South America offers fantastic destinations to visit. Not only home to the world’s largest and most wildlife-rich tropical forest, the continent offers famous archaeological sites, beautiful beaches, impressive mountains, fascinating rivers and many unique cultures and dining experiences.
To choose the best time to visit South America, we recommend deciding the countries you would like to visit and the attractions you would like to see.
The continent offers a diversity of attractions and many regions, including 15 countries and territories.
Within South America, you can find the hot and wet tropical north, a range of altitudes with different weather and temperature and regions with the usual seasons.
Because of South America’s size and position, choosing the best time to visit largely depends on where you would like to go within this fantastic continent.
Here, we will focus on Peru, Brazil and Ecuador then provide summaries of a few other countries.
The Best Time To Visit Peru
A favorite country to visit in South America, Peru offers some incredible experiences.
As one of South America’s most famous attractions, the magnificent citadel of Machu Picchu continues to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Machu Picchu is a citadel of the Incan Empire, which was the largest pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas.
Although unknown to the Spanish after the Spanish conquest, since its discovery for the world in 1911 the monument has become world famous for its scenic beauty and incredible construction.
To visit the structure in luxury with a few other fantastic attractions, we recommend the tours from the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. This is the only hotel positioned so close to this incredible Incan monument.
The best time to visit Machu Picchu depends on when to get the best views while avoiding the largest amounts of tourists.
Note that peak season is between May and September and also December. The higher number of visitors means this is also when it can be difficult to organize tickets if you don’t book well in advance.
As the wet season is between November and April, to balance the best weather and fewer tourists we recommend the months of April, October and November.
To learn more, you can read our guide for when you visit Machu Picchu.
When to visit Peru’s Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest container of wildlife and covers 40% of South America.
In addition to archaeological and historical attractions, Peru is also fortunate to contain the second highest amount of Amazon Rainforest after Brazil.
Peru offers some fantastic wildlife sightings. Enjoy areas to maximize sightings of jaguar, different monkeys, pink river dolphins and hundreds of fascinating birds. On the many rainforest trails, you will also see impressive emergent trees and attractive flowers. Night expeditions are also offered to spot an entirely different set of animals.
The main gateways to experience Peru’s Amazon Rainforest are Iquitos in the north and Puerto Maldonado in the southern rainforest. Iquitos is the best choice to experience the Amazon River and Puerto Maldonado is the best option to see hundreds of colorful macaws parrots at claylicks.
- The wet season is from around mid-October to April
- The dry season is from around mid-April to mid-November
The temperature of Peru’s Amazon Rainforest stays at around 32°C (90°F) and falls down to about 22°C (72°F) at night. As we’re now in the tropics, the main temperature difference is between day and night rather than between months. This is because the main difference between months is with rainfall and the intensity and duration of wet weather.
Even over the wetter months, when the rain does fall it often stops by morning and begins towards late afternoon. There are times when the rain can last a few days, but normally you will have the day available for exploration.
Note that for Iquitos, the high and low water months coincide more or less with the wet weather. The high water months are when snowmelt from the Andes raises the water level of the Amazon River.
The high water months are often a better time for boating and means it’s easier to get deeper into the forest. It also means there are more chances for canoeing and kayaking on the tours themselves. Over low water months, it can be harder to navigate the waterways but there are more hiking and walking opportunities.
The wetter months are also when the forest fruits and flowers. This means abundant food for birds, monkeys and other animals, which may improve wildlife sightings. This is when the claylicks are most active with parrots, as the birds are detoxifying fruits and seeds they have eaten in the forest.
The dry season is also a great time for wildlife viewing as it’s when pools of terrestrial water shrink and concentrate dependent wildlife. It also means semi-aquatic animals are easier to see, such as caiman and anaconda. Note that pink river dolphins usually head to the deeper waters of the Amazon River over low water months.
To learn more, you can read our guide for when to visit Peru.
The Best Time To Visit Ecuador
Ecuador is another of South America’s most visited countries and offers a variety of fantastic attractions. The climate of Ecuador is very similar to Peru mentioned above.
Note that Ecuador is also home to the Galapagos Islands, which experience their own best time to visit.
To start, let’s have a look at the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands
Located 550 miles (900 km) from Ecuador’s coast, the Galapagos Islands are a favorite place to visit.
Home to incredible wildlife sightings, beautiful beaches and warm waters, the islands offer a fantastic vacation destination.
Enjoy spotting giant tortoises, marine iguanas, plants found nowhere else on Earth and the many unique birds.
The Galapagos Islands experience two distinct seasons. There is a warmer season between December and June with temperature between 80ºF (27ºC) and 90ºF (32ºC). With the warm weather, you can expect a little more rain but it shouldn’t be a concern.
Between June and November you can expect a cooler temperature between 70ºF (21ºC) and 80ºF (27ºC).
Note that most of the islands’ wildlife doesn’t migrate and is seen throughout the year. However, if you would like to dive to see manta rays or hammerheads they visit the islands over the warmer period to feed. Some birds are also more easily seen during certain months.
For more information, you can see our guide for when to visit the Galapagos.
When to visit Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest houses a world record breaking number of animals and plants. More species have been found in this section of Amazonia than anywhere else on Earth.
To explore this incredible diversity, we recommend visiting the different protected areas, including the reserves and national parks.
The jewel in the crown of Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest is the Yasuni National Park, which covers over 2 million acres (980,000 hectares). This is where studies have revealed the region’s outstanding biodiversity.
There are some fantastic lodges and cruises for Ecuador’s Amazon, which take you around and through the Yasuni region. Enjoy seeing some fantastic wildlife and scenery on guided tours, such as pink river dolphins, several different monkeys, colorful toucans and parrots and much more.
As with other tropical regions, the temperature difference between day and night is greater than between months. The year is mostly split with the wet season and the dry season.
The dry season from July to November is a great time to travel, as you can enjoy abundant wildlife with drier weather.
The rainforest of Ecuador sticks to a consistent temperature of around 82°F (28°C) as a daily average. The nightly temperature is then a little cooler and drops to around 73°F (23°C).
Ecuador’s Coasts, Beaches and Cities
For the rest of Ecuador, remember to take into consideration altitude and to plan accordingly.
Also note that the coast is best visited between December to May, which is officially the rainy season but also the warmest and sunniest time of year.
It may seem strange if you’re living in temperate regions that the warmer, wetter months are the best times to visit the beaches in Ecuador. However, the rain often begins towards late afternoon and clears by the following morning.
The city of Quito also experiences small temperature differences between months. However, as Quito is at quite a high altitude the temperature at night can get quite low and falls to around 50°F (10°C).
The general rule about traveling in the tropics is to take warmer clothes for evenings and night-times. June to September are then the driest months in Quito.
For more information, you can see our guide for when to visit Ecuador.
The Best Time To Visit Brazil
Brazil is a very large country with different temperatures from the north to the south. The tropics in Brazil’s northern half experiences a similar temperature and conditions as other areas in tropical South America.
There are some fantastic areas to visit in Brazil, such as the different cities that rank as some of the favorite cities on the continent. Brazil also offers the largest amount of Amazon Rainforest of all nine nations crossed by Amazonia.
Brazil also offers beautiful tropical islands, some of the world’s best beaches, the incredible Pantanal Wetlands, the Cerrado Savanna and different waterfalls.
First of all, let’s have a look at Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.
When to Visit Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest from Manaus
Brazil contains the largest amount of Amazon Rainforest, which is often accessed from Brazil’s rainforest gateway of Manaus. Manaus is the largest city in the Amazon Rainforest and also a port of the mighty Amazon River itself.
Note that Manaus is where the Amazon River meets the Rio Negro, which is the Amazon’s largest tributary. In Brazil, from this point onwards the Amazon is known as the Rio Solimões.
The weather in Manaus is similar to other tropical areas. The year is split into a wet season and a dry season.
Although this is a wet tropical forest and rain occurs at all times of year, the wet season experiences more frequent and more intense downpours. Despite this, the rain often clears by sunrise and begins in late afternoon, so shouldn’t affect activities too much.
The dry season in the Manaus region is between May/June and December/January (receiving around 150 mm each month). Note that the driest months in Manaus are July, August and September.
The wet season starts in December/January and ends around May/June (receiving around 250mm each month). Note that the wettest months are March and April.
The temperature in Manaus is hot throughout the year. As mentioned, the main difference in temperature is between day and night rather than between months or seasons. However, a good thing to know is that the hottest months are still usually August to November. Temperature over this time can reach a daily maximum of 37°C (99°F).
As Manaus is a port of the Amazon River, and that a recommended way to experience Amazonia is on a cruise, another important factor to consider is the high and low water season. This usually follows the pattern of the wet and dry season and the main influence is snowmelt from the Andes, which raises the water level.
The high water months are between February/March and July/August. This is a great time for canoeing or getting deeper into the Amazon aboard a cruise. The low water months are the best times for hiking, which are from July/August to February/March.
Because Manaus is a large city, it’s best to join a cruise to travel far from civilization to visit the most untouched areas of forest with the most animals and plants.
The Tucano Expedition Cruise
Our recommendation for visiting the rainforest from Manaus is the Tucano Expedition Cruise.
This award-winning cruise begins and ends in Manaus to take guests on rainforest expeditions down the Rio Negro.
Led by skilled naturalist guides, you won’t be confined to the vessel but will instead explore the rainforest and waterways of Amazonia.
Guided on motorized boating expeditions, enjoy spotting many different animals and plants of the Amazon Rainforest. See the tall emergent rainforest trees, several different monkeys, macaw parrots, toucans and many other colorful birds. You will also enjoy the beautiful scenery of Amazonia.
In addition to wildlife and scenery, you will also visit some settlements deep in the rainforest for a cultural exchange with communities that live in Amazonia.
The Tucano vessel is designed as a 19th Century steamship and with a traditional wood paneling decor. Because of the hull design, the Tucano can also get a little deeper into Amazonia than many other vessels to show off some harder to reach places.
When to Visit Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest from Alta Floresta
In Brazil’s southern Amazon Rainforest, you can find the town Alta Floresta. This is a great place for an Amazon Rainforest experience. Explore the area from the Cristalino Lodge with your highly skilled guide to find many animals and plants.
Explore the rainforest on boats and forest walks to spot different wildlife. Led by your skilled rainforest guide, enjoy spotting several different monkeys, colorful toucans and parrots, river otters and much more.
Because this region of rainforest is next to the Pantanal, another of South America’s most wildlife rich places, some of the wildlife here is found nowhere else in Amazonia.
The rainforest of Alta Floresta was protected from the deforestation happening elsewhere in the region. The Cristalino Reserve, state park and a number of other areas create a protected area mosaic covering over 2 million hectares of Amazon Rainforest. This means there are some fantastic wildlife experiences to enjoy on lodge tours.
As for the best time to visit Alta Floresta and the Cristalino Lodge, here is a summary of different months.
February to March
This is a great time of year to see flowers, such as orchids, bromeliads and heliconias. March sees the Cristalino River at high water and this is also when the forest is at higher humidity. Because the forest is now fruiting and flowering, this is a great time to see different monkeys and birds feeding from abundant food.
April to May
Between April and May is often when a beautiful mist covers the rainforest, which creates some stunning scenery from the top of the Cristalino Lodge canopy towers. The sunsets are also some of the most beautiful over this time. Lots of animals can also be seen caring for their young, including different monkeys. You will also see many butterflies flying through the rainforest.
June to October
This is the coolest time of year in Brazil’s southern Amazon. The rivers are also at their lowest, which means more hiking opportunities. The larger animals are often more easily seen over this period, such as the tapir and giant otters. Monkeys are now in smaller troops because of less food.
November to January
November to January is often the sunniest time of year and when the rainforest it at its greenest. The new rainforest growth is abundant and monkeys and birds have started feeding on the newly arriving fruits and shoots.
Visiting Brazil’s Pantanal
The world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal is a wildlife lovers paradise and offers incredible wildlife experiences. You can have an enjoyable experience no matter when you visit. However, note that the dry season is between May and October with the wetter months between December and March. The dry season is often regarded as the best time for wildlife, but there is still incredible wildlife experiences to be had over wetter months.
Visiting Brazil’s Cities
Many people prefer visiting cities like Rio de Janeiro during the sunniest time of year, which is between December and March. This is the most popular time to visit Rio’s beaches and surrounding islands. February is the time for the famous Carnival. A cooler yet still pleasant time to visit is then between April and May or between October and November.
Sao Paulo is another city best visited between March and May or October and November, which coincides with Spring and Autumn and offers a comfortable temperature and humidity. As with Rio above, Carnival is held in february.
Another favorite city, Salvador is a great place to enjoy a tropical climate and beautiful beaches. This is a year round destination and provides a nice climate no matter when you choose to visit. The high season is December to March, which is also when there are more festivals and events. July and August are also quite busy due to school holidays and US visitors.
Argentina & Chile
Argentina and Chile are other favorite countries to visit in South America. Enjoy the subtropical north, vibrant culture, tour the wine growing regions, see spectacular mountainous scenery and visit lively, historic cities.
Argentina is a large country with the north just below the tropical zone, which offers a subtropical climate. For example, visitors to Iguazú Falls are greeted with warm sunny weather and higher humidity.
Note that even in the north temperature can get very cold in some areas. For example, the Atacama is the world’s driest desert. You can expect cold nightly temperature, which gets down to -2°C (28°F) over the winter months of June, July and August. As an extreme temperature environment, over summer the Atacama can get very hot and midday temperature approaches 40°C (104°F).
If you’re heading to central Argentina, the climate here is a little different to the north as we get farther away from the tropics. We are now in the temperate region with summer in December, January and February. This is also where you can find the wine growing region, such as the region around Mendoza. Given these areas are perfect for growing grapes, they have a Mediterranean climate and can be visited at any time of year.
The south of Argentina is where we leave the tropics far behind. This is where temperature is much colder. However, this also creates some spectacular scenery and is where the famous national parks with glaciers and mountains can be found. Expect temperatures of around 5°C (41°F) between December to March, which is the warmer time to visit with longer days. The winter months are colder and transportation is less reliable and less frequent.
As Chile shares a similar position to Argentina mentioned above, the best times to visit are more or less the same.
For visitors to Chile’s Patagonia region, the warmest time of year to visit with the longest days is between November and March.
The rest of Chile can be visited at any time of year.