With the warmest temperatures of the year, it's no surprise that January lures flocks of visitors to Chile from all over the world. That being said, weather varies due to the country's uniquely thin and narrow shape spanning over 2500 miles in length. With that in mind, the further north you travel, the warmer it will be.
For instance, in Santiago, the heat can be intense with daily highs in the 80s Fahrenheit. The Atacama Desert can see highs in the 90s during the day, dropping to the 40s at night, while along the coast, you’ll enjoy mild temperatures and refreshing breezes. The Atacama Desert may also experience what is called the Altiplanic Winter in January, which can bring moist air comes from the east with occasional bouts of unsettled weather including heavy rains, thunderstorms, and even snow.
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 months are also when Patagonia's infamous winds pick up. No matter where you travel in Chile, it's best to bring some layers and light outdoor gear.
Crowds & Costs
Since summer months offer the best climate for all types of adventures, you should expect bigger crowds this time of year, especially as Chile's popularity grows. As for costs, it can be an expensive time to travel, not only for the high season but also because of the transportation costs involved in getting from point A to point B in a country that runs 2653-miles long.
All this to say, you'll want to make travel arrangements several months in advance for January. This is when visitors arrive in droves to popular places like Southern Patagonia, while locals like to head to the beaches and lakes for some summer respite. Since many urban dwellers escape Santiago this time of year, this makes it a great time to spend a few days in the capital when hotel rates lower.
Where to Go
Travelers this month will enjoy long daylight hours, especially in Patagonia (about 15 hours). A major draw of the region is Torres del Paine National Park, which is in full swing this time of year at the height of the growth season, when landscapes are in full green. Here, you'll have a good chance at seeing wildlife, but bigger crowds may drive some species away to lesser-visited areas of the park. Meanwhile, the Chilean Lake District in Northern Patagonia offers scenic volcanoes, excellent hiking opportunities, and charming towns like Puerto Varas with German heritage.
For a lesser-known alternative in Patagonia, consider a summer road trip through the Carretera Austral. This quintessential Patagonia route is a whopping 769 miles long (1,240 km) from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins on a partially-paved, yet otherwise dirt-and-gravel road through lakes, jungles, glaciers, hot springs, snow-capped peaks, and wide open valleys. The Southern Fjords are a great option for unplugging away from the crowds.
Warmer weather seekers should consider heading north to visit beaches along the coast as well as wine valleys and otherworldly landscapes in the Atacama Desert.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
There's plenty of activities to enjoy all over Chile, especially during summer months. Patagonia offers great day hikes, multi-day treks, glacier boat tours, and opportunities to play with penguins. Adrenaline junkies who seek activities such as white-water rafting, zip-lining, skydiving, and horseback riding will want to head for the Lake District.
Santiago and Valparaiso offer great cultural opportunities where you'll find trendy dining options, museums, and world-renowned street art. Nearby Viña del Mar offers great nightlife and beaches for sunbathing, and great surf breaks can be found in Chile’s northern coast all the way up to Arica, practically at the border of Peru. Meanwhile, Elqui Valley and the Atacama Desert offer guided tours to visit geysers, sand dunes, astronomy observatories, as well as health and wellness opportunities like ayurvedic treatments and yoga classes.
Events in January
Ruta del Huemul. Held the last week in January, this two-day community hike traverses Reserva Nacional Tamango near Cochrane. Reserve ahead to participate.
The Love Parade. This annual celebration of love attracts thousands to Santiago every year for colorful floats, live music, as well as food and drink.
Feast Day of San Sebastian. Located in Yumbel, this festival is a celebration of one of Chile's patron saints and gathers thousands of people. The festival begins with a lavish procession where onlookers are adorned in red and yellow (colors of the patron saint).
Santiago a Mil. Each year in January, Latin America's biggest theater festival brings international acts to the streets of Santiago.
Semanas Musicales. All month long in the Lake District town of Frutillar, you can find prestigious international acts ranging from classical to hip-hop in the town's Teatro de Frutillar.
Brotes de Chile. One of Chile's biggest folk festivals takes place the second week of January in Angol and includes traditional dance and crafts.
Muestra Cultural Mapuche. This six-day festival in the Lake District includes artisans, indigenous music, and ritual dance.
Traveling to Chile in January? Check out these great itineraries.
Patagonia & Atacama Desert. Explore regions on both ends of Chile's latitudinal spectrum with this 10-day itinerary. After getting a taste of Santiago, fly north to the Atacama desert—an oasis in the driest part in the world known for geysers, moonscapes, and starry skies. Then fly all the way south to Patagonia's Punta Arenas where you'll meet a penguin colony before finishing in Torres del Paine National Park.
Chile Grand Tour. Head to the far north of the country and tour the otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert. Then it's off to Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park, home to the most awe-inspiring mountains and unspoiled nature in Chile. You'll then finish the journey amid the giant stone idols of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island.
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