In Chile, there is a wide variety of climates: desert but mild in the north, Mediterranean in the center, oceanic in the south, and cold in the Andes. The country has a unique shape, in fact it is very long (about 4,300 kilometers or 2,700 miles from north to south, from 17 to 56 degrees south latitude) and narrow, so it obviously has different climates and environments.
Being located in the Southern Hemisphere, in Chile the seasons are reversed in comparison with North America or Europe.

Index



The North



Climate of northern Chile

Atacama Desert

All of Chile north of the Santiago region is desert, in both the coast and the Andean area. On the coast, in cities like Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta it hardly ever rains: years can pass between one shower and another. This area is occupied by the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth.
The cause of the aridity is a cold sea current, the Humboldt Current, which inhibits the formation of upward air currents that could generate rain clouds. Of course, the sea current is cold in comparison with the tropical latitude of the area. 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 nearby 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 temperatures along the coast are mild, almost always spring-like: proceeding from north to south, in Arica the daily average ranges from 23 °C (73 °F) in January and February to 16 °C (61 °F) in June and July, in Iquique it ranges from 21.5 °C to 15.5 °C (70.5 °F to 60 °F), in Antofagasta from 20 °C to 14 °C (68 °F to 57 °F), and in Coquimbo from 17 °C to 12 °C (63 °F to 54 °F).

Atacama Desert

In inland areas, as long as we remain in the plains or at low altitudes, in summer the daytime temperatures are a few degrees higher than on the coast. At this latitude, in the Andes, where the climate is desert as well, a lunar landscape is found, while the temperature obviously decreases with increasing altitude; the mountains are above the fog layer, so here the sun shines all year round. Above 3,000 meters (10,000 ft), it's cold at night, with possible intense 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 snowfields, where the rare snowfalls can be preserved, you have to climb to very high altitudes, above 5,500 meters (18,000 ft).

Iquique

In Iquique, located on the coast and at 20 degrees south latitude, temperatures are very mild in winter, from May to September, and pleasantly warm in summer, from December to March. Here are the average temperatures.
Iquique - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)181817151414131314151517
Max (°C)252524222019181819202224
Min (°F)646463595757555557595963
Max (°F)777775726866646466687275

Here is the average precipitation in Iquique: as you can see, statistically it never rains.
Iquique - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)0000000000001
Prec.(in)0000000000000
Days0000000000000

Here are the average daily sunshine hours in Iquique: as you can see, the sun often shines in summer, from December to March, while in the other months, even if it does not rain, mists and low clouds obscure the sun for a few hours a day.
Iquique - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours1010108765568910

In the northernmost part of the coast, the sea is never very warm, although it is warm enough for swimming from January to March, as can be seen in the following table.
Iquique - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)232323212019171717182022
Temp (°F)737373706866636363646872

The center



Climate of central Chile

In central Chile, starting from the Santiago region, the climate is almost Mediterranean in the narrow strip of plain, that is, mild and rainy in winter and warm to hot and sunny in summer.

Valparaiso

Along the coast, however, the influence of the sea makes the summer cool: in Valparaiso, the average temperature ranges from 11.5 °C (52.5 °F) in June and July to 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in January and February.
Valparaiso - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)13131211108888101112
Max (°C)222221191715151616182021
Min (°F)555554525046464646505254
Max (°F)727270666359596161646870

Rainfall in Valparaiso amounts to 375 millimeters (14.5 inches) per year, and occurs mainly in the austral winter, from May to August, while from November to March it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Valparaiso - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)00515558511060251081373
Prec.(in)000.20.62.23.34.32.410.40.3014.7
Days00129988521045

In Valparaiso, the sun shines regularly in summer (although there may be morning fogs), while in winter it is seen quite rarely.
Valparaiso - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours997643345678

In the central part of the coast, the sea is very cool even in summer. In Viña del Mar, near Valparaiso, the water temperature barely reaches 18 °C (64 °F) in February.
Vina del Mar - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)171817161514131313141516
Temp (°F)636463615957555555575961

Santiago

In the capital, Santiago, 90 kilometers (55 miles) away from the sea and 500 meters (1,600 feet) above sea level, the daily average ranges from 9.5 °C (49 °F) in June and July to 21.5 °C (70.5 °F) in January; the daily temperature range is higher, in particular, nights are cold in winter, with some slight frosts, and are usually cool even in summer. The maximum temperatures, however, can sometimes be hot in summer, with peaks of 36/38 °C (97/100 °F). If in addition we consider both the poor air circulation and the pollution of the metropolis, the best times to visit Santiago are spring and autumn, ie March-April and October-November. Here are the average temperatures.
Santiago - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)13121186445681012
Max (°C)302927231915151719222528
Min (°F)555452464339394143465054
Max (°F)868481736659596366727782

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

In Santiago, the sun shines more often than on the coast, since fog is less frequent, especially in summer, when the sky is almost always clear.
Santiago - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours1211975455681011

At these latitude, the Andean area receives moderate precipitation in the winter months, so there are eternal snows above 4,000 meters (13,000 ft). At 3,500 meters (11,500 ft) above sea level, the average temperature ranges from -6.5 °C (20.5 °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; moreover, here some rainfalls, albeit generally not abundant, are possible even in summer.

The South



Climate of southern Chile
Southern Chile has a climate that ranges from cool to cold. Below the 40th parallel, we enter a region that has a strongly oceanic climate, where not only the total amount of rainfall is high, from 2,000 to 4,000 mm (79 to 157 in) per year, but also summer is a rainy season, albeit less than winter. In fact, here we are in the zone of the westerly winds, which blow constantly and can be stormy, especially in the south. Obviously, the temperature tends to decrease as we proceed southwards. At this latitude, the Andean areas are green as well, with forests at low altitudes, while perennial snows are found at altitudes not too high.

Valdivia

In Valdivia, at a latitude of 39 degrees south, and therefore at the limit with the previous area, the average temperature ranges from 7.5 °C (45.5 °F) in June and July to 17 °C (62.5 °F) in January and February. Here are the average temperatures.
Valdivia - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)1211977555571012
Max (°C)222220161210101113161820
Min (°F)545248454541414141455054
Max (°F)727268615450505255616468

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

In Valdivia, the sun shines quite often in summer, while in winter it rarely shines.
Valdivia - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours997432245678

At the latitude of Valdivia, the sea is cold, and reaches 16 °C (61 °F) in the summer months.
Valdivia - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)161616151413121212131415
Temp (°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 occurred in the past millennia.
In Puerto Aysén, at a latitude of 45 degrees south, the climate is cool and rainy throughout the year: the average temperature ranges from 4.5 °C (40 °F) in July to 14 °C (57 °F) in January, and there are no less than 2,250 millimeters (88.5 inches) of rain per year, with no month below 125 mm (5 in).
South of the 45th parallel, there are vast glaciers, with the snowline that progressively decreases, and ice tongues that can even end in the sea (also because of gravity).

Glacier in Chile

Within the fjords there are sheltered places, which receive a lower amount of rain, wind and snow compared with the western coast.

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas is located at a latitude of 53 degrees south, in the Strait of Magellan, an area partially sheltered from the impetuous westerly winds by the last foothills of the Andes. Therefore, most of the rain falls on the western side, while in Punta Arenas annual precipitation amounts to just 430 mm (17 in), although it's quite frequent throughout the year.
Here is the average precipitation.
Punta Arenas - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)403045454535353530253035435
Prec.(in)1.61.21.81.81.81.41.41.41.211.21.417.1
Days10881010887678999

Here, both the climate and the landscape are similar to those of Iceland, with colorful houses and glaciers starting at a few hundred meters above sea level. Here are the average temperatures.
Punta Arenas - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)77531-1-101356
Max (°C)1414121074458101214
Min (°F)454541373430303234374143
Max (°F)575754504539394146505457

In Punta Arenas, the sun does not shine very often; however, from November to January it shines for about 7 hours and a half a day.
Punta Arenas - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours865432345788

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

The southernmost tip of Chile, Cape Horn, is also the southernmost tip of South America.
If you want to visit this southernmost area of Chile, the best time is the austral summer, from December to February, when the days can be mild, but 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.

Best Time



All in all, the best time to visit Chile as a whole is the austral summer, from December to February. In fact, hot temperatures are rare, except in some areas of the north and the center, at a certain distance from the sea, like in Santiago, but at least you can avoid both the mists of the north coasts and the cold weather of the south, which both occur in winter, and sometimes also in spring and autumn.

What to pack



In winter (June to August): in the north, Arica and Antofagasta, bring clothes for spring and autumn, including a sweatshirt or sweater and a jacket.
In the northern part of the Andes, bring clothes for spring and autumn during the day and warm in the evening, such as a warm jacket and a warm hat, and also walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen; for the high mountains, warm clothes, such as a down jacket, a wind jacket, a scarf, gloves.
In the center, Santiago and Valparaiso: bring warm clothes, such as a sweater and a jacket, and an umbrella.
In the south, warm clothes, a fleece, a down jacket, a warm hat, gloves, a scarf, a raincoat.
In the central and southern Andes, warm clothes, such as a down jacket, a wind jacket, a scarf, gloves, a warm hat, warm boots.

In summer (December to February): in the north, Arica and Antofagasta, bring light clothes for the day, and 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, such as a warm jacket and a hat; hiking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen; for the highest peaks, a down jacket, a scarf, gloves.
In the center, Santiago and Valparaiso: light clothes for the day, a sweatshirt and a jacket for the evening.
In the south, warm clothes, such as a sweater, a raincoat, a jacket, hiking boots. In the southern Andes, a down jacket, a scarf, gloves, warm boots.

See also the climate of Easter Island