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Chile

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 the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, 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 whole length of the country. 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 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 way to steppe-like grasslands. About 86 percent of Chile’s people live in urban areas with a third of them in the capital, Santiago, 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 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 largest copper mines in the world and accounts for Chile's most important source of foreign exchange.

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