Picture this, you’ve finally saved up for this once in a lifetime trip. It’s been years of scrimping and saving. You arrive to Patagonia to commence your dream vacation. Only to find that the town you’ve arrived in is barely visible, hiking trails aren’t open, most business are closed and the forecast says it’ll be raining for a week. What now?
After years of travelling in Patagonia, I’ve learnt that weather is everything. I’ve done so many mistakes, like getting an $80 bus to El Chaltén for a day trip in the middle of off-season (don’t do this) and hiking to Mirador Las Torres on a day of high velocity winds and fog (also don’t recommend). Hopefully you can learn from mine.
How can we work with the weather to maximise our trip? These tips also work for the south of Chile and Argentina.
6 Tips to maximise your trip
1. Go at the right time
If you want the maximum chance of sunny days for your time in Patagonia, plan your trip for the right time. To avoid crowds but also enjoy the weather, the beginning of summer (Nov-Dec) and autumn (March-April) are your best bet. Having said that, sometimes you get lucky! Sometimes not so much…which leads me onto the next tip.
2. Buffer days
If your schedule allows it, try to plan “buffer days”. Nothing in Patagonia goes to plan. Your tight itinerary of flying in from another country on Monday, hiking to Las Torres on Tuesday, and seeing Glacier Grey on Wednesday isn’t guaranteed. There’s an old saying in Patagonia, “el que se apura, pierde su tiempo“. Meaning those who rush, waste their time. Patagonia has its own rhythm, leave extra time for this. That might mean spending time in El Chaltén waiting for the next sunny day for hiking, so relax and go on Patagonia time.
3. Activities for that season
If you are going in winter find activities that are good for that season. Like hot springs, dog sledding, skiing, and sipping tea by a fire. Work with the weather, not against it. Summer months are great for hikes and lakes. Autumn creates a beautiful backdrop of different shades of red and orange. Spring brings new life and strong waterfalls.
4. Do it yourself
Following on from the previous tip of having “buffer days”, seeing Patagonia for yourself allows you to make the most of your time. Tours can be restrictive sometimes, for example my first time hiking Mirador Las Torres was with a tour group. We had to hike on a particular day, and that day was one of the worst days that week to hike Las Torres. The wind speed was so high we had to lie down and grab the ground during gusts. When we finally reached the end we could barely see Las Torres! Going back and doing it myself via a road trip was a game changer. We waited at the car park for a day, patiently, so that we could hike in perfect conditions. It was worth the wait (and it was a fraction of the price!).
5. Sometimes, tours are better
While I prefer to do things myself now, tours can be useful. Especially during winter months where weather can be quite dicey. A tour group can book all your cabins in advance, feed you and make sure you’re safe on the trail. It’s also super handy if you’re without private transport. So depends on what you prefer and your travelling style!
6. Remember, you’re on holidays!
Sometimes things can get frustrating. Rained out, can’t see that volcano, no restaurants or hotels open…hiking trails closed due to weather! Things are unpredictable and sometimes you can feel exasperated. Take a deep breath and remember, you’re on holidays! There’s definitely something else you can do, so keep your plans flexible and prepare for the unexpected. These mountains and volcanoes are shy!
Happy travelling! 🙂