When is the best time to go to Patagonia?
Traveling to Patagonia, one of the world's southernmost destinations, depends a lot on the time of year. In this post, I will explain the seasonality of traveling to Patagonia and what to expect in terms of both weather and prices.
Anyone who is planning a trip to Patagonia should understand that the tourism season looks like a bell curve.
To begin with, very few tourists visit Patagonia during the winter months (June-August). During this time, you can expect short days, extremely cold temperatures, and the possibility of violent weather. Unless you are part of an expedition or are an experienced outdoors survivor, I would recommend avoiding Patagonia during this time.
Shoulder season in Patagonia includes September, October, April, and May. This period is known for high winds, strong weather patterns, and difficult trekking options. You might wake up and find your tent covered in snow, or you might luck out and get perfect weather for an entire week.
Either way, one thing is for sure: everything is cheaper! From busses to hostels, you'll pay a fraction of the price for the same service in December or January, and often times you'll have an entire campsite to yourself. For a few national parks, you will even have a cheaper entrance fee.
November, the first half of December, the second half of February, and March is high season in Patagonia. Due to a confluence of beautiful weather and manageable prices, this is my recommended time for visiting Patagonia.
During this period of time not many locals have time off from school or work, meaning it's less likely that transportation options will be sold out in advance. Additionally, popular destinations like Bariloche in Argentina or Puerto Natales in Chile have more beds than there are travelers, meaning it's easier to walk around town and strike a good deal. Supply and demand works in your favor! Finally, the weather is generally not as violent during this time period. In the deep south highs can reach 70 farenheit (21 celsius) during the day and not dip too low at night, meaning you won't freeze in your tent! Meanwhile in the lakes district, highs can reach 85 degrees farenheit (29 celsius), making it warm enough to take a dip in one of those frigid lakes or rivers.
The period from the beginning of Christmas break (around December 20th) until the first week of February is the peak of the peak. Traveling in Patagonia during this time can be an absolute hassle. Busses can fill up days in advance on the most popular routes, competition for hitchhiking is fierce, and plenty of campsites will be full to overflowing.
Many local Areginitians and Chileans also travel during this time, filling up a large car or camper van with their entire family and striking out for Patagonia. Combine this with the influx of North Americans and Europeans between Christmas and New Years, and you'll find a huge spike in accommodation prices at hostels, hotels, and campgrounds. If there's a redeeming factor it's that the days in the end of December are absurdly long: in Ushuaia sunrise can hit before 5am and set after 10pm, meaning it stays light late into the evenings. This can be a huge benefit if you're hitchhiking or going for a long hike.