South America is a massive continent that promises an unforgettable trip – and my favorite part of the world as a traveler. The incredible scale of the continent means their landscape is extremely diverse. From the driest desert to the green, lush forest of the Amazon and the high peaks of the Andes, South America has it all. This has an effect on the climate in the continent which often tends to vary regionally instead of seasonally.
You can visit South America all year round. The diverse climate means there’s always a country with fine weather at any point in the year. For countries with well-defined weather, the wet season is usually not severe enough to deter travel but some people may prefer to wait for finer weather.
If you are reading about the best time to visit South America, chances are you’ve done some research about South America. So, I won’t go into too much about the why you should visit South America.
Seasons & Climates in South America
South America has four major climatic regions namely: tropical, temperate, arid, and cold.
Tropical climate: There are two types of tropical climates namely tropical rainy and tropical wet-dry. The former occurs in the Amazon Basin, the Pacific Coast of Colombia, some parts of the coast of Brazil, and the coast of the Guianas. Heavy rainfall is experienced for the most part of the year and the average daily temperature is about 86 °F (30 °C).
Tropical wet-dry climate: It occurs in Western Ecuador, the Brazilian highlands, and in the Orinoco basin. This climate experiences less rain than the tropical rainy climate and there’s a more defined and prolonged dry season.
Temperate Climate: Temperatures here are generally lower than that of the tropical climate although there are more temperature variations. The warmest month is about 25 °C while the coldest month is about 17 °C. This climate can be found in Paraguay, Chile, some parts of Bolivia, some parts of Brazil, and Argentina.
Arid Climates: Featuring low rainfall, arid climates mainly consist of hot and wet deserts as well as some coastal and interior regions. Northeastern Brazil, Lima & the Peruvian coast, and northern Venezuela have this climate.
Cold Climates: Here, the average annual temperature is usually less than 10 °C. You’ll find this climate in the high Andes at an elevation exceeding 11, 500 ft (3,500 meters) and in some parts of Argentina and Chile.
A Month-to-Month Guide to South America
It’s the middle of summer in countries like Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and Argentina. Many city residents in the aforementioned countries usually travel elsewhere for summer. This makes it a good time to visit the urban hubs as accommodation tends to be cheaper during this period.
The weather is still fine in most parts of the continent and daily temperatures average about 36 °C. It’s common for travelers to explore the outdoors during this time. Despite the high temperatures, rain may fall for several days in some areas although the rain is usually in short bursts.
Note that the Inca trails as completely closed for maintenance throughout February.
March is a good time to visit most of South America. The weather is still fair and crowds begin to ease off which makes accommodation cheaper. You are bound to get good deals at hotels if you visit during this time. The beaches of Uruguay are less crowded in March, Patagonia trails see fewer hikers, and the Winelands and Lake District of Chile is absolutely stunning.
Temperatures are generally mild in April and the landscape is lush and green after the summer rains. The city and tourist destinations are also less crowded during this time making it a great time to visit. Due to the lesser number of visitors, prices are also lower in April.
Countries like Bolivia and some parts of Brazil (the Pantanal) prepare to enter the dry season. It’s still not quite the high season yet so tourist numbers are low and there are fewer people at some of the continent’s most popular attractions like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.
June signals the end of the wet season. Despite the cool temperatures and fair weather of the previous months, it’s not unusual for rain to fall frequently in some parts of South America. But by June, the dry season fully sets, the temperature becomes cooler, and the skies are clearer. The peak tourist season also starts in June in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
However, in Argentina and Southern Chile, the temperature plummets significantly and the ski season begins.
The dry season continues in most parts of South America and the crowd continues to grow. July is a good time to visit the Galapagos and see the blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and flightless cormorants.
In Argentina, the skiing season continues in the mountains as well as other snow-based sports. Colombia experiences a short dry season in July which makes it suitable for exploring the outdoors.
It’s peak season in Peru and Bolivia and you’ll do well to plan your trip in advance. The Inca trail becomes crowded as well as some of the other top attractions. Rio has spring-like weather in August and the weather makes it a good time to see the tropical wetlands of the Pantanal. Skiing season continues in Argentina and Chile.
September to November
A fantastic time to visit South America as there’s warmer weather throughout the continent. Wildflowers bloom beautifully across Argentina as the temperatures start to rise and the skiing season comes to a close.
There’s also the added benefit of fewer crowds as North American and European schools are back in session, making trips more enjoyable for people that visit during this time.
This marks the start of summer in South America and clear, warm weather dominates till around February. It’s a great time to explore the outdoors and the top attractions of the continent. This also coincides with the high season due to the various festivals and events that take place at this time.
The Andean regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru experience the start of their wet season during this time.
Peak, Shoulder, And Off-Peak Season of South America
June to September and December to January are the peak seasons in South America. The dry, clear weather and festivals make this period popular among tourists.
March to May is the shoulder period and a good time to visit the top attractions if you are looking to beat the crowd and get some good deals.
September to October is considered the low season. As mentioned earlier, many North American and European schools are still in session at this time which further reduces the number of travelers.
Best Time For Festivals And Events In South America
South America is a continent of festivals. Below are some of the most popular festivals in the continent.
Three Kings Day (January 6th)
In South America, Christmas celebrations continue till the 6th of January which is Three Kings Day. The occasion is used to mark the gratification of baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men that traveled for 12 days after the birth of Jesus to present gifts at his feet.
Rio’s Carnival (February)
This is arguably the greatest festival in the world. About 2 million people consisting of both locals and tourists flock to the streets of Rio de Janeiro every year for the Rio Festivals. Intended to celebrate the spirit of overindulgence, the festival is filled with amazing costumes, dancing, live performance, and several parties.
Holy Week is celebrated in commemoration of the final week of Jesus Christ’s life. It’s a sacred event in South America due to the Catholic background of many of the people there.
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, marks the beginning of the Holy Week which ends on the following Saturday. The next Sunday is Easter day which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after he died.
Inti Raymi (June 12)
Did you know that the solstices have deep spiritual meaning in many cultures across the globe? One such culture is the Inca tradition celebrated by the Andean people during the June solstice. The festival is called Inti Raymi in honor of Inti, the Incan god of the sun.
Buenos Aires Tango Festival
Tango is an elegant dance that requires control, posture, flexibility, and ease, things that can only be acquired after hours of practice. For those that enjoy dancing, tango is always a great spectacle. Witness the world’s largest tango festivals where dancers from around the world come to compete. Visitors also enjoy other cultural offerings such as performances from famous artists.
South America really is a dream come true for anyone fond of travel, exploration, and discovery. No matter at what time of the year you are planning to visit the continent, there will always be a perfect destination for you. Sometimes, the rainy season is not even bad, as it enables you to experience some magic places such as a flooded Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia, which is then turned into an endless mirror.