Chile is 2,653 miles long, has seven major climatic subtypes, and boasts extremely diverse geography. All of these factors mean the weather varies greatly from region to region. It's located in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning its seasons are reversed from the Northern Hemisphere. (For example, summer is December through February.) The northern regions of Chile only have two seasons, dry and wet, and contain the driest place in the whole world: the Atacama Desert. The center of the country contains beach towns like Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, warm weather havens with cool sea breezes. Weather and climate will vary within Patagonia itself, but generally, it has abundant sunshine, long days, strong winds in summer, and gets colder the further south you go.
Earthquakes in Chile
Much of Chile sits on the Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile horseshoe-shaped line of tectonic plates responsible for most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanoes. The largest earthquake in modern history happened in Valdivia, Chile in 1960, measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale and setting off a tsunami in its wake. Major earthquakes generally only occur every 25 to 100 years in Chile, however, smaller earthquakes happen throughout the country regularly. Should you experience one while there, do not go outside. Stay away from glass windows and place yourself under a door frame or beam until the movement has stopped. Register with your embassy before you travel, should you need to receive emergency updates on earthquakes or any other travel advisories.
Different Regions in Chile
The Norte Grande
Travelers journey to the Norte Chico to see the Atacama Desert, salt flats, the world’s highest geyser, and to view the stars from one of its many observatories. Surfers ride the waves at the Norte Grande beaches in the summer when the temperatures go into the 60s F. The whole region is dry nearly year-round, except for summer months on the Altiplano, the high plateau Chile shares with Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina. The Altiplano experiences the Invierno Altiplanico in the summer when heavy rains fall in the area and roads can sometimes flood. Temperatures in this region can vary greatly, where highs can range from 86 to 122 degrees F (30 to 50 degrees C) during the day and lows can dip to 5 degrees F (15 degrees C) at night.
The Norte Chico encompasses the coastal cities of La Serena and Caldera, as well as the Elqui Valley, where pisco makers churn out the national beverage. The beaches of Norte Chico have little rain but lots of coastal fog and an overall Mediterranean climate. Further inland, days are warm and nights are cold year-round. Any time is a good time to visit Norte Chico but to see swathes of desert wildflowers bloom, come in September or November.
Central Chile has a temperate Mediterranean climate with four distinctive seasons. Summers are clear, warm, and sunny, with highs in the low to mid-80s F. Spring and fall have cool to warm weather, with the rainy season beginning at the end of fall. If you come in winter, expect cold days to be in the high 40s F with plenty of rain. In the summer and shoulder seasons, tanning on the country's beaches or sipping wine in the region's vineyards are popular activities. Locals and tourists still spend plenty of time outside in the winter, but it’s on the slopes of the world-famous ski resorts outside of Santiago.
The peaks and lakes of Torres del Paine National Park, the call of the Carretera Austral, Cape Horn’s black hill, and sighting roaming guanco and waddling penguins, are just a few of the reasons why travelers come to the magical land of Chilean Patagonia. The climate here ranges from cool to cold. Rains are frequent throughout the year, except during the summer. Winds blow throughout the year but decrease somewhat in spring and fall. Snow and frost blanket the landscape in winter. In the northern portion of the region, the temperature gets colder the further you go from the coast, towards the Andes. The far south is cold and arid, receiving little rain throughout the year but plenty of chilly wind. Come in the summer months of December to March for warm weather and strong sunshine.
Located 2,182 miles away from the coast of mainland Chile, Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui) has beaches, lava caves, gnarly surf, and giant Moi head statues. The warm subtropical climate and little variation of temperatures make any month perfect for beach-hopping here. Temps range from 64 to 81 degrees F (18 to 27 degrees C) during the summer months, and 59 to 72 degrees F (16 to 22 degrees C) during the winter months. April and May are the wettest months, while October through February are the driest. Expect windy weather here year-round, due to northeasterly trade winds.
Summer in Chile
With the exception of the northern deserts, the summer is the best season to explore Chile as a whole. Swimmers on the beaches of Easter Island enjoy sea temperatures of 73 to 77 degrees F (23 to 25 degrees C), while the beaches of central Chile are warm as well, accentuated with refreshing sea breeze. Hikers get 16 hours of sunlight a day in Torres del Paine but can face winds of up to 74 mph. In the far south, Punta Arenas heats up slightly more than in other seasons, averaging 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).
What to pack: If you’re traveling to the northern or central regions of the country, bring a swimsuit, jacket or sweatshirt for cool nights, light and comfortable clothing, and sunglasses. If you’re traveling to the southern region, take warm clothes, including a hat, gloves, hiking boots, a down jacket, a rain jacket, and a scarf. Take sunscreen for wherever you go as Chile has very strong UV rays on its beaches and mountains.
Fall in Chile
The Lake District’s daytime temps drop to the low 60s F in March, and wine tasters come to sample the fine reds and white of the Fiestas de la Vendimia in celebration of the grape harvest. Hikers and photographers traipse through the national parks of Conguillío, Huerquehue, and Torres del Paine to see brilliant red, yellow, and orange treetops. The winds die down significantly in Patagonia, dropping to only 9 to 13 mph, but rains begin in April. By the end of the month, snow begins to fall in the south, with temperatures reaching as low as 34 degrees F (1 degree C). The center of the country has cold sea temperatures thanks to the Humboldt current (59-63 F / 15-17 C), but that doesn’t stop serious surfers from coming to compete in the International Big-Wave Contest during this season.
What to pack: If going to Patagonia, pack hiking boots, wool socks, a raincoat, clothes you can layer, sunscreen, a warm coat, and sunglasses. Take jeans, some T-shirts, and a leather jacket, if you’re heading to Santiago. Pack your wet suit, if you plan on catching that cold, big wave surf.
Winter in Chile
Temperatures drop throughout the country, the powder hounds come to the ski resorts, the central valley begins a wet season, and super far south, you can see blanketed fields of snow via dog sledding. Camanchacas, a mixture of fog and low clouds, hover over the north. The north will have five to six hours of sunlight per day, the center will have three to five, and the south, two to four.
What to pack: If going to the north, pack a sweater or light jacket, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, flip flops, and tennis shoes. Those heading to the center of the country should pack the same, but add a few more warm shirts and a raincoat. For those braving the south, take a winter coat, long underwear, wool hat, gloves, scarf, boots, wool socks, sunglasses, sunblock, and ski or snowboarding attire.
Spring in Chile
The rain begins to decrease throughout the country. Santiago has six to 10 hours of sunshine per day and highs ranging from 66 to 77 degrees F (43 to 50 degrees C), throughout the season. Valparaiso has five to seven hours of sunlight, with highs in the 60s Fahrenheit. However, the ocean is still quite cold for swimming (55-59 F / 13-15 degrees C). Spring doesn’t come to Patagonia until November, when there are 15 hours of sunlight per day. Still, expect some rain and fog in places like Punta Arenas, but the far north of the country will be bursting with color from wildflower blooming in the deserts.
What to pack: The temperature can go between warm to cool throughout this season, so pack light layers and rain essentials for the rare rainy day. For the north and center of the country, pack shorts, and jackets, T-shirts, a raincoat, jeans, sunglasses, and sunblock. For the south, take a warm coat, rain or hiking boots, gloves, and hat.