Best time to visit Patagonia | Timing your adventure

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, please check our Disclosure page.

If you’ve landed here hoping for a quick answer to what sounds like a simple question, we’re going to disappoint you.

Patagonia is enormous. Covering the entire southern cone of South America, Patagonia is over a million square kilometres.

From Bariloche in the north to Ushuaia in the south is a distance of almost 1600 kilometres as the crow flies. 

It’s surrounded by the world’s largest oceans, the high Andes Mountains, the Patagonian desert and Antarctica. So the climate differs drastically across the Patagonian seasons and the different regions within it.

Finding the best time to visit Patagonia is completely dependant on what you want to do when you get there.

Camper van driving towards Los Cuernos in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia

This post will help find the best time to visit Patagonia for you. 

It explains what Patagonia travel is like throughout the 4 seasons and the best times of the year to visit for the things you enjoy most.

So buckle up to explore the region and find the best time of year for your Patagonia adventure.


Best time to visit Patagonia by seasons

Located in the southern hemisphere, Patagonia experiences seasons at the opposite time of year to those in the northern hemisphere. 

Summer in Europe is winter in Patagonia. Winter in north America is summer in Patagonia. Fall is spring and spring is fall. 

Here’s a run down of the Patagonian seasons including expected weather conditions, crowds, costs, availability of amenities, where to go and what to do.

At the bottom of this post, we’ve provided a list of link to the useful resources we mention in the post.

This includes bus companies, accommodation booking resources and rental car companies too.


Spring in Patagonia

Spring begins in late September and sees Patagonia emerging from the long, cold winter. 

Average springtime temperatures across the region range from a little above 0°c at night to 8°c during the day.

Although still chilly, temperatures are on the rise and the environment slowly begins to thaw out, at least at lower altitudes. 

You can still expect to see snow on the ground and certainly on the mountains. Spring flowers begin to appear and wildlife give birth to their young. 

The infamous Patagonian winds begin to show their force as the season progresses.

Hiking in Patagonia and drinking coffee as I reach the summit

Snow and rain can still fall at any time – this is Patagonia after all – but you can also experience some glorious, calm, blue sky days.

Throughout spring the days get longer and by the end of November you can enjoy over 14 hours of daylight. 

Travelling Patagonia in spring

Road conditions, especially early in the season, can be icy and definitely wet. 

Take care driving at this time of year, particularly on the unpaved stretches of the Carretera Austral near the Marble Caves, Torres del Paine National Park and on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego National Park.

a hiker sitting on a boulder at the top of Mount Fitz Roy hike with a lake in the foreground

Buses run in Patagonia year round but tend to only leave if there’s enough people travelling to make the journey economically viable. 

You may experience some delays in mid spring but these all but disappear by the end of the season.

Some of the long distance buses don’t run every day so make sure to check the schedules before committing to travel dates.

Accommodation in Patagonia in spring

The ski season in Bariloche is still in full swing until the end of October. Because early to mid spring is still high season around Cerro Catedral, make sure to book your accommodation well in advance.

In southern Patagonia, hotels and hostels begin to open their doors again, but finding a room can be a challenge.

While visitor numbers are low, demand for the few available beds is often high.

clipper ship setting sail down the Beagle channel in Patagonia

Few campsites, if any are open in early in spring. 

On the Carretera Austral, some free campsites are available but don’t expect hot water. You’ll need to get used to frigid showers if you don’t have a camper van with onboard facilities.

Wild camping in Patagonia during the spring becomes more practical and comfortable with the rising temperatures. Read our guide to wild camping in your camper van to help you do so responsibly.

Tourist crowds in spring

One of the greatest advantages of travelling to Patagonia in spring is the lack of crowds. Hiking trails are clear of queues and you can enjoy the peace and solitude of this incredible place.

Of course, Bariloche is busy until October because of the skiing but come November, there’s a brief lull before the summer crowd lands.

Cost of travelling Patagonia in spring

Spring is the shoulder season so you can expect lower prices than in the height of summer. Come November though, prices begin to inflate to near peak levels.

From November, all activities are available. Combined with the lower prices, it makes late spring a budget friendly time to visit Patagonia.


What to see and do in Patagonia in spring

Spring is a special time of year in Patagonia. Because the crowds are so few, you’ll feel you have this place all to yourself.

Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park 

The Patagonia hiking trails are open all year round although in the depths of winter, many become impassable. 

Some can only be done with a guide, such as the W trek in Torres del Paine. But in spring, the snow line recedes and the trails open up. 

And with fewer crowds, spring is a perfect time to enjoy the remoteness of this wilderness. 

Light cast on trees on a lake in Patagonia

Skiing in Bariloche

So you fancy some winter sports? In spring? Head to Bariloche for world class facilities at one of Argentina’s best skiing resorts.

Cerro Catedral and nearby Piedras Blancas offers skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing. 

If you’re an adrenalin junkie you can even try you hand at heli-skiing. 

The ski season ends in October making early spring your last chance for some winter sports in Patagonia.

Drive the Carretera Austral

With improving weather comes better road conditions. The Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia is one of the world’s most epic road trips and spring is a fabulous time of year to get explore. 

Snow capped mountains, thunderous waterfalls and hanging glaciers line this 1200 kilometre route through one of the most magical stretches of Patagonia.

Visit Chiloe

Chiloe is unlike anywhere else we’ve seen in Patagonia. Rolling hills, lush fields bursting with corn and potato harvests and remote, deserted beaches.

Chiloe is home to both Magellanic and Humboldt penguins. Their chicks begin to hatch in November so this is a perfect time of year to visit. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a whale or two in the coastal waters.

Whale watching on Valdes Peninsula

Spring is the perfect time for spotting Southern Right Whales mating rituals in the bays around Valdes Peninsula.

You don’t even need to get on a boat. Stand on the beach, or better still up on one of the coastal cliffs and you can see the whales breach right out of the water. 

If you’re especially lucky, you may even spot Orca hunting seals and taking them from the shore. This is one of the few places on earth this learnt behaviour can be seen.

Antarctica season begins

A humpback whale surfacing to breathe infront of a polar cruise ship in Antarctica

The Antarctica is almost on Patagonia’s doorstep so you’re in the ideal spot to launch your cruise to the 7th continent

With the springtime temperatures, the pack ice begins to thaw and so the Antarctic seasons kicks off. The first cruises of the season leave Ushuaia and Punta Arenas at the end of October. 

And if you haven’t booked your cruise years in advance fear not. You can bag a last minute deal and save thousands of dollars. Here’s how we travelled to Antarctica on a budget.


Summer in Patagonia

Welcome to the peak season in Patagonia. Most of the annual visitors arrive in summer. 

Up to 18 hours of daylight rules out much star gazing but brace yourself long day hikes, loads of solar power for those camper van batteries and late evening barbecue parties.

The Patagonian summer runs from December to February. Mild temperatures make for pleasant days and cool nights but hang on to your floppy sun hats! The fierce Patagonian winds frolic up to 70+ miles per hour.

You can still expect some rain and at altitude, it falls as snow. The weather in Patagonia year round is unpredictable so come prepared. Use our Patagonia packing list to make sure you bring everything you need.

Lupins and yellow broom in summer in Patagonia

Average summer temperatures across the region range can peak at around 30°c but it varies widely. 

Los Glaciares National Park, especially near Perito Moreno Glacier can be as low as the mid teens during the day. 

Snow tends to only be visible on the highest mountain tops or in and around the glaciers and ice fields. And as tempting as the turquoise lakes look, they remain mighty cold – only the hardiest swimmers will brave a dip!

Make sure to check out this guide to Patagonia’s largest lake, Lago General Carrera.

Summer flowers of bright yellow broom and colourful lupins make a splash across swathes of the landscapes like an imaginary scene from a CGI movie. 

sunlight hitting th emountain peaks near cerro castillo in chilean patagonia

Travelling around Patagonia in summer

Road conditions are at their best in summer but can still be wet following heavy rain showers. You’ll always need to take care on the unpaved stretches of road. Watch out for rock falls too.

The roads are never especially busy in Patagonia but you’ll experience more traffic in summer than any other time. Still nothing to write home about though.

Summer is the peak season for cyclists in Patagonia. Many are cycling the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Ushuaia and carry a lot of gear on their bikes.

Make sure to give them a wide berth as you overtake. Better still, stop for a cuppa and a chat!

Herds of guanaco’s (wild llama) are prolific in the Patagonian Steppe at this time of year and quite skittish.

They seem especially nervous when separated from the main herd. Take care because they have a tendency to run in front of fast moving vehicles. 

A collision with a guanaco will ruin your day!

guanaco running across a road in patagonia

Hitchhikers are out in force during the summer months so if this is how you plan to travel around Patagonia, you have fair competition. 

Bus schedules are frequent although some of the long distance buses still don’t run every day. They can get fairly busy in the height of the season. 

If you’re on a tight deadline, consider booking in advance for travel in January and February.

Accommodation during the Patagonian summer

If you’re travelling in Patagonia in a car or camper van you’re in luck. Patagonia is chock full of wild or free camping spots.

Make sure you know how to use iOverlander offline on your mobile device and have a few car camping essentials packed so you can make the most of the budget friendly accommodation options.

Waking to views like this is priceless! 

For the less fortunate, you’ll need to rely on campsites, hostels and hotels.

They’ll all be open during the summer months. In popular places like El Chalten and Puerto Natales they can get pretty busy. It may be best to book at least a few days in advance for January and February.

Take a look here at a few guided tours in El Chalten to get an idea of some of the phenomenal things to do in the area.

Tourist crowds in summer

In our opinion, the worst thing about travelling in summer is the crowds. You’ll rarely be alone, at least in the popular spots around Torres del Paine and El Chalten. 

For the most popular hikes, you can expect more of a slow moving queue than a brisk walk. 

Travel tips for avoiding the crowds in Patagonia

  1. Avoid the popular hikes in Torres del Paine, favouring some the wonderful day hikes in the park instead
  2. If you still want to hike to Mirador Las Torres, get on the trail before the sun comes up. You’ll have a peaceful up hill hike and meet the crowds on the way down
  3. Travel in the shoulder seasons of late spring or early autumn
  4. Drive the Carretera Austral – even in the height of the summer, the attractions along the route aren’t crowded
  5. Explore some of the lesser known National Parks like Pumalin Park
Hiking in a less popular hiking trail in mid summer with no crowds in Torres del Paine

Cost of travelling Patagonia in summer

Summer is the most expensive time to travel in Patagonia. Demand for everything is high including accommodation and Patagonia tours. 

Wild camping, taking advantage of free campsites, self catering and avoiding unnecessary guided tours can all make for a more budget friendly trip though.


What to see and do in Patagonia in summer

With all amenities open and better weather, you can pretty much do anything you want in summer in Patagonia. 

Explore the Fitz Roy Massif from El Chalten

The alpine light hitting the summit of Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia

Mount Fitz Roy is one of those iconic Patagonian images and best of all, the hiking trails here are completely free.

El Chalten caters well for visitors with accommodation options for every budget, restaurants, supermarkets and gear rental shops.

Outdoor pursuit enthusiasts are in their element here. You can go rock climbing, take your pick of multi day hikes, ice trekking or for something more sedate, choose from the many day hikes in the area.

Cruise through the Patagonian Fjords

I know it sounds expensive but bear with me here. A 5 night luxury cruise through the Patagonian fjords could cost anything upwards of US $1500 per person, excluding flights.

fjords San Rafael Glacier

Ok so you’ll get to disembark at a couple of places and probably have quite nice food but even so. US $3000 for the 2 of us is out of our budget.

But there’s other, more budget friendly options to sail through this magical scenery. 

The Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales takes 4 days and costs a fraction of the price. The cheapest bunk costs US $450 per person, the food is good and the scenery identical. Plus, this ferry takes you all the way to the heart of Southern Patagonia.

A cheaper option is the shorter journey from Puerto Montt to Chacabuco. It costs a quarter of the price but only lasts 24 hours. 

sunset at Puerto Natales in Patagonia in late summer

From Chacabuco though you can plan a boat trip to Laguna San Rafael & glacier. It’s a fabulous day not just because of the fjords and glaciers either!

Alternatively you can arrange a cabin on the weekly ferry between Puerto Yungay and Puerto Natales and you can get your camper van or car on this too. We’re hoping we can find a slot this March as we head south for the winter.

Visit Perito Moreno Glacier

Another iconic Patagonian photo opportunity awaits near the town of El Calafate. One of the few glaciers on the planet maintaining its size rather than shrinking, Perito Moreno Glacier is a sight to behold.

And while you can visit at anytime of the year, because the temperatures are warmest during the summer, statistically you stand a greater chance of witnessing magnificent ice blocks falling into the lake.

Large ice blocks falling from Perito Moreno Glacier

Explore the Argentinian Lake District

The lakes around Bariloche are nothing short of spectacular. It’s an easy 1 day road trip between Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes and if you’re short on time, you could even make it a round trip in the same time.

But this area is best savoured. Take your time to kayak, hike, fish and explore this stunning scenery. 

Look at our definitive guide to the 7 lakes route in Argentina’s lake district.

Go hiking in El Bolson

A little further south than Baroliche, El Bolson in Argentinian Patagonia offers hiking in lush forests to see emerald green rivers, waterfalls and deep ravines. 

The hiking opportunities here surround El Bolson town with its hippie vibe, great craft beer and plenty of accommodation options.

Discover the little visited Lihue Calel National Park

Right up int he northern reaches of Argentina’s Patagonia region, this little visited national park is a hidden gem.

It’s remote location deep in La Pampa province, means few passers by. With no big ticket natural wonders, or nearby popular tourist attractions, Lihue Calel National Park (Lihué Calel Nacional Parque in Spanish) doesn’t even make it onto a tour bus itinerary.

A perfect summer escape from the holiday crowds and a chance to enjoy nature and have it pretty much all to yourself!

6 Flowering cacti in the rocks of Lihue Calel National Park

The Patagonia Autumn

Autumn runs from March to May. The summer crowds dwindle, and peace and tranquility return to the slopes in the Patagonian fall. 

Patagonia in April and March is much quieter yet the temperatures are only slightly cooler than the summer months, making it a perfect time to visit. Rainfall increases but there’s plenty of sunny, clear days early in the season too.

The days begin getting shorter during autumn but you can still expect over 11 hours of daylight hours as late as April. By May, this drops to less than 10 hours mind.

hiking bag and poles on a mountain in patagonia

The night time temperatures get cold later in the season but the ferocity of the wind falls. But don’t worry! The unpredictability of the weather doesn’t go far. 

Of course the leaves on Patagonia’s trees begin to change colour as early as March making for a wonderfully colourful photographic season.

In southern Patagonia, snow can fall anytime of year but by May, the mountains are becoming snow covered once more.

Travel in Patagonia during autumn

Road conditions remain good early in the fall season but with increased rainfall, you can expect slightly more hazardous conditions.

Roads can become unexpectedly slippery after heavy rains and unpaved roads, especially the edges near the verges can become soft.

As the season progresses, because of colder conditions and fewer people, wildlife moves down from the mountains. Keep a watchful eye out for skittish guanaco again.

Bus schedules begin to pull back later in the season so make sure you check the timetables.

Hitchhikers beware though. With few travellers on the road throughout Patagonia in autumn success maybe limited.

guanaco gazing across the patagonian landscape

Accommodation during the Patagonia fall

If travelling in Patagonia in a car or camper van you’re still in luck. It’s easy to find idyllic locations and have them all to yourself.

Beware though. It starts getting pretty cold at night later in the season so make sure you have a good heater or good quality 4 season camping gear.

Campsites begin to close from early fall and by the end of the season, you’ll be hard pushed to find any open.

Many hostels and hotels start closing their doors from mid fall onwards too so if you want to be in the area at this time, book ahead to avoid disappointment.

winding roads on the carretera austral

Tourist crowds in fall

The summer crowds dwindle and in fall visitor numbers tail off to almost none by the end of the season.

The trails become pleasant again and for us, it’s perfect! For others, it’s a little too quiet.

Cost of travelling Patagonia in autumn

The start of the fall season may see a small drop in prices but it’s a popular time for photographers and the prices still lean on the high side.

Costs begin to fall as the season gets cooler and the photographers leave though so later in the season is a great time for budget travellers.

Just as in springtime though, because many hotels and hostels close, demand for available beds can be high so consider booking ahead.

autumnal colours of patagonia

What to see and do in Patagonia in autumn

Photograph the fall colours

Late March and April is the best time for fall colours in Patagonia. You can spend day after day immersed in the beauty of the region and never take the same shot twice.

This is how we intend to spend this fall and we can’t wait!

Enjoy the quieter hiking trails of Torres del Paine & El Chalten

Most of the hiking trails remain passable for much of the Patagonian fall. With visitor numbers much lower than during the summer months, now is a fabulous time for taking to the mountains.

Just keep an eye on the light if you plan any long hikes as the daylight hours are falling quickly, especially later in the season in the deep south.

A couple hiking in Patagonia and looking up at a glacier and mountain peaks shrouded in cloud

Explore Argentinian side of Tierra del Fuego 

If you’ve taken one of the last Antarctic trips of the season, you’ll arrive back in Ushuaia at mid to late March. The land or fire and ice is stunning at this time of year. 

Explore the Beagle Channel, check out the penguins and sea lions or drive to the end of the road. You can drive no further south than this anywhere on the planet so it’s right up our street!

Spot a puma

With the retreat of the summer tourists and the impending winter, the animals begin to come down from the mountains in April. 

And where the guanaco roam, the wild puma are sure to follow. We’re yet to spot a wild puma but this is high on our bucket list. Maybe this year we’ll get lucky!


Winter in Patagonia

The Patagonian winter runs from June to August.

In the southern reaches of both Chilean Patagonia and Argentinian Patagonia the towns virtually hibernate. Hotels close, tour guides are few and far between and you’ll be lucky to find an open restaurant.

But oh boy is it pretty!

Snow and glaciers on Mount Fitz Roy in El Chalten near Torres del Paine

While temperatures plummet to sub zero in the mountains and at night, at lower altitudes expect something hovering around freezing point.

Daylight fades away to around 8 or 9 hours a day. 

This may be mid winter but Patagonia’s strong winds are at their gentlest at this time. Heavy snow fall aside, there’s plenty of days to enjoy glorious blue skies.

And the Patagonian winter wonderland isn’t only in the south. The northern reaches experience so much snow it has some of the best skiing in South America.

East of the Andes towards the Atlantic coast experiences little to no snow, even in winter. It’s windier here though thanks to the Atlantic winds.


What to see and do in Patagonia in winter

Bariloche ski season kicks off in earnest around June. In the south, the hiking trails remain open as long as they’re passable. You can even arrange to hike in Torres del Paine on the multi day treks but only with guide.

We’re about to spend this winter in the depths of Patagonia so we’ll update this once we have more first hand experience. Wish us luck!


Best time to visit Patagonia for the things you enjoy

So you see, it’s almost impossible to say what the best time of year to visit Patagonia is. Each season has its advantages and drawbacks. 

To help you decide, here’s a list of the best time to travel to Patagonia for some of the popular activities to do in the region.

Best time to visit Patagonia for photography | There’s no bad time to visit Patagonia for photography. It’s beautiful all year round

Best time to drive the Carretera Austral | November to May

Best time to hike Patagonia | year round

Best time to visit Torres del Paine National Park | October to May

Best time to visit Perito Moreno Glacier | October to May

Best time to extend your visit from Patagonia with a cruise to Antarctica | October to March

Best time for snow sports in Patagonia | Mid June to October

Best time to see animals in Patagonia | October and April

Best time of year for sunbathing in Patagonia | Nope – you’re in the wrong place if this is how you want to spend your days. Try Rio de Janeiro.


Travel resources for your Patagonian adventure

Don’t leave home without your travel insurance. Take a look here at 3 companies offering good travel insurance for long term travel or adventurous trips like this one.

For car hire in Patagonia, we recommend getting quotes from RentalCars.com.

To check on bus schedules and the latest ticket prices, here’s a list of the companies running services in Patagonia:

  • Bus travel throughout Argentina, check with Omnilineas.
  • Big Sur and Cootra both have a timetable of cross border journeys such as Puerto Natales to El Calafate.
  • Buses Fernández runs services in southern Chile.

For mapping and navigation, we use Maps.Me. Click the link to download it to your mobile device.

For accommodation we use iOverlander at lot or Booking.com for hotels or hostels.

For ferries through the Chilean fjords and to navigate parts of the Carretera Austral, use Navimag and Naviera Austral.

For flights into Patagonia from Buenos Aires or Santaigo, we use Skyscanner to find the cheapest seats.

And don’t forget to check out our Argentina travel guide, full of useful information, tips and inspiration.


Patagonia Travel Tips

Patagonia Travel Tips

Important tips and resources for planning an incredible trip to Patagonia, based on our extensive experience travelling through the entire region.

Instructions

  1. Find our the best time to go to Patagonia for the things you enjoy.
  2. Book a cheap flight to Patagonia with Skyscanner. Better still, if you’re planning a long term trip, ship your camper van to South America like we did! 
  3. Plan a rough itinerary with an idea of how long you’ll stay in each place. But be flexible - Patagonia will get under your skin and you’ll wish you had more time. Get a copy of the Moon Patagonia travel guide to help you plan your itinerary.
  4. If you want to explore Patagonia in a rental car, make sure to book in advance. Especially if you travel between December and February. Get free comparison quotes with rentalcars.com.
  5. Check out our extensive and still growing guides to Patagonia for more information on both Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia with places to go, things to do and see & loads more.
  6. Book your accommodation in advance, at least for the first destination. For hotels, use booking.com. For apartments use Airbnb and get a discount on your first booking. For free camping, use the iOverlander app offline.
  7. Try to learn Spanish or at the very least have some basic phrases. English is widely spoken in the major tourist towns in the south, like El Calafate, El Chalten and Puerto Natales. Everywhere else, you’ll need some basic language skills to get the most out of your trip.
  8. Reserve your tours and activities in advance with Viator and Get Your Guide.
  9. Get your rucksack ready with our definitive Patagonia packing list.
  10. Go have the adventure of a lifetime!

Notes

We hope this helps you plan your travels in Patagonia. It’s an enormous region and one we completely adore. Yet we found it difficult to planning our first trip, so we've written so extensively about it to help you out!

If you have any questions about Patagonia, travelling in your own vehicle or even building your own camper van for overlanding, send an email to us at [email protected]

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, we earn from qualifying purchases.


Send me van build guides, van life tips & travel inspiration

We need to confirm your email address. Please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Do you want to show your support or say thanks for our free guides? Buy from our Amazon store, give us a like on Facebook or follow us on Instagram.

Like it? Pin it!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.