The wild and barren yet beautiful nature of Patagonia has never failed to enchant travelers from all over the world. It is, after all, a region unlike any other.
And with this extensive guide on the best time to visit Patagonia, your moments in South America’s southern frontier are guaranteed to be unforgettable!
- January: During this peak season, it’s best to visit a more secluded area of Patagonia, such as the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego. Another way to explore the region is to cruise through the Patagonian fjords. El Chaltén and El Calafate in Argentina are also great alternatives during this month, while Antarctica is at its busiest.
- February: Chilean Tierra del Fuego is still the best option for the second month of summer’s peak season. Or go further south for extreme adventure in Puerto Williams or into Antarctica, where it’s peak whale-watching season.
- March: Drive down for a scenic road trip on the Carretera Austral. As summer ends, Torres del Paine is best during this month for fewer crowds, or go to Bariloche for hiking in Argentina’s most splendid national park.
- April: Visit Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina on earlier dates for the best wildlife experience. A road trip through the Carretera Austral is another excellent option.
- May: Most tourist facilities begin to close, but you can still visit the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, which should be empty of crowds.
- June: Visit Ushuaia for the 10-day winter solstice celebration.
- July: Although the peak of winter offers challenging weather conditions in Patagonia in July, Torres del Paine is open year-round and accessible to more intrepid travelers with a guided tour.
- August: Despite the peak winter crowds, now is the time to hit the slopes at the world-famous ski resorts of Bariloche.
- September: As the snow piles up and the peak season winds down, this is the best month to visit Bariloche, the winter wonderland of Patagonia.
- October: Go to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina later in the month for the best wildlife experience, like spotting penguins.
- November: The road trip along the Carretera Austral road trip is best to take this month, while secluded Puerto Williams awaits with its challenging trails. You can also cruise through the Patagonian fjords, while the season for cruising to Antarctica begins as the sea ice starts to break up around the White Continent. Expect pristine snow and plenty of icebergs.
- December: Expect settled weather, fewer crowds, and the best hiking conditions in Torres del Paine, El Chaltén, and El Calafate before the peak summer season arrives. The season for Antarctica cruises hits full swing, with 24-hour sunlight and the arrival of penguin chicks.
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The Carretera Austral
Bearing the name “the Southern Highway,” the Carretera Austral spans 1,240 kilometers through Chilean Patagonia, from its northernmost point at Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins in the south.
Surrounded by stunning scenery, it has been dubbed Patagonia’s most magnificent road trip. The best time to go to Patagonia along this scenic route is between November and April.
The Carretera Austral from November through April
Some of the best Patagonia weather is in November, with summer just around the corner. The warmest and driest time is January and February. As a result, these months are also the peak season when all tour operators are open, and hotels are usually packed.
Avoid visiting Carretera Austral between May and October. As it’s the off-peak season, these months can be dangerous for driving, and some roads are impassable in fall and winter. Also, bus routes are usually not available.
Keeping this in mind, the best months to visit off-peak are the shoulder season months of November (as spring is ending) or March and April (right at the end of summer) when it is not so crowded, and the weather is good for the most part.
Regardless of which month you choose, prepare yourself with car rental info and road trip itineraries for Patagonia to ensure your safety and comfort.
Torres del Paine National Park
With multiple routes to choose from and breathtaking sights to see, this national park in the southern part of Chile is the ultimate trekking destination in Patagonia. It is so popular that it is packed during the peak months of January and February, although it’s actually accessible throughout the year.
The best time to visit Torres del Paine – and the nearby town of Puerto Natales – is between October and April.
Torres del Paine from October through April
Though open year-round, self-guided activities – such as hiking the W trek without a tour – are only allowed during this period. This is also the peak season when all facilities are accessible.
From October to April, the weather in Torres del Paine is mostly mild: between a high of 18oC (64.4oF) and a low of 4oC (39.2oF). During summer (December to March), it is drier and warmer. However, you should not rule out rainy and windy days, which are common in this region.
Torres del Paine in winter
Due to the harsh conditions, you need to arrange a guided tour if visiting outside of these months. Expect snowy and windy weather from June to September, where the temperature often drops below freezing.
To avoid this, visit Torres del Paine in the off-peak month of May with a local guide. Though the weather can be cold, the scenery is generally stunning, and day hikes for all abilities are available.
Ironically, winter in Torres del Paine National Park is often less windy than in the summer months, and while it’s often very chilly, with some luck you can get plenty of bluebird days.
Ushuaia and Argentine Tierra del Fuego
If there is any place you can call at the edge of the world, this is it. Located off the southernmost tip of South America’s mainland, the Tierra del Fuego archipelago offers many outdoor activities and is one of the best destinations to explore in Argentine Patagonia. Though this region has all four stages of the Patagonian seasons, the temperature stays around 0o-10oC (32o-50oF) year-round.
With that said, the best time to go is from the end of October through early April when the weather is better. If this is your first visit to Ushuaia or any area within Tierra del Fuego, this extensive 15,000-word guide on planning a trip to Patagonia should be helpful.
Ushuaia from late October through early April
Spring through to autumn are the best times to visit Ushuaia, although you can expect flurries of snow at the start and end of this period. Experience warmer temperatures with less rainfall and longer days – up to 17 hours of sunlight in total. Usefully for those seeking to travel around the region, this period is when all the bus routes are open and it’s easiest to get to and from Ushuaia.
The peak of summer – January to February – is also the high season. Therefore, the best time to visit Argentine Patagonia is in December or March when the weather is cooperative, but places are not packed with tourists.
But if you are here for the wildlife, aim for the end of October or early April, when you can spot species unique to this area, from terrestrial mammals – such as guanaco and Andean fox – to austral parakeets and Andean condors. Keep in mind that Patagonia’s weather in April is more wet and windy than in the summer months.
Ushuaia in winter
Ushuaia celebrates the winter solstice with a three-day festival in June, while music and shows follow for up to 10 consecutive days in June. As a result, you may find hotels fully booked around this time, even though it is in the middle of the low season.
Chilean Tierra del Fuego
Further south of Torres del Paine, you’ll find the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego. Unlike northern Chilean Patagonia, this region offers dramatic natural landscapes where few tourists ever venture. Summertime from December to March is the best time to visit and experience the stark natural beauty of this truly remote hinterland.
Chilean Tierra del Fuego from December through March
The region’s low population is one of the main reasons behind its quiet surroundings. Another reason is that it’s very difficult to access; as a result, avoiding peak season is not an issue. To get here, you’ll need to rent your own 4×4 and make careful plans for accommodation and fuel.
Download our one-month Patagonia itinerary for expert guidance for planning a trip to this part of the region.
Since you don’t have to worry about running into a pack of tourists, anytime between December through March is an excellent time to visit Chilean Tierra del Fuego; after this and road conditions can become unsafe. So go ahead and visit during the peak season of Patagonia in January and February.
While there aren’t many tourist facilities, those that do exist are open, the region’s treks are accessible, and you can be guaranteed a trip far beyond the beaten trail.
You need to keep in mind that this region is not for novice adventurers, and we highly recommend you look into our travel planning services to get you started.
If Patagonia winter is what you are after, Bariloche is the region to visit. With up to two meters of snow coverage, this is indeed the winter wonderland of Patagonia. For the best winter activities, aim to visit between July and September.
Bariloche from July through September
Patagonia winter truly begins in July, when the ski resorts are fully operational. During the day, average temperatures sit at 4oC (39.2oF), though it will feel colder when it rains. The largest downpours are usually around August. September is drier, which makes it the best time to visit Bariloche.
During this month, the temperature is slightly warmer (at 7oC or 44.6oF on average), while the snow coverage at the resorts is at a maximum.
Though most roads and walking trails are covered in snow – which means, as a result, hiking and trekking activities are not available – you will not have a hard time accessing the ski resorts from the Bariloche airport via taxi, bus, or rental car.
Bariloche from December through March
For those looking for the best time to hike in Patagonia, don’t exclude Bariloche. In fact, do include it! As the snow starts to melt, spring takes over the once-barren landscape. The temperature can reach 20oC (68oF), and trails are open, including the striking mountain range of Nahuel Huapi, which offers dazzling views of Bariloche and the lakes beyond.
If you would like to avoid the peak season, March is your best option.
El Chaltén and El Calafate
Overlooking Los Glaciares National Park, El Chaltén is a summer destination. Experience the best time to hike in Patagonia here from October to April. If you are visiting from Torres del Paine, stop by El Calafate first, where you can find the remarkable ice giant, Glacier El Perito Moreno, just a short distance from town.
El Chaltén from October through April
Summer days in El Chaltén are perfect for self-guided hiking and trekking. All you need is this itinerary for one or two weeks in Patagonia, and you are good to go. The daytime temperature stays between 7.5o C and 19oC (45.5o – 66.2oF).
That said, you should still pack warm clothes as nights can get as cold as 5o C (41oF). The warmest month is January, which is also the height of the peak season, so opt for the shoulder months of November, December, and March for world-class hiking without the tourists.
El Chaltén in winter
El Chaltén is open all year-round, even during winter (from June to September) when the days are short. Most tour facilities are closed, but hotels and stores remain open. Since self-guided activities are not allowed during this time, you need to sign up with a tour provider to explore this region. If you don’t mind the colder days – averaging 4oC (39.2oF) – visiting El Chaltén in May would be best.
Exploring South America’s southernmost town is not for the faint-hearted. Puerto Williams lies on a wind-swept island with 150 kilometers of challenging trails. Though there is no drastic temperature change throughout the year, summer is still the best time to visit for less rainfall.
Puerto Williams from November through December or February through March
The best time to visit Patagonia for a wider range of activities is, without a doubt, the summer. Summer in Puerto Williams runs from December through March. However, you may want to skip January as it is the peak of the tourist season and has the greatest chance of rain.
Outside of these months, Puerto Williams’ trails are not accessible. Even with the mercy of summer, exploring with an experienced group or a local tour guide is highly recommended. There is no sugar-coating it; these trails are tough.
The temperature during summer is around 5o C to 13oC (41o – 55.4oF). To make your hike easier, it’s best to go during the driest summer month, February. If you prefer avoiding peak season, late November is your next best option. These months’ conditions also guarantee a smoother boat trip aboard the Yaghan ferry, which is one of the best ways to get to Patagonia.
Cruising into the White Continent is the stuff of dreams for most adventurers. While you can take a flight from Punta Arenas in Chile directly to Antarctica, most opt for the more scenic choice: a small-ship expedition cruise from Ushuaia (Argentina).
There are plenty of different operators to choose from, with some incorporating the Falkland Islands and South Georgia into their trips (known for their remarkable abundance of wildlife, including penguins, seals and marine birds), while others head into the Polar Circle to explore the lesser-visited part of the Antarctic peninsula.
Antarctica from November through March
Sea ice prevents visitors from reaching Antarctica outside of the brief months of November through May. November is perhaps the best month to visit Antarctica if you’re a photographer, as it is the start of the season and landscapes remain pristine – there have been no tourists to churn up the snow yet. Icebergs calving off the sea ice are also still around, making for truly sublime scenery.
December through January see the lion’s share of the tourists arrive and it’s also an easier time to visit as some of the snowbanks that make trails challenging have started to melt. You’ll also begin to see chicks hatching during the final weeks of December, although this peaks during January – the month that also sees the most settled weather in Antarctica.
If you want to catch sight of the humpbacks and orcas that have traveled to these waters, February is the best month – although expect the once-white snow to have turned mushy and brown underfoot thanks to visitors and the guano of the breeding penguins.
At the tail end of the Antarctica season is March, which is peak whale-watching season. During these final few weeks of travel to Antarctica being possible, you might even catch some snow as the cold weather draws back in for the winter
Want to head to the White Continent? Contact me for my recommendations for the best cruises to Antarctica for the 2023/2024 season.
Exploring the narrow ocean channels that sit between the winding fjords of Patagonia is best done on a cruise or cargo ferry. Ferry operators such as Australis are available with four-day to one-week excursions from late November through March, which you can book in advance, although the cargo boat from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams is far cheaper and offers a similar route.
Patagonian Fjords from November through March
From the end of spring and throughout the summer is when to visit Patagonia on a ferry. Expect warm days with an average high of 20oC (68oF) and a low of 6oC (42.9oF). Since you will be on a ship, avoiding the crowd is not an issue, but you can expect boats to be booked up well in advance.
One of the most common ferry rides along the Patagonian fjords is accessible from Puerto Montt, the southernmost major city of Chile. Regardless of what they advertise, these vessels are usually cargo ships that also take passengers. One of the best providers is the Navimag. Read this review of the Navimag Ferry ride from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales to better understand what to expect from this Patagonian fjords trip.
Alternatively, go even more remote with a journey from Puerto Montt to Puerto Williams aboard the Yaghan ferry. Also a cargo ship, this boat takes you through Glacier Alley, a channel where tidewater glaciers cling to the sides of the fjords and feed slowly into the water.
After 32 hours, and frequent sightings of penguins, seals, and even whales, you’ll dock at Puerto Williams, the southernmost settlement on the planet.