It is not always easy to choose where to settle for an expatriation. What are the best cities to live in Chile? Which places offer a good quality of life, an affordable cost of living or many professional opportunities? In order to help you decide, we list below some of the Chilean cities that we consider the most pleasant to live in Chile.
Chile is a big country with a small population (18 millions in 2017), so there is plenty of space to settle. The population is unequally distributed: Santiago hosts 6 million inhabitants, that is to say 1/3rd of the population, while the remaining 2/3rd are spread in the rest of the country. Most expatriates live in Santiago or by the sea in the fifth region, in Valparaíso or Viña del Mar. The north of the country concentrates the mining activity, while Patagonia has strong tourist and energy sectors, so that you can find work in these sectors more easily.
Santiago is the only big city of more than one million inhabitants in Chile. The other towns and cities are more rural and therefore offer very different and much slower life styles. Most expatriates choose to settle in Santiago because this is where most professional opportunities are and the standard of living is close to the one in western cities. The main negative points of living in Santiago are air pollution, especially in winter (from June to September), and noise nuisance. If you want more information about the life in the Chilean capital, you can read our dedicated article.
Valparaíso is a pleasant city to live, located by the sea but close to Santiago. Home to nearly 300,000 inhabitants, Valparaíso has two parts: the lower city, including the port and most of the shops, and the upper town (the cerros), in which the majority of the population lives. Valparaíso is a colorful cultural city, known for its open-air museum. The city is quite safe, except for some cerros that you should avoid at night.
Viña del Mar
Located by the sea, not far from Valparaíso, Viña del Mar has a urban atmosphere. It is an embodiment of seaside resort: tall buildings stand in front of the sea, all along the beach, which makes the city less charming. Yet, Viña del Mar is a dynamic and living city. Among the 330,000 inhabitants, there are mainly Chileans from the wealthy class and expatriates.
Located on the Pacific coast and gateway to the Elqui Valley, La Serena is a dynamic and modern city of 250,000 inhabitants. It has Mediterranean landscapes and ambiance. Indeed, the city is pleasant to live for its climate: in summer, temperatures rarely exceed 79°F, unlike Santiago where summer heat can be overwhelming. If you work in the mining industry, the region of La Serena and the north of the country in general are the areas that offer the most opportunities. La Serena is one of the best places to retire in Chile.
Antofagasta is a port city of 350,000 inhabitants located in northern Chile. The paradox of Antofagasta is that your feet are in the Pacific Ocean but behind you stand huge hills where the world’s driest desert begins. The air of the ocean helps to reduce the desert climate: temperatures reach 60°F in winter and 77°F in summer and it almost never rains. Originally, the city was built for miners, so it offers opportunities in the mining sector. However, recent investments have led to the creation of new artificial beaches, parks and sports infrastructure, making Antofagasta increasingly attractive. The city is built all along the beach: beautiful neighborhoods are located in the south of the city, while the poorest are north and on the hillsides. The drawbacks of the city are the fact that it is quite dirty and one of the most dangerous cities of Chile. Another downside: if Chileans can drink tap water, European and American stomachs are less resistant. Thus, we advise you to drink only mineral water.
Iquique is the central city of northern Chile. Wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean Cordillera that reaches up to 600m high, Iquique is a seaside town, with rocky coast and wide beaches. It is overlooked by Mount Dragon, a sand dune that offers a nice view of the city. Iquique has a desert climate, although tempered by the current of Humboldt. As the first fishing port in Chile, Iquique lives mainly from this activity. In addition, with its population of 200,000 inhabitants, the city has also benefited from a boom in tourism, especially since it was declared American Capital of Culture in 2001.
Concepción is a central city in southern Chile. It was rebuilt after an earthquake devastated it, so Concepción is a modern city. The climate is quite mild: it is never very cold in winter (about 40°F) and temperatures rarely exceed 77°F in summer. The city is located on the Pacific coast, therefore the ocean is quite cold. And do not expect white sand beaches, you will get rather isolated and atypical seaside places. In Concepción, life is quiet, without problems of insecurity.
Southern Chile, and in particular the Lake District, is the best region in terms of quality of life. If you are looking for a more rural lifestyle, Pucón is a city of 22,000 people located in the middle of the Lake District. It looks like an alpine mountain village. The city is frequented by well-off people and tourists. It is full of agencies offering sport and adventure activities. If you work in the tourism sector, Pucón is an ideal city to settle. However, be careful with the weather, the Lake District has the highest rainfall in the whole country!
Punta Arenas, with about 130,000 inhabitants, looks like the end of the world. It is indeed one of the most southern cities in the world. Located near the the Strait of Magellan and facing the Tierra del Fuego, the city lives mainly from tourism (it is a stopover town to go to the Torres del Paine National Park) and the Chilean army, because the Strait of Magellan is a strategic passage. Punta Arenas has a subpolar climate: temperatures are slightly above 0 and do not vary much during the year. The city is very quiet, suitable for those who are not afraid of loneliness or an impression of the end of the world.