When most people think about exploring the Southern Hemisphere, it’s to escape winter here in North America. But what if winter is the point? Here is a list of a few of the best that the lower half of the globe has to offer.
Argentina is an excellent choice any time of the year. It’s got friendly people, good weather, an absolutely exquisite culinary scene, and its wine is world class, being the fifth-largest producer in the world. And, of course, its natural beauty is the true highlight. Looking to ski or ride? Head to Las Leñas. Perched 11,253 feet above sea level in the Argentinian Andes, it’s one of South America’s largest ski resorts with a 3,937-foot vertical drop and a mind-bending 17,500 skiable acres. Oh, and if looking for the best Malbec, head to Mendoza, it’s the Napa Valley of Argentina.
If looking to ski the steepest, hardest stuff in the summer then it must be Portillo. Perched in the Valparaíso Region of the Andes northeast of Santiago, the entire resort sits above treeline and tops out at 10,860 feet. With a 2,500-foot vertical drop, and snow comparable to the Rockies, this is the place where Olympians train. With more than 1,235 acres, there’s something for everyone, but it’s world-renowned for its steeps and chutes. If the 14 lifts are too crowded (doubtful), helicopters take the hardcore into the wild backcountry to carve freshies into untouched powder. If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s been in countless Warren Miller films. For hiking and general jaw gaping, head toward the southern tip of the continent to visit Torres del Paine National Park. It boasts more glaciers than any other part of Patagonia. It’s also famous for the area’s big peaks, Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. Blue skies, pleasant temps, and best of all: no crowds.
Hands down, Northern Hemisphere summer is the best time to visit Bolivia, as it’s their dry season. This tends to mean higher prices and more visitors, so be aware. The country is large and has wildly varying altitudes, but in general, it’ll be pretty cool wherever you go. Hire a jeep and drive across the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s salt flats. See ancient cactus, pink flamingos, rare hummingbirds and an endless sea of pristine white salt stretching as far as the eye can see. Bring a good camera, it’s a favorite for those wacky forced-perspective shots.
Hike through the haunting Valle de las Animas, or Valley of the Souls. Clusters of rock form craggy peaks and deep gorges, all in the shadow of Bolivia’s highest peak, the snow-capped 15,000-foot Illimani. Or visit the Bolivian Badlands, the Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon. Hike through thousands and thousands of narrow peaks that look like stalagmites across the desert floor. It’s a landscape like no other.
When done, visit the strange and utterly fascinating witches market in La Paz. Booths line the streets with folk remedies, aphrodisiac potions, and dried frogs, dried llama fetuses, soapstone figures, owl feathers, dried turtles and herbs for spells to bring luck and prosperity. All the while witch doctors mingle through the crowd offering fortune telling.
4. New Zealand
There really is no bad time to visit New Zealand. July is typically low season for tourism so it’s cheaper and there are significantly fewer crowds. The native forests are evergreen and the temps never really dip down too far. On the North Island, visitors can live out those Lord of the Rings fantasies and hike in the mountains around Auckland. For snow sports, the North Island has Whakapapa and Tūroa, the country’s largest ski resorts. Oh, and they are volcanoes. Actual volcanoes. Yes, ski down a volcano.
On the South Island, Queenstown is the proud home of four, count ’em four, ski resorts. If that sounds too groomed, go off-piste and take to the skies for epic heli-skiing. Too much effort? Soak in the hot springs of Great Barrier Island or soak in the stunning landscapes of Milford Sound. Go whale watching along the South Island’s eastern shore or traverse the magnificent Southern Alps by train through native beech forests, along the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River. It’s one of the world’s great train journeys.
While your friends will be sweating it up back home, you’ll need to bring some warmer clothes along for your Southern Hemisphere winter. You’ll want to make sure you have the right clothes to stay comfortable no matter what activity you decide to do. Rab is known for its base layers, while Homeschool can provide you with rugged outerwear for mountain sports. Stay comfortable no matter the temperature with hoods and neck warmers from PAG. All of them use 37.5 Technology in their fabrics, which helps the body maintain an ideal core body temperature during any activity. Now get your passport ready and pack those bags. Winter is here—in August!
Written by Shaine Smith for Matcha in partnership with 37.5.
Featured image provided by Andre Charland