One of the most frequent questions new arrivals ask is “Where can I go for a long weekend?” or “What is a great day trip with children?” It is especially hard when you move to Chile and find that not only is the country even more skinny than you imagined (meaning driving anywhere takes longer than you thought possible!) but for us Northerners all the seasons are upside down!
After our initial settling period in a new country it doesn’t take long before I am scanning the calendar for long weekends, statutory holidays and school breaks.
But how to plan where to go at the right time and for the right amount of time? And for our family, how to avoid the crowds and make the most of the time we have in a country? Three to four years may seem like a long time, but that is only three long summer holidays. So where to go, when?
Here is my list broken down first by timing, so when a long weekend rolls around you have realistic options for getting places. We are based in Santiago and we aren’t afraid of a long car journey. But we also don’t want to spend all our time on the road. Though I will say, for a long holiday, we think nothing of leaving the house at 5 a.m. and driving 1,000 km in one day. Canadians aren’t afraid of long distances!
Chilean Seasons and Holidays
First of all, all the seasons are the opposite for us.
December-March is Summer
April-June is Autumn
July-September is Winter
September-November is Spring
There are an impossible amount of saints days and statutory holidays, and if they land on Wednesday your bank holiday is on a Wednesday! If it lands on a Thursday a lot of people will take the Friday off and say they are taking a “sandwich” long weekend.
Most schools in Santiago follow this calendar:
Summer school holidays beginning of December to end of February or first few days of March. Most Chileans take all of February off. Most Argentinians take all of January off. We try to take the last three weeks of January off if we are traveling in Chile to maximize the weather and avoid the crowds.
Our Chilean school has a week break during last week of May and first week of June. This isn’t typical so we also usually travel this week.
Most Chilean schools have a mid-July break of at least one week if not two weeks off.
In September most schools are off from Sept 6-22 to accommodate the Chilean national days of Fiestas Patrias on the 18th and 19th (commonly known as Dieciocho).
There is a four-day long weekend the last two days of October and November 1 and 2 but fortunately these days are moveable so it’s a genuine four-day weekend, not a sandwich.
So now we know when the local children off (to either plan accordingly or avoid them!!) and so now …
Where to go?
- Day hikes and mountain biking
- Yerba Loca
- Motivating children to hike
- Travel without leaving the house (shopping local!)
- Pichilemu/Punta de lobos (beach and surfing)
- Termas Geometricas
- Santa Cruz (red wine vineyards)
- Parque la Campana and Biosfera Lodge
- Valparaiso (port town with street art)
- Mantanzas (beach)
- Noi Puma Lodge
- Cajon de Maipo
- Algarrobo (beach)
4 Day Long Weekend
- Easter Island
- San Pedro de Atacama
- Ski 2 Sea
- Skiing trip out of Santiago (Chillan)
- Huilo Huilo eco lodge (by plane)
- Valle de Elqui
- La Serena/Isla Damas/desierto florido
- Patagonia (small sections at a time) You could do Torres del Paine in 4-5 days
- Cerro Castillo hike only
- Mendoza, Argentina
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Fly to Balmaceda to see the Marble Caves
- San Pedro de Atacama
- Cerro Castillo
- Carretera Austral for day hikes and camping (Cerro Castillo, Puerto Tranquilo and Marble Caves, and Caleta Tortel)
- Huilo Huilo in car
- Lake District (Frutillar, Puerto Varas)
- Macchu Picchu and Cusco, Peru
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
- Patagonia — Torres del Paine
2-3 Week Holidays
- Huilo Huilo-Chiloe-Pucon loop
- Ship your car to camp in Patagonia
- Lonquimay-Chillan loop
- Camping Frutillar-Pumalin-Raul Marin Balmaceda-Argentina loop
- Camping in Patagonia Torres del Paine , driving over to the Argentinian side– up to Jeinimeni, down to Parque Nacional Patagonia and back via the Marble Caves
- Parque Patagonia and Jeinimeni sector