The Deal Mommy

Visiting South America in July: How Far South Should We Go?

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. 

Visiting South America in July to see Penguins? Not so much.

Penguins in July? Not so much. Image via Pixabay.

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 (kevin.m@adventure-life.com). 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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Visiting South America in July: how far south should you go?


11 thoughts on “Visiting South America in July: How Far South Should We Go?

  1. pfdigest

    I actually spent a good amount of time once trying to determine if it’s possible to fly to the Falklands on points. As best as I can tell it’s theoretically possible but in practice not possible due to award space not being released.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Yup. Spent about 1/2 hour with AA reps yesterday looking at both Stanley and Easter Island. No space the entire month of July.
      There’s a once weekly flight from Santiago on LAN, via Punto Arenas.

  2. Tyler

    I’m also planning a trip to South America in Summer (June). We have flights into Lima and then plan going to Cuzco via 4.5k avois to visit Machu Picchu (other stops possible). After that, like you, I’m trying to figure out what makes sense to see in South America in the middle of their winter. (We hit both rural South Africa and Cairo last summer, I hope to avoid packing for the extremes again).

    Have you looked into the Galapagos islands (maybe you’ve already been)? Award availability for 7.5k avois seems wide open from Ecuador. Additionally, with star alliance, paying $100 to add a stopover (or stopovers) to a one way Singapore award might make sense if they allow the routing. One could use avios from Peru to Chile/Argentina, then use 30k Singapore to fly back into the US via the Galapagos.

    It seems like there is a lot of value to be extracted on a multi-stop trip switching between programs as everyone defines South America (N/S), Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean a little bit differently. Even Southwest flies from the US to several destinations.

    Keep us updated, I look forward to hearing your plans.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Tyler,
      People have mentioned Galapagos (and strangely enough Penguins live there in July) but I had set in my head to stay further south. However, if availability is as wide open as you mention, it’s certainly worth a look. On your trip, have a good look at Santiago and the Atacama desert in Northern Chile. It’s on my list as it’s supposed to have the world’s best stargazing and in winter it’s temperate.

      Thanks for your help.

  3. RunningGirl

    I have been to the Atacama desert, as my extended family is based in Chile. HIGHLY worth a trip – great observatory , interesting landscapes, and nice people. I have a lovely guide and place to stay if interested. Took my 15 year old kids and they really enjoyed.

    I am also interested in what you learn, as I have been entertaining a trip to Patagonia with the family in June.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Please share! Also, which is the best gateway: la Sirena or Antofagasta? La Sirena definitely looks lovely but I’m wondering if it is too far to make sense.

  4. Becky

    First of all, I love Camp Mom posts 🙂

    Second…I think it’s worth going south to the cold. There’s a novelty to winter in July (can you time it with “Christmas” and plan something fun?). 4-5 days is probably enough for that climate. My guess, based on other destinations I’ve visited, is that you and your kids will appreciate glaciers differently in a cold environment than just seeing them on mountaintops farther north.

    As always, happy planning!

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks! Great points. There is some sort of ice festival worth looking into…if nothing else it will make a heck of a story.

  5. zozeppelin

    I’d skip Atacama. Not a real good area and not all that interesting.
    July is winter in Patagonia, it’s going to be cold, was just there and it got down to freezing…in summer. Great place to go though.
    Definitely go to Mendoza and do some wine tours. Buenos Aires is nice as well.
    Not a fan of Santiago, too western. Head west to del Mar or south to the wine region.
    Can’t comment on Easter Island, but that probably is a good idea as well.

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