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4 Reasons to Visit Patagonia in the Off-Season
Dodge crowds and enjoy scenic trails and dramatic landscapes all to yourself.
With lower lodging rates, wildlife-focused trips and few tourists, the cooler off-season, from May to September, is a pleasant time to plan a trip.(Getty Images)
Patagonia, the wind-whipped region at the southern tip of South America, lures thrill-seekers with its craggy, snow-capped peaks and icy glaciers. As breathtaking as the landscapes are from December to February (summer in the Southern hemisphere), the enchantment of Patagonia can be lost when you're battling thousands of other tourists at popular campsites and along scenic hiking trails. And though summer ushers in pleasant weather and plenty of sunshine, Patagonia shines in the fall and winter, when there are fewer hikers trekking along the most popular trails. So, pack a few extra layers and visit Patagonia's diverse collection of glacial peaks, dramatic mountains and cobalt blue lakes in the off-season.
You'll Battle Fewer Crowds
The biggest draw of visiting Patagonia in the fall or winter is the lack of crowds. Most of the campsites, lodges and hotels are closed from May to September, which instantly cuts into the number of visitors who plan trips at this time of year. But fret not: There are still a few sites that remain open year-round as well as luxury lodges, such as Explora and EcoCamp Patagonia, that remain open throughout the winter. And even though there are fewer lodges that remain open, they rarely are at full occupancy. Explora typically sees 10 to 30 people per week in the off-season, offering a more relaxed and personalized stay. Not only will the lack of tourists make your hikes and treks along the winding trails more peaceful, you'll also enjoy more pristine views and photo ops. Since Patagonia's weather can be unpredictable, make sure to book a guide if you're new to the area so you can navigate the wind, snow or fog with ease.
You'll Likely Spot More Wildlife
Aside from less tourist traffic, the off-peak months offer higher chances of seeing some of the more elusive wildlife species who call this remote area of South America home. Pumas, foxes, guanacos and nandus decorate the less crowded trails in search of food and shelter during the fall and winter months, which means your hikes might come with a unique sighting or two. In addition to larger mammals, Patagonia is home to an incredible variety of bird species, such as the rare condor and red-legged cormorant, which are likely to be seen in May or June.
You Can Score a Bargain
Due to its remote location, traveling to Patagonia can cost a pretty – especially in the summer months. Trips in the shoulder seasons, early spring and autumn, can help you save on airfare and lodging costs, as well as transportation to and from top attractions. Winter also ushers in cheaper airfares, especially with flights to the smaller airports of Punta Arenas or El Calafate in Argentine Patagonia. Plus, the daily room rates at top lodges like Explora also decrease in the fall and winter, meaning you could upgrade to more luxurious lodgings for less. If you're planning a solo trip, tour groups and guides also provide discounts and freebies for travelers visiting in the shoulder seasons.
You'll Find Dynamic Landscapes
Patagonia is beautiful every month of the year, but there's something magical about the region when its iconic mountain peaks are coated with snow and the glacial lakes reflect the bright, ever-changing colors of the fall's foliage; the lush forests that coat most of the area erupt in flaming shades of red, yellow and orange, which create an incredible contrast to the blue hues of the mountains and the white snow. In winter, fresh snow coats the land, giving it a sparkly, icy glow. And the cool whites and blues of the winter also intensify the sunrises and sunsets, making the bright pink and purple horizon even more spectacular. But keep in mind, the weather in Patagonia is fickle, meaning you could experience heavy fog, warm sunshine, rain and snow in the course of 24 hours. Prepare yourself with plenty of layers and prepare for heavy wind, no matter when you're planning to visit.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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