As we bid farewell to the high tourist season, we start to experience the very best South America has to offer – everything is at its prime, right now, making September an absolutely ideal month to travel!
Head to South America in September and you may just detect a collective sigh of relief emanating from the entire continent: high tourist season is finally over. Antarctica expeditions are still a month off from starting yet as the southernmost continent begins to thaw out (Yey!) South America enters its most incredible season yet: shoulder season.
In many ways, September is the best month of the year to travel, even more so if you’re planning a multi-country tour to soak up the most famous of wonders. Prices plummet as the majority of tourists head home yet the climate and attractions are still at their prime!
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Unique highlights of South America travels in September:
- Spring arrives in the central region of South America, bringing warmer temps in the high Andes making multi-day hiking trips even more enjoyable
- Capital cities are now at their most beautiful: bursting with colourful flowers and with locals just itching to spend more time outdoors
- Visit Machu Picchu in September and you’ll encounter much smaller crowds on the site itself and greater hotel availability (and lower prices) in both Machu Picchu Town and Cusco
- In the south, Easter Island begins to dry up from its rain season, revealing a luscious wilderness that makes hiking here an absolute delight. The later in September you visit this fascinating Chilean island, the drier you’ll find it
- Sections of the Amazon Rainforest are now at their driest too (especially in Peru), which makes for ideal lodge-based adventures. The dry season in the Amazon means on-land excursions can be extensive and wildlife is enticed to come out of its hiding to take refreshing drinks on rivers’ edges, so they’re easier to spot
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- The summer sizzle and heavy rains take a pause in Colombia so if extensive travelling and sightseeing in Cartagena, Bogota and Medellin are on your cards, this would be the perfect month to visit
- Everyone starts to flee Central America because they fear the big rains are coming but, in reality, they are still a few weeks off. Green Season travel in this tropical region can be exceptional, especially if you have plenty of time to absorb a few washouts
- Patagonia welcomes Spring slowly but surely. As hotels and hiking trails begin to welcome new guests for the year, you’ll find Patagonia’s natural treasures at their most pristine
- Overall, if you have an aversion to big crowds and inflated tourist prices, you’ll find September an ideal month to travel South America
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Best City Escapes in September
Temperatures start to rise in the Chilean capital and that spells excellent news for those wishing to cast off their South America adventures from here (thanks, Air New Zealand!) With daily averages in the low 20s, Santiago is quite perfect in September, especially as these colder months do keep the smog at bay. Be in town from the 18th when the whole country erupts in a week-long celebration of their revered Independence Day (Fiestas Patrias). Although this features an endless array of open-air parties, enormous street BBQ's, music, dancing and plenty of super potent wine drinking, it also means the whole country takes a ‘mini holiday’ so do book everything well in advance.
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Buenos Aires, Argentina
The most beautiful capital in South America is absolutely blooming in September, Spring bringing a flood of colourful foliage. The sweetest shoulder season here is divine, with still-frosty mornings facilitating shoppers and sightseers – just pack a warm jacket and be thankful you’re not visiting during the sweltering summer months, when getting out and about can actually be hard work. If you can, plan your Buenos Aires visit as late in September as you can, however, just to have more sunlight hours during the day.
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Colombia enjoys its second dry season in September, a month that falls right in between the two rainiest periods of all. Crowds are low given the northern summer period is well and truly over and although you may still get a few afternoon downpours, it’s usually never enough to drown out any travel plans. You can score some amazing travel deals when visiting Cartagena in September which, in our books, means you can travel longer. The city enjoys hot temps all year long but the cloud cover of September makes it a perfect month for extensive explorations, especially in the mornings. Cartagena is Latin America’s most prized colonial-era treasure, with an Old Town Centre that’s pure postcard perfection. Nearby, you can explore the spectacular Tayrona National Park or hop on a ferry to one of the many dreamy islands just a swim-stroke away from the historic city. Considering the rising popularity of Colombia and Cartagena in particular, it’s really gorgeous to travel here at this quieter time of year.
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Best Wilderness & Wildlife Experiences in September
Patagonia – hiking & road-tripping
September is a magical time to visit Patagonia, especially if you’re dreaming of puma-tracking and experiencing the most famous national parks with just a handful of tourists. The lack of crowds makes wildlife-spotting in Torres del Paine much easier and, when it comes to those spectacular landscapes, you’ll be ecstatic to see them almost completely deserted. Most attractions in Patagonia actually stay open all year long but, in September, you’ll find them at their prime with barely a footstep to be seen, even in the most popular trails. Keep in mind that temps will still be quite low (average daytime temps around 8C) yet given the summer winds have ceased, it’s quite easy to deal with the cold provided you’re appropriately dressed.
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Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Great chances to spot dolphins and whales are what attract September visitors to the Galapagos, despite this being the second coldest month of the year (after August). Mind you, these floating wildlife havens enjoy year-round temps of about 24C yet the ‘cooler’ winds of September keeps humidity at bay which many find a huge positive. Cooler temps in wildlife-enriched destinations also usually translate to higher animal activity and the Galapagos are no exceptions. Sea lions, Galapagos penguins and fur seals are out an about, as mating season starts in earnest. September also marks nesting season for many of the sea birds who call the Galapagos home, so expect to see plenty of Blue Footed Boobies and Waved albatrosses.
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Atacama Desert, Chile
As temperatures begin to slightly rise in the driest desert on earth, it becomes a lot more enjoyable to hike extensively and head out in the evenings to watch the jaw-dropping starry skies. High tourist season is still a long way off here (most people come at the end of the year) and although the Atacama is an enormous desert and never feels overcrowded, its main base – San Pedro de Atacama – can certainly be filled to the brim with visitors. This is yet another reason to enjoy a quieter and cheaper visit in September. If you’re lucky enough to experience a rainfall whilst staying here, keep your eyes peeled for the rare blooming of wildflowers, it is absolutely breath-taking.
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Iguazu Falls, Brazil & Argentina
The most arresting waterfalls in all of South America (if not the world) are wonderful to visit at any time of year, the distinct seasons all offering something quite unique. September is quite an underrated month, to be honest, many surmising that the low water levels mean the falls won’t be that impressive. But oh, how wrong they are! First of all, keep in mind that Iguazu is an extraordinary force of nature. Yes, even at the lowest water levels of the year which, by the way, are still quite considerable. The genius aspect about a September visit, however, is that there’s a lot more you can see and do precisely because the island isn’t flooded and water spray doesn’t drench you from a kilometre away. With its maze of walking trails, striking wildlife reserve and so many nooks from where to photograph the falls, it is priceless to be able to get THIS close to the falls. There’s no denying that when they are at bursting levels, Iguazu Falls is mind-blowing but we promise that ‘WOW’ factor won’t be diluted in the slightest if you visit in September.
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At Viva Expeditions, we have decades of combined travel experience throughout Latin America and can help you find your ideal travel destination, be it in September or at any other month of the year. See our exciting itinerary ideas for South America, Central America and Antarctica and do contact us to know more.