When Is the Best Time to Visit South America?
The best time to visit South America is during the milder spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) shoulder seasons. You can avoid the extremes in weather, prices, and crowds by visiting during these ideal months of the year for the best possible South American experience.
You’re in for a great time if you visit South America during the spring or fall shoulder seasons with the following benefits:
- Mild weather: Climate varies by the region, but in general, spring and fall are characterized by warm, drier weather in South America. You’ll avoid the brunt of the summer rainy season and enjoy milder temperatures that are perfect for exploring outdoors and sightseeing.
- Smaller crowds: Most people visit South America during the peak winter and summer seasons, making the less-busy periods of spring and fall much better for a visit if you want to avoid crowds. Some of the most popular destinations, like Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu, and Iguazu Falls, are more enjoyable to see without crowds of clamoring tourists. Just make sure to avoid the busy Carnival festival that sometimes falls in early March.
- Lower prices: With smaller crowds come lower prices, so your trip to South America can be a lot more affordable during the shoulder seasons. You may find cheaper flights and hotels along with lower prices on everything from food to attraction tickets during the spring and fall. Both are considered the cheapest seasons to visit South America.
- Diverse cultural experiences: South America is big on cultural diversity and holds onto ancient and time-honored traditions even today. Festivals, parades, customs, and traditional music and food are at their peak during spring and fall (especially fall). From Carnival in Rio to Fiesta de la Cruz in Peru, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in localized cultures during the shoulder seasons.
Here’s what you can expect during the best seasons to visit South America in terms of weather and activities:
- Spring: The sunny, warm, and relatively dry weather of the spring season makes this an ideal time for exploring the Amazon Rainforest to see wildlife and learn about the abundant plants and flowers. Ruins, like Machu Picchu, are easier to reach this time of year. It’s also a prime time for hiking through the Andes with milder weather.
- Fall: Fall boasts similarly pleasant weather in most of South America, seeing less rainfall than the summer with warmer temperatures than winter. It’s great for touring the Galápagos Islands to see marine and land wildlife, venturing out to Chile and Argentina’s vineyards, or taking in festivals in cities like Rio and Buenos Aires.
You’ll find lots of things to see and do in South America’s countries during the spring and fall, like:
- Peru: Visit Machu Picchu, check out stunning views from Colca Canyon, ascend to the world’s highest lake at Lake Titicaca, explore the lush Amazon rainforest, or go hiking in the Cordillera Blanca.
- Ecuador: See the abundant wildlife at the Galapagos Islands, ride a cable car up the Pichincha Volcano in Quito, visit the Middle of the World City and monument at the equator, explore the Otavalo market, or go trekking in Cotopaxi National Park.
- Colombia: Visit Cartagena and see the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas fortress, explore the fascinating Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá (an underground Catholic Church), venture into the lush coffee region, or go hiking in Tayrona National Park.
- Brazil: Check out the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, marvel at Iguazu Falls, see the wildly colorful and historic steps at Escadaria Selarón, tour wildlife sanctuaries in the Amazon, or ascend Sugarloaf Mountain for stunning views.
- Argentina: Visit the Plaza de Mayo and bustling city streets of Buenos Aires, see stunning rock-hewn 17th-century ruins at San Ignacio Miní in the rainforest, explore the rugged and scenic Patagonia region, or go skiing in the Andes.
- Chile: Visit Santiago, check out El Tatio for amazing geyser displays, take a boat tour through the Marble Caves in Aysén, explore the vast Atacama Desert, ski at Valle Nevado, venture to the remote Easter Island, or go trekking in Torres del Paine National Park.
South America is a gem to visit year-round, but to sidestep heavy rainfall and scorching-hot temperatures, you’ll find that spring and fall are the best times to visit with the added bonuses of lower prices and smaller crowds.
Climate in South America
Summer Season in South America
Summer in the Southern Hemisphere runs from December to February. It's the rainy season in most of South America, bringing torrential rain that keeps the rainforests lush and swells the mighty Amazon River. In the north, summer brings heat, lots of rain, and high humidity. In the south, expect warm to hot temperatures between 77°F and 95°F with varying amounts of rain. Summer is a good time for visiting the countries of Argentina and Chile (where summers are dry and clear), attending festivals in between the rainy periods, sightseeing, touring museums, and sampling local cuisine.
Rainy Season in South America
The rainy season for most of South America (with the exception of Chile and parts of Argentina, which have dry summers) aligns with the summer months between December and February, extending into April/May in some areas (like Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador). Warm air mixing with cool ocean breezes and moisture in the air creates the wet monsoon season in South America. Some regions experience two rainy periods, usually running from October to December and again from December to February-May.
Winter Season in South America
Winter in South America is relatively mild and nice for a visit. In the Amazon River basin, the weather is humid and warm with occasional rainfall. It's the peak season for sightseeing at historic landmarks and ruins, exploring the rainforests, and touring the cities. In the southern part of the continent, you can expect a wide range of temperatures that get colder at higher elevations. These high-elevation areas get plenty of snow and are popular for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.