Best time to visit South America
There's a time for everything on a continent contrasting humid tropics and scorching desert with Andean and Antarctic cool.
September to November is often thought of as the best time to visit South America. Several countries experience springlike conditions, with numerous wildflowers and newborn animals appearing with the rise in temperatures. Really, though, the vast size, altitude contrasts and varying weather in South America means there is no single best time of year to visit. June offers cool, dry weather in the Galapagos, a steamy 30°C in the Amazon – but snow and ice will shut down much of southern Patagonia, which is best visited from November to February. Steep contour shifts can mean balmy temperatures on Chile’s coast but a snowy 5,000m chill just 100km away.
When to visit South America
Our South America Holidays
The Amazon is always warm and humid, with temperatures from 20s - high 30s. For trekking, avoid the wet season from January to May when the forest floods and you’ll be travelling by canoe. It’s also very humid with rain falling mainly in the afternoon. More details about the Amazon here
The world's driest desert isn't all about year-round baking heat. Its high altitude on an Andean plateau with peaks rising above 6,000m means cold nights and snow at higher altitudes. September-October can sometimes bring spring rains that spark stunning floral blooms in southern Atacama. More details about Atacama here
Straddling the equator, Ecuador's seasons are wet v dry rather than summer and winter – but none extreme enough to disrupt travel. Mid-June to early September are the busiest months, along with late December to early January. The Andes will get chilly, especially at night, while May, June and August are the wettest months in the Tena region of the Amazon. More details about Ecuador here.
4. The Galapagos
Seasons split into cool and dry (June-November) and warm and wet (December-June). The warmer season is arguably the best time to visit, as rain tends to fall in sharp bursts and leaves clear skies – though these islands are idyllic year-round. More details about the Galapagos here.
5. Iguazu Falls
Dec-Feb sees the heaviest rains (and crowds). But while rain is good for the most impressive cascade volume plus getting-happily-soaked boat jaunts, it may also render San Martin Island and surrounding forest trails inaccessible. The driest months, meanwhile, can significantly reduce the flow of the falls. The best compromise for impressive water levels plus a decent chance of blue skies is Mar-Ap and Aug-Sep. More details about Iguazu Falls here.
6. The Pantanal
Sep-Oct is a good time to visit this Brazilian wetland paradise – avoiding major holidays, the chilly southern winter and soggy season – when many access roads are closed. Wildlife clusters along the riverbanks in the dry season, and there is less vegetation to obscure your view. More details about the Pantanal here.
Temperatures peak in December and January – but so do crowds and prices. Oct/Nov is generally good for clear skies, spring blooms and fewer crowds. September is notoriously windy, while the winter is cold but often dry and calm – ideal to kayak amid icebergs! The summer months see much of the south snowbound and inaccessible. More details about Patagonia here.
If you'd like to chat about South America or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
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Guy Marks from our supplier Tribes Travel suggests the best time to see Brazil's wonderful wildlife:
“The Pantanal is seasonally flooded so there are islands of dry land where the wildlife concentrates. There’s only one road down there so in the very wet season it’s hard to access – it's certainly more difficult to see jaguars, you can’t drive anywhere, and you’ve got to travel by canoe. You can do horse rides – canters through deep water are fantastic – but you want to go in the dry season really, from July until October.
If you want to go to the Amazon it doesn’t really make much difference when you go; it’s the rainforest so it rains all year. There is high water and low water, but there are advantages to both. In low water you get more walks through the forest, and at high water (Jan-May) as much as ten metres of water rise through the forest – which means you’re ten metres higher into the canopy when you’re in a boat. So the animals that live in the canopy are not absolutely miles away – you can see them much closer!”
Elena Larkin from our supplier Natural World Safaris is originally from Lima, and she shares her best time to visit Peru's magnificent highlands:
"For me personally, the best time to see the mountains is mid-late April, because it's after the rainy season and everything is green. But it's the end of summer, so it's still a bit warmer. My least favourite time is July and August when they are filled with local families as well as tourists - it's too crowded, and very cold. Also, if you arrive in Lima during April, it's just finishing summer - so it doesn't have the grey skies you can expect to find there for the rest of the year."
Festivals & events
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The Rio Carnival is famous but you may have more fun and feel less touristy joining Brazilian street parties in African-influenced Salvador or boho colonial Paraty, where incredible celebrations avoid Rio's hype (and price hikes). Other countries party too. In Argentina, top Carnevale spots are the colonial northern cities of Corrientes and Gualeguaychu, with parades over several weekends.
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