In summer, the striking mountains, lush greenery, flowing rivers and tranquil lakes of Patagonia draw tourists from the world over. But winter – June, July and August – is a great time to discover the real wild nature of this spectacular location. Here are five reasons why.
1. Away from the crowds
While the weather is colder and the trails more challenging in winter, this is a great time of year to truly discover the wild nature of Patagonia, which can be lost in the summer crowds. Popular parks such as Torres del Paine lose their tourists, leaving the landscape open for the more intrepid travellers to explore by themselves. Discover the ice-blue glaciers, the great plains, the placid lakes and the scenic trails, without any of the people traffic you sometimes run into in peak season.
2. Rare wildlife sightings
While some hiking trails and walking routes may close during the harsher winter months in Patagonia, conditions often bring out a natural splendour not seen by those peak season adventurers. Wildlife, encouraged by fewer people, become braver with puma, foxes, huemul deer or the impressive condor venture forth from hiding. Ñandúes and guanacos carefully tread over the rough terrain.
3. Better conditions
If you’ve been to Patagonia during the summer, you’ll be familiar with that relentless wind. In winter – remarkably – the gusts virtually disappear. The days might be shorter, but the sky is clearer and there’s more sunshine. Also towards the end of winter, the park is awash in budding flora.
4. Winter sports
Although many of the trails close over the winter, these opportunities are replaced by the many snow sports that the season offers. The lodges that remain open through the winter provide an array of activities. You can go snowboarding or skiing down volcanoes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the hills or even saddle up the horses for a ride through the snowy terrain. And there are still plenty of Torres del Paine treks open during the winter, including a route through the park’s western region, amidst lenga, ñirre and coigue forests, which takes you to a huemul deer breeding site.
5. Low season value
As Patagonia gets quieter in the colder months, many lodges close shop, but there are several places that remain open, often reducing their prices, freeing up your budget for more add-on excursions and extensions to your trip. One thing is for sure: if you visit Patagonia in winter, you are in for a unique experience.