Santiago a Mil (Santiago)
The Santiago a mil festival is Chile’s most important celebration of music, dance and theatre, with events throughout the capital and other regions of the country. Running for the first three weeks of January, the festival aims to bring culture to the masses, with free and reasonably priced performances by international and Chilean artists. The festival has now been going for longer than 20 years, making it bigger and better than ever.
The Kunstmann Beer Festival (Valdivia)
In spite of the Germanic name, Kunstmann Beer is exclusively produced in Chile, in the city of Valdivia in the country’s southern Lake District. The region is well-known for the German influences on its architecture, culture and food, having experienced a huge wave of German immigration starting in the mid 1840s. In addition to celebrating beer, the festival also displays a wealth of German dance and music, occasionally even including yodellers!
The Chiloé Festival of Local Culture and Traditions (Chiloé Island)
Chiloé Island is the largest of an archipelago lying just off the southern Chilean coast in the Pacific Ocean. The area has its own distinct character, which it celebrates each February with the Festival Costumbrista. The celebration explores local folk music, dances, fabrics and handicrafts of all kinds, whilst the gourmet traveller can delight in trying traditional dishes such as seafood pastries and venison stew, all washed down with apple liqueur.
Tapati Rapa Nui Festival (Easter Island)
What began as a kind of local Olympics that pitted the native Easter Islanders against one another has now become a full-blown festival and the chance to share Rapa Nui culture with the many tourists who flock to this event. Sports include Haka Pei, where competitors slide down a volcano on banana tree trunks to see who can stay on for longest, and a body painting competition using natural pigments.
Grape Harvest Celebrations (Central Valley)
Attention Dionysian travelers! Throughout March and up until early April, Chile's Central Valley is abuzz with vendimia celebrations to celebrate the grape harvest ready to make delicious wine. These typical festivals take part in the main plaza and surrounding streets of several towns in the region and are accompanied by local vineyards, who come to show off their premium wines, local artisans and producers of gourmet treats (think sea salt, sauces, jams, handmade chocolates, and cured meats). Latin American singers also visit to strut their stuff onstage and the party reaches into the early hours of the morning. Some towns with notable vendimia festivals include Santa Cruz (Colchagua), Curicó, Rengo, Peralillo, Pirque, and Isla de Maipo.
Easter Week Parades (throughout Chile, especially Santiago)
As a predominantly Catholic country, Chile celebrates Easter Week in style, starting as they mean to go on with Good Friday. Churches throughout the country and especially in the capital Santiago hold special masses and parades. A good option is to attend the Easter Vigil at the chapel on Santiago’s San Cristobal hill. The service starts at around 20:30 on Easter Saturday.
Quasimodo Sunday (Santiago)
In 2016, the first Sunday after Easter falls in April. Also known as the Octave of Easter, Quasimodo Sunday is celebrated in the capital in a uniquely Chilean way. Traditional Chilean horsemen, or huasos, dress in customary clothing and process through the streets in decorated horse-drawn carriages or on bicycles. The huasos accompany priests in giving communion to the sick before rounding off the day with music, dancing, food and drink.
Santiago Marathon (Santiago)
The Santiago Marathon attracts runners from all over the world to enjoy the mild autumn temperatures and the well-organised event against the fantastic backdrop of the Andes. The route starts not far from O’Higgins Park and then winds its way east across the city, via the National Stadium before entering the hip neighbourhood of Providencia. Runners then head back downtown passing the iconic San Cristobal hill before crossing the finish line at the base of the Santa Lucia hill.
Wines of Chile Festival (Santiago)
You can enjoy Chile’s many and varied wines at any time of year in one of the numerous wineries dotted throughout the country’s central zone, but the April festival dedicated to the wines of Chile brings them all together in one place. The week-long event features competitions along with the all-important tastings and is held in the capital’s Plaza San Francisco Hotel.
Navy Day Celebrations (Iquique, Santiago and throughout Chile)
Chile is a country with a whole lot of coastline, so it makes sense that they’d have a whole national day celebrating the achievements of their navy, and specifically commemorating the Battle of Iquique during the War of the Pacific. There are celebrations, parades and festivals throughout the country on this day, featuring speeches, military displays and plenty of food, drink and dancing, but the biggest and best are in Santiago and in Iquique itself.
The San Pedro Fiesta (San Pedro de Atacama)
The San Pedro Fiesta takes place each year in celebration of Saint Peter, the patron saint of San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile. On the day itself a midnight mass is held at the beautiful white Catholic church in San Pedro, and is followed by a procession of locals dressed in traditional clothing and carrying images of Saint Peter.
We-Tripantu (Lautaro, Araucanía, Temuco and Santiago)
We-Tripantu is the traditional New Year celebration of the indigenous Mapuche people of Chile. As such, it is traditionally celebrated in areas with strong Mapuche heritage such as the southern communes of Lautaro and Araucanía, including the city of Temuco. However, We-Tripantu is also celebrated in other cities such as Santiago, due to large Mapuche communities throughout the country. Traditionally, stories of Mapuche history are told throughout the night and traditional foods are eaten.
The Feast of St Peter and St Paul (Valparaíso, throughout Chile)
This celebration is a religious festival dedicated to both Saint Peter and Saint Paul. As Saint Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, celebrations in the coastal town of Valparaíso are particularly memorable. Since the late 1600s the city has celebrated this day with a procession of decorated boats and a floating altar decorated with seaweed and shells.
La Tirana Festival (La Tirana)
The small hamlet of La Tirana in the far north of Chile is usually home to around 600 people, but during the July celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel this swells to up to 250,000 with the arrival of pilgrims and tourists. The festival is a mix of local traditions and Catholic celebrations, with dancers and musicians performing special dances for exorcising demons.
The International Folklore Festival of Patagonia (Punta Arenas)
This celebration of Patagonian Folklore has been taking place annually for the last two decades in Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia in the far south of the country. Although it takes place in Chile, the festival aims to unite both Chilean and Argentinian musical traditions and folklore and to encourage new folk music compositions.
The Snow Festival (Puerto Williams)
With the southern winter in full swing, July brings the Snow Festival to the world’s southernmost permanently inhabited place. This event brings together musical performances, winter sports competitions, rodeos and the crowning of the local winter queen to brighten up the cold winter months.
The Valparaíso Film Festival (Valparaíso)
For the last few years, the focus of the Valparaíso Film Festival has been the safeguarding of Chile’s film archives and the protection of old film throughout the world. There are screenings of films that have been saved from destruction as well as cult horror films and documentaries. Prizes are awarded for the best documentary as well as individual categories such as sound and video recording.
Fiestas patrias (Santiago, throughout Chile)
Chile’s national day is celebrated with gusto in mid-September and is one of the liveliest and most extensive festivals in the country. Military parades take place in the capital Santiago followed by many hours - or even days - of music and dancing. Don’t forget to eat your fill of Chile’s traditional empanada pastries and try something from the BBQ as well as trying a pisco sour or a glass of chicha.
The Patagonia International Marathon (Torres del Paine National Park)
The first ever Patagonia International Marathon took place in 2012 with almost 400 runners from 17 countries running through the breathtakingly beautiful Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile, and this year it’s back for round two! The race is designed to draw attention to the plight of the endangered huemul (South Andean deer) and raise money for research into how to protect it.
4 Deserts Challenge (The Atacama Desert)
The 4 Desert Challenge is an endurance foot race series that takes competitors across the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, a section of the Sahara Desert in Egypt, and finally across the desert in Antarctica. To do all four races takes over a year, but the next Chilean round will be in October 2016. The Atacama leg consists of a seven-day race across 3,500 metres of ascents in the world's driest desert.
Santiago International Book Fair (Santiago)
The annual international book fair is hosted by the Mapocho Station Cultural Centre, a historic, renovated train station in downtown Santiago. The fair itself is a cultural extravaganza, attracting over 300 writers from Chile and around the globe as well as a host of publishing houses. The festival is always accompanied by a program of cultural and musical events through which visitors learn more about native cultures, politics and literature.
Chile might be best known for its huge variety of wine, but the trade in “craft beer” or small scale brewing is gaining ground year on year and is celebrated at Chile’s own take on Oktoberfest. This celebration brings Chile’s emergent microbrewing culture to the fore with tastings of beer from all over the country. The festival takes place at the Munich Event Centre in Malloco on the outskirts of Santiago.
Viña del Mar Film Festival (Viña del Mar)
The Viña del Mar Film Festival or FICViña is a seven day event that takes place in the chic coastal resort of Viña del Mar. Throughout the week-long celebration over 300 films are shown across five screens throughout the city, reaching a total audience of around 35,000 people. The festival brings together filmmakers from all over the world to encourage learning and the sharing of new techniques.
The Festival of Foreign Colonies (Antofagasta)
The Festival of Foreign Colonies that takes place each year in the northern port city of Antofagasta is a celebration of Chile’s multifaceted population and its rich history. It showcases the influences that have shaped Chile’s musical identity along with dance and traditional costumes. Visitors to Antofagasta during the Foreign Colonies celebrations will celebrate with large numbers of locals, enjoying traditional drinks and culinary delicacies.
La Fiesta Grande (Andacollo)
La Fiesta Grande literally translates as ‘The Big Party’, and the residents of the small town of Andacollo in the Chilean Andes certainly got that right. This religious festival is food for the soul as well as the senses with ceremonies including religious dances and costumes as well as secular activities such as cockfighting and horse racing, and of course, plenty of food and drink.
New Year’s Eve fireworks (Valparaíso, Santiago)
If you want to celebrate New Year like a local in Chile, coastal Valparaíso is the only place to be. This youthful party town is the perfect backdrop for a spectacular firework display that draws visitors from all over the country to watch. Make sure to book bus tickets and accommodation early though, as locals and tourists alike will all be heading to the New Year hotspot. But don’t worry if you’ve left it too late, there are plenty of parties and some great fireworks displays in Santiago too!