month guide
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Planning an unforgettable journey in Patagonia? Our month by month guide helps you determine the best time to go to Patagonia and will remind you, more than anything else, that when you travel to the end of the world you should always expect the unexpected!
Carved by strong Antarctic winds and volcanic activity since time immemorial, Patagonia is characterized by breathtaking landscapes, extreme weather and totally unpredictable conditions, making this southernmost region of South America as spellbinding as it is unforgiving. No matter when you choose to visit, you must be prepared for sudden climatic changes and totally crazy weather. The end of the world can indeed seem the most magnificent and inhospitable place on earth, all on the same day. And that’s even if you visit in the heart of the Austral summer!
Peak Patagonia travel season
Tourist season in Patagonia runs between the months of October and April. For obvious reasons, the weeks around end-of-year holiday time are the busiest of all.
When it comes to determining the ‘best time’ for your visit, you’ll have to take into considerations where in Patagonia you wish to travel. This is a mind-boggling expand of land, one that covers more than a million square kilometres and one that stretches for more than 3,000km from north to south, roughly the same as Adelaide to Darwin, in Australia. Coupled with eclectic altitude levels, it means that Patagonia temperatures – and the climate in general – can vary dramatically from place to place.
Here’s our month by month guide of all that’s hot and happening in Patagonia during the summer tourist season:
The start of the travel season in Patagonia is blissfully quiet. The calm before the storm, one would say. As the region begins to defrost you’ll experience about 12 hours of daylight and daytime temps of up to 18°C(5°C at night) and can expect cloud cover about one third of the time. October is perfect for those who wish to experience Patagonia minus the crowds and who don’t mind putting up with a bit of a chill in order to have that. Lower prices are coupled with smaller crowds, offering an extra bonus. Include a visit to Punta Tombo is travelling this month, as now is peak time for Magellanic penguin colonies to set up home for the summer. Wildlife spotting in Patagonia is best done off peak season. Along with vicunas, guanacos, foxes and maras, which you will encounter no matter when you visit, the more elusive creatures will steer clear of big crowds. That’s why if you’re visiting primarily for exceptional wildlife watching, you’ll want to choose a shoulder season month instead and October is ideal. If, however, you want to do extensive hiking, then you may find October far too unpredictable a month. If winter persists a little longer, many trails (especially high-altitude ones) will be still closed off. Looking for a unique adventure off the beaten Patagonian path? October is a perfect month to take on the challenge of a Northern Route 40 overland crossing.
Spring is in full bloom in Patagonia in November and the vibrant colours of the endemic and varied flora are starting to literally ‘light up’ the entire region. It’s like Mother Nature’s own Christmas tree down here! If extensive hiking and photography is on the agenda – and you’d still prefer to have more nature and less people in your pics – then earmark November as your ideal month to visit. This is arguably the most colourful month of all and you’ll have the mesmerizing transition of Patagonia from winter to summer play before you as on a technicolour screen. Pure magic. November is a fab month to visit Los Glaciares National Park and, in particular, uber-famous Perito Moreno glacier. This breathtaking glacier is arguably the poster child for Patagonia and, at the height of the tourist season, can be overrun with tourists. If you don’t intend on hiking much in the area and wish to simply see the glacier then this is by far the best month of year to visit. Trails may be still closed for extensive hiking but at least the glacier viewpoints will be much quieter.
From mid-December, Patagonia is gripped by tourist-fever although now would be a great time to mention that ‘peak tourist season’, this far south, is not nearly as hectic as you may imagine. That’s because this is still a very remote and somewhat pesky place to visit and this, coupled with the fact that Patagonia actually covers half a million square miles and comprises hundreds of attractions in dozens of national parks, means that crowds do get diluted quite a lot. You’ll still need to book accommodation and tours in advance lest you miss out but, other than that, you will encounter Patagonia at what many claim to be her very best. Verdant emerald hills, crystal clear skies, dazzling lakes and rivers and a flurry of endemic wildlife. Well…at least as long as the sun is out! You’ll have an average of 16 hours of daylight this month, lows of 5°C and highs of 22°C. Do bear in mind that strong Patagonian winds can easily make temperatures feel at least 6°C degrees cooler in summer.
January is a busy albeit superb time of year to visit Patagonia, a time when the chances of a sudden and harsh change of climate are at their lowest they could be. It still doesn’t mean you won’t suffer the unpredictable wrath of the Patagonian weather gods (because you will) but they will tend to go quite easy on you in January. You can expect up to 17 hours of daylight and average daily temps of 22°C. This spells out perfect conditions to indulge in all the activities on offer: from hiking to horseriding, wildlife watching, rafting, fly-fishing and cruising, the latter both in Patagonia and further south to Antarctica as well. In Ushuaia, for example, it won’t get dark until 10pm, so you can really cram a lot into your days. For this incredibly popular time of year (beloved by foreigners and local tourists alike) bookings are essential at least 3 months in advance. Lows of 5°C translate into ‘ideal’ Patagonia camping temperatures, so if you’re keen on multiday hikes with a few nights spent in a tent, then best you visit in January. The area’s popularity at this time makes this the most expensive time of year to visit, although the expense can be mitigated simply by booking way in advance.
Your last chances to tackle the ‘big’ hikes in Patagonia, February is still a great month for the W-walk in Torres del Paine. As the crowds start diminishing and weather begins its frosty downturn now may be the perfect time to jump on an Antarctica cruise from Patagonia. As the last expedition ships make their way south you’ll encounter less icy obstacles and a great array of fluffy fauna offsprings. Last minute deals and easy connections make even impromptu cruise very doable. If you fancy a cruise but don’t quite enough time to make it to the Great White continent, then turn your attention on the fantastical Chilean Fjords. One of Chile’s most hidden treasures, the fjords are sensational to say the least and can make for a wonderful compromise between the frozen landscapes of Antarctica with the verdant ones of Patagonia. And you could be on a luxury cruise ship and watch it all slowly pass you by.
The first snowfall of the season can be a thing of beauty yet experiencing the sudden drop in temperature a little less so if you’re not prepared. Hiking now is best reserved for day-trips only, as many of the multiday trails will either be closed or soon to become inaccessible. This quiet and gorgeous shoulder-season month is perfect if you dream of enjoying a few relaxing days in one of the splendid lodges strewn about Patagonia. In March, you can take advantage of fewer people, lower prices, still superb landscapes and plenty of indoor time to enjoy the facilities on offer. The temperature range in March is usually between 0°C and 10°C. March is also a perfect time to explore the multi-coloured Lakes Districts of Chile and Argentina and if you’re up for some unforgettable sunsets, then we couldn’t recommend Tierra del Fuego highly enough. The colours on this gem of an island, in autumn, are out of this world.
For many nature lovers, autumn is the most incredible season to visit Patagonia. The spectacular array of fall colours, in every shade of red imaginable, is spellbinding. Crowds are back at their lowest now and many facilities are getting ready to shut up shop for the winter. Daylight hours are back to single digits now and as winter approaches Patagonia miraculously sees its winds beginning to calm down. There are still plenty of activities on offer in April and as long as you’re rugged up there’s no reason to not indulge in hiking, horse riding and even camping. If you’re visiting Patagonia towards the end of the month include a day at the Valdes Peninsula, where you could be lucky enough to see the first migrating Southern wright whales escaping north for the winter.
Travelling to Patagonia in winter
It may surprise you to learn that there are a few adventurous souls who visit Patagonia during the off-season and even many more who head to the northern region of Patagonia for fantastic skiing vacations. The region is home to the best ski fields in South America and equally brilliant mountain lodges, so if you love soft powder, adrenalin rushes and warm evening port, then Patagonia in winter may just spell perfection for you. In skiing areas, you can expect temperatures to dip well below zero but if you wish to indulge in some day hiking in Torres del Paine (which will be open) you will be totally amazed by landscapes drenched in mesmerizing snow cover. Your hiking options will be limited but, sometimes, even when the weather is at its worse, admiring the surreal landscape from the comfort of the warm indoors is spectacular enough.
It should be quite clear by now that the ‘best time to visit Patagonia’ will depend highly on your wishes. WHERE in Patagonia you go, and WHAT you choose to do once there are the primary factors which will determine WHEN you should go.
For more personalised recommendations, packing tips and an experienced hand in planning your Patagonia travels….why not call us? Collectively, we’ve been to every corner of Patagonia at just about every time of year. Tell us what you dream and what you crave and we’ll advise you along the way, helping you get the most out of your Patagonia experience.
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