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Driving Directions Chile

CHILE lies like a backbone down the Pacific coast of the South American continent. It extends from Peru in the north right down to Cape Horn on Tierra del Fuego’s southern tip, a total length from north to south of about 4,184 kilometers or 2,600 miles. At its widest point, Chile does not exceed 185 kilometers or 115 miles. The country experiences volcanic explosions and earthquakes.

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The dominant topographical feature is the Andes mountain chain in the east, which runs the country’s whole length. The highest peaks are in the northern half of the country, and many are active volcanoes. A second, lower range of coastal mountains extends from north to south along the coast. In the southern region, these coastal mountains are submerged, and their peaks form numerous archipelagos.

The two ranges are linked in the north by mountains running transversely from west to east to form a region of peaks and plateaux – this extremely arid land occupied by the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s driest places. South of the Atacama Desert lies a fertile, central region, and farther south, forests give steppe-like grasslands. About 86 percent of Chile’s people live in urban areas, with a third of them in Santiago‘s capital, which lies in the central region between the Andes and the coastal mountains.

There is tremendous climatic variation in Chile with changes attributable both to latitude and altitude.

Grapes, tomatoes, apples, maize, sugar beet, wheat, potatoes, and other vegetables are grown in the central region, where there is also a significant wine-making industry.

Sheep reared in the steppe-like grasslands along with cattle, pigs and horses.

The Atacama Desert is rich in mineral deposits, notably copper and nitrates, which are extensively mined. Other mineral resources include natural gas, petroleum, coal, iron ore, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, lithium, iodine, silver, and gold. The vast copper mine of El Teniente, located in the central region, is one of the world’s largest copper mines and accounts for Chile’s most important source of foreign exchange.

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Chile is commonly divided into regions by latitude from north to south. Major regions are the Norte Grande (a desert); the Norte Chico (a semiarid region); the Central Valley (a temperate heartland); the south-central region (a dense rain forest and the picturesque Lake District); and the southern region (a cold and windswept landscape). The coastline of the southern region includes thousands of islands, extending down to Cape Horn.

Chile borders the South Pacific Ocean, and the curved southernmost portion of its coast reaches the Atlantic Ocean at the Strait of Magellan. The Humboldt Current, an ocean current flowing northward from Antarctica, chills the Pacific’s waters off the Chilean coast.

Did you know about Chile?

Chile has experienced many earthquakes throughout history, including the worst earthquake ever to occur anywhere on Earth since 1960, as measured by the United States Geological Service. This earthquake, centered just off the Chilean coast on May 22, 1960, registered 8.6 on the Richter scale. On July 30, 1995, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale struck near the northern coast of Chile, causing three deaths and leaving hundreds of people homeless.

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