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Brazilians and Argentines vacation during the summer from December 15 to the end of February, as well as the 2 middle weeks of July and Holy Week (Semana Santa), the week preceding Easter Sunday. These dates coincide with school vacations. In spite of cheaper deals during the off-season, nearly everyone from these three countries takes his or her vacation during high season, and consequently the teeming masses seen in popular destinations such as Pucón or Viña del Mar during this time can be overwhelming. If that weren't enough, consider that hotels and businesses in tourist areas jack up their prices in anticipation of vacationers who come with money to burn. If you travel to Chile during this time, book a room well in advance. Or you can do as most North American and Europeans do and come from late September to early December for the spring bloom, or from March to June, when the trees turn color; both seasons have pleasant weather, and destinations around Chile are less crowded, and in some cases completely empty of people. In fact, it's preferable to be in the extreme regions of Chile during these "off-seasons." In northern regions, such as San Pedro de Atacama, the searing heat during the summer is a killer. In Patagonia, the fierce wind blows from October to April but is most consistent in December and January.

The only exception to this high-season rule is in Santiago. Summer is in fact the most pleasant time to visit, as Santiaguinos head out for vacation, easing traffic, reducing smog, and dropping rates in most hotels.

Climate -- Chile's thin, drawn-out territory stretches over 38 degrees of latitude, encompassing every climate found in the world except tropical. In many areas there are microclimates, pockets of localized weather that can completely alter the vegetation and landscape of a small area.

The northern region of Chile is so dry that some desert areas have never recorded rain. Summer temperatures from early December to late February in this region can top 100°F (38°C), then drop dramatically at night to 30°F (-1°C). Winter days, from mid-June to late August, are crisp but sunny and pleasant; but, as soon as the sun drops, the temperature turns bitterly cold. Along the coast, the weather is mild and dry, ranging from 60° to 90°F (16°-32°C) during the summer.

The Santiago and Central Valley region features a Mediterranean climate, with rain during the winter only and temperatures that range from 32° to 55°F (0°-13°C) in the winter, and 60° to 95°F (16°-35°C) during the summer. Farther south, the Lake District and the Carretera Austral are home to sopping wet winters, and overcast days and rain are not uncommon during the summer, especially in the regions around Valdivia and Puerto Montt.

The Magellanic Region presents unpredictable weather patterns, especially during the summer, with extraordinary windstorms that can reach upwards of 120kmph (75 mph), and occasional rain. The windiest months are mid-December to late February, but it can blow any time between October and April. Winters are calm, with irregular snowfall and temperatures that can dip to 5°F (-15°C).

Public Holidays -- Chile's national holidays are New Year's Day (Jan 1), Good Friday (late Mar or Apr), Labor Day (May 1), Remembrance of the War of the Pacific Victory (May 21), Corpus Christi (late May or early June), St. Peter & St. Paul Day (June 26), Asunción de la Virgen (Aug 15), Independence Day and Armed Forces Day, the major holiday of the year (Sept 18-19), Indigenous Day (Oct 12), All Saints' Day (Nov 1), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), and Christmas (Dec 25).

Virtually every business in Chile shuts on public holidays, as is the case with national and local elections (midnight-midnight). Alcohol is not sold on election days.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.