I’m taking a break from remodeling to think about our Camp Mom coming up this summer. We’re visiting South America in July and will fly into and out of Santiago. We have the entire month so lots of options but I keep coming up against one imponderable.
If you’re visiting South America in July how far South should you go?
This answer will obviously have different answers for different people. However, I’m amazed at how few people- based on my research- are asking the question. I’ve been googling my heart out and have found very little information about visiting most tourist sites in Patagonia off season if you don’t want to a) ski or b) play Bear Grylls.
The safest answer is “don’t go south at all”. Stick to Santiago, Mendoza, Buenos Aries, Iguazu, the Atacama desert and maybe a side trip to Easter Island. And that would be a great trip. But I don’t have enough solid information to be satisfied with that answer. I think it’s the safe answer because no one is bothering to follow up.
Here’s what is easily documented
I do know Bariloche is out unless you want to ski as it’s covered widely as a ski resort. We don’t ski so skipping Bariloche is a no-brainer.
Ditto for crossing the Andes by bus- for example you definitely want to fly from Santiago to Mendoza unless you’re willing to be turned back at the border. I’ll add pretty much any long distance bus trip south of Santiago. That’s ok- we’re not long distance bus people anyway. Good thing in country flights are cheap- both in money and miles. Fun fact- flights totally within Chile or within Argentina are only 6,000 AA miles. That could beat Avios rates on some of the super long routes.
Here’s what’s out
Part of “where should we go” centers not so much around the weather as what we will see when we get there. Exhibit A: Penguins. Lots of penguin-filled places are temperate enough to visit in July but the penguins themselves will be long gone. The only place in Chile or Argentina I’ve found where any penguins reliably live in July is the Falkland Islands. Getting there, unfortunately, is a trek that makes Easter Island look both easy and cheap. I can’t tell you how much time and how many queries it took to verify this info! So penguins are out.
Here’s what’s in
In Nothern Patagonia when the penguins head out, the whales head in. Puerto Madryn, Argentina is a baby whale hot spot from June to December. The ballenas reside peacefully alongside the resident year-round elephant seal colony. It’s also home of a Welsh settlement, complete with an entire town full of tearooms. The weather looks like Washington state or Wales (makes sense) in winter. Score.
Here’s where I’m on the fence
Once I realized Patagonia was on the table at all I got more curious. After WAY too much time on Pinterest I stumbled across this tour to Los Glaciares National Park by Cascada. By this point I have seen a ton of tours to the glaciers, but what makes this one special is when it’s offered: May TO August. In other words, Cascada sails into the belly of the South American Winter beast.
Doing further research I discovered Adventure Life will customize a glacier trip year round which is another interesting way to go. Special shout out to Kevin Moore at Adventure Life (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ve put him through the ringer with a ton of obscure questions and he has risen to the challenge and then some. I’m impressed- and it’s hard to impress me these days.
It is possible to plan an independent trip to El Calafate- the launch point- and to the glaciers. I’m sure working with an tour company is pricier but this is a time I’m willing to pay. If I’m taking the kids to the end of the world, I’m gonna want backup.
As for the weather- it’s cold, sure, but from what I’ve been able to gather not as cold as say Minnesota. Average highs are 36 and average lows 23. However, that doesn’t account for wind chill, variations, lack of sunlight, and the fact that you’re visiting an outdoor wonder.
Hence the fence.
If you were visiting South America in July would you attempt going this far south? If you have been to South America in July how far south did you go? What criteria did you use to choose? I could really use some guidance here.
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