Pristine natural beauty and ample opportunities for adventure tourism make Patagonia one of the most unforgettable destinations in the world. While tourism infrastructure, weather, and other considerations make austral summer (November-February) the best time to visit Patagonia, this shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting in other seasons. Indeed, the ‘best’ time to visit can differ depending on what you value most, e.g., costs, weather, crowds, etc.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the pros and cons of visiting Patagonia at different times of the year. While a few things won’t be available in the wintertime, you may be surprised at how doable an off-season visit can be with proper planning and a bit of flexibility.
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When Is The Best Time to Visit Patagonia?
When to Visit Patagonia: Quick Answers!
- Best Time for Wildlife Watching – Shoulder season (October or April)
- Best Time for Hiking – Summer (November-February)
- Best Time for Winter Sports – Winter (June-September)
- Best Time for Budget Backpackers – Winter (June-September)
- Best Time for Weather – Summer (November-February)
- Best Time for Fewer Crowds – Winter (June-September)
Peak Season – Summer (November-February)
Arguably the easiest time to visit Patagonia is in the summertime peak season. The weather is beautiful, tourist attractions are open, and there are ample daily flights from Santiago or Buenos Aires, giving you a lot of flexibility.
With temperatures ranging between the high 40s (°F) at night and mid-70s (°F) during the day, you have the best chance of packing in any excursions or hikes you’d like to do.
The downside here is two-fold: crowds and costs. As the region has gotten easier to access in the past few years, with tourism infrastructure improving accordingly, big tourist hotspots like Perito Moreno Glacier have gotten really crowded.
With demand for hotels and refugios outpacing supply, lodging, food, and other costs can also be quite high during peak season. If you plan to visit during this time, plan ahead. Book your tours, lodging, and airfare as early as you can to get the best deals.
Shoulder Season(s) – Spring (September-November) Fall (February-May)
If you’re seeking to balance saving a bit of money and avoiding the worst of the crowds (while still experiencing most of what the region has to offer!) a shoulder season visit is definitely something to consider.
Shoulder season in Patagonia is both in the spring (September-November) and the fall (February-May), bracketing the summer peak season and the winter low season.
The plus side is, that most tourist attractions are still open (though perhaps with limited hours), the weather is still relatively mild (though slightly more unpredictable than in the summertime), and the availability of flights and lodgings is a bit less daunting than in the summer.
Temperatures remain between the 30s (°F) and 50s (°F) for the most part, which is a bit chilly but not dramatically different from summer temperatures. Best of all, it’s still possible to do most outdoor activities during these times, albeit with a few more layers!
The con to the shoulder season is that you may have to be a bit more flexible – perhaps tour options or flights are only on specific days, or you may need to reschedule activities due to weather. But all in all, a shoulder season visit will usually give you the best of both worlds.
Low Season – Winter (June-September)
Winter in Patagonia is a hidden gem. Hotels are cheap, attractions are nearly empty, and experiencing the region blanketed in snow is absolutely breathtaking. On the Argentine side, where tourist infrastructure is more developed, it is still possible to hit many of the region’s highlights – with some hiking and trekking options still doable as well. Patagonia is at its wildest in the wintertime, and seeing it without hordes of tourists is very special.
However, despite all these amazing perks, we’d be remiss not to mention significant challenges to a winter visit, predominantly on the Chilean side. While attractions like Perito Moreno are open year-round, Torres del Paine has limited access during winter. In recent years, Argentina has focused on expanding tourism infrastructure, while Chile has focused on maintaining the wilderness of the area.
There are of course pros and cons to both approaches, but during winter, it does mean that a visit to Torres del Paine may not be possible. Relatedly, many tours, excursions, and treks close entirely for the season, as well as shops and local businesses.
Flights depart from Buenos Aires and Santiago much less frequently, requiring more flexibility on your part. However, El Calafate is still bustling, so if you prioritize the Argentine side, it’s definitely still doable to visit.
When to Visit Patagonia | Month by Month
Patagonia in January
Trekking and adventure season is at its peak in January. Since January falls in the middle of the austral summer, there are ample opportunities for camping and multi-day treks, with many hours of sunlight each day and great weather.
Consider visiting the less-transited areas of Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego, as midsummer is sometimes the only time they’re accessible. Be prepared for big crowds at the popular attractions, and try to go early in the morning to avoid hordes of tour buses.
January is the best time of year to see the adorable penguins on the Beagle Channel. Relatedly, Merino-wool enthusiasts, don’t miss the Festival Nacional de la Esquila: a wool and guanaco-shearing competition ending in that year’s ‘shearing queen’ being crowned.
Patagonia in February
February is a bit calmer than January, as many regional tourists head back home, but it still shares many of the same perks in terms of weather and opportunities for adventure tourism. There are local festivals for apples, beer, and salmon, as well as lots of availability for multi-day treks.
It’s still warm enough for kayaking and other water sports, and it’s a great time of year to see many species of birds, along with sea lions and seals in the wild. Keep in mind that if you’re seeking to pair a visit to Patagonia with an Antarctic cruise, February is often the latest you can do so. Also, if you’re planning a road trip along the Carretera Austral, consider doing so in February as an alternative to many of the top spots, which remain extremely busy.
Patagonia in March
The first half of March signals the end of peak season in Patagonia, ushering in the fall and shoulder season. In late March, top attractions like Perito Moreno, Fitz Roy, and Torres del Paine start to see a slowdown in visitors, so it’s a good time to check those out.
In particular, on the Chilean side, late March may be your last opportunity for multi-day treks like the W Trek, as the days start to get shorter and colder, and attractions start to close. In adventure capital El Chaltén, enjoy the Fiesta Nacional de Trekking. If gastronomy is more your scene, the Fiesta Nacional del Asado also happens in Cholila, Argentina each March.
Patagonia in April
Fall is in full splendor in April in Patagonia, and foliage colors are stupendous in places like the Lake District and Bariloche. The very last few cruises and boat tours depart from places like Ushuaia in April, and while prices are much lower, the chances of seeing wildlife are very slim.
April is a great time for top attractions due to fewer crowds, but the availability of multi-day treks may be limited as the low season approaches. If you happen to be visiting Patagonia during Easter, don’t miss Semana Santa activities and special treats to taste. Bariloche in particular celebrates Festival Nacional del Chocolate during Holy Week.
Patagonia in May
May definitely ushers in the low season in Patagonia and brings with it a lot of rain and unpredictable weather. May can be a risky month to visit due to all the rain, but the temperatures aren’t quite at winter levels yet, making it a good option if you’re flexible.
May is a great month for day tours from Puerto Natales into Torres del Paine, especially if you keep your options open and take advantage of outdoor activities on good weather days.
Patagonia in June
While still a bit gloomy in June, don’t miss the 10-day Winter Solstice celebration in Ushuaia, called Fiesta de la Noche Más Larga. Decorated umbrellas and lots of live music celebrate Festival de la Lluvia in the Lake District in early June, and on June 24 both sides of the region celebrate Patagonian New Year, an ancient tradition.
While some tours and activities are still possible, make sure to book in advance to ensure they’re up and running. The wooden houses of the Chiloé archipelago (Pacific side) are accessible this time of year, but many treks are not.
Patagonia in July
July is the peak winter sports season in Patagonia, and the coldest and wettest month of the year. Ski destinations like Bariloche and Ushuaia are very crowded, and July is definitely the best time of year for downhill, alpine, Nordic, or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, and beyond – truly a wonderland for winter sports fans!
Most things to do are winter-related, such as the Snow Festival (in both Bariloche and Puerto Williams), the National Nordic Ski and Biathlon Festival in Ushuaia, and Carnaval de Invierno in Punta Arenas – don’t miss the stunning fireworks show along the Strait of Magellan! If whale-watching is more your speed, the whales start to arrive in the Peninsula Valdés in July.
Patagonia in August
Whale-watching season is in full swing by August, with winter sports continuing to be the main draw to the area this month. While it’s pretty cold and snowy, year-round attractions like Perito Moreno remain open, and prices remain quite low for lodging and activities, though they are definitely limited in scope.
Transport may be reduced, but day trips into Los Glaciares or Torres del Paine certainly do exist. While unpredictable weather remains a concern, August is the last quiet month before tourism starts to kick off again, which makes it a great time to have the beautiful scenery all to yourself.
Patagonia in September
Similar to March, September is a transitional month, ushering in the shoulder season in Patagonia. While it will certainly still be chilly, there are increasingly more things to do during the month.
The penguins (a highlight of any visit) start to come back, along with the first trekkers seeking to climb Fitz Roy from El Chaltén or the W Trek in Torres del Paine. Keep in mind conditions may be dicey, with snow still on the trails!
If you’re seeking to avoid wintry conditions, check out the northern part of the region, where you may even catch the beginning of wildflower season. Prices remain quite low and prioritizing a visit before October is a great way to save some money.
Patagonia in October
While still technically shoulder season, recent years have seen October marking the beginning of peak season in Patagonia. Trekking, adventure activities, and cruises to Cape Horn or the Beagle Channel start to pick up, with tourism increasing accordingly.
Multi-day treks are still largely unavailable, but later in the month, the weather begins to get better. Trelew, Argentina has a Penguin Festival, and German culture comes alive in Puerto Varas and Valdivia with their own version of Oktoberfest. Prices remain low in October, but not for much longer.
Patagonia in November
November is a fantastic month to visit Patagonia, right before peak season really kicks off in December. As the days get longer, the availability and frequency of multi-day tours, treks, and hikes increases, the weather gets warmer and less fickle, and towns and cities come alive with tourists once again.
Refugios in Torres del Paine open again, allowing you to stay overnight, and the official fishing season kicks off as well. The internationally-renowned Puerto Montt International Jazz Festival is in November for music lovers, bringing performers and enthusiasts from all over the world.
Patagonia in December
December is the heart of peak season in Patagonia. Seeing the summer solstice at the ‘end of the world’ in Ushuaia is always special, and the warmth means an abundance of critters (penguins, sea lions, birds, and more) are easy to see on islands like Martillo Island or at Punta Tombo penguin colony.
The tourists are definitely arriving in force in December, meaning that attractions like Perito Moreno, Refugio Frey, and Torres del Paine will be heavily crowded. Consider less-transited options like Tierra del Fuego or spend some time in lesser-known areas of the Lake District. If you want to spend the New Year in Patagonia, you should prepare for crowds, but the festivities are still a lot of fun.
While most people would say that summer is the ‘best’ time to visit Patagonia, this is a bit more nuanced of a topic than you might think. While summertime is indeed the easiest in terms of weather and availability of attractions, it is also the most expensive time of year to visit – so budget backpackers, in particular, may want to consider other seasons.
Patagonia is beautiful year-round, and visits are doable anytime depending on your interests. Shoulder season offers the best of both worlds: fewer crowds and cheaper costs, but tourist attractions haven’t shut down for winter yet.