Fellow Americans often come to me with the question: when is the best time to visit Chile? Now, the answer to this question is quite complicated. In fact, it varies depending on the region of Chile that you hope to visit. Before I give my recommendations, it’s important first to remember that Chile is located deep in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus, its seasons run opposite to ours. For example, the summer months are December, January, and February. Therefore, for those of you contemplating visiting during the Northern Hemisphere summer, you may want to re-think this decision. Traveling to Chile during June, July, or August will involve cold weather! In this post, I hope to provide you with enough information to decide the best time to visit Chile, depending on the places you’d like to go.
I’ll be starting with Santiago, the capital of Chile, as this is where most tourists enter the country via the International Airport. Santiago has a very agreeable climate, with warm to hot summer days and short, temperate winters. If you’re hoping to participate in outdoorsy activities while in the capital, rainfall typically won’t be a problem as the city experiences lengthy dry spells. Many tourists will likely prefer visiting Santiago in November or March, as these are the most pleasant months during the spring and fall shoulder seasons. December through February are generally hot months. If you happen to be visiting Santiago for winter sports activities, the best time to visit is June through early September, with August proving to be a particularly popular month for skiers and snowboarders to visit the Andes. It’s essential to keep in mind that the temperature tends to fluctuate from warmer during the day to much cooler at night, so make sure to pack layers when traveling to Santiago.
Valparaíso has a similar climate to Santiago, although its summers tend to be slightly cooler and its winters slightly warmer in comparison to the capital. There are many popular beach destinations close to Valpo, all of which flood with people during the summertime. For sunny, pleasant weather with fewer tourists, I recommend visiting in November or March. However, if you’re planning to squeeze in a few beach days, you may want to come during the peak of summer, January, or February.
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
San Pedro de Atacama is easily one of the biggest reasons that travelers decide to put Chile on their bucket list. This small desert town has become a hotspot due to the nearby and stunning displays of nature, such as Valle de La Luna, Geyser del Tatio, Ojos del Salar, the Lagunas Altiplánicas, and more. If San Pedro is a “must do” activity on your list, then you’re in luck because there’s no wrong time to go. For warm-weather activities, your best bet may be visiting sometime between late September and mid-April. This region’s climate is generally dry (receiving little to no rain) and sunny; nonetheless, to air on the safe side, you may want to avoid visiting in January through March. This period, referred to as the Altiplanic winter, is when travelers could expect to experience occasional rainfall. However, I want to highlight that rainfall is still infrequent, even during this period. The Atacama desert is busiest with tourists from December to February; therefore, I recommend visiting from September to November if you’d like to experience great weather with fewer tourists around (plus cheaper hotel prices!).
The Elqui Valley, located in northern Chile, is known as the country’s pisco-producing region. Apart from being home to a majority of Chile’s distilleries, this area also has some great camping and stargazing spots. You’ll want to visit during the warmer months of the year, sometime between November and March is best. For stargazing, clear skies are more common outside of winter.
LAKE DISTRICT + CHILOÉ
The Chilean Lake District runs from the city of Temuco to Puerto Montt, including everything from volcanoes, natural hot springs, lakes (duh), and mountains. Pucón is my favorite city within this region and is famous as a spot for adventure activities during the summer. Additionally, I’ve included the island of Chiloé along with the Lake District as it’s only a short drive from this area and is 100% worth checking out. When packing for your trip, make sure to grab a raincoat! The Lake District and Chiloé experience heavy rainfall throughout the year. Nonetheless, you can expect lighter rain during the summer months, making December through February the prime months to visit.
TORRES DEL PAINE
Torres del Paine is the biggest attraction in Chilean Patagonia, drawing adventure travelers from around the world each year. The peak season for hiking and outdoor activities is between December and March when the weather is ideal for exploring the park. Furthermore, the shoulder months of November, April, and May are great options for budget travelers seeking more affordable accommodations. Whenever you decide to go, make sure to avoid planning your trip between June and August, as many attractions are actually closed during this time.
Although Easter Island is located over 2,300 miles from Santiago, it is officially a part of Chile and has been since the late 19th century. As with many of the regions mentioned here, the best time to visit is the summer, from December to February. Tourism is bustling during these months, even causing the number of flights into the Mataveri International Airport to surge. Rainfall is to be expected when visiting Easter Island; however, the heaviest months for rain are April, May, and June.
OTHER INTERESTING DATES TO VISIT
- September 18th (Chilean Independence Day) and 19th (“Day of the Glories of the Army”) are both national holidays as part of Fiestas Patrias. These festivities include parties, barbecues, cueca, and traditional Chilean food.
- From February to May, vendimias (wine festivals) take place in all of the wine-producing regions of the country.