South America is a melting pot of multiculturalism, bright colours, fascinating traditions and extraordinary scenery. Tantalising cuisine, warm hospitality and captivating culture make this charismatic continent one of the emerging destinations of distinction for 2018.
Of course, navigating such a large region, with so many contrasting countries, is a challenge for any prospective explorer. Thankfully, our expert Travel Consultants are on hand to advise and answer your queries to ensure you enjoy the perfect South American trip.
The seasons in South America are ‘reversed’, with the western Summer season of May to August being the South American winter. January is a popular month to visit Chile, where Elegant Resorts has five luxury properties, and the warm, sunny climate lends itself to exploring the iconic Andes. Contrastingly, Peru endures a lot of rainfall in January, therefore travellers seeking to explore Machu Picchu are best advised to wait until later in the year. In Ecuador, the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands are calmer and cooler than at other times of the year.
Magnificent Argentina is in the throws of its summer in February and temperatures are at their highest. Peru is closer to the Equator and is, therefore, one of the warmest South American countries, however the Inca Trail is closed for the month of February. Chile’s Easter Island is in its peak during February, while Brazil is gearing up for Carnival season – undoubtedly one of the best seasons in which to visit South America.
Easter celebrations are a sacred element of the South American calendar and each of the countries honour this religious festival in their own way. Easter is one of the best times to visit South America, as colour, carnival, and cuisine take over. The world-famous Rio Carnival takes place in March 2019, very much the focal point of the South American social calendar. The spring equinox also takes place in March and this natural phenomenon is one of the most important in the Mayan calendar. This month is also an ideal time to visit the emerging wine regions of Chile and Argentina.
The fourth month of the year is one of the best to visit South America. The Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu really come into their own in April, while the Andes in Peru are cloaked in a lush emerald-coloured blanket of flora. While the official dry season begins in May, rainfall is very low in April making the region’s abundance of outdoor activities even more enjoyable and accessible at this time. Holy Week is observed in many towns and cities across the continent and celebrations are particularly vibrant in Cuzco, Peru.
The rainy season has concluded, and sunny skies bless the long hours of daylight. In Chile, the wine season is in full swing and a tour to a winery may include musical performances and grape-crushing to accompany a wine tasting. This month is an ideal time to explore Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and the Inca Trail. May is also an ideal month to visit the southern region of Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro, when the temperature is warm in the day, but much more enjoyable than the dizzying heights of summer.
Inti Raymi is Ecuador’s annual festival of sun and harvest. Celebrating Inca culture, this festival recognises Mother Earth, known as Pachamama, and festivities incorporate the four natural elements, thought to bring spiritual purification to revellers. Whale watching in Argentina is another of this month’s main highlights, while the Pantanal region of Brazil and Amazonian rainforest in Peru enjoy a good balance of short-lived rain showers and prolonged dry spells, ideal for those planning wildlife watching opportunities.
Definitely one of the busier months for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, travellers planning to experience these UNESCO World Heritage Sites are advised to book their tour a minimum of six months in advance. You’re likely to find the spectacular Iguazu Falls much quieter at this time of year than the ‘peak’ seasons of March, April, August and September. If Chile's famous Atacama Desert intrigues you, July is a good time to venture to this wholly unique setting.
Argentina is famous for its passionate Tango and August celebrates this daring dance. A two-week festival of Tango-themed activities, including street performances and shows featuring the world’s best artists. August marks the start of South America’s winter season, meaning temperatures will begin to cool, however this is still a prime time to experience many of the cultural and natural gems located across this region. Patagonia’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares boasts arresting scenery, including its iconic grand glaciers, making it an ideal addition to any August itinerary. In Peru's Lima, the city’s patron Saint Santa Rosa de Lima is honoured with an annual festival on 30 August, including a cathedral procession in the heart of Lima.
Chile’s National Day of Independence takes place on 18 September, with a series of festivals featuring street parties, cuisine, music and colour! This is a beautiful month to visit Rio de Janeiro, as the cooler temperatures lend themselves to exploring this fascinating city. In Ecuador, the first few days of the month are marked with celebration of Mother Earth, meanwhile this is a great month to explore the many natural wonders of Peru and the Iguazu Falls.
Wild flowers bloom in abundance across South America throughout October as a beautiful blanket of colour sweeps the rich natural landscape. In Peru, orchids bloom in the cloudforests, while in Argentina the Lake District bursts to life. This is also an ideal time to indulge in some wildlife-watching, with newborn animals thriving, and the intermittent rainfall means fewer mosquitos in humid areas, such as the rainforests. In Lima, October hosts a unique and fascinating festival called El Senor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles). Hundreds of thousands of believers, traditionally wearing purple, descend on Lima to watch as a three-hundred-year-old mural, weighing two tonnes, is carefully carried through the streets. The mural survived an earthquake which destroyed the chapel in which it was housed, making it one of the most sacred paintings in the world.
November is an ideal time to venture from South America to Antarctica. This is definitely one of the busier months to visit South America as the springtime temperatures are so favourable to travellers. South America’s sprawling natural beauty can be enjoyed in November with the Pantanal region of Brazil and the Galapagos Islands having come to life. In neighbouring Mexico, the famous Day of the Dead celebrations take place at the start of November.
Experience a Peruvian Christmas Eve to remember in Cuzco, when the large market is the focus of national celebration. Re-enactments of the nativity, carols and colourful parties roll on long into the night. The Iguazu Falls are at their most scenic in December as the increase in rainfall ensures high water levels, rainbows and powerful cascading currents with dramatic drops. In Ecuador, Quito celebrates its independence with large parties across the city, including historic re-enactments, sports events, parades and dancing. Quito’s location at the centre of the Earth is marked with a beautiful, scenic monument on the Equator line – not to be missed! Of course, Copacabana beach is the setting of one of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve parties. Brazil loves a celebration and they bring in the new year with style. Where else can you watch fireworks as Christ The Redeemer looks over the merry crowd?