Find out when to visit South America
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What is the best time to visit South America by destination?
A vast, incredibly diverse and immensely enticing continent, South America offers the discerning traveller a world of options no matter what time of year one visits. Having said that, however, we do realize that many people head to this part of the world with a few very specific wishes in mind, be they to sail the Galapagos Islands, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, dance the samba at the Rio Carnival or hike for days on end in Patagonia.
If you were to plan your trip to South America with only ONE wish on your list then it would be quite straightforward to guide your travels to a very specific month of the year. Yet many people, as can be expected, want to squeeze the most out of their journey and wish to combine several attractions in the one, life-changing, multi-country trip. So it is to them that the first part of this guide is dedicated (the very best time to visit South America by destinations) whilst the second half of the guide details the best time to visit by season, if you happen to be restricted as to when, in the year, you can travel.
Best time to visit South Patagonia
Although we are huge proponents of the credo ‘any time is a good time to visit Patagonia’ we do admit that life, and travel, is made infinitely easier when visiting Patagonia during the warmest months of the year. Especially when you consider that outdoor adventures, in the form of unforgettable hiking trips, are the single biggest incentive to visit. For trips to the far south of South America in Patagonia, hiking in Torres del Paine, visiting the Perito Moreno glacier and enjoying outstanding cruises and expedition cruises to Antarctica from there, the best time of year to visit is between October and April, with December, January and February being considered ‘the best’. Do keep in mind, however that Patagonia is renowned for its climatic unpredictability, so you should always prepare yourself for crisp temps and strong winds. Read our guide to Best Time to Visit Patagonia for a more in-depth look at monthly highlights during tourist season and note the super sweet hint about beating the peak of the crowds and prices and travelling here in winter instead.
Visit our Patagonia trip page for itinerary inspiration
Expedition Cruises to Antarctica
The southernmost continent on earth is open for tourist business between October and March, offering an exceptional chance to combine a visit to Patagonia (if planning to join a cruise ship in Ushuaia) and creating one truly magnificent journey. Unlike Patagonia, Antarctica is completely off-bounds for most of the year and, even during tour season, offers vastly different experiences almost weekly. For more details of what to expect from your visit, read our When to Go to Antarctica guide, which will give you a great overview of what each month offers in terms of wildlife, prices and overall cruising experience.
Visit our Antarctica expedition page for itinerary inspiration
The Central Andes: Peru and Bolivia
The main inhibitor to extensive travel and enjoyment of the Andes is heavy rain, which can cause havoc in this remote region, so when planning visits to Peru and Bolivia you should look at the driest months of the year, between May and October. The high-altitude of destinations like La Paz, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Salar Uyuni and Machu Picchu means you’ll always experience cold nights yet when the sun shines bright you’ll find yourself hiking the central Andes in just a T-shirt during the day. Read more about the exciting hiking options in Peru. Much like Patagonia, the high Andes are notorious for dishing out extensive climate variations, so pack for all eventualities and you’ll be just right.
Visit our Peru and Bolivia trip pages for itinerary inspiration
The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon is, by its very nature, a hot and sticky place to visit yet differences in rainfall between seasons can be colossal. The great aspect of this however, is that each season offers its own very specific enticement and this is the one place that is truly prefect, at any time of year. Dry season in the Amazon runs between July and December and if you dream of a lodge-based journey, where you stay in one place and take day-trips out on foot and canoe, then this is definitely the right time for you to visit. If, however, you fantasize about an Amazon River luxury cruise, then you’ll want to plan your visit during the rainiest months, between January and June. It is during this period that the Amazon River and its tributaries burst at the seams and river vessels can explore further inland than at any other time of year. Wondering what on earth you need to pack for your Amazon adventure? Read our guide to find out!
Visit our Amazon trip page for itinerary inspiration
The Galapagos Islands
Although situated right on the cusp of the equator, the Galapagos Islands are a lot less tropical than you may imagine. Travel here during the driest month (between June and November) when clear blue skies and lack of rains makes for excellent snorkelling, diving and on-shore hiking. Having said that, we’ve enjoyed superlative end-of-year visits to the Galapagos as well, with calm seas and sunny days being the norm. Much like the Amazon, the Galapagos archipelago is an exceptional year-round destination so it makes a fantastic add-on to your itinerary, no matter where else you wish to travel. Easily reached via short flight from the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, the Galapagos are the #1 small ship cruising destination in the north of the South American continent.
Visit our Galapagos trip page for itinerary inspiration
From skiing trips to hiking jaunts, wine appreciation tours and photography: South America offers the dedicated traveller a world of possibilities. We’ve done all the work for you and devised excellent itineraries aimed at incorporating your most desired ‘hobby’ into itineraries ranging from culinary indulgences to wildlife-watching, walking and city escapes. Once you’ve got your heart set on a specific destination, simply contact us and we can advise you how best to plan your trip.
What is the best time to visit South America by season?
To make it easier, we also thought we’d summarize the above and group the most popular destinations by seasons, to give you a grand overview of all the possible trip combinations if you have a very specific season in mind.
As South America heats up, you’ll want to head far, far south to make the most of the short – but sensational – southern summer. Patagonia and Antarctica are at their prime at this time of year, so if you’re dreaming of an active journey to some of the most remote corners of the globe, then you’ll be in luck. The spectacular Iguazu Falls in Brazil are also perfect to visit at this time, and super easy to include on just about any itinerary of the south. Although Rio de Janeiro will offer some pretty steamy days, it is also a very popular option thanks to its yearly and world-renowned Carnival, which is hosted in February each year. Trips to Rio for the carnival can also include the glorious beaches and islands of the southern coast, to make the most of the sizzling summer season.
As the height of summer subsides, now is the ideal time to visit Patagonia if you don’t mind braving some cooler temps but having the place just about to yourself. The middle and end of autumn are fantastic for extensive travels through the Andes as rains greatly diminish to reveal unspoiled and uncrowded landscapes. Many return visitors will visit Peru, Bolivia and Chile at this time, as they know that chances of great weather are high, yet prices and tourist numbers will still be quite optimal.
The high Andes enter their high tourist season in June and although both prices and crowds will swell somewhat, the weather will be at its very best. If travelling at this time, you can combine your travels through the Andes with fantastic Amazon lodge-based trips and cruises to the Galapagos.
Spring is an excellent time to enjoy city escapes, with gems like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Santiago bursting with colour and fabulous mild temperatures which make sightseeing and touring a real delight. And if you’re looking for that ideal season for a multi-country trip, then look no further: Spring is it! As the high-season crowds diminish yet weather extremes are still absent, Spring offers you that perfect window of opportunity, when all the best highlights of the continent will be glorious to visit.
Inspired yet? Then what are you waiting for?! Contact us here to discuss your journey options and how best to incorporate your most dreamed-about destinations and create one very unique and unforgettable trip. At any time of year.
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