ABOUT Chile has a great diversity of natural landscapes, from the Mars-like landscapes of the hyperarid Atacama Desert to the glacier-fed fjords of the Chilean Patagonia, passing by the winelands backdropped by the Andes of the Central Valley and the old-growth forests of the Lakes District. Easter Island and Juan Fernández Archipelago, including Robinson Crusoe Island, are also major attractions. Many of the most visited attractions in Chile are protected areas. The extensive Chilean protected areas system includes 32 national parks, 48 natural reserves and 15 natural monuments. Northern Chile is home to the world's most arid desert and its salt flats, hot springs and geysers, you can visit to spots like San Pedro de Atacama which will allow you to view vestiges of native cultures at archeological sites and museums. Coastal cities like Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Coquimbo and La Serena will delight you with their beaches and warm, temperate climate.
CLIMATE Chile lies deep in the southern hemisphere therefore the seasons fall at opposite times of year from the northern hemisphere. Thus, the summer months are December, January, and February, while June, July and August are the winter months. When it is spring in North America or Europe, it is autumn in Chile Patagonia and vice versa. January, February, and March are the peak travel months. Santiago boasts an ideal climate, which explains why 80% of Chile's population lives there. In Santiago summers are hot, with tempretures ranging from 28°C to 32°C and short, temperate winters, with temperatures occasionally dipping to 0°C autumn and spring are cool, with pleasant breezes. Rainfall is generally restricted to the winter months. Humidity is low, thus reducing the disagreeable effects of heat and cold.
BEWARE Pick pocketing and theft are common throughout Chile, particularly around well-known tourist sites, bus stations and areas of Santiago frequented by foreigners like Las Condes, Vitacura and Providencia. Pay particular attention to your belongings in popular foreign cafes and restaurants where there has been an increase in bag theft. Be particularly vigilant while travelling up to the north of Chile, around the Atacama desert and specifically San Pedro, as well as through the Lake District (Pucon, Villarrica) as there has been a rise in theft in these areas. Don’t put any valuables in the storage compartments of buses and coaches - keep them with you at all times. There have also been occasional reports of muggings, sometimes by armed groups, in popular Santiago walking or scenic areas like Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro Manquehue. Keep in groups and don’t walk alone late at night. Book a taxi in advance rather than hailing one from the street, especially late at night. There have been a few reports of people being given ‘spiked’ drinks in nightclubs and bars, particularly in the Suecia and Bellavista areas of Santiago. These can leave the victim open to theft or assault.