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 (2,700 miles) long from north to south, stretched from 17 to 56 degrees south latitude, and narrow, so it obviously has different climates and environments.


Climate of northern Chile

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
IquiqueJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
IquiqueJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)0000000000001
Prec.(in)0000000000000
Days0000000000000

The temperatures along the coast are mild, almost always spring-like: proceeding from north to south, in Arica the average goes from 23 °C (73 °F) in January and February to 16 °C (61 °F) in June and July, in Iquique it goes from 21.5 °C to 15.5 °C (70.5 to 60 °F), in Antofagasta from 20 °C to 14 °C (68 to 57 °F), and in Coquimbo it goes from 17 °C to 12 °C (63 to 54 °F).
Here are the average temperatures of Iquique.
Average temperatures - Iquique
IquiqueJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
IquiqueJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)181817151414131314151517
Max (°C)252524222019181819202224
Min (°F)646463595757555557595963
Max (°F)777775726866646466687275

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
IquiqueJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
IquiqueJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)232323212019171717182022
Sea (°F)737373706866636363646872

However, the sun is often obscured by fog and low clouds (called Camanchacas), 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.

Atacama Desert

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 (9,800 ft), 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 (18,000 ft).


Climate of central Chile

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 (63.5 °F) in January and February, to 11.5 °C (52.5 °F) in June and July.
Average temperatures - Valparaiso
ValparaisoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
ValparaisoJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)13131211108888101112
Max (°C)222221191715151616182021
Min (°F)555554525046464646505254
Max (°F)727270666359596161646870

The rainfall amounts to 375 millimetres (14.5 inches) 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
ValparaisoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
ValparaisoJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)00515558511060251081373
Prec.(in)000.20.62.23.34.32.410.40.3014.7
Days00129988521045

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 (64 °F) in February.
Sea temperature - Vina del Mar
Vina del MarJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Vina del MarJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)171817161514131313141516
Sea (°F)636463615957555555575961

In the capital Santiago, 90 kilometres (55 miles) away from the sea and 500 metres (1,600 feet) above sea level, the average goes from 21.5 °C (70.5 °F) in January to 9.5 °C (49 °F) 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 (97/100 °F), 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
SantiagoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
SantiagoJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)13121186445681012
Max (°C)302927231915151719222528
Min (°F)555452464339394143465054
Max (°F)868481736659596366727782

The rainfall pattern in Santiago is similar to that of Valparaiso. Here the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Santiago
SantiagoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
SantiagoJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)0131040708550221392313
Prec.(in)000.10.41.62.83.320.90.50.40.112.3
Days00135776521037

At these latitude, the Andean area receives moderate precipitation in the winter months, so there are eternal snowfields above 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). At 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) above sea level, the average temperature goes from 6.5 °C (43.5 °F) in June and July, to 4 °C (39 °F) 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 (50.5 in) per year, with heavy rains from May to August, and some rainfalls, albeit not generally abundant, are possible even in summer.


Climate of southern Chile
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 (79 to 157 in) 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.
In Valdivia, at a latitude of 39 degrees south and then at the limit with the previous area, the average temperature goes from 17 °C (62.5 °F) in January and February to 7.5 °C (45.5 °F) in July.
Average temperatures - Valdivia
ValdiviaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
ValdiviaJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)1211977555571012
Max (°C)222220161210101113161820
Min (°F)545248454541414141455054
Max (°F)727268615450505255616468

Here the rainfall amounts to 1,800 mm (70 in) per year, of which more than 200 mm (8 in) per month from May to August, and a minimum of less than 50 mm (2 in) in January and February. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Valdivia
ValdiviaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
ValdiviaJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)50456513028532528521014010580651790
Prec.(in)21.82.65.111.212.811.28.35.54.13.12.670.5
Days871015222222211614119177

At the latitude of Valdivia, the sea is cold, and reaches 16 °C (61 °F) in the summer months.
Sea temperature - Valdivia
ValdiviaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
ValdiviaJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)161616151413121212131415
Sea (°F)616161595755545454555759

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 (57 °F) in January to 4.5 °C (40 °F) in July, with 2,250 millimetres (88.5 inches) of rain per year and no month below 125 mm (5 in).
South of the 45th parallel, there are vast glaciers, with the snowline getting lower, and ice tongues reaching even the sea.

Glacier in Chile

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 (17 in) per year, although it's quite frequent throughout the year.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Punta Arenas
Punta ArenasJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Punta ArenasJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)403045454535353530253035435
Prec.(in)1.61.21.81.81.81.41.41.41.211.21.417.1
Days10881010887678999

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
Punta ArenasJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Punta ArenasJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)77531-1-101356
Max (°C)1414121074458101214
Min (°F)454541373430303234374143
Max (°F)575754504539394146505457

In the southernmost part of the coast, the sea is always cold, and reaches 10 °C (50 °F) in February.
Sea temperature - Punta Arenas
Punta ArenasJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Punta ArenasJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)9109998766678
Sea (°F)485048484846454343434546

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 (50 °F), 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

In winter (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.

In summer (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