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Total solar eclipse

Chile's Solar Eclipse 2020

Where and how to see the phenomenon

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27 January 2020 by Emily Newton-Smith

On December 14, 2020, the next total solar eclipse will take place. The phenomenon occurs when the new moon comes between the sun and Earth and casts its umbra – the darkest part of its shadow – on Earth. A total solar eclipse is almost as dark as night. While the majority of this year's total solar eclipse will take place over the Pacific Ocean, it will pass over South America – Chile and Argentina – in the late afternoon, meaning Chile's Lake District is one of the best – and only – places in the world for viewing.

The Lake District is an incredibly beautiful part of Chile, and a highly recommended inclusion in a holiday to South America. The eclipse is simply another reason to explore the region, and December happens to be a very good time to visit, right at the start of summer. Covering the area between Temuco and Puerto Montt, the Chilean Lake District is made up of dozens of major lakes and plenty of smaller ones in between – you can travel here on our Highlights of Patagonia tour. Temuco, at the northern edge of the region, is right in the path of the eclipse. And, if you're in the region, why not extend the trip with a visit to Chiloé Island?

Chilean Lake District and mountain backdrop
Chilean Lake District

Temuco is a bustling city with a grand, central square and forested parks of olive and laurel trees – but with potentially hazy skies and more light pollution. Therefore, for the best views, heading off the beaten track is recommended. The viewing hotspots for the eclipse include Pucón, also in the north, and San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina, just a little further south.

Pucón is on the shores of Lake Villarrica, in the shadow of the Villarica Volcano. In addition to the volcano itself, which you can climb, you're a stone's throw from the picturesque Huequehue National Park, a haven of monkey puzzle trees, waterfalls, and hidden lakes. It's the ideal backdrop to an adventure holiday centred around the eclipse – our Pucón's Volcanoes and Lakes itinerary is a great place to start, and the outstanding &Beyond Vira Vira property is truly spectacular.

Or, from Argentina's San Martin, a quiet town on the shores of Lascar Lake, you can summit the Lanin Volcano and even bicycle across the Andes back into Chile. And, although the town itself does not lie directly in the Moon's path of totality – 99.9½% instead – this stretch of the umbral path offers a high likelihood of cloud-free skies on the day of the eclipse. A short drive northeast to Neuquén Province does offer the chance to see 100% totality, if that's what you're seeking.

Lanin Volcano, Chilean Lake District
Lanin Volcano

If the solar eclipse is the main event you're travelling for, there are a few things to bear in mind. A total solar eclipse has five phases. A partial eclipse begins as the moon becomes visible over the sun, followed by the start of the total eclipse, where the sun is covered by the moon. It's then that those in its path might see the diamond ring effect, just before totality. During the maximum eclipse, the sky goes dark, temperatures may fall, and birds and animals can become quiet. Then, the sun begins to reappear, and the moon slowly moves away, until the eclipse ends.

In order to view the eclipse safely, you must note the following:

  • Wear protective eclipse eyewear or view an image of the eclipsed sun using a pinhole projector.
  • During totality, you can safely view the eclipse with the naked eye or through cameras, telescopes and binoculars.
  • Make sure you know how long totality will last at your location.
  • During the Bally's beads or diamond ring effects, protective eyewear must be worn.

Total solar eclipse over lake and mountains
Diamond ring effect during solar eclipse

And, of course, there is plenty to do across the country as a whole. Time a few days in the lake district with the eclipse viewing, before moving on to discover everything from the vast Atacama desert in the north, to the wilds of Patagonia in the south. There's white-water rafting, fly-fishing, horse riding and glacier hiking to be enjoyed, while oenophiles can visit the many world-class wineries in the Central Valley. Or, extend your trip on the lakes themselves, where boat trips offer a new perspective on their beauty.

If a solar eclipse holiday in Chile is on your bucket-list, speak to one of our travel specialists to plan your trip – our experts will ensure you're in the perfect location to see the eclipse on December 14th 2020.

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