Along the southernmost tip of South America, where the Andes Mountains meet the desert highlands and the grassy plains, there is a place so remote, wild, and beautiful that hikers, backpackers, and climbers have been flocking to it for decades. Covering more than 400,000 square miles across both Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is an outdoor paradise unlike any other on the planet, making it a must-see destination for any adventure traveler.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Patagonia just about any time of the year. But if weather is your primary concern, you'll find the most stable and predictable conditions during the summer months of December through March. On the other hand, if you're looking to minimize the crowds as much as possible, and save a bit of money, than spring and fall may be your best overall bet.
The best time to visit Patagonia depends almost entirely on what you want to do when you get there—but no matter when you go, be sure to pack warm clothes, as well as rain jackets and pants, as the weather can and will shift unexpectedly at any time of the year in Patagonia.
Weather in Patagonia
The weather in Patagonia is known for being notoriously fickle all year round, although it is most warm and stable during the austral summer. In the Southern Hemisphere, that means late-December through late-March. During this time of year, the days are long, the skies tend to be clear, and rainfall is at a minimum. Strong winds are frequent during the summer months, however, so it is not uncommon for temperatures to feel colder than they are.
In the spring and fall—September through November and March through May, respectively—the days are noticeably cooler, and the chance of rain increases substantially. The winds aren't quite as strong as they are throughout the summer, but they are colder and harsher too. The chances of snow, particularly at higher altitudes, are a real possibility as well, especially in early-spring and late-autumn.
Of course, winter (June through August) is the harshest and coldest season of them all, bringing less predictable weather, freezing temperatures, and plenty of snow and ice. That said, however, the winds tend to be somewhat mild at this time of year, which helps to keep wind chill temperatures to a minimum.
The summer months are the busiest of the year, with tens of thousands of trekkers arriving from all across the globe. Thanks to its immense size, though, it rarely feels crowded in Patagonia, making it an excellent destination even at the height of the busiest travel season. Still, if you're looking to avoid potentially-crowded huts, lodges, or campgrounds, perhaps the shoulder seasons of spring and fall will be more to your liking. During those times of the year, the trails, lakes, and climbing routes tend to be far more empty, making it a good option for those looking for a bit of peace and solitude. Unsurprisingly, winter is the least-busy time of the year in Patagonia, with only the hardiest and most well-equipped adventurers making the journey.
Patagonia is made up of Torres del Paine occupying southern Chile and Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina. While those parks are both accessible throughout the year, winter snows and harsh conditions can close some of the best hiking trails and other attractions during that time of the year. Keep that in mind when planning your visit.
As already noted, Patagonia is one of the best outdoor playgrounds on the planet, which is why it is such a popular destination for adventure travelers. Knowing which outdoor activities interest you the most will have a significant impact on when you should go. For instance, summer is probably the best time for hiking, backpacking, and climbing, three of the most popular outdoor sports amongst travelers. Naturally, winter is the best time for skiing and snowshoeing. At the same time, late-spring and early-summer are perfect for whitewater rafters and kayakers looking to take advantage of the melting snow. Spring and autumn are ideal for flat-water kayaking as well, thanks in part to the more-stable wind conditions.
Patagonia offers visitors a chance to spot some dramatic and unique wildlife, including guanacos, foxes, armadillos, deer, and even pumas. During the busy summer season, those creatures—especially the puma—may retreat from the more frequent foot traffic on the trails, making it much harder to catch a glimpse of them in the wild. If spotting wildlife is one of your main goals while in the area, consider visiting in the spring or fall when the creatures are much more common.
Coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, spring in Patagonia tends to start cold, but warm up as the weeks pass. Temperatures are typically in the upper 40s and low 50s Fahrenheit. At the same time, the average amount of precipitation is at its lowest point all year, even dipping below an inch of total accumulation during September. Nights can be a bit chilly, however, and the weather conditions can vary significantly throughout the day. The upside is, the number of visitors to the region tends to be small, prices are lower than during the peak season, and the wildlife starts to become much more active too.
Summer in Patagonia is highlighted by warmer days, cool nights, and a decreased chance of rainfall. Average daytime temperatures are usually in the low- to mid-50s F and the average annual rainfall above an inch each month. Strong prevailing winds, along with more crowds, can make conditions a bit less tolerable for some travelers as well, even though there is plenty of Patagonia to go around. This is also the most expensive time of year to visit the southern tip of Chile and Argentina.
Patagonia's fall starts warm and ends on the cold side, with the chances of snow increasing with each passing week. Rain is a real possibility in the early part of the season as well, with strong winds creating uncomfortable conditions for those who fail to pack the right layers. That said, there still tends to be more clear days than rainy ones, and the shifting colors of the season are stunning to behold. Smaller crowds also translate into more wildlife sightings on the trail, too, presenting photographers with the best opportunity of the year for capturing stunning photos.
The crowds are practically nonexistent during the Patagonian winter, making it a great time to visit for those who enjoy the cold and snowy conditions. Temperatures rarely climb above 40 degrees F during the day all season long, with the mercury dropping down to the 20s at night. It is not uncommon for a blanket of fresh snow to fall throughout the area, taking the already gorgeous landscapes to an entirely new level in terms of beauty. That said, many of the lodges and attractions close down for the winter months, which could limit your options on where to stay and what to do. Prices tend to be very affordable; however, provided you can find a place that will be open for you.
Nat Hab. "Weather & Climate in Patagonia." Retrieved February 6, 2021.