When to Go
Timing your visit to the Central Valley really depends on what you want to do there. January and February are peak summer vacation months in Chile, so parks are open and beaches full. The weather is clear and sunny—cool on the mountains and coast, and quite hot in between, making this the best time for many outdoor activities. If winter sports are on the bucket list, it’s best to come from June to August, although the snow may last into September.
If wineries draw you to the Central Valley, however, consider that grapes are picked from late February through early May, depending on the varietal and area. This is certainly the best time to visit area vineyards, since you can see everything from crushing to bottling. Visit on a weekend, and there’s a good chance of joining one of the many harvest festivals that take place throughout the region at this time of year. But don't overlook a visit another time of year, as wineries offer tastings and fun activities year-round.
The harvest season, or crush as it is often called, is the most important time of the year in wine country. Most of Chile's wine-producing regions mark the moment with a Fiesta de la Vendimia, or harvest festival, which take place in March and April. The biggest and most spectacular events are held in Colchagua and Curicó, including grape-stomping competitions and harvest-queen contests. Maule, another notable festival, kicks off the year with its Carmenère Festival in January, in honor of the very Chilean red wine grape.
Not every fiesta is wine related, of course. Catholic roots run deep here, and many traditional religious festivals remain, such as those in honor of San Pedro and San Pablo, the patron saints of fishermen (on June 29 in fishing villages all along the coast). San Sebastian, the much persecuted, arrow-pierced saint, draws thousands of devotees to Yumbel (108 km [68 miles] from Concepción) on January 20. And during the fiesta de San Francisco, held October 4 in the small colonial-era village of Huerta de Maule, 38 km (24 miles) southwest of Talca, more than 200 huasos gather from all over Chile for a day of horseback events, including races around the central square.