Eclipse 2020

What eclipse-chasers need to know about the 2020 total solar eclipse

It’s happening, but COVID-19 means there won’t be many eclipse-chasers around to see it

COVID-19 has struck again. The total solar eclipse on Monday, December 14, 2020 across Chile and Argentina will be viewed by a largely domestic crowd.

It’s almost impossible to get into Argentina, where the skies are predicted to be at their clearest, and there are lots of problems with a trip to Chile. Not least with the weather forecast for Pucon (translation: there’s a 50% chance you’ll not see totality), but there are also issues about whether eclipse-chasers are welcome in Chile. Clue: no, they are not. 

Witnessing something truly awe-inspiring like a total solar eclipse demands risk-taking and quick decision-making, but those who make the trip will need to be highly flexible due to constantly-shifting parameters in Chile. 

However, Chile is open for international tourists. You can fly there and legally visit the region hosting the path of totality. But should you? 

If you are considering visiting Chile on a last minute trip, here’s the deal. 

You’ll have to fly to Santiago with a negative PCR test obtained 72 hours before you board the flight to Chile from your home destination. Or is it 72 hours before you land? No one is quite sure. 

Then you’ll have to fly to Temuco on the northern boundary of the eclipse path, though rental cars for the onward journey to Pucon are had to come by. Here’s an interactive Google Map of the eclipse path.

By the way, here’s what the UK government says about exactly what Chile is requiring from all International visitors:

  • negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of boarding
  • health or travel insurance that covers COVID-related medical care during your visit

Don’t skimp on that last one; Chile’s private healthcare system is exceptional, but also very expensive. 

Visitors to Chile should also know that its communes are in different stages of lockdown, quarantine, initial opening, etc. Here’s an official map of Chile’s COVID-19 phases. Inter-commune travel is only permitted between communes that are both at phase 3 or higher. There’s red phase 1 (quarantine), orange phase 2 (transition), yellow phase 3 (preparation), and phase 4 (initial-opening). The La Araucana region that includes Pucon and the ‘eclipse zone’ is in phase 3. 

If you do venture to Chile, it looks like there is going to be a ‘sanitary cordon’ around Pucon, with access to the lake area banned from midnight through 4 p.m. on Monday, December 14. 

In short, if it’s cloudy at Lake Villarrica you won’t be able to drive around searching for clear skies. You’ll need to have moved by midnight. Here’s the official ‘Plan Sanitario para el Eclipse’ as a PDF (in Spanish). 

Chasing this eclipse is also presents something of a moral dilemma because local people fear that an influx of visitors will cause an increase in COVID-19 infections. Cue a quarantine after the eclipse during the region’s critical summer tourism season. In summary, the local people are saying “No queremos contagios” … “Do not come, we do not want infections

There’s also a warning for nature to anyone planning to experience totality from the slopes of the majestic, 2,847m Villarrica Volcano above Pucon. It’s in the path of totality, but sadly it’s currently displaying why it’s one of South America’s most active volcanos. In short, it’s closed to visitors. 

So the odds are stacked against eclipse-chasers for this one, who will have to have nerves of steel (and fabulous COVID19-proof insurance policies), but some will get through, have great trips and experience the eclipse in clear skies. It’s going to something of a collector’s item.  

The rest of us can watch live on YouTube via Exploratorium, Time and Date, Slooh and local TV station Canal 10.

Clear skies to all intrepid eclipse-chasers! 

Picture credit: Pixabay