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A total solar eclipse is seen somewhere around the globe once every 12 to 18 months. When a total solar eclipse occurs, the moon appears to completely block the sun, causing a rare instance of pure darkness in the middle of the day. As the moon slips toward the sun, dusk appears to fall, and at the moment of totality, viewers experience "night" when the moon covers the sun completely. When totality hits, the sun appears to create an illuminated ring around the moon.
Experiencing a total solar eclipse feels otherworldly—perhaps because it really is a fluke of natural planetary movements. When charting your eclipse experience, seeking out the line of totality is crucial, because it's the only place in the world where you'll get the full experience. That being said, the totality zone is also the most difficult spot to get to during an eclipse, because it's where all the eclipse chasers flock. The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. was in August 2017, with the line of totality passing through Portland, Oregon. An estimated one million tourists headed to Portland to witness the spectacle; hotels sold out months—if not years—in advance and there was a notable uptick in traffic for the weekend. Nonetheless, Oregon was prepared for the influx of tourism and the spectators were blown away as the plains outside Portland, Oregon were submerged in darkness at 10:18 a.m. Pacific Time.
This year, the total solar eclipse zone is in South America on December 14, 2020. The path of totality spans an impressive distance; Totality will start at 1:00 p.m. local time on Chile's west coast and conclude on the east coast of Argentina at 1:18 p.m. One of the most notable parts of this solar eclipse is that it falls in a particularly remote area, which means the lack of pollution might increase your chances of a clear, enhanced viewing experience. In Chile, the path of totality passes through the Chilean Lake District. The main hubs for the eclipse will be Villarrica, which is about 450 miles south of Santiago. Villarrica will enjoy the most totality time, and travelers might choose to take in the eclipse from the shores of Lake Villarrica or from the top of Volcan Villarrica, one of Latin America's most active volcanoes.
Totality will also happen in Argentina's northern Patagonia region. The viewing experience will be slightly shorter, though no less impressive. This stretch of Argentina is one of the hidden gems of Patagonia, with towering peaks, serene lakes, and fewer tourists. Most eclipse chasers setting up in Argentina will base themselves in Bariloche, a stunning Lakes District city, but will drive two to three hours to Pilolil or Santo Tomas to experience totality.