As spring is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, each of us is scrambling to finish up work or school and hop on a plane to our next travel destination. Some of us will travel locally, soaking in the summer vibes with festivals or national parks. Others many hop over to Europe to finally fulfill the dream of backpacking through the continent – or the reverse, with many Europeans hopping across the Atlantic to travel down the famous Route 66.
And many are looking to the Southern Hemisphere, hoping to explore the tropical landscapes of Latin America. While that is a dream for many of us, you should be aware of one drawback: it’s winter down south. Most countries south of the Equator will be experiencing a cold spell from May to August, and that might put a dampen on your Machu Picchu hike or Patagonia adventure.
That being said, there are still dozens of lovely destinations in Latin America that are well worth visiting.
Central America will be your best bet for a good summer vacation in Latin America, as equator line will offset the colder temperatures.
Not to state the obvious,but Mexico is one of the best countries to visit in Summer. Stunning beachside resorts in Cancun and Los Cabos, enchanting wilderness along the Yucatan, and rich culture in Merida and the capital, there’s plenty to enjoy this summer. While you might expect massive crowds in Summer, but it’s relatively quiet as compared to Spring Break or Christmas/New Years.
There are also some stunning wildlife encounters, especially in the Yucatan. If you’re staying in Cancun you’ll have the chance to spot Whale Sharks off the coast. It is also nesting season for sea turtles, and most hotels offer turtle rescue programs where visitors can help protect the eggs from harm and release the hatchlings into the sea.
Though Costa Rica will be in it’s wet season, this time of year is generally called the green season for the lush vegetation and vistas. You may not get your suntan with a beachside summer vacation on the Caribbean coast, but you’ll save a ton on hotel prices and activities.
The rainfall breathes life into the landscape, making it one of the best times to explore the countryside, which is the real reason you’re heading to Costa Rica.
You can also dodge the rain for a brief period in July and August.
Further South you’ll find a more mixed bag, as Argentina, Chile, and southern Peru and Brazil become to cold to truly enjoy. Sticking to the northern parts of the countries is your best bet.
Northern Brazil is pristine in Summer, especially along it’s coast. Spend time in the lesser known cities like Salvador, Maceio or Fortaleza, which offer lovely Brazil day trips to the beaches and lower hotel rates. Rio de Janeiro is also lovely, but hosts cooler temperatures near 70F/22C.
That being said, you can simply enjoy the day at Copacabana with a good dip in what the locals call the Princesinha do Mar. It is one of the most touristic places in Rio but retains the charm that makes it unique. If you get tired of being in the sun, venture into the bohemian streets of the neighborhood to enjoy a refreshment or taste the Brazilian gastronomy in one of its many restaurants. Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro.
Located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls is a must for any visit to South America, rain or shine. That being said, April to June is the dry season, which means you can enjoy the stunning cascades with clear blue skies. The water levels may be lower but, honestly, do you think you’ll notice? Iguazu is made up of dozens of cascades, and even at its lowest it easily dwarfs Niagara.
Experience it from either Foz do Iguazu on the Brazilian-side or Puerto Iguazu from Argentina. Which ever you choose make sure to get a VISA for both countries to truly experience the majesty of the falls.
With how massive Argentina is you can bet that each region will have its own climate. The general rule is to avoid the south (sorry Patagonia) and stick to the Northern cities, which also will not include Buenos Aires, the capital of Tango.
In turn, take a vacation in Salta, an inland city that offers day trips to Jujuy, Salinas Grandes Salt Fields, Purmamarca (shadowed by the Hill of Seven Colors), and Cafayate.
Bolivia’s high season runs from June to September, where there’s less rainful, dryer days, and colder nights. The highlands get the brunt of the latter, making nights in June and July freezing, however the lowlands stay relatively pleasant.
The real question is Salar de Uyuni, that massive sky mirror in Potosi. The largest salt flat in the world, this stunning landscape is a must for travelers to South America, and creates a great contrast to Iguazu. July to October is the prime time to visit, with plenty of sunshine and little to no rain, letting you visit the famous Incahuasi Island.
Ecuador’s peak and low seasons correspond to vacation times in North America and Europe – so, summer and winter vacation basically. During summer hotel and cruise prices will go up, so you’ll want to book well in advance (like right now). This also corresponds to the dry season, running from May to September, when rainfall drops.
The Galapagos is by far the most popular part of the country this tie of year as tourists join cruises between the islands while on vacation. You’ll find higher prices for accommodation and activities, but it’s well worth it to see the rich biodiversity.
The highlands experience the driest, most balanced weather compared to the other regions. Take advantage of this chance to visit Quito, the capital, and enjoy the local culture without getting poured on. Here you can see the Equator Monument, which marks the line between the hemispheres, and snap a pic of yourself hopping across the line.
Now, this is a bit of a toss-up. Peru’s dry season runs from May to October, offering the most pleasant weather to visit Machu Picchu and trek the Inca Trail. However, there are two major downsides.
First, everyone and their mother knows this is the best time to visit Peru, so if you’re looking for a secluded trip to Machu Picchu, prepare to be disappointed by throngs of tourist crowds.
The second is that the Inca Trail will be fully booked for the summer. Generally, it is always booked 5 months out from when you want to purchase and you’ll want to plan well in advanced.
However, if you planning a round-about trip through Latin America and don’t want to miss Peru, then you’ll still have the chance to join one of the alternative routes to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay Trek, Lares Valley Trek, or the 2-day Inca Trail Trek.
If you’re looking to to join a Latin America tour this summer, subscribe to your newsletter below to get the best deals on your trip, or if you’re looking for a more custom trip, please contact our Local Expert, Santiago Jaramillo.