Travelling to Chile? Here’s the best time to go

written by Tayla Gentle November 30, 2023
Two travellers in Patagonia, Chile

Planning a trip to Chile? Firstly, congratulations – you have bueno taste in travel destinations. Secondly, it’s normal to be feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I mean, Chile has got everything. There are almost too many geysers to see, trails to trek and wines to drink. But don’t worry, we’re going to break things down for you, dear traveller.

To start, how about we divvy this extra long country up (FYI Chile is over 4000 kilometres in length but only 170 kilometres wide east to west) into three key areas: Santiago and Valparaiso; Chilean Patagonia; and San Pedro de Atacama and the salt flats.

We’re doing this because Chile is a lanky land of extremes. One day you might be staring down the belly of a volcano and the next you’re hiking the mythical Andes ranges. You might begin your adventure stargazing in the north, only to be drinking world-class Malbec by the trip’s end.

But that’s exactly what makes Chile an adventure wonderland. No matter the time of year, there’s an experience out there guaranteed to keep your travel fire stoked. So, let’s talk Chilean weather patterns, peak seasons and where to get the best mate in town.

The best time to visit Chilean Patagonia

Two happy hikers in Chilean Patagonia

Photo by Miguel Gutierrez

  • Best outdoor adventure weather: November to February
  • Best crowd-free months: September, October, March, April

Chilean Patagonia may be staggeringly beautiful but it’s also a fickle beast, and travel to this region during its winter months is likely to feature world-record winds (they can get up to 120 km/h) and sub-zero nighttime temperatures.

A trekker in a yellow jacket in Chilean Patagonia

Photo by Miguel Gutierrez

But even if you’re Shackleton incarnate and you wish to brave the Patagonian steppe at its wildest (perhaps spotting a puma or two), be warned that many of the key attractions close over winter and much of Southern Patagonia empties out.

Hike some of Chile’s most stunning landscapes on our 15 day Classic Hikes of Patagonia trip

That’s why summertime is your best bet, especially if you’re keen on horseback riding and hiking. Sure, travel during peak season will inevitably involve bigger crowds, but dealing with a couple of extra hikers on the trails will be worth it to see Torres del Paine in all its glory. Not to mention the perfect light at sunrise and sunset (thank me later, photographers).

A group of trekkers posing for a photo in Patagonia, Chile

Photo by Miguel Gutierrez

Related: What it’s really like exploring Patagonia on a group tour

The spring (September, October, November) and autumn (March, April, May) shoulder seasons see fewer crowds and relatively mild temperatures, but I would still recommend packing one (or two) of everything. Patagonia is completely unpredictable and you can expect rain, hail and shine all on the same day — sometimes all at once.

The best time to visit San Pedro de Atacama and the salt flats

A farmer herding llamas in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Photo by Jess Kraft

  • Best months for stargazing: December to February
  • Most crowded month: January

San Pedro de Atacama lies at the heart of some of northern Chile’s most dramatic landscapes. Bordered by bubbling geysers, a ring of volcanoes and those magical salt flats, it’s a bona fide oasis town. It also happens to be one of the driest regions in the world; in fact, some parts haven’t seen rainfall in over 400 years. So if you’re looking to escape wet weather, you’re in the clear. Literally.

Check out San Pedro De Atacama on our 9 day Premium Chile & Argentina trip

Two hikers in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Photo by April Wong

Daily temperatures are pretty stable all year round (sitting in the mid to low 20s), the only difference between seasons is the chill factor at night. If you’re visiting in winter, expect freezing evenings. That said, winter in the Atacama is delightfully dry so if you’ve got yourself a first-class sleeping bag and don’t mind a little frost, this is a spectacular time of year to see the desert plains bloom with over 200 species of flowers. Pretty enticing for florists, I would imagine.

Related: Why you’ll love San Pedro de Atacama

A group of travellers hiking in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Photo by Yoann Combronde

High season in the Atacama means comfortable temperatures (we’re talking daily highs of 24°C and nights of 5°C). If you’re in town for the stargazing, summer is the season for you. The night sky during these months is crystal clear, so you can lay your head down on the dusty desert floor and get lost in the Milky Way. Sunrise at El Tatio geyser is also best at this time of year, as you can see the white steam columns billowing into the morning sky. Dreamy.

The best time to visit Santiago and Valparaiso

A group of travellers on a walking tour in Santiago, Chile

Photo by April Wong

  • Best months for snow sports: June to August
  • Best time of year to enjoy wine: March and April

Santiago (Chile’s capital) and Valparaiso (the port city) are all about indulgence. Culture? Check. Nightlife? Double check. Good food and wine? More than you can imagine. Whether you’re shopping the Avenida Vitacura, swimming the Playa Canelo or stuffing your face with seafood at Mercado Central, this region is muy bien all year-round it just depends on what you’re after.

Discover the best of Chile’s capital on our 4 day Santiago Short Break

Travellers admiring the views of Santiago, Chile from cable cars

Photo by Jose L. Stephens

If you’re into snow sports, Chile has some of the most ridiculously good-looking slopes in South America. Imagine a ski field set against an Andean backdrop, just two hours from the ocean. If that gets you dusting off your board, then I would consider hitting up the capital over winter (June to August).

Related: Santiago is so much more than a stopover city. Here’s why.

March and April have got to be some of the most beautiful times of year in and around Santiago. The autumnal leaves are turning, the wine festivals are in full swing and you can tour the winelands during harvest. Valleys and vineyards and wine, oh my!

Now you know, it’s time to go. Explore our full range of small group adventures around Chile.

Feature photo by Patrick O’Neill.

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