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In Search of Perfect Weather: When to Travel to Chilean Patagonia

December 3, 2013 at 6:03 PM | by | Comments (0)

Go south, way south, to Chilean Patagonia. As home to snow-capped mountains, dramatic fjords, extreme weather, exotic flora and fauna, and the world's second largest ice field, it's no wonder this region ranks high on traveler's bucketlists. We've just crossed it off our own, and all week we'll be sharing our top tips to making this dream destination a reality vacation.

Thinking of taking the leap and the long flights necessary to visit Patagonia? Excellent idea, but you should know that it is a destination with weather mood swings.

Patagonia—here we highlight Punta Arenas and the Torres del Paine National Park area—sits way down in the Southern Hemisphere, so the summer and winter are the complete opposite of what New York and Europe experience, for example. This is a huge plus, because when NY or London are being battered with below-freezing temps and blustery winds, you can escape down to Patagonia for sunny horseback rides, breezy hikes, and photographing the dramatic landscape under starkly white lenticular clouds.

To make sure you book that dream trip and have the best possible time, we've got some recommendations for when.

When it's best to go:

· The southern summer. Let's say November through March for optimal temperatures and max sunlight time (some days up to 16 hours!).
· October for baby animals. When we flew into Punta Arenas in mid-October, we encountered light hail, a rainbow, high winds, and even a brief snowstorm all in the first hour after touching down. While the weather was still a little iffy, the newborn animals of spring had just found their footing and baby sheep, guanaco (Patagonian llama), hares, and rhea (Patagonian emu) were abundant and within camera range.
· Do note that while Torres del Paine National Park is open year-round, the entry prices change with the seasons. In spring and summer, the one-time entry fee costs 18,000 Chilean Pesos (USD $38) per foreigner, while low season only charges 5,000 Chilean Pesos (USD $10.50) each.

Spring in the southern hemisphere means lots of baby animal sightings

When it's best to stay away:

· Winter in general. We'd avoid May-September unless you'd fond of adventuring in freezing, unpredictable weather.
· Christmas and New Year. While the weather is at its most temperate, the region is also experiencing its highest influx of tourism. Families are on holiday vacation, hotel rates are peaking, the best places—such as our favorite, The Singular Patagonia—are completely sold out in advance, and the scenic roads so serene during much of the year are instead dusty and loud with heavy tour bus traffic.

All rooms at The Singular Hotel-Patagonia have this view of Puerto Bories' Last Hope Sound

We traveled to Patagonia as a guest of LAN and Quasar Expeditions, but all photos, observations and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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