Seeing the 2020 solar eclipse in Chile

Mid-afternoon, 14 December 2020 will see parts of Chile and Argentina bear witness to one of the universe’s great natural phenomena: a total solar eclipse. As the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, day will become night for up to two minutes and 20 seconds, and watchers of the sky on dedicated solar eclipse vacations can enjoy this dramatic celestial spectacle in pristine, light pollution-free skies.

The eclipse will be visible in Chile’s Araucanía region, 800km south of Santiago, about midway down the spine of South America. Several parts of Argentina, including Valcheta and Moron will also be plunged into darkness.

Small group trips to Chile, and two-center trips that take in Argentina as well, are the perfect way to experience such an awe-inspiring event. You can travel in the company of a professional astronomer who can fill in a great deal of detail about exactly what you’re seeing and why; enjoy stargazing and astrophotography in remote areas where there is next to no light pollution of any kind; and spend between one and two weeks exploring the cultural and natural highlights of these countries with the eclipse itself simply the crowning glory.

Highlights of a solar eclipse
vacation in Chile

Elqui Valley

Located in central Chile, the Elqui Valley is a superb location to watch the stars. So remote is it that the light pollution is practically non-existent. There is, however, the exceptional Cerro Mamalluca , where you’ll be able to visit, test out the instruments, and learn more than you ever thought possible about the creation of the universe.

Of course you will also be traveling through many remote locations that are superb for astrophotographers to practice their art, the night skies incredibly clear and detailed. For the eclipse itself you will arrive well ahead of schedule, leaving plenty of time to set up your own telescope and camera before it gets underway.


Historic but wonderfully cosmopolitan too, the Chilean capital, is a superb place to get your solar eclipse vacation underway, or bring it to an end. Enjoy the handsome colonial-era architecture, sip a classic pisco sour, shop for traditional handicrafts or do a little wine tasting perhaps in the Casablanca Valley.

Tatio Geysers

The third-largest geyser field in the world, these Andean marvels are among the most celebrated tourist attractions in Chile, with fumaroles, hot springs, steam vents and gigantic spurting geysers making for a seriously dramatic landscape. Best of all, you can bring along a swimsuit and take a fantastic dip in a thermal pool as well.

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Chile & Argentina two-center trips

Given the travel distances and costs involved in a trip of this kind, it’s worth seeing as much of the country as you can while there. You might spend some time in Chile’s exciting capital, Santiago, with its beautiful Colonial architecture and Andean setting. Sublime stargazing potential can be had in the Elqui Valley, while other popular locations to combine with the eclipse might be the volcanic lake district, or Vina del Mar,a glamourous seaside resort. Two center tours are also available, taking you over the border to Argentina and exploring the magnificent region of Patagonia. It would be entirely fitting to witness such a unique event as a solar eclipse amid these unique landscapes: Patagonia is nothing short of bewitching.

What to pack for a solar
eclipse vacation

If you’re bringing your own telescope or photography gear with you then you’ll need to ensure they are in suitably robust travel cases. You may want to bring as much as you can with you in your cabin bag, bearing in mind that cameras sometimes need to be tested at security so will require a charged battery.

Special solar eclipse viewing glasses are available – we’ve got more information here – and you can also purchase safe solar filters for telescopes. Hopefully we don’t need to remind everyone that it’s a seriously bad idea to look directly at the sun with the naked eye, even during the eclipse, but there is a lot of unreliable, potentially dangerous advice about shades and filters out there too. It’s always best to check with your vacation company before travel for their recommendations.

You will be setting up, and then waiting, in fairly exposed locations. December is one of the warmest months of the year in Chile, and average daytime temperatures in the Elqui Valley can reach 24°C. Temperatures can still drop dramatically at night however, and in the day you’ll need to be suitably covered up and protected from the sun, before and after it disappears.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: James Niland] [Intro: Patricio Novoa Quezada] [Elqui Valley: Miguel Carvajal] [Chile & Argentina two-center trips: dgriseldaoliva]
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