What is it like being a tourist in Chile during their winter?
May 11, 2016 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of visiting Chile in June and July, which are winter months there. There seems to be a lot of focus on outdoors activities in Chile, which might be more enjoyable during their summer. If I don't plan on skiing in Chile, what other activities should I consider? What is Santiago like in June and July? What other destinations would you recommend? Coming from Oregon, I'm used to cold, wet winters.
posted by A. Davey to Travel & Transportation around Chile (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: winter is pretty pleasant in santiago. rain is rare (although the ground is wet right now) and it doesn't get that cold (rarely below freezing in the city itself). down south is pretty horrible (you do NOT want to go to torres del paine etc). up north is ok, but i would be worried that most of the restaurants, tour companies, etc, are closed (outside santiago there are no other big "cities" so the income from tourists is significant and time dependent). how long are you staying? it might make sense to use santiago as a base and travel more widely - a week in buenos aires, a few days in mendoza (if the pass is open), etc.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

My wife and I went to Chile in July a few years ago. The sight of the snow-capped Andes from Santiago was worth the trip on its own.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:40 AM on May 11, 2016

I went to Santiago two years ago in mid-August and had a good time (here were my thoughts on things) to do there. The weather there reminded me of a cooler version of Los Angeles in the winter, i.e. mild dry days, chilly nights, very occasional rain. The big thing I will say is that Santiago is haziest/smoggiest in the winter because of temperature inversion; the first day I was there I could barely make out the Andes in the distance and was shocked the next day when the air cleared and the snowcapped peaks appeared.

If you're going to head out elsewhere in Chile I would recommend going north like andrewcooke says. I mentioned in my previous answer that I went to Pan de Azúcar National Park which I really liked -- I SAW LITTLE HUMBOLDT PENGUINS!!!! -- and the coastal parts of the Atacama should be quite mild that time of year. Valparaíso is worth a daytrip, and the Andes foothills have good hiking as well.

If you're looking for a *really* off-beat Chilean destination, though, there's always Easter Island. There are daily flights to/from Santiago and you'll never be in a easier place to get to Easter Island (the only other flights are to Tahiti and seasonally to Lima), though the flight will unsurprisingly be expensive.

All that being said, though, I went in August because I had a friend who was going to depart Chile in September. If I were to go again I'd go during warmer weather as, like you, I am not a skiier, and if the weather were warmer I would have liked to go south to Patagonia. (I also grew up in southern California, so deserts aren't quite as fascinating to me.)

Also I knew even before posting that andrewcooke would pop in here! :)
posted by andrewesque at 9:44 AM on May 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do not miss the Free Walking Tour in Santiago. You don't need to book in advance, just be there either at 10 am or at 3 pm, any day. It's daily. The group meets right by the catedral (Plaza de armas metro station), you will see the guides. The day we went they had one english and one spanish tour. You will spend 4 wonderful hours walking through the city and getting to know a lot about their history and whatnot. Our guide was amazing, he shared a ton of information. We regret not doing it the very first day we arrived because they show you many places you may want to come back later. Very cool activity, the cold should not be an issue, and it's FREE!!!
posted by 3dd at 10:20 AM on May 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

San Pedro de Atacama, we'll worth the visit, is as far as I know active all year round, though the nights might get really cold in the highish altitude desert.
posted by signal at 10:00 AM on May 12, 2016

one of the joys of chile is that the internet doesn't always work... so sorry this reply is late. but i have been wondering what kind of physical activities you might be interested in. it may be that you know more than me, because i guess you have information from a tour company or similar, while living here things are less organised / documented. anyway, here are some activities i came up with.

there is (scuba) diving on the coast. but the water is cold (a cold stream of water runs up the coast of chile). my partner dives sometimes, and i think the people she dives with go out all year, but she goes only in summer. i can get their contact details if you want (other than skiing).

there are hiking trails in the parks on the east of the city. a limited few are open to mountain bikes. other mountain biking tends to be illegal and variable, as the edges of the city are developed (where i used to ride 10 years ago are now apartment blocks). i think i heard that in la dehesa, to the north east, there is be a bike park, but i don't know where. within the city there are quite a lot of bike paths (of variable quality) and there's a city bike scheme (actually two - one unified across most of the city, and one for just one rich, isolated municipality), but i don't know if it's open to tourists. cycling on the road is sometimes ok, sometimes scary.

out to the south east there's a mountain lodge that's a bit tricky to get to. when i was there (quite a few years ago) it had good accommodation and food. in the winter i am not sure how much round there is walkable without good equipment. there may be ice climbing on a nearby glacier, iirc.

ps i just remembered that some relatives of mine visited in autumn or winter a few years ago, and they enjoyed san pedro (and the walking tour), so i guess signal is right and i am overestimating the cyclical nature of business.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:19 PM on May 13, 2016

i added (other than skiing) to the wrong para during a late edit. please move to end of first para... sorry

also, the best place i know of for contact info on walking/climbing while here is the shop la cumbre (they probably have more info on refugio lo valdes for example). for mtn bike hire, i think you could try the shops on padre hurtado, west of kennedy (there's quite a few there - even an ibis stockist if you have the money....)
posted by andrewcooke at 6:33 PM on May 13, 2016

Even later than late, but enthusiastically seconding San Pedro de Atacama. That was the major reason I (at least) went to Chile. (My wife just loves South America.) Fascinating place--go for the star-watching and the observatories, but don't miss the R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum.
posted by Logophiliac at 11:38 PM on May 16, 2016

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