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While the north half of the globe is basking in summer, Chile, in the Southern Hemisphere, is deep in winter. And though some areas may be cold, winter in Chile comes with its own perks, and there are probably more than you think. They run all the way from enjoying the sites and attractions with fewer tourist crowds to experiencing the best winter sports and most interesting landscapes throughout the length of this diverse country.
So what else makes winter in Chile so fantastic? Here are the best destinations to explore in winter and some ideas on what to do there. Read on to get the most out of your trip.
1. Torres del Paine in winter
Known for its incredible landscapes and trekking opportunities, Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia is a huge attraction. During winter, there are far fewer crowds, and you’ll get to see an altogether starker and more spectacular landscape. As for the weather, microclimates in the park mean some areas get heavy snow, while others just get a light dusting or frost.
- Take the W Trek tour to see the park during its wildest and most secluded period
- Head to the base of the Towers themselves, although you might need the help of crampons, trekking poles and a guide
- Make the short (but steep) ascent to Mirador Ferrier for panoramic views
- Get close to the glaciers in the French Valley, hiking through frozen forests and across icy rivers
2. The Lake District in winter
Another of Chile’s Patagonian wildernesses, the Lake District is suitably strewn with mirror-like lakes, reflecting craggy peaks for a beautiful place to visit in the Andean foothills. During the coldest months of the year, fresh snow in the Lake District makes it a veritable winter wonderland.
- Snowboard or ski the powder at Corralco Resort
- Explore the charming fishing villages and towns in the area, featuring wood-shingled buildings linked by walkways for something right out of a fantasy movie
- Warm-up with a hearty bowl of cazuela
- Hike along the base of Volcan Osorno and over ancient landslides
- Relax in the geothermal waters of Hot Springs Geometricas
3. The Atacama in winter
Normally a scorching, barren land, the Atacama Desert in winter sits at a mild 21°C on average during the day but drops dramatically to sub-zero temperatures after dark. With perfectly clear skies — and being the driest time of year for the high plateau desert — winter in the Atacama is tailor-made for stargazing, with the perk of much less crowds.
- Enjoy an unmatched stargazing experience in the icy-cold nights
- With some luck, witness the rare phenomenon of snowfall in a desert
- See the Salar de Atacama salt flats — minus the crowds — and get some awesome shots
- Visit the Tatio Geysers, the world’s highest geyser field, to watch them explode with geothermal energy (particularly spectacular in winter because of that cold air)
4. Aysén in winter
Aysén is a less-explored destination in northern Patagonia and one of the most sparsely populated regions of the country. Boasting two amazing waterways, Chilean cowboys (gauchos), and the largest lake in the country — Lago General Carrera — this relatively untouristed destination feels even more empty during winter. Explore remote trails and glaciers as if you have it all to yourself.
- Discover the eerie Marble Caves by kayak, set along the shores of Lago General Carrera
- Witness the stunning sight of icebergs on the San Rafael Lagoon
- Hike along the confluence of the two rivers, Chacabuco and Baker
- Go skiing on the four ski runs at El Fraile Ski Center
5. The Andes in winter
The longest continental mountain chain in the world, the Andes separates Chile from the rest of South America. The peaks of the world’s second-highest mountain range offer an incredible spot for a skiing adventure, easily one of the best things to do in Chile in winter. With high snowfall, low temperatures, and incredible landscapes to discover, you can even ski down the side of active volcanoes. Come in August for fewer crowds.
- Head to Portillo, a high-altitude (2,880 – 3,310 meters above sea level) ski resort where winter sports teams from around the world come to train
- Go backcountry skiing with a guide to see a wilder side to the snowy peaks
- Explore Lauca National Park, home to Lago Chungara — one of the highest altitude lakes in the world
- Hike among the beautiful surroundings of the Maipo Valley and breathe in the fresh mountain air
- Visit the ghostly mining town of Sewell, with myriad staircases crisscrossing through its abandoned, colorful houses
Winter in Chile may not sound like a good idea on the first go, but there is no reason to put off your trip. Many destinations are still accessible and different activities are available during the season — especially if you’re a fan of skiing: you won’t have to put your skis or your snowboard away during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months. Alongside winter sports, a tour to Chile in July and August means clearer skies, stark and stunning landscapes, and fewer crowds, making for worthwhile seclusion in a wintry paradise.
Traveling to Chile? Chat with a local travel specialist in Chile who can help organize your trip.
Ezequiel Fernandez Estelrich Travel Expert in Argentina & Chile
Maria Szlafsztein Travel Expert in Argentina & Chile
Maria Barciela Travel Expert in Argentina & Chile