We’re lead to believe that high season is popular for a reason. And in many ways, that’s true. But this isn’t the case for all travelers (or budgets). Learn why low season is the best time to visit Patagonia!
Patagonia is one of those “untouchable” destinations; too far away and expensive for the regular traveler. I thought the same until a few glasses of Cab convinced me otherwise. And within minutes, I was now the proud owner of a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires.
My timing actually happened by accident (it was early in my trip before I’d learned the art of forecasting). I arrived the first two weeks of May, shortly after the Dec-Feb rush and within the March-May sweet spot. These are the months that boast moderate temperatures without the crowds, though still busy enough for (most) establishments to remain open. Keep reading for more tips (and beautiful photos!).
Outsmart the Crowds
Crowds are an inescapable reality of travel. Expectations of pristine nature and echoing silence are quickly shattered by selfie sticks and garbage. BUT! There are ways to avoid them. Arriving early, or on weekdays, are a surefire way to reduce headcount. But going during low season is even more effective. In Patagonia, even famed sites like Puerto Moreno Glacier were mellow with crowds gathered only at viewpoints or boat tours. This left walkways clear for peaceful strolls and obstructed photographs.
Opt Out of Seasonal Pricing
Like many destinations, Patagonia operates on seasonal pricing. You’ll get the same tour/accommodations for more money during peak season. Which makes low season even more appealing; you’ll get better deals with room to negotiate.
Flights are no exception. Confirmed by FareDetective, prices consistently drop during lower trafficked months. This is understandable since demand spikes, but can be quite the deterrent to a more budget-conscious traveler.
Don’t Sweat the Temperature
A huge advantage to these months is the temperates. Air is a brisk 30-50°F. This may seem chilly at first, but is actually ideal for some of Patagonia’s most popular activities. Hiking, climbing and snow sports are perfect candidates. And at these temperatures, you’ll get your exercise without breaking a sweat!
Take Some “Cool” Photos
Winter landscapes are a world of their own. We’re so accustomed to blue skies and green foliage in photos; we forget how beautiful blankets of white can be. In these months, you’ll wake up to frosted fields and perhaps some spots of snow. By afternoon, the ice has thawed, and you’re rewarded with a whole different scene from a few hours before. It’s an incredible transformation that you’ll only see when the temperatures drop.
Watch the Colors Change
You’ll also enjoy and eruption of color! I’d never seen such vibrant leaves before. Not only oranges and yellows, but also, powerful reds and ombres. Warm canopies surround you in the mountains, and boutique towns like El Calafate are made even more charming. It’s a movie you can’t miss.
Eat as Good as Ever
You won’t skimp on food either. Patagonia is filled with some of the best food I had in South America. My favorite was a (very) small empanada shop in the village of El Chalten. Che Empanada has tons of filling options and bakes on the spot. A nice change from the resorts surrounding it.
Another favorite was Raices de Chiloe in Puerto Natales. I kidnapped our tour guide one afternoon, and this is where he brought me. Raices de Chiloe is a family-run restaurant with traditional dishes and humble service. Look for “Cazuela de Ave”, a meaty stew and traditional Chilean comfort food.
I also found hot chocolate almost everywhere I went. Argentina is home to Bariloche, or “Little Switzerland”, which is a town located in northern Patagonia. My favorite cup came from Laguna Negra in El Calafate. It’s a cozy café big enough to “laptop” for a while. Or, get a hot chocolate “to-go” and visit Argentina Lake nearby.
Continue reading: Favorite Destinations in Patagonia