The enormous continent of South America is a well sought-after location for gap year travelers. As such, we often get asked: When the best time to join the South America Explorer program? However, in such a sizeable continent filled with a large variety of ecosystems and altitudes, this question can be a bit tricky to answer.
During the first three weeks in Peru, South America Explorer participants learn to navigate using their newly gained Spanish skills in Cusco, enjoy the breathtaking views of the Andes and Machu Picchu, and adventure across the Northern beaches. As you can see, this already brings about a large variety of altitudes and temperature possibilities!
Peru can be visited all year round. However, depending on what you fancy, it may be helpful to know the country experiences two main seasons, dry and wet.
The dry season, (May-September), is the great time of the year to experience Cusco. Mild temperatures claim this area all year round, but this time of year promises blue skies and fewer rain showers.
Likewise, the Andes share the same wet and dry seasons. Trekking to Machu Picchu during the dry season offers endless sunshine and incredibly clear views.
The dry season often brings about a dense fog across Lima, called La Garua. Yet, as participants travel north across the coast, the sun gradually begins to break through the mist and beaches can be enjoyed.
The wet season, (December- March) is often accompanied by frequent heavy showers. However, temperatures are a bit higher during this time of year as this is also summer time in Peru. As such, Lima is hot and humid and the coast is bright, warm and sunny, making the ocean temperature incredibly comfortable for swimming.
Leaving Cusco and the Andes mountains behind, South America Explorer participants set off for Ecuador for an additional 4 weeks. This phase is all about giving back though learning about he Ecuadorian community and environment. Participants dive deep into the jungle to volunteer in an Animal Rescue Centre and emerge into Quito to experience tradition customs and culture.
Ecuador can also be explored all year-round. In cities like Puyo, temperature varies so little throughout the year that it is not entirely meaningful to discuss hot or cold seasons. Weather differences here actually can often be associated with regional differences in micro-climates rather than defined seasons.
The drier season is technically from June to September. However, at higher altitudes, and amongst volcanos, it is not uncommon to experiences the phenomenon of, four seasons in one day. Likewise, it rains year-round in the Amazon, but December to May are often particularly soggy.
Participants looking to explore the exquisite churches of Quito, or fancy taking an adventurous volcano can come away with great travel memories all throughout the year.
For those looking to extend the South America Explore program to the Galapagos, there is great travel news to hear! Because, the truth is that the Galapagos have incredible weather all year round. It is directly on the equator after all!
That being said, if you prefer hot and sunny vs cloudy and cooler, there are still better times than others to visit. Throughout June to the beginning of September, the temperatures are generally a bit cooler and the sea is a bit breezier, leaving the earth dry and brown. Looking for the classic tropical feel? Try to visit the Galapagos between January and May, when the sun is intense, the air is hot and humid and occasional downpours bring about lush vegetation.
So, when is the best time to travel to South America?
With its vast size and altitude contrasts, there really is no single best time to join the South America Explorer program. However, depending on where you would like to explore and what temperature you find most comfortable, it is possible to create your perfect trip during your own opportune season.
Looking for more information? Try downloading the South America Explorer brochure: https://gapforce.org/gap-year-programs/program/south-america-explore