The best time to visit Chile is generally determined by the weather, particularly as the southern parts are known for high levels of rainfall and cold temperatures. But given that Chile covers every climate type in the world except tropical, you’re guaranteed to identify the perfect season for timing your visit.
Considering the dates of important bank holidays and celebrations in Chile will also help you to experience Chile’s cultural activities, as well as enabling you to plan around the disruption that these can cause to travel.
When is usually considered the best season for visiting Chile?
The Chilean summer is the time when most visitors from around the globe visit and therefore generally considered the best time to visit Chile.
What to expect in Summer (the high season)
Zona Central and Zona Sur: If you’re planning a trip to Chile between December and February, you’re not alone. Indeed, school vacations in Chile, an influx of Brazilian and Argentine tourists and santiaguinos escaping the capital result in tourist favorites, such as the beaches of Viña del Mar, swarming with visitors. With the capital’s residents elsewhere, summer is a fantastic time to visit Santiago, but only if you can withstand its exceptionally dry, Mediterranean climate.
Norte Chico and Norte Grande: San Pedro de Atacama is also a hub of tourist activity during this period. The burning summer’s sun and temperatures that top 100°F (38°C) can sap even the most committed of tourist’s energy. Blue, clear skies are excellent for photographs and star gazing, however.
Zona Austral: Tourism in Torres del Paine National Park also hits its peak, with accommodations booked up solidly and high footfall on its trails. Although the weather in Torres del Paine is warmer and less prone to rainfall at this time of the year, winds are at their strongest. Further south, cruise ships profit from the calmer summer waters to round Cape Horn and to explore the flora and fauna of the Chilean fjords.
What to expect in fall and spring (the shoulder seasons)
Central and Southern Zone: The shoulder months of September to November and March through to May are surprisingly pleasant throughout Chile, with grape harvests and wine festivals in the valleys south of Santiago.
Norte Chico and Norte Grande: Temperatures in the north of Chile remain warm, with San Pedro, Iquique and La Serenas’ desert and semi-arid climates making the fall season a good time to visit. Temperatures at night, particularly in the altiplano regions of the Atacama Desert and the higher altitude Elqui Valley, can drop as far as 32°F (0°C).
Zona Austral: Temperatures remain reasonably mild in Patagonia, with cooler temperatures and calmer winds making this season suited to hiking and other outdoor activities.
What to expect in winter (the low season)
Zona Central and Zona Sur: Winter is the best time to visit Chile if you want to ski, particularly along the stretch of the Andes closest to Santiago and Zona Sur where a range of ski centers are located. Higher levels of precipitation in lower regions make waterproof clothing an essential way of dealing with the climate.
Norte Chico and Norte Grande: Cooler temperatures, including freezing nighttime lows, are typical during the winter months. However, travelling during this period means lower prices and less need to book in advance thanks to the reduced volume of tourists.
Zona Austral: Snowfall restricts transport and travelling becomes more onerous. Most of the tourist infrastructure in the region closes for the season, although national parks remain open and become even more beautiful in snowy weather.
The best time to visit Chile for festivals and celebrations
May 21: Celebrations dedicated to the heroism of Commander Arturo Prat and the crew of the Esmeralda during the War of the Pacific are held in Valparaíso. Processions of armed forces, dancers dressed in traditional costumes and gauchos on horseback parade through Valparaíso’s streets.
September 18, 19: Independence Day and Armed Forces Day are celebrated across the country. Parades, festivals, indigenous foods and the Cueca, the national dance of Chile, mark these two important holidays.
The first two weeks of February: Fiesta Tapati on Easter Island is an annual festival that seeks to promote the unique culture of Easter Island and sees young people competing to be named the “Queen” of the festival through various competitions, including swimming, canoeing, dancing and singing.