The long, slender strip that is Chile stretches some 2,700 miles from end to end, roughly the distance from New York to San Francisco. Along the way, it encompasses all manner of climate, from the world’s driest desert in the north to the freezing winds and driving rains of the far south. This means that while you can visit Chile’s varied geography year round, planning your trip carefully will help you get the most out of the region you’ll be staying in.
As the most famous of Chile’s geographic features, the great Atacama Desert in the north is the driest place on earth; there are parts of it where it hasn’t rained for 200 years. Surprisingly, it’s much cooler than other deserts its size: average daytime temperature is around 75, and nights can dip to the low 30’s. The skies are generally very clear, though sudden sandstorms can make driving dangerous at times. When you visit, be sure to bring warm clothing, protective eyewear, and plenty of sunscreen.
By contrast, Chile’s transitional zone, also known as the Central Valley, is verdant and temperate, making it feel like a landscape transplanted from Italy or Greece. During summer (December to February) temperatures can get warmish, sometimes reaching 90-plus degrees, but even during these months the nights are cool. If you’re heading to Santiago, summer is the best time to go, offering pleasant days, little rain, and lower hotel prices as the city’s residents head out of town for the holidays.
Further south, the rainfall increases in the Lake District as cool winds come in off the lakes and mountains, causing the temperature to hover between 45 and 65 most of the year. Overcast days and sudden storms are common, even during the warmer summer months. Bring your umbrella: winter months can be positively sodden.
Finally, in the extreme southern region of Magellanes, fierce winds whip though the glacial landscape during the summer, at times reaching speeds of 75 miles per hour. Winters are calmer but much colder, with frequent snowfall causing the landscape to resemble that of a Norwegian village. Here layered clothing and weatherproof outerwear are a must.
Average monthly temperatures (°F) and rainfall (inches) for select locations in Chile are shown below.
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