When to go
Chile always has a region ripe for exploration whatever the season. But if your heart is set on one part of the country, pick your dates carefully.
Chile's southern charms, including Torres del Paine and the Lakes District, are best visited in summer (December through March) as some are all but impenetrable in winter (June through September). The summer's long days boost outdoor fun, though the spring months of November and December and fall months of March and April can be nearly as good.
Meanwhile Chile in the winter can be a wonderland for skiers; the country's resorts attract hordes from July through September. Middle Chile is best in the verdant spring (September through November) or during the fall harvest (late February into April).
The Atacama Desert can be explored all year, but summer days sizzle and nights are bitterly cold at higher altitudes throughout the year. In the northern altiplano, summer is the rainy season, which usually means an afternoon downpour. Easter Island and the Juan Fernández archipelago are cooler and quieter outside summer; March is an ideal time to visit.
High season is December through March.
In January and February every Chilean town and city puts on some sort of show with live music, special feasts and fireworks. Tourist offices have exact dates. Religious holidays and the mid September Fiestas Patrias mark other festivities.
Semana Ancuditana Chiloé, and Ancud in particular, makes merry over the second week in January in a series of celebrations across the island, highlighting its unique culture, music, dance and cuisine.
Brotes de Chile A folk-song festival attracting talent from across Chile with plenty of dancing, food and crafts to boot. Held in Angol in the second week in January.
Jornadas Musicales de Pucón Another popular musical festival held in Pucón in mid-January.
Festival de Huaso Chilote Castro, in Chiloé, celebrates the local huasos (cowboys) in late January.
Semana Musical Headlines a variety of music, from chamber music to jazz. Held in Frutillar from late January to February.
Fiesta de la Candelaria A religious festival in early February, most fervently celebrated in Copiapó, where thousands of pilgrims and dancers converge.
Encuentro Folklórico de Chiloé A delightful festival promoting Chiloé’s typical music, dance and cuisine, held on the first week of February.
Festival Internacional de la Canción A series of concerts showcasing top names in Latin American pop, held in Viña del Mar.
Festival Costumbrista An opportunity to witness an authentic Patagonian rodeo in Villa Cerro Castillo.
Carnaval Highland merriment and flour bombs, ending with the burning of the momo – a figure symbolizing the frivolity of Carnaval. Held in Putre.
Festival Costumbrista Yet another chance to enjoy Chiloé’s distinctive folk music and dance, plus traditional foods. Held mid-February in Castro.
Carnaval Ginga Held in Arica, in mid-February, this festival features the traditional dancing and musical skills of regional comparsa groups.
Noche de Valdivia Valdivia’s annual knees-up, held on the third Saturday in February, enlivened with decorated riverboats and fireworks.
Campeonato Nacional de Rodeo (National Rodeo Championship) Feasting, cueca dancing and, most importantly, Chilean cowboys showing off their fancy horse skills. Held in Rancagua in late March.
Fiesta de San Pedro y San Pablo A religious festival held in San Pedro de Atacama on June 29, celebrated with folk-dancing groups, a rodeo and solemn processions.
Festival de la Virgen del Carmen Some 40,000 pilgrims pay homage to Chile’s virgin with lots of street dancing, curly-horned devil masks with flashing eyes and spangly cloaks. Held in La Tirana in mid-July.
Carnaval de Invierno Southerly fireworks and parades to cheer up the winter are held in Punta Arenas in late July.
New Year’s Eve One of the biggest parties of the year, with spectacular fireworks displays and all-night dancing.