Beautiful colonial yet modernized capital city? Check. Sprawling wine vineyards? Check. The Western Hemisphere’s largest desert? Check. Skiing in the Andes and Patagonia? Another check. And what about a Polynesian island home to one of the world’s most fascinating and illusive ancient cultures? Yes, they’ve got that too.
Like many of its neighbors, Chile offers an impressive mix of fascinating culture and natural splendor with destinations sure to appear in the top spots on bucket lists of world travelers everywhere.
This remarkably long country spans from the world's highest and driest desert in the Atacama down to Punta Arenas, Chilean Patagonia's entry point to Antarctica. Throw in exotic Easter Island, the vineyards of Colchagua & Casablanca and the trails of Las Torres and you'll be sure to find that Chile is the ultimate spot for adventurists, wine lovers and explorers.
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PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO CHILE
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT CHILE?
The second longest country in the world (beaten only by neighboring Brazil), Chile is home to incredible diversity when it comes to climates and ecosystems. This means that no matter what time of year it is, at least one region in Chile will be in the midst of its prime season.
Beginning from the North, Atacama Desert is known as one of the driest places on the planet. The lack of precipitation generally allows for a good amount of sunshine all year round, though temperatures can drop quite low during the late fall and early winter months of May, June and July. Peak season begins in October and extends through March. Nevertheless, Atacama is a year-long destination and many visitors often prefer the off season months as it allows for less crowds and less air pollution, the latter of which can make a big difference for star gazers coming to experience Atacama's renowned astronomical delights. Nearby northern coastal cities such as Arica and Iquique have similar weather. Though not widely known as a top beach destination, Chile's northern coastline does offer some incredible spots to surf (or just work on a tan).
Chile's central region is home to both Santiago, the nation's capital and its famed nearby beach towns, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. The weather in Santiago is relatively similar to that of Buenos Aires, with mild weather for most of the year and warm, mostly dry summers reaching up to the high 90s. Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are best enjoyed during from late spring to early fall (October to March) for those looking to spend some time at the beach. Winter (May to August) is the central region's rainier season but temperatures don't normally fall below 50 - 60 degrees in the daytime. However, less than 30 miles from Santiago in the nearby snow-capped Andes reside some of South America's premier ski mountains. Ski resorts such as Portillo and Valle Nevado can be done in a day trip from Santiago anytime during the ski season from June through October.
Chile's famed wine region is also within driving distance from Santiago. The Maipo and Colchagua Valleys are located to the south of the city, while Casablanca and Aconcagua are to the north. Chile's wine harvest festivals tend to be slightly later than those in Argentina, running from mid March to mid/late April. However, as with Argentina's wine region, the Mediterranean-like climate ensures lovely weather throughout the year with lots of sunshine.
Moving south we find ourselves in the northern region of Patagonia, also referred to as the Lake District. The Lake District, known for its volcanoes and emerald-like lagoons, covers quite a significant area of the country and includes destinations such as Pucón, Puerto Varas, Huilo Huilo and Chiloé Island, the last of which is home to the Humboldt penguin. As to be expected, northern Patagonia is not as cold as its southern part and can provide a nice taste of the region for those traveling during North American or European summer months like July or August. Some areas offer skiing or snow-shoeing during these colder months. Like the rest of Patagonia, high season is from October through March, when conditions are ideal for activities such as hiking, trekking and water rafting.
Chile's southernmost region is comprised primarily of Torres del Paine National Park, considered by many the gem of Patagonia. While the park remains open year-round, many lodges close from May/June to early September. We at Craft Travel are huge fans of the early season in late September and early to mid October, as the park is less crowded and conditions remain pristine. While temperatures do rise during high season and the summer months, sometimes reaching the low to mid 70s, weather in southern Patagonia is highly unpredictable and it is often said that while hiking the famed Las Torres base trek you can experience all four seasons within a single day. Punta Arenas is the region's largest city and is home to a port boasting cruises to spots such as the nearby Chilean fjords, the Argentinean Patagonia city of Ushuaia and even Antarctica (check out our Antarctica page for more info!). From November to February, travelers in Punta Arenas can take a ferry to Isla Magdalena and visit local penguin colonies, though the effects of climate change over the past few years has made spotting the creatures a bit more difficult.
Last but not least is Easter Island, a 5.5 hour plane ride from Santiago but far worth the ride for those seeking a truly exotic and exhilarating experience. The easternmost member of the Polynesian triangle, Easter Island boasts a humid, subtropical climate but with milder temperatures than its counterparts; with a summertime high never exceeding 80 degrees it is cooler than Hawaii, but even in its winter months never reaches New Zealand-like temperatures. As such Easter Island is a fantastic year-round destination, though winter months can be slightly windy. Many travelers visit the island for the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival which occurs annually during the last week of January and first week of February.
HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND IN CHILE?
Chile is a country that easily requires two to three weeks to sufficiently experience its grandeur. Nevertheless, whether it be for a weekend getaway or a spring break week, there are plenty of ways to get a taste for its highlights. Our packages above and below offer some suggestions as to how to optimize these combinations and we are happy to provide you with customized itineraries based on your needs and interests, always free of charge.
Every traveler is different and that is why we at Craft Travel are here to customize your itinerary to fit your exact needs. Nevertheless, here are our general recommendations for minimum stays in each major destination in Chile:
Atacama Desert: 3-5 nights
Santiago: 1-3 nights
Valparaíso or Viña del Mar: 1-3 nights
Lake District: 1-4 nights
Torres del Paine: 3-6 nights
Wine Region (Maipo Valley, Colchagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, Acongagua Valley): 1-4 nights
Easter Island: 3-5 nights (note that most itineraries will require a night in Santiago before and/or after due to flight times)
WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES IN SOUTH AMERICA CAN I COMBINE CHILE WITH?
All it takes is one look at a map to see that Chile and Argentina share one of the world's longest international borders. The proximity and the various border crossing points from north to south result in a fantastic opportunity to combine visits to Chile and Argentina. One of the most popular crossings is found in southern Patagonia in the border town of Cerro Castillo. Travelers visiting Torres del Paine or Punta Arenas can make the 4-5 hour car or bus ride via Cerro Castillo to arrive in El Calafate, Argentina, home to the famed Perito Moreno Glacier. The Lake District also provides easy access to Argentina via boat aboard the Cruce Andino lake crossing ferry. This day-long trip not only takes you to Bariloche, Argentina, it also provides stunning views of the region's many lakes and volcanoes. Many of our wine programs combine Santiago's wine regions and those in Mendoza, Argentina. And after a visit to the Atacama Desert, why not driver over to northern Argentina to check out its renowned archaeological artifacts and Mars-like terrain? in We have an extensive blog post which highlights the best ways of combining Chile and Argentina itineraries.
We also offer packages combining the Atacama Desert and northern Chile with the Bolivian salt flats in Uyuni. For those with more time, the journey can extended north from La Paz to Lake Titicaca, where travelers can cross from Bolivia into Puno, Peru.
Chile is also one of the only countries in the world from which you can depart to Antarctica. So for anyone considering making the trek to the world's coldest and least visited continent, a tour through Chile either before or after makes for the perfect complement.
Because Santiago is the hub city for LATAM Airlines, South America's most dominant airline and One World alliance member, it is easy to combine Chile with most destinations in South America as virtually all major cities offer a direct flight into Santiago via LATAM. Just let your Craft Travel Planner know what you're most interested in and we will be happy to come up with a customized itinerary that is right for you.