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When to Visit Patagonia for Landscape Photography

This article is part of the Complete Guide to Photography in Patagonia

Trees with autumn colour surrounding the waterfall Chorrillo del Salto

Most landscape photographers visit Patagonia in autumn. The leaves are at their peak, the light is good, and the days are a good length for photographers to make the most out of sunrise and sunset.

However, the best time of year to visit Patagonia could depend on what else you want to see and the other activities you want to try. You might be looking for the ultimate quiet, snowy winter landscape or the chance to do longer treks during the warmer summer months. Here's a summary of each season and what it could mean for your visit.

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Visiting Patagonia in the Spring

Sunrise (October): 0650

Sunset (October): 2025

Waves breaking over rocks in front of the mountains in Torres del Paine

Spring runs from September to November in Patagonia and is when the more mountainous areas of the region start to open up from the winter. That means there are more frequent flights, the hiking trails are more accessible, and you are more likely to see young wildlife in the hills.

For photographers, the biggest draw is the wildflowers that mostly bloom in the spring and make interesting foregrounds for landscape images. The climate is mild (50°F-65°F / 10°C-18°C), but it's likely to rain often, with high winds and large variations from one day to the next. High winds in Patagonia often cause lenticular clouds to form, which can be a spectacular addition to landscape photographs.

This is Patagonia's shoulder season, so the National Parks and most popular spots will be slightly less busy, so you'll find it easier to get cheaper and better accommodation. More photographers visit in autumn than spring, so you're also more likely to get the best spots to yourself in peak light.

For landscape photography in Patagonia, it's hard to beat autumn, but spring is a close second. If photography is not the only goal of your visit, and you're looking for potentially cheaper and quieter options where you can still hike and watch wildlife and capture some great images of the landscape, this is the time to come.

Visiting Patagonia in the Summer

Sunrise (January): 0607

Sunset (January): 2153

A piece of driftwood in front of the mountains at Torres del Paine

Summer in Patagonia is between December and February and is peak tourist season. Most people visit Patagonia for hiking and outdoor activities, and the long days and warmer weather make summer the best time of year for most visitors.

Patagonia is a hiking region, and the trails are all fully open in the summer. In Torres del Paine, people come for the W and the O - spectacular multi-day hikes around the mountains, named for the overall shape of the routes. El Chaltén, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, offers everything from simple day hikes to multi-day adventures into the mountains, and most of the longer routes are easier or only accessible in the summer.

For photographers, there isn't much to recommend summer over the shoulder seasons. The long days mean plenty of opportunity to get outside, but the sunrise is very early, and the sunset is very late, making it difficult to capture both on the same day. This makes photography more difficult in El Chaltén, where most good spots require a hike. The long days will make it more challenging to reach them for sunrise, and an act of endurance to wait out the harsh midday light for sunset in the hills.

The climate in summer is warm but variable (55°F-75°F / 13°C-24°C). Patagonia's weather is changeable at any time of year, so it's likely that you'll experience a range of conditions whenever you decide to visit. This means there is still at least the potential for dramatic skies in your images.

If you plan to visit Patagonia mainly for landscape photography, I recommend avoiding the summer months. There are more visitors overall (though likely you'd find the best photography spots quieter for the very early sunrise), and accommodation will be at its most expensive and scarce. However, if you plan to do some of the longer hikes in the area, this may be a better option, and it will give you the best chance of getting to more unusual and less-photographed locations for unique images.

Visiting Patagonia in the Autumn

Sunrise (April): 0835

Sunset (April): 1905

A tree with an autumn landscape in front of Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia

Autumn in Patagonia is between March and May, and it is peak photography season. Most professional tours visit Patagonia in these months, and tripods are almost as common a sight as walking poles. The autumn foliage draws photographers at this time of year, and the landscape around El Chaltén is particularly transformed by the autumn colours. Although all seasons have their advantages, the type and amount of trees in Patagonia make the autumn landscape a truly incredible sight.

In autumn, the hiking trails start to close, so some of the longer hikes (like the W and the O in Torres del Paine) may not be possible, depending on the exact timing of your visit. This means there are fewer general visitors, so accommodation may be slightly easier to find for photographers. However, autumn in Patagonia is so popular among photographers that sunrise at many popular spots may be just as busy during peak light as in summer. There will be opportunities to get the landscape to yourself, but you'll meet plenty of other photographers during sunrise at popular locations like the "secret" waterfall near El Chaltén or Salto Grande in Torres del Paine.

The climate in autumn is hugely variable, with incredible winds changing to total calm or snow one day becoming a dry, sunny day the next. The temperatures range from 45°F-65°F / 7°C-18°C, and you'll need to pack plenty of layers and be prepared for anything.

Landscape photography in the autumn is often driven by the vivid reds and yellows of the season, but there are two main considerations for fall photography in Patagonia:

  • In Torres del Paine, wildfires in 2005 and 2011 left large areas of the park with fewer living trees, so getting great images in the park will not necessarily rely on autumn colour. This means you can be more flexible about the timing of your visit to Torres del Paine during autumn.

  • Around El Chaltén, trees cover the landscape, which is transformed by the autumn colour. However, the peak colour comes and goes very quickly, so the timing of your visit is critical. The high winds in Patagonia can strip the trees with just a moment of bad weather, so you can find that even missing the peak by a few days will radically change the images you can get.

I last visited Patagonia in 2023 and peak foliage happened in El Chaltén around 10th April 2023. This changes each year depending on rainfall and other climate conditions.

Autumn is the best time of year to visit Patagonia for landscape photography. Most photography tours are arranged for this time of year, and you'll find plenty of well-known landscape photographers in the region. However, if hiking is also important to you and you are interested in getting more unusual photographs of the area, there are plenty of reasons to visit in spring instead. If possible, plan your trip with enough flexibility to not miss peak colour in El Chaltén.

Visiting Patagonia in the Winter

Sunrise (July): 0938

Sunset (July): 1816

A piece of ice in a glacier lagoon in front of the mountain Cerro Torre in Patagonia

Winter in Patagonia is between June and August and is the most quiet time of year to visit Patagonia. Even within smaller sections of Patagonia, there are microclimates that mean you will not experience a consistent, cold winter landscape, and the weather can be unpredictable but sometimes mild. Temperatures range from 45°F-65°F / 7°C-18°C and will vary greatly depending on your location.

Longer hiking routes aren't used in the winter, and many remote refugios will not be open. You'll also find fewer services, with some tours not running and accommodation slightly harder to find. That said, the shorter hiking trails are still accessible, and there are opportunities for winter sports if you want to add a different range of activities to your trip.

For photographers, snow can totally change a landscape and alter everything from the colour of the peaks to the atmosphere of the scenes you'll find. There is still the chance to see wildlife in the valleys, and most of the best locations for photography are perfectly accessible during winter. Since most photographers visit in the autumn, this can be your opportunity to capture something different in the area.

A winter trip to Patagonia would be more of an adventure than other months, and you might find parts of it more difficult and slower to access. However, if you want to visit some of the best photography locations in the world at a quieter time and with a different atmosphere, it could be an incredible experience and photographically very rewarding. Especially if you like winter sports, this could be an unusual and interesting time to visit Patagonia.

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