What to do in South America in the Winter (Summer in the USA)

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As the North American summer months approach, high-season in South America is winding down. The North American summer is the South American winter, and the months from May through August bring fewer crowds and lower prices throughout each country on the continent. South American winter offers a wide variety of activities and make the perfect off-season getaway. The beaches around the Equator are balmy and sun-soaked, while the ski resorts in the southern part of the continent are said to be some of the best in the world. The following are some of our top suggestions for what to do in South American during the winter.

Visit Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu - What to do in South America

Though the calendar may indicate winter, the climate in Peru remains relatively consistent throughout the year. In fact, the winter season is also conveniently the dry season, which makes visiting the 15th-century Inca citadel of Machu Picchu even more pleasurable. The journey to Machu Picchu is undoubtedly listed near the top of most travel enthusiasts’ bucket lists, and because of its obvious and well-deserved popularity, the awe-inspiring site limits the number of visitors each day. During the high-season months, this threshold is commonly reached. However, during the off-season months, the threat of running over this set cap is comparatively low. The crowds are thinner, which makes visiting the citadel and hiking the Inca Trail that much more awe-inspiring. Nobody likes having a possibly life-changing experience surrounded by hordes of snap-happy tourists.

While planning a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to Machu Piccu, make sure to allot some time to spend in other areas of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Like Machu Picchu, winter is the perfect time to visit this scenic and historic area. In fact, the temperature in July — the coldest month — averages 54 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperature in November — the warmest month — averages just under 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This slight difference is easily rewarded by the travel deals and drastically less dense crowds. Visit the numerous charming towns typical of traditional Peru and other fascinating Incan ruins.

Ski or Snowboard in Chile or Argentina

The Andes Mountains are home to some of the best skiing in the world, and just when it’s time to hang up the skis in North America, the numerous ski resorts in South America spring to life. While ski season is obviously not the off season in these locations, the experience of skiing in what is typically regarded as summer is pretty special. The Andes is the second-highest mountain range on the planet, and with just around 20 ski destinations to choose from in Chile and around ten in Argentina, there is a undoubtedly a resort for all skill levels and outside interests.

Chile and Argentina are both skiers’ and snowboarders’ paradises from mid-June to October. In Chile, there are numerous ski resorts around the capital city of Santiago, and many travelers choose to use the city as a cosmopolitan base. Valle Nevado Ski Resort is located less than an hour outside of the city and is home to Chile’s first cable car. Portillo — the oldest ski resort in South America — is located just two hours away from Santiago. Also two hours away from the capital city, Ski Arpa offers all-cat skiing. Across the border in Argentina, Mendoza is centrally located to nearby ski resorts. Plus, the valleys below these resorts are home to lush vineyards.

The Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina is home to varied terrain, unique culture, pristine wilderness, and some of the most unique skiing in the world. Cerro Catedral and Ushuaia are just two world-renowned ski and snowboard destinations in this vast region located at the southern tip of the continent. For volcano skiing, try places such as Lanin, Villarica, and Osorno. There are also plenty of expert runs and off-piste skiing throughout Patagonia. Outside of skiing, indulge in local beer, wine, and chocolate to reward yourself for a long day on the slopes.

Relax on a Beach in Colombia or Brazil

Beach Escape - What to do in South America

While it might seem counterintuitive to head to a beach during the winter off-season, the Equator does run through South America. This keeps popular beach destinations nice and balmy throughout the year. However, with nicer weather in the North America, tourism in these locations is at a minimum. This means incredible deals on travel and hotel accommodations are plentiful.

While technically north of the Equator and therefore in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather in Cartagena, Colombia still hovers in the 80s throughout the year. Located along the Caribbean Sea, the rainy seasons stretch from May through June and October through November. This makes the North American summer months as good a time as any to visit this vibrant and culturally rich city. The colonial architecture and walls of the Old Town make a perfect backdrop to a multitude of superb beaches. Bocagrande Beach is located right outside of the aforementioned Old Town and features high-rise hotels, cafes, and shops located along Avenida St. Martin. This makes Bocagrande the perfect beach for sunbathing in a pulsating, urban environment. For those looking for a bit more peace and quiet, try Toganga Beach. Located a relatively short bus ride outside of Cartagena, this horseshoe-shaped beach is bordered by rugged mountains. It is also a hot spot for SCUBA diving, and dive shops are easily found in the old fishing village.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the winter months bring slightly cooler temperatures, but the trade-offs are worth it. The rates at world-class hotels are far less, and the dense crowds on famed Copacabana Beach dissipate. When not enjoying Brazil’s beach culture, take a trip up Corcovado Mountain to see panoramic views of the city and the Christ the Redeemer statue up close. The pleasant winter months also ensure fewer people on this popular day trip.

Ice Climb in Ecuador or Peru

What to do in South America- Go Ice Climbing

Cotopaxi — located just outside Ecuador’s capital city of Quito — provides a unique ice climbing experience for intermediate climbers. The summit of this active volcano is the second-highest in the country, and for adventure tourists, this is the perfect place to perfect alpine hiking skills using crampons and ice axes with the help of an experienced local guide. For more advanced ice climbing, try heading to Alpamayo in Peru. This peak is characterized by steep ice faces and requires advanced- to expert-knowledge of ice-climbing techniques.

Winter in South America brings the perfect opportunity to visit must-see destinations at a considerably lower price. While winter is usually associated with adverse weather conditions, this is not always the case in South America. Instead, in places like Machu Picchu, winter ushers in the dry season, without compromising too much on average temperatures. In other places, winter brings in plentiful powder and marks the start of ski season. The beaches of Colombia remain ideal throughout the year, while the slightly cooler temperatures thin the crowds on Brazil’s world-famous beaches. No matter where your interest may lie, a winter vacation in South America should not be overlooked.

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