South America is a vast continent. It has thousands of miles of shoreline and more than 450 ports. Its geography is divided into three regions: mountains and highlands, river basins and coastal plains. It is home to one of the longest rivers in the world and to the Amazon Rainforest, Machu Picchu and so much more. Investing in a cruise to South America is a fabulous way to unplug from the mundaneness of daily life and experience something truly unique. When considering a South American cruise, there are factors to think about when deciding when to book.
Weather & Seasons
Weather is always a consideration when deciding when to travel. The South American winter runs from June to September, and so here is when you’ll get your coolest temperatures. Several countries get snow during this time of year. The rainy season runs from January through March, and it is a bit warmer during this season than in the drier months of November through May.
The continent is so big, though, with such a range of geographical features, such as elevation and vegetation, that you’ll need to focus in on a specific region and time of year to wring out the details. The best time to cruise South America depends on the person doing the traveling, so knowing exactly what you want will help you make those decisions.
Again, because it is so expansive, South America experiences different weather phenomena depending on where you are. Check the cruise lines to see when fares are lowest due to a lower volume of travelers. Generally, the cheapest rates occur during spring (late September to late December) and fall (March to May).
The countries themselves offer some financial distinctions. Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia are pretty inexpensive countries to travel in, comparatively. Argentina, Brazil and Chile are more expensive, and Colombia is sort of in the middle. No matter where you are, you can count on rates to rise during the busy tourist seasons.
Culture & Geographic Sites
Going back to the running theme of the sheer size of South America, all of those disparate cultures and geographical features can leave you reeling, so you’ll need to choose what you want to be present for. If, for instance, you want to see Machu Picchu, the months on either side of the rainy season are ideal because things are drying out but the dry season, with its crowds, hasn’t arrived yet.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands during spring or fall should ensure calm weather, which is perfect for snorkeling and sailing.
Ecuador’s Dia de Los Difuntos (Day of the Dead) is on November 2nd and it features a rousing festival atmosphere, just like the celebration of the city of Guayaquil’s independence, which is on October 9th.
The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro hosts the annual Rio Festival in February. One of the biggest and most raucous festivals in the world, it is world-renowned for its displays of personality.
An ideal time to visit Patagonia is in the spring or summer, where the dry, mild climate provides conditions conducive to hiking and checking out wildlife.
Fall is a great time to visit Argentina if you’re a wine connoisseur looking to embark on a wine-tasting tour, as Mendoza will be in the throes of wine-making during that season. Fall is also a beneficial time to take an Amazon River Cruise because the water is high and otherwise impassable waterways become accessible. This is also the beginning of the mating season for many animals, so they will be moving around. Conversely, visiting the Amazon Rainforest during the dry season means that more trails are open, the fishing is better and there are fewer mosquitos.
An important consideration when booking your South American cruise is to make sure you know what your own expectations are. Weather, finance and culture are elements to consider, as long as you remember that sometimes unsettled weather might lead to something that you want to be there to see, like a flooded coastal plain or a migration of birds or other wildlife.