Map from Google - Chile
In Chile there is a wide variety of climates
: desert but mild in the north, Mediterranean in the centre, oceanic in the south, and cold in the Andes. Chile has a very unique shape, being about 4,300 kilometres long from north to south, stretched from 17 to 56 degrees of south latitude, and narrow, so it obviously has different climates and environments.
North of Santiago, Chile is desert, both the coast and the Andean area. On the coast, in cities like Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta
it hardly ever rains: sometimes years pass between a shower and the other. This area is occupied by the Atacama Desert
, the driest place on Earth.
Here is the average precipitation in Iquique.
Average precipitation - Iquique
The temperatures along the coast are mild, almost always spring-like: proceeding from north to south, in Arica the average goes from 23 °C in January and February to 16 °C in June and July, in Iquique it goes from 21.5 °C to 15.5 °C, in Antofagasta from 20 °C to 14 °C, and in Coquimbo it goes from 17 °C to 12 °C.
Here are the average temperatures of Iquique.
Average temperatures - Iquique
In the northernmost part of the coast, the sea
is never very warm, although it becomes warm enough for swimming from January to March, as can be seen in the following table.
Sea temperature - Iquique
However, the sun is often obscured by fog and low clouds
), especially from April to October, although this happens less frequently than in Peru; it goes better in summer, from December to February, which is therefore the best time to visit this northern part of the coast. The cause of dryness is a cool sea current, the Humboldt Current
, which inhibits the formation of upward air currents that could generate clouds and rains. Of course, the sea current is considered cold because it's compared with the tropical latitude of the area.
In inland areas, as long as we remain in plains and lowlands, in summer the daytime temperatures are a few degrees higher than on the coast. Even the Andes
at this latitude are desert, and offer a lunar landscape, while of course the temperature decreases with increasing altitude; the mountains are above the foggy layer, so the sun shines all year round. Above 3,000 metres, it's cold at night, with possible severe frosts especially in winter, while during the day the tropical sun of the mountains is capable of raising the temperature above freezing. To find some snowfield, where the rare snowfall can be preserved, you have to climb to very high altitudes, above 5,500 metres.
In central Chile, starting from the Santiago region, the climate becomes Mediterranean
in the narrow strip of plain, that is, mild and rainy in winter, and warm (or hot) and sunny in summer. Along the coast, however, the influence of the sea makes the summer cool: in Valparaiso
, the average temperature goes from 17.5 °C in January and February, to 11.5 °C in June and July.
Average temperatures - Valparaiso
The rainfall amounts to 375 millimetres per year, and occurs mainly from May to August, while from November to March it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Valparaiso
In the central part of the coast, the sea is very cool even in summer. At Viña del Mar, near Valparaiso, the water temperature barely reaches 18 °C in February.
Sea temperature - Vina del Mar
|Vina del Mar||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
|Vina del Mar||J||F||M||A||M||J||J||A||S||O||N||D|
In the capital Santiago
, 90 kilometres away from the sea and 500 metres above sea level, the average goes from 21.5 °C in January to 9.5 °C in June and July; the daily temperature range here is a little higher, so the nights are cold in winter, with some slight frost, and are generally cool even in summer. The maximum temperatures, however, can sometimes be hot in summer, with peaks of 36/38 °C, in addition, considering the light winds and the pollution of the metropolis, the best times to visit it are spring and autumn, ie March-April and October-November
Average temperatures - Santiago
The rainfall pattern in Santiago is similar to that of Valparaiso. Here the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Santiago
At these latitude, the Andean area
receives moderate precipitation in the winter months, so there are eternal snowfields above 4,000 metres. At 3,500 metres above sea level, the average temperature goes from 6.5 °C in June and July, to 4 °C in January. In this region you can find ski resorts, such as Portillo and La Parva.
Continuing south along the coast, the rains become progressively more abundant. In Concepción
, precipitation reaches 1,280 mm per year, with heavy rains from May to August, and some rainfalls, albeit not generally abundant, are possible even in summer.
Southern Chile has a climate that ranges from cool to cold. Below the 40th parallel, we enter a region which has a strongly oceanic climate
, in which not only the total amount of rainfall is high, from 2,000 to 4,000 mm per year, but even summer becomes a rainy season, albeit less than winter. In fact, we are entering the zone of the westerly winds
, which blow constantly and can be tempestuous, especially in the south. Obviously, the temperature tends to decrease as we proceed towards the south. At this latitude, even the Andean areas become green, with woods and forests at low altitudes, and perennial snows at not too high altitudes.
, at a latitude of 39 degrees south and then at the limit with the previous area, the average temperature goes from 17 °C in January and February to 7.5 °C in July.
Average temperatures - Valdivia
Here the rainfall amounts to 1,800 mm per year, of which more than 200 mm per month from May to August, and a minimum of less than 50 mm in January and February. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Valdivia
At the latitude of Valdivia, the sea is cold, and reaches 16 °C in the summer months.
Sea temperature - Valdivia
Starting from Puerto Montt
, at a latitude of 41 degrees south, the coastline begins to be indented, with islands, bays and fjords, a witness of the effects of glacial erosion of past millennia.
In Puerto Aysén
, at a latitude of 45 degrees, the climate is cool and rainy throughout the year, and the average temperature goes from 14 °C in January to 4.5 °C in July, with 2,250 millimetres of rain per year and no month below 125 mm.
South of the 45th parallel, there are vast glaciers, with the snowline getting lower, and ice tongues reaching even the sea.
Within the fjords there are sheltered places, whose microclimates are characterized by less rain, wind and snow compared with the western coast. In Punta Arenas
, at a latitude of 53 degrees south, in the Strait of Magellan, the furious action of the westerly winds is partially obstructed by the last foothills of the Andes, besides most of the rain falls on the western side, so that here the annual precipitation amounts to just 430 mm per year, although it's quite frequent throughout the year.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Punta Arenas
The climate here is similar to that of Iceland, as well as the landscape, with colourful houses and glaciers starting at a few hundred metres above sea level. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Punta Arenas
In the southernmost part of the coast, the sea is always cold, and reaches 10 °C in February.
Sea temperature - Punta Arenas
The southernmost tip of Chile, Cape Horn, is also the southern tip of South America.
To visit this southern part of Chile, the best time is the austral summer, from December to February
, when the days are mild but the nights are often cold. The average temperature in January is around 10 °C, while in June and July it's just above freezing (but it reaches the freezing point in the extreme south). Cold waves from Antarctica can lower the temperature by several degrees, especially from April to September, but they do not last long, because after a while the westerlies start to blow again.
When to go
All in all, the best time to visit Chile as a whole is the austral summer, from December to February
. Hot temperatures are rare, except in some areas of the north-central, at a certain distance from the sea, like in Santiago; in winter there are mists in the north coasts and cold in the south, and this sometimes happen also in spring and autumn.
What to pack
(June to August): in the north, Arica and Antofagasta, clothes for spring and autumn, a sweatshirt or sweater and a jacket.
In the northern Andes, clothes for spring and autumn during the day, and warm in the evening, warm jacket, warm hat; walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen; for the high mountains, warm clothes, down jacket, wind jacket, scarf, gloves.
In the centre, Santiago and Valparaiso: warm clothes, sweater, jacket, umbrella.
In the south, warm clothes, fleece, down jacket, warm hat, gloves, scarf, raincoat.
In the south-central Andes, warm clothes, down jacket, wind jacket, scarf, gloves, warm hat, warm boots.
(December to February): in the north, Arica and Antofagasta, light clothes for the day, a sweatshirt and a light jacket for the evening.
In the northern Andes, clothes for spring and autumn during the day, and warm in the evening, warm jacket, hat, hiking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen; for the highest peaks, down jacket, scarf, gloves.
In the centre, Santiago and Valparaiso: light clothes for the day, sweatshirt and jacket for the evening.
In the south, warm clothes, sweater, raincoat, jacket, hiking boots. In the southern Andes, down jacket, scarf, gloves, warm boots.
See also the climate of Easter Island