Chile, extending over 2700 miles from the Peruvian Atacama Desert to the glaciers of Chile’s Antarctic region, the country is never more than 150 miles wide running along South America’s southwestern coastline. Chile is bordered to the north by Peru, northeast by Bolivia and to the east is Argentina, on the west lies the mighty Pacific Ocean and the territories of Juan Fernandez Island; the Sala y Gomez islands, Desventurads Islands and Easter Island, to the south the turbulent and frigid waters of Drake’s Passage.
Chile being a very long and narrow stretch of land has a dramatic change in its landscape. From the north, Chile shares the Atacama Desert with Peru, the world’s driest desert. Void of moisture due to lying between the tall mountains of the Andes and the Chilean Coastal range. The region is rich however in minerals of sodium nitrate and copper. Heading south the country has an almost Mediterranean feel. You will find 500 miles of long river valleys with some of the finest vineyards in the world being located in the central valley portion of this region; Chile is the 5th largest exporter of wine.
Santiago is the capital of Chile with almost 80 % of the countries population being located in this small, but central region of the country. Along Chile’s eastern boarder is the massive and impressive Andes Mountains. Within some of these tallest mountain peaks in the world, the Chilean Andes, you will find homes for over 50 volcanoes. The southern coast of Chile is a maze of glaciers, inlets and islands. The southern portion is home to prehistoric forests and captivating lakes with surreal scenery. The region gives way to Patagonia which is located in the southern portion of Argentina. This area also extends into Chile; the region takes its name from patagon (giants) which was given to the natives by Magellan who thought the natives were giants. The Andes run through the area to the south and east as they make there way to the southernmost point of South America which is Cape Horn. Cape Horn is the southern most point of Chile and is bordered by the turbulent waters of the Straits of Magellan.
The Juan Fernandez Islands located some 380 miles west of Valparaiso, Chile are controlled by Chile and the famous Easter Island in the easternmost islands of Polynesia; both groups of islands are administered as National Parks. The archipelago is important to Chile, since it allows the country to claim territorial waters quite far from the Pacific Coastline.
Native Americans dating back some 10,000 years found settlements in fertile valleys and along the Pacific coast. Northern Chile, once part of the Inca Empire, did not establish large settlements due to the harsh landscape. Ferdinand Magellan discovered Chile in 1520 while searching for a southern passage around South American, which is now, named the Straits of Magellan.
In 1535, seeking gold, the Spanish Conquistadors arrived from Peru. The Spaniards did not find the gold and silver they sought, yet realized the potential of the fertile valleys of the central valleys.
Chile has a population of nearly 16 million people, with a large portion of the population being of Mestizo. Spanish is the main language of Chile, but takes on a different tone than the Spanish of its South American neighbors.
Chile has seen tourism grow over the last few decades, with large groups coming from Argentina, the United States and Europe. The main attraction of Chile is its own natural beauty from the Atacama Desert in the north, to the glaciers of Torres del Paine in the south and Easter Island in the western Pacific.