Chile is situated in the extreme southwest of South America, with Peru to the north, the South Pole to the south, Bolivia and Argentina to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Chile has an unusual shape; it is a very long and narrow country. From north to south, it stretches from desert to glaciers, by way of cliffs, valleys, lakes, forests, islands, and canals. From east to west, it is squeezed between the Andes mountain range, with altitudes above 6.000 meters, and the Pacific Ocean, whose cold and restless waters reach a depth of 8.000 meters in some places.
Chile’s north is one of the most arid regions in the world. In some parts of the Atacama Desert it never rains, but at night a heavy coastal fog known as camanchaca is formed, which obscures vision at 50 paces and dissipates in the morning with the heat of the sun.
The central zone is fertile and bountiful, watered with rivers originating in the snowcapped summits of the Andes. This is the heart of the chilean countryside, its products, traditions and folklore. The capital, Santiago, is also in the central zone, along with the principal cities, the major industries and the most important financial institutions.
On Chiloé Island, a land of legends and traditions passed on by its inhabitants from generation to generation, more than 100 small wooden chapels remain as notable vestiges of the work of Jesuits and Franciscans. On November 30, 2000, Unesco declared 14 of the chapels to be part of the World’s Heritage.
In the south, where rain is abundant, the land is dotted with lakes and volcanoes towering above old-growth forests. It is not only a paradise for fishermen and nature enthusiasts, but also the source of the country’s rich timber and water resources.
In its extreme southern reaches, Chile breaks apart into hundreds of windswept islands, separated by canals, straits and seas, and covered with exuberant vegetation.
Chilean Patagonia consists of 132.000 square kilometers of islands, canals, fjords, icebergs and glaciers. Ships offer cruises through the zone of eternal ice, with its glaciers, such as the 30.000-year-old San Rafael Glacier, cascading spectacularly into the sea.
In the Strait of Magellan, winds blow at more than 100 kilometers per hour, and the waters are fickle and treacherous. The Evangelistas Lighthouse serves as the last, lonely guide for navigators. Once there were large cattle ranches and gold mines in Tierra del Fuego. Today, it is the country’s center for petroleum operations and large-scale forestry projects.
Chile ends at Antarctica, where it maintains five bases and a civilian settlement, Villa Las Estrellas, founded in 1984 and where 90 people live. The country suscribes to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.