LAST UPDATED 19/11/2007
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History of Chile

Level of surfing


Quality of surf


Call code


Net code





6,435 km


Temperate; desert in north; Mediterranean in central region; cool and damp in south


Very Isolated, Extreme Cold, Severe Storms, Difficult Access

Best Months

May - September




Peso (CLP) Chilean pesos per US dollar - 530.29 (2006)

Time Zone


Special Requirements


Rei-artur: Location Chile; 10 December 2006

Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country, located on the southern half of the west coast of South America. It occupies a long and narrow coastal strip wedged between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The official language of the country is Spanish and the capital is Santiago. Chile is a democratic republic with Michelle Bachelet as a current president.


ADGE: War of the Pacific: The Battle of Iquique on May 21, 1879; 9 February 2006

The first European to visit what is now Chile was the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who landed at Chiloé Island following his voyage, in 1520, through the strait that now bears his name. Before that Quechua tribes inhabited the northern region, and Araucanian tribes inhabited the central region and the northern part of the southern region. The Incas were in control of the northern area and part of central Chile. Warlike Araucanian tribes, who held the Incas back, dominated much of the rest of the country.
The first Spanish settlements were, Santiago in 1541 and Concepcion in 1550 mainly because of the pleasant climate and fertile soil. Repeated assaults from the Araucanians lasted into the second half of the nineteenth century. And although the Spanish controlled the whole Pacific coast north of Santiago (about half of what is now Chile), they were never able to conquer the land to the South from the Araucanians.
Indians were enslaved and forced to work for the Spanish, who used Chile mainly for wheat and cattle production. The slavery was abolished only in the 17th century and replaced by another exploitative system, sharecropping, that persisted until recently.
Chile was one of the first countries to declare its independence from Spain and by the middle of the 20th century Chile had emerged as one of the most heavily industrialized countries in Latin America.
Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970, he instituted agrarian reform, nationalized the copper industry, utilities, and some banks, and improved the lot of the poor by increasing wages and imposing price controls. Unfortunately for the country, Allende was murdered in 1973 by the military, led by General Agusto Pinochet, who’s dictatorship was probably the bloodiest and most ruthless of the military regimes that dominated most South American countries during the 1970s and 1980s. Elections of the 1989 returned government to civilian rule, though Pinochet continued as head of the armed forces. An amnesty was decreed for all political crimes committed by the military during the dictatorship. But the investigations of these crimes continued by a Chilean “Truth Commission”, so that the families of the disappeared will know how and when their loved ones died.
Pinochet was arrested and subsequently held in detention in London in October 1998 following an extradition request from Spain.


Rivi: Anakena, Easter Island; 2006

The Chilean coast is mercillesly bombarded by fierce pacific swell. Chile runs like a backbone along the western edge of continental south america and it is this backbone that absorbs everything the south pacific manages to generate, all the way from the tropics down to the sub antartic. Southern Chile terminates in one of the most treacherous bodies of water on Earth, Drakes Passage.

A pitching deck, the creak of well worn timbers, the cracking of sail and canvas...tied to the mast.  Things have changed a little I guess from when Jack London and  Josef Conrad wrote their haunting Pacific infused epics but it hasnt changed everythwhere. There are corners of this earth where that mythos still holds true, and most of those  corners are here in the South Pacific.

The main source of swell here is from the intense lows that circle the earth south of Australia, these lows spin off northwards with blessed regularity, peppering the entire region with generous SE to SW groundswell from March to September. Australia and New Zealand see the bulk of these swells. These countries cast a very tall shadow across the rest of the Pacific and hence many other islands in their wake can suffer from swell difusion. December to February is cyclone season. Unpredictable cells can deliver swell in a 360 radius, lighting up rarely breaking reefs and points facing every conceivable direction. 

The South Pacific trade winds are some of the most consistent in the world, generally from the East with slight seasonal variation. This is the largest Ocean on the planet and these winds easily generate regular rideable swell. Onshore conditions can be a problem on east facing coastlines but peeling yourself out for an early surf will usually bring some relief.

In the North Pacific it is the intense lows descending from the Aleutians that deliver NE to NW swells from October to March. Hawaii is ideally placed to make best use of this energy but other coastlines in the region have their own less publicised and far less crowded gems.

Jun to October also sees rarer hurricane swell radiate out from southern Mexico. This energy is often felt right throughout Polynesia. With so many energy vectors at work it is very hard not to find a wave. 

Places such as Chile will ensure that regadlesss of the conditions, somewhere there will be a wave. In fact quite often there will be a very good one. 

It is here that the Pacific and Atlantic meet with the circumantartic current continually bathing the entire region in 30 feet of raw power - not for the faint hearted. Vast stretches of this coast remain unexplored, countless points un named and both tropical and cold water reefs unsurfed - do you have the minerals to go further?


Arcturus: Airbus A340 of Chile's LAN Airlines; August 2006

The most common way of getting to Chile is by plane. There is an international airport in the Santiago, which offers the best connections (though there are other airports in major towns). LAN Airlines is Chile’s main airline.
Bus is another option for those who are already in South America. It will be much cheaper, though still reliable and safe. You can enter Chile from Brazil (bus from São Paulo, on Mondays and Thursdays) or Argentina (daily bus from Mendoza), Peru (bus from Arequipa) and Bolivia. The only problem you may face travelling by bus is that the roads from Peru and Bolivia are a bit poor in quality and that crossing to Chile means that high altitude points might be present (Up to 4000m - 13,000ft). By the way, from June to August, the passage from Mendoza can be closed for days at a time.
The third option would be to take a cruise. When you’ve finally reached the desired destination, you can travel around by bus (the bus system is very good), metro, micro buses (transit/local buses), thumb and colectivo, which is a mix between a micro and a taxi (more expensive, but quick and comfortable).
And another important thing – Chile is an agricultural country, so don’t bring organic products with you.


Thomas Splettstoesser: Ocean Circulation Conveyor Belt, 2007-11-21

The climate of Chile is subject to great geographical variation due to the fact that it covers some 38 degrees of latitude. As one would expect in a country that extends so far from north to south, Chile has many different climatic zones. All are cooled by the Humboldt current which originates in sub-Antarctic waters off the Pacific coast and flows north along Chile’s West facing coast. Northern Chile is one of the world's driest regions. Here, the Atacama desert experience one of lowest average annual rainfalls on the planet. Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate with warm and virtually rainless summers, whilst the winters are mild and moderately wet. Southern Chile tends to be wet all year round, with typically changeable and often harsh weather driven by the passage of polar frontal systems. Though this variation, the summer hemisphere four seasons are evident throughout Chile: Winter (June-August), Spring (September-November), Summer (December-February) and Autumn (March-May).

Winter (June-August)

In winter (Northern Hemisphere summer), the South Pacific high is at its farthest north position.  This allows the southern polar cold fronts to shift as far north as they get and dominate the weather in southern Chile and affect the weather in central Chile. Steady south westerly winds flow around the South Pacific high and brings in moist air onshore. These winds can reach gale force in the south grading to moderate in the central regions.  In the north the winds back south-southeast and are light. This is the rainy time of year.  Rain occurs on an average of 8 days per month in the central region and increases to 15 days in the south. Central mean highs are 14 to 15°C in June and July and 16°C in August, but can be much cooler behind cold fronts. The mean lows are 3°C all winter, so morning surfs will be chilly. Southern Chile gets cold, high temperatures range from 6 to 9°C, so surfing is left for the very brave. While the North stays relatively warm upwards of 20°C. Why not try some South American snowboarding during this period.
Spring (September-November)

In spring, the South Pacific high begins to shift south again, which slowly forces the southern polar fronts south with it.  By the middle of spring, the fronts associated with southern ocean lows that track west around the planet cannot reach all but the southern areas of the country. Rainfall decreases sharply and only locally generated showers bring rainfall to the area to the central area, mostly from orographic lifting of onshore south-westerly flow.  The prevailing wind comes from the south during the season, so the left point breaks keep on pumping. Downslope winds from the Andes dominate night and early morning conditions and upslope winds during the day grow stronger as spring progresses. By late season this can cause afternoon westerly winds, and the usual surf morning, sleep afternoon summer routine begins. Rainfall decreases sharply between August and September as winter rains end.  Rain occurs on an average of 3-5 days per month in the central area, and 10 in the south. In central areas, the mean highs are increase from 18°C in September to 25°C in November. In the south it increases from 11°C to 14°C respectively.

Summer (December-February)

The South Pacific high is at its southernmost position of the year and only the constant south-westerly flow off the sea brings moisture to the central region. The most southern areas still influenced by cold fronts, but generally the weather is warm and dry but rarely hot due to the Humboldt current’s moderating influence. The prevailing winds come from the south all season.    During this time the land-sea temperature difference is at it’s maximum and so the sea and land breezes are magnified by the flow over Andes mountains and afternoon surf quickly becomes blown out. Rainfall decreases to nearly nothing in summer over all but the southern areas. Rain occurs on an average of 1 day or less per month all season. The mean highs are 28°C in December and 29°C in January and February.  Temperatures can rise above 30°C on occasion each month of the season. In the south it stays a few degrees cooler.

Autumn (March-May)

As the South Pacific high shifts northward toward its winter position, temperatures cool and the southern cold fronts gradually moves north.  This allows more and more fronts associated with lows in the southern ocean to reach further north in the country, as far as Santiago area and sees rainfall increases sharply by May. The prevailing winds come from the south all season in the central areas but calm conditions occur often due to night downslope winds from the Andes. Rainfall increases sharply between April and May as the first fronts of the year sweep through the region by the end of the Autumn season.  Rain occurs on an average of 1 day in the first month of the season to 6 days in May. The mean highs of 27°C in March drop to 18°C by May in the central and northern areas, but the south sees highs as low as   15°C.

where to stay

Der schöne Tod; Santiago Skyline; 12.06.2004

Chile has many places to stay, all the major cities have the main hotel chains there such as The Sheraton, Ritz, Marriott, Hyatt etc. Clean rooms, good service, you could be anywhere in the world, why try staying somewhere with a more Chilean influence on it. There are many smaller, more authentic places you rest your weary head all over the country. The backpacker trail is strong here so many homes and hostels cater for the traveller on a budget. It's funny really, often the less money you spend on accommodation the more interesting and genuine people you meet and the more you actually learn about the country you're visiting, within reason of course, no-one wants to sleep in a roach infested hovel!

what to pack

Mwanner: Backpacking Tent; January, 2006.

Try to pack light when travelling to Chile, but you will need clothes for warm (desert zone in the North) and cold days (Patagonia in the South). In the North and the middle of Chile it may be very hot, and in the South you need very warm clothes. Make sure you bring everything you may need for your camera with you, just to prevent yourself from unpleasant surprises when you suddenly need to buy something.

A good sunscreen and insect repellent wouldn't hurt much. Comfortable walking shoes, as there are many places to see. Don't forget to bring any medications that you need!

dangers and warnings

Needham; Street arabs and gutter snipes; Circa 1884

As with everywhere, common sense and an aquired travel streetwise approach prevails here. Avoid flashing your shiny new camera around, keep money separated about your person i.e coins and low denomination notes in you wallet and pockets to hand, larger amount stashed in under clothing in money belts etc. Avoid poorer out city suburbs and dark alleys at night. Try not to travel alone, especially at night or appear intoxicated in public. Traffic in big cities can be a danger, use your eyes and ears. Stick to those basic golden rules and you shouldn't go far wrong.

Don't bother with the tap water, drink bottled water it's way safer. 

restaurants, shopping and nightlife

Grendelkhan; A specimen of polished Lapis Lazuli; 11.01.2005

The are many restaurants in Chile offering all different cuisines, especially in the larger cities. For a taste of authentic Chilean foods try some of the following for a delicious meal:-

  • Pastel de choclo: corn casserole filled with ground beef, onions, chicken, raisins, hardboiled egg, olives, and topped with sugar and butter.
  • Empanada de pino: a baked pie filled with ground beef, onion, raisins, a piece of boiled egg and a black olive.
  • Cazuela de vacuno: beef soup with a potato, rice, a piece of corn and a piece of squash.
  • Lomo a lo pobre: a beefsteak, fried potatoes, a fried egg (expect two in restaurants) and fried onions.

Chile is also famous for it's fine wines and they can produce a good drop of brandy too, try it, it's good!

They do also produce a couple of their own beers too, if you're a weathered beer drinker and like to sample your ales - stick to the wine, they do funny things like mix it with orange Fanta here???????

Markets are popular here selling all kinds of handmade gifts for the tourist, things worth looking out for are the famous high quality alpaca sweaters and jumpers and beautifully made silver and Lapis Lazuli jewellery all with a destinct Andean style.

what to do when it's flat

Fridday; Portillo, Central Chile; 11.09.2007

If the surf is flat in Chile then never fear mon amis as the skiing here it awesome. Why not visit the ski resort of Portillo, it's not too cheap but it could well salvage the enjoyment of your trip should the ocean take on that heart sinking duck pond appearance. Here you can ski or snowboard your little heart out until your legs turn to jelly.

Another trip that comes well recommended is the boat trip out to the penguin reserve to see the little fellas waddle around the lighthouse, you can get some great pictures as there is no fence or obstructions between you and the birds. Make the trip in good weather though as it's quite a long ride on that boat if you haven't aquired your sea legs, but I guess if there's motion in the ocean penguin trips won't be your priority anyhow.  

useful phrase guide

Indolences; Standard question mark; 04.05.2007

The official language of Chile is Spanish, so here we have some phrases for you to polish up your local lingo:-

Hello/Hi (informal) - Hola (OH-lah)

How are you? (informal) - Cómo estás? (KOH-moh ehss-TAHSS?)

Fine, thank you - Muy bien, gracias. (MOOEY BYEHN, GRAH-thyahss)

My name is *** - Me llamo *** (MEH YAH-moh *** )

Nice to meet you - Encantado/a (ehn-kahn-TAH-doh/ehn-kahn-TAH-dah)

It's a pleasure to meet you - Mucho gusto. (MOO-choh GOOST-oh)

Please - Por favor (POHR fah-BOHR)

Thank you - Gracias (GRAH-thyahss)

You're welcome - De nada (DEH NAH-dah)

Yes - Sí (SEE)

No - No (NOH)

Excuse me (getting attention) - Disculpe (dees-KOOL-peh)

Excuse me (begging pardon) - Perdón (pehr-DOHN)

I'm sorry - Lo siento (LOH SYEHN-toh)

Goodbye - Adiós (ah-DYOHSS) / Hasta luego (AHS-tah LWEH-goh)

I can't speak Spanish (well) - No hablo (bien) español (NOH AH-bloh (BYEHN) ehs-pah-NYOL)

Do you speak English?
- ¿Habla usted inglés? (AH-blah oos-TEHD een-GLEHSS?)

Is there someone here who speaks English? ¿Hay alguien que hable inglés? (HAHEE AHL-gyen KEH AH-bleh een-GLEHSS?)

Good morning - Buenos días (BWEH-nohss DEE-ahss)

Good afternoon / Good evening - Buenas tardes (BWEH-nahss TAR-dehss)

Good evening / Good night - Buenas noches (BWEH-nahss NOH-chehss)

I don't understand - No entiendo (NOH ehn-TYEHN-doh)

Where is the toilet? - ¿Dónde está el baño? (DOHN-deh ehss-TAH EHL BAH-nyoh?)

- ¡Policía! (poh-lee-SEE_ah!)

Thief! - ¡Alto, ladrón! (AHL-toh, lah-DROHN!)

I need help
- Necesito ayuda. (neh-seh-SEE-toh ah-YOO-dah)

It's an emergency
- Es una emergencia. (ehs oo-nah eh-mehr-HEHN-syah)

I need a doctor
- Necesito un doctor. (neh-seh-SEE-toh OON dohk-TOHR)

Can I use your phone?
- ¿Puedo usar su teléfono? (PWEH-doh oo-SAHR soo teh-LEH-foh-noh?)

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