This is a spectacular weather month for experiencing Chile's natural beauty. As spring transitions to summer, you'll start to see the warmest temperatures of the year, though this varies due to the country's uniquely thin and narrow shape. With that in mind, the further north you travel, the warmer it will be. For instance, in Santiago, the temps crawl into the 80s Fahrenheit during the day and then expect it to cool off significantly at night. Along the coast, you’ll enjoy milder temperatures and refreshing breezes.
In the south, daily highs typically linger in the 50s, making this an ideal time to head to popular Patagonian spots like Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine National Park, Isla Magdalena, and Tierra del Fuego. Keep in mind that summer is when Patagonia's infamous winds pick up. No matter where you travel in Chile in December, it's best to bring some warm layers and light outdoor gear in case of a little rain.
Crowds & Costs
Many international tourists wait until summer to travel to Patagonia to experience the best weather for outdoor activities, so you'll start to see more people this time of year. During this sweet season, visitors begin to arrive in droves to journey to Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego, and Cape Horn in Southern Patagonia, which held off a lot of tourism during chillier and wetter winter months. You'll want to make your travel arrangements several months before your trip to beat the rush of tourist groups, especially if traveling over the holidays. Your best bet for avoiding crowds and high season prices is to come at the beginning of December when weather is still spectacular.
Where to Go
Chile is a country of varying landscapes and dramatic extremes with dry deserts in the north, glacial fields in the south, as well as mountains, beaches and wine valleys in between. To put it simply, this is a great month of the year to travel anywhere in Chile.
Now that Patagonia is up and running for the summer, this is your chance to get here before the holiday crowds begin showing up. Torres del Paine—a UNESCO-listed park—usually ranks high on the list for travelers to Chile with staggering peaks, glaciers, and turquoise lakes, along with rare wildlife like guanacos and pumas. This is one of the most beloved places in South America, yet thanks to its remote Patagonian location and limited lodging choices, it receives only a fraction of the Machu Picchu crowds.
In addition to this famous park, there are countless wild fjords, channels, and islands to explore below the park on the tip of the continent. This is where the Andean mountains meet the sea for truly unspoiled surroundings like no other place in the world—a great option for unplugging. You can also join a cruise that sails through the Magellanic fjords and channels to glaciers in the Southern Ice Field, or hit the main attractions of Tierra del Fuego.
Coastal towns all over Chile celebrate the new year with fireworks displays. Valparaiso puts on the biggest celebration in the country, making late December a great time to check out the city's best street art, along with chaotic cerros (hills) and a maze of steep streets and stairwells piled high with colorful architecture. For a more relaxed pace, consider the more upscale resort town of Viña del Mar, which offers views of Valparaiso's awesome fireworks show from the beach.
What to Do
For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of things to do and see this time of year including adrenaline sports in the Lake District, health and wellness opportunities in Elqui Valley, wine tasting in the central valleys, and wildlife spotting in Cape Horn, to name a few.
This is also a great month to tackle a multi-day trek in Torres del Paine, like the popular "W" circuit with stunning views of sharply-defined peaks, azure lakes, and vast ice fields. This is the most accessible trek, while the more challenging "O" circuit beats the crowds on the remote backside of Torres del Paine. Then there's a six-day tour through the Zapata Valley, home to Torres del Paine’s hidden valleys and canyons, where paleontology offers a glimpse into Patagonia's prehistoric life. Far from the park's more crowded trails, you’ll enjoy a remote trekking and camping experience, while getting closer to lesser-known glaciers and the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.
Beach lovers are also in luck. Chile has plenty of them, although they are not as hot or tropical as neighboring countries to the north. That being said, they tend to be unspoiled by tourists. For instance, Bahía Inglesa is a white sand beach perfect for relaxing or engaging in water sports like sailing, surfing, windsurfing, or kayaking. The sea is warm here, and due to its northern location, the summer is longer than in the south.
Events in December
La Fiesta Grande. Located in the mining town of Andacollo, this festival is to celebrate the patron saint of local mines and gathers crowds of over 150,000 people that enjoy music and other cultural events.
International Exhibition of Traditional Arts and Crafts. Taking place in Santiago, this is an immense gathering of artisans from many different countries. Enjoy the art, music, dance, and food during this annual event.
Virgen de lo Vasquez Pilgrimage. This annual pilgrimage on December 8 is of great religious importance.
New Year's Festival. While many towns along Chile's coastline hold fireworks and parties, Valparaíso (two hours from Santiago) boasts South America’s biggest fireworks display and fiesta! Head to the harbor for the midnight show, which lasts for about 20 minutes before the party takes to the streets. This display won the Guinness World Records in 2007 for setting off a whopping 16,000 fireworks.
Traveling to Chile in December? Check out these great itineraries.
Best of Southern Patagonia. This 15-day trip combines outdoor attractions around Chile and Argentina's spectacular far south, also known as Patagonia. You'll start with penguins, horses, and glaciers before entering Torres del Paine National Park for three days of guided tours. Then head across the border for Los Glaciares National Park where you'll go ice trekking and partake in several jaw-dropping trails near Mt. Fitz Roy.
Chile's Beaches & Natural Wonders. Stretching thousands of miles in length, Chile can feel a world away with its mountains, glaciers, deserts, and rugged coastline. This 12-day trip hits the highlights with a series of unique guided tours. Move at a relaxed pace as you make your way from the Atacama Desert in the north, to Patagonia in the south. You'll also make urban stops in Santiago, Valparaiso, and upscale Viña del Mar for two days of beachy fun.