A total solar eclipse is happening in Chile and Argentina this year.

By Jamie Carter
Updated February 19, 2020

Is totality on your travel bucket list? It should be. Picture it: The gradually decreasing temperature as the moon creeps across the sun. The strange crescent shines down, filtered through leaves as the light turns silvery all around. The rising tension in your eclipse-watching friends as the world takes on a threatening look and then … totality! A "diamond ring" around the moon, darkness in the day, and the sun’s glowing outer atmosphere is revealed as an ice-white halo for a few precious minutes.

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If you want to experience totality, it’s time to plan a trip down to South America because you'll be able to see a total solar eclipse in Chile and Argentina this December.

Related: More space travel and astronomy news

Where is the path of totality?

To experience totality, you need to stand within the path of totality — the moon's central shadow — which is 56 miles wide. On December 14, 2020, the path of totality will stretch across the Chilean Lake District and Argentina’s northern Patagonia region. It will take 24 minutes for totality to cross Chile and Argentina, beginning at 1:00 p.m. local time on the west coast of Chile and ending at 1:24 p.m. local time on the east coast of Argentina.

How will the 2020 total solar eclipse compare to the “Great American Eclipse?"

In a lot of ways, it’s going to be similar to the 2017 eclipse in the U.S. The duration of totality will be roughly similar at a maximum of 2o minutes and 9 seconds, and the 2020 total solar eclipse will take place high in the sky as seen from both Chile and Argentina. In fact, it will be as high as 70º in the daytime sky, which is a massive positive for eclipse-chasers. Looking at an eclipse low in the sky is far riskier because you have a higher chance of having your sightline blocked by a horizon cloud.

Where to watch the 2020 total solar eclipse in Chile

At first glance, Chile is the place to go because of its plentiful tourism opportunities. Pucón on the eastern shore of Lake Villarrica in the beautiful Chilean Lake District is proving popular with tour groups and independent travellers. There’s even a six-day Goa/Psy Trance Festival being planned for this area.

The truly intrepid could ascend Volcán Villarrica to experience totality from the top of an active volcano.

However, in this part of Chile, there’s around a 50% chance of clouds blocking the view, while across the Andes in Argentinean Patagonia, there’s just a 30% chance of that.

Where to watch the 2020 total solar eclipse in Argentina

Better prospects for clear weather is why many tour groups are heading to Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes in the Argentinean Lakes District. Many are planning to take buses on the day of the eclipse to ranches on the path of totality just north of Piedra del Águila. Other tour groups will drive south from Neuquén. Meanwhile, many independent eclipse-chasers are going to Las Grutas on Argentina’s Atlantic coast, where clear skies are predicted.

Wherever you choose, always expect heavy traffic around the time of the eclipse (and just after).

When is the next total solar eclipse?

On December 4, 2021, there will be a total solar eclipse in Antarctica. So how about seeing nature’s greatest spectacle while touring nature’s greatest environment? It’s sure to be a popular — if expensive — experience, and there are many cruise lines now selling itineraries that feature must-see locations like the Falkland Islands and the South Shetland Islands (as well as a two-minute totality in the Weddell Sea).

Is Antarctica out of your budget? If so, know that there is no total solar eclipse in 2022, and in 2023, there’s only a super-short total solar eclipse visible from a remote part of Western Australia.

December's eclipse might be your best bet, as Chile and Argentina are more easily accessible compared to future eclipse locations.

That is, unless you’re prepared to wait for the “Greatest American Eclipse” on April 8, 2024, when an even better four-and-a-half minute totality crosses Mexico, the U.S. (from Texas to Maine), and the Atlantic coast of Canada.

Jamie Carter is the author of Total Solar Eclipse 2020: A travel and field guide to observing totality in Chile and Argentina on December 14, 2020.