South America

South America and Antarctica Travel in January

Viva Expeditions  |  19 December 2019

Destinations you shouldn't miss in January!

Summer seems to shine eternally in Patagonia, the southernmost and wildest region in South America attracting outdoor lovers in droves. January is also peak time for Antarctica cruises – overall, a fantastic month to visit

January doesn’t just mark the beginning of the new year but also the start of Patagonia’s highest tourist season. Although this does mean the biggest crowds of the year will descend to the south, it’s all rather relative. Patagonia is huge and outside the seriously major points of interest (like the Perito Moreno viewpoint), there is ample room for everyone to hike, cruise and enjoy in peace. January is also one of the best months for Antarctica expedition cruises as the height of summer offers ample sunlight and the highest daytime temps of the year. As we said, for many, that’s a huge incentive.

Click the links below to skip through the article:

  1. Travelling in January
  2. Buenos Aires
  3. Santiago
  4. Cartagena
  5. Patagonia
  6. Antarctica
  7. Galapagos
  8. Avenue of Volcanoes
  9. The Pantanal

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Here’s a quick snapshot of South America and Antarctica travel in January:

  • Antarctic cruises reach their peak this month and now you’ll find the widest range of itineraries offered by the widest range of expedition ships. The only catch? We hope you booked your cabin six months in advance! To be honest, last-minute deals are sometimes on offer so it’s always worth asking. This month, Antarctic Circle cruises attempt crossing the fabled line to the south and longer routes are offered, ones that’ll take you to South Georgia and the Falklands too. This is also the month for Antarctic cruises departing New Zealand and Australia. 
  • Rains pretty much rule out extensive travels through the Central Andes, unless you’re in the market for a genial off-season bargain. Willing to put up with rain and muddy trails? Then you’ll find the Sacred Valley of the Incas, perhaps the most visited hot-spot in the continent at every other time of year, will be blissfully uncrowded. This also goes for Lake Titicaca and the Bolivian Altiplano ie. wet but uncrowded
  • Patagonia is where it’s all at, this month, so if you’ve been dreaming of extensive hiking and sightseeing in South America’ wildest south, this month is definitely the golden one to visit
  • Colombia experiences its driest month right now but also its busiest, as locals have this whole month off work and travel quite extensively. Still, it’s a fab time to visit this colourful treasure full of colonial-era architecture and a stunning array of dreamy island beaches, just make sure all your flights and accommodation options are booked in advance

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Best City Escapes in January

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The best springboard for Patagonian adventures, BA is the bees-knees this month. Yes, it’s hot – like, 30-degree-hot – BUT if you’ve ever visited in winter and know what a chore it is to face the freeze and convince yourself to head out for dinner, you may just appreciate the heat a little more. If you’re visiting the colourful Argentinian capital for the very first time, trust us that you’ll want a climate that facilitates daylong sightseeing. There is so much to see and do and such an eclectic mix of evening nightlife options that you will want idyllic temps. You may get some rains but, in all honesty, you’ll cherish the fresh interruptions.

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Santiago, Chile

If coming from New Zealand, Santiago will probably be your entry [point into South America and although it will also be quite warm here, stop and stay a few days, it’ll be worth it. Besides, as opposed to Buenos Aires (which stays hot all day) Santiago always experiences cooler evenings and a much drier heat all-round, so sightseeing here is even more enjoyable. In January, you can take a day-trip to visit the world-class vineyards nearby or spend a couple of days in the gorgeous seaside town of Valparaiso. Santiago enters its summer slumber in January and it’s a particularly lovely month for leisurely evening strolls, languid dinners out and after-dinner ice-creams in people-brimming plazas. Just gorgeous.

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Cartagena, Colombia

If our above blurb about Colombia caught your eye, then pin Cartagena on your travel map, prontissimo! As mentioned, this is holiday month in Colombia and Cartagena is a busy place. However, who are we to say you wouldn’t enjoy the exhilarating buzz of local crowds? Besides, this place is like a slice of paradise and January about the most idyllic climate in which to visit. If you’re a social butterfly, you’ll love finding all the bars and restaurants open until very late and plazas teeming with people. Whilst here, make a detour to Medellin, the city of eternal spring, and bag two Colombian queens in the one whirlwind trip.

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Best Wilderness & Wildlife Experiences in January

Patagonia, Argentina & Chile

January is a spectacular month to explore every inch of Patagonia, in whichever way you love best. This is prime hiking month with all refugios open and all trails gloriously clear of snow. If you prefer to cruise it, then the Chilean Fjords will be more your thing and if you just want a short trip, you can visit Magdalena Island from Punta Arenas (the departure point for most Patagonia cruises), revered for its penguin colony. That’s right: you don’t even need to go to Antarctica to see penguins if you just can’t fit it in!

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Yet nothing compares to seeing penguins in Antarctica and that’s because in January they ALL.HEAD.HERE. Like, in their thousands! All waddling and chirping away, building their nests and stealing each other’s rocks like it’s no-one’s business. An Antarctica cruise is the ultimate wildlife watching adventure, one that takes you to our planet’s remotest continent. With ample daylight to enjoy extensive Zodiac excursions, kayaking and hiking outings, January really is an awesome month to visit.

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Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos aren’t nearly as tropical as many believe despite them straddling the Equator. The seas are always fresh but they’re a little warmer now so the fact that January sees a little more cloud and some rain (but not much) is almost inconsequential. What you do get in January is a great many mating rituals, especially fascinating to see are those of flightless cormorants, both land and sea iguanas, penguins, boobies and even albatross, although visit at the start of the month for this last gem. This month will also attract nesting Green Sea turtles on many beaches, yet another stellar spectacle to observe, and lots of seal babies waddling about.

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The Avenue of Volcanoes, Ecuador

Stretching from Quito in the north all the way to Cuenca in the south, the Avenue of Volcanoes is Ecuador’s most astonishing delight, after the Galapagos Islands. A narrow corridor stretching for more than 320km, this astonishing ‘avenue’ is peppered with seven jaw-dropping mountains over 5,000m high. Yep, you read that right. The tallest is Chimborazo which stands at a breath-taking altitude of just over 6,200m, just 700m below the tallest peak in the continent, Aconcagua. Suffice to say these are among the highest and most spectacular Andean peaks of all, strategically (and rather conveniently) framing the E35 road which joins the Ecuadorian capital of Quito to the colonial treasure that is Cuenca. The sheer hiking and sightseeing options here are nearly endless and include everything from short strolls to breath-taking viewpoints to multi-day trekking adventures. You can stay in traditional estancias along the way and really stretch the trip to make a weeklong adventure of it.

Looking for a road trip to knock your January socks off? Chose this one.

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The Pantanal

January sees a healthy amount of rain pour down the Pantanal, with the main untarred road (Transpantaneira) traversing the wetlands often flooded. Now, it may seem like a bad time to go, however, it really isn’t. Rain season is a stunningly luscious time to visit the Pantanal, a time when downpours drench the wilderness into a near-fluorescent state of green, when wildlife comes out to swim in the rain (or dance, depending on how many caipirinhas you’ve had) with still bucketloads of adventures and wildlife-watching to be had. Some agencies even organise horseback riding adventures this month yet canoe safaris are still the primary way to explore. The Pantanal is a once-in-a-lifetime destination for Amazon wildlife lovers so if this is the only month of the year you can visit, don’t be put off by high water levels. You will still have an absolutely incredible trip and see an abundance of animals. Better still if you’ve already been once, during low-water level season. Come in January and you’ll experience a totally different world altogether.

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At Viva Expeditions, we’ve been there and done that, in the height of summer, winter and the rain season. And we keep coming back for more. See our comprehensive itinerary suggestions for South America, Central America and Antarctica and contact us for more personalised advice.

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