This is late autumn in Patagonia and the region starts to slow way down. If you don't mind the chilly and potential wet weather, this can be a quiet time to visit. Winds are not quite as strong as they are in the summer and the northern forests offer the last peeks of brightly-colored fall foliage.
Keep in mind that daily highs fall into the mid-40s with lows in the 30s making brisk conditions for outdoor exploration. Not only that but rain showers are more likely, while daylight hours are shortening leading up to winter, so you'll have less time to hit the trails. Pack plenty of layers and outdoor gear for all types of inclement weather, as you may experience all four seasons in the same day.
Crowds & Costs
May is the final month of Patagonia's post-summer shoulder season without the threat of Easter crowds (like April). That makes this month a great time to take advantage of consistent off-season pricing. In other words, both hotel rates and crowds are at some of their lowest numbers of the year before the winter ski season picks up steam. Note: Seasonal closings for lodgings and services that are not located in ski resorts are possible starting this month—in other words, it's wise to book your trip at least three months early to ensure availability.
Where to Go
For first-time travelers coming to Patagonia, two nationals parks usually make the list: Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares, both of which offer some of the world’s most beautiful natural sculptures rising from the vast Patagonian landscape.
In general, this is a quiet time to explore the region due to inclement weather, fewer tour services, and accommodation closures. For instance, you may not be able to stay overnight inside Torres del Paine this time of year, but you can take day-trips to the park (open all year) from the port city of Puerto Natales.
Another option is to hit the coast and follow the steps of Charles Darwin to see Patagonia the way he saw it back in 1833. Located on a bay in the Patagonian region of Tierra del Fuego, the city of Ushuaia sits between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel (this is the same waterway where Darwin rode the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago).
Make sure to get out and walk along the waterfront for a better glimpse of the majestic mountains and impressive channel. You can take a day-trip to Martillo Island to observe the sizeable colonies of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins, and then return to the southernmost city in the world (Ushuaia) in time for dinner.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Since organized tours for Patagonia's most popular inland parks and destinations tend to wind down for the winter season, you'll likely explore on your own this time of year. That being said, outdoor enthusiasts will still have plenty of options to see the iconic landscapes, major glaciers, and unique wildlife, though the cooling weather, early snowfall, and potential road closures may present challenges in terms of the best mountain-related adventures.
There are also stunning bike trails that run from north to south all along Patagonia along the border between Chile and Argentina, but again, winter weather can arrive early. If it does, you may find that ski resorts, especially in Argentine Patagonia may open early if they've received enough snow in the southern Andes (most ski resorts operate between June and September). You can always rely on Patagonia's coastal hubs, though, for year-round local culture, marine and bird life, as well as walking trails.
Events in May
The Descent of the Muleteers Festival. During the second week of the month in Argentina's Loncopué, there's a folkloric festival with dancing and regional food held at Estancia Santa Teresita.
Rosehip Binational Festival. Come to Argentina's town of Bariloche in early May for this important local celebration involving the Argentinian and Chilean contenders for the Queen of Rosehip—an election decided from a jury composed by members from both countries.
Overall, this is a quiet month for Patagonia in terms of events and festivals.
Traveling to Patagonia in May? Check out these great itineraries.
Patagonia & Iguazu Falls. This adventurous 13-day itinerary combines Argentina's most spectacular scenery in the far north and south. After getting to know Buenos Aires with a local guide, you’ll head to the Brazilian border to hike around hundreds of waterfalls. Then, fly to Patagonia where you'll get up close to glaciers and partake in a range of outdoor activities.
Patagonia & the Atacama Desert. Explore regions on both ends of Chile's latitudinal spectrum with this 10-day itinerary. After getting a taste of Santiago, fly north to the Atacama desert—an oasis in the driest part in the world known for geysers, moonscapes, and starry skies. Then fly all the way south to Patagonia's Punta Arenas where you'll meet a penguin colony before finishing in Torres del Paine National Park for a range of activities and wildlife viewing.