8 mins

Chile: the facts

Which month you should travel? Where should you stay? What should you eat? Find everything you need to plan your trip here

How to plan your trip to Chile (Turismo Chile)
Capital: Santiago
Population: 16.3 million
Language: Spanish
Time difference: GMT-4, except Easter Island which is GMT-6
International dialling code: +56
Visas: Not required for British citizens
Money: Chilean Peso (CLP). Credit cards are widely accepted but travellers’ cheques are not.

Where to go and when:

Traditionally Chile is considered best to visit from October to March, as this is the South American summer. However the country, which stretches along the spine of South America, covers 38 degrees of latitude and is so diverse that there’s something to visit all year round.

Arica, near the Peruvian border in the north, is known as ‘The City of Eternal Spring.’ By the coast it’s warm year round; as you go inland and up to Lauca in the Altiplano, summer is the wet season, which usually means a rainy afternoon.

The Atacama desert can be visited anytime, as due to the high altitude, days are warm and nights are always cold.

Santiago and Valparaíso on the nearby coast have a Mediterranean climate. It’s dry and warm over the summer (Nov-Apr). Go to Santiago in spring for picture-postcard views of the snow-capped Andes.

South of Santiago in central Chile are the Winelands. Part of the reason Chilean wines are so good is the climate in which they’re grown; the region’s chilly morning mists and evening breezes balance the heat of the day. The best times to visit are in spring (Nov-Dec) and autumn (Mar-Apr) when the contrast isn’t so huge.

The Lake District and Patagonia (home of the famous Torres del Paine National Park) are best visited in summer (Nov-Mar) for hiking as in winter (Jun-Aug) it gets very cold and there are some areas that become inaccessible.

Easter Island can be visited year round. Most people go in summer (Nov-Mar); outside these months it’s a little cooler but you’ll have the sites to yourself.

Food and drink:

The heritage of the high Andes is one of the hallmarks of Chilean cuisine; potatoes, corn and quinoa are staples but you’ll also find that Chileans are committed carnivores. Beef is extremely popular; sample it at a traditional quincho (barbecue).

Unsurprisingly for a country with more than 4,300km of coastline, seafood is sublime – try paila marina, a stew crammed to bursting with shellfish.

Vegetarians should try humitas – delicious, filling corn tamales – or porotos granados con mazamorra, a moreish bean, pumpkin and corn stew.

Wash everything down with world-class wines; Chile is most famous for its red wine (vino tinto) but elegant white wines are gaining more recognition. Locals tend to drink more beer, and the national spirit pisco (a grape brandy), than wine – this is best
enjoyed as a pisco sour cocktail made with lemon or lime juice, sugar and egg-white.

Places to stay:

From boutique city hotels to romantic vineyards, desert haciendas and luxurious lodges out in the wilderness, Chile has some incredible places to stay. Cox & Kings recommends the following hotels:

Arica: Codpa Valley Lodge and Terrace Lodge, Putre

Atacama: Hotel Altiplanico, Atacama and Awasi in San Pedro de Atacama

Santiago and winelands: Lastarria Boutique Hotel, Santiago and La Casona Matetic in Casablanca valley

Patagonia: Hotel Rio Serrano, Torres del Paine; Explora Patagonia or Singular Patagonia

Lakes and volcanoes: Hotel Cabaña del Lago, Puerto Varas

Easter Island: Explora Rapa Nui and Hotel Otai.

Related Articles