Chile is bounded on the north by Peru, on the east by Bolivia and Argentina, and on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. The dominant physical feature of Chile is the Andes Mountains, which extend the entire length of the country, from the Bolivian plateau in the north to the islands of Tierra del Fuego in the south. Chains of islands extend along the southern coast. Chile has a total area of 756,626 sq km (292,135 sq mi).
Chile owns a number of islands, including Easter Island, the Juan Fernández Islands, and Sala y Gómez in the South Pacific. One of the Juan Fernández Islands is named for Alexander Selkirk, who presumably inspired the fictional shipwrecked character Robinson Crusoe in the novel by Daniel Defoe. Cape Horn in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago marks the southernmost point of the South American continent. Chile shares Tierra del Fuego with Argentina. The Chonos Archipelago hugs Chile’s southern coast. Chile can be divided along its length into three topographic zones: the lofty Andes on the east; the low coastal mountains on the west; and the plateau area, which includes the Central Valley, between these ranges.
The country has three major geographical and climatic regions: the dry northern region; the central region, with a Mediterranean (mild to warm) climate; and the southern regions, with a temperate sea climate.
The Andes are widest in the northern region, where broad plateaus occur and where many mountains rise more than 6,100 m (20,000 ft) above sea level. The country’s highest peak, Ojos del Salado (6,880 m/22,572 ft), is found on the border with Argentina.
Between the Andes and the Pacific the Atacama Desert occupies a plateau. This vast desert contains large nitrate fields and rich mineral deposits. In the central region the plateau gives way to a valley, known as the Central Valley. The Central Valley is 1,000 km (about 600 mi) long and ranges from 40 to 80 km (25 to 50 mi) in width. The central region is the most heavily populated area of the country, with nearly 90 percent of Chile’s people.
It also forms the agricultural heartland of Chile. The central Andes are narrower in width and have lower elevations than the mountains in the north. The most important passes in the Andes are located in the central region.
The southern region is without an interior valley; the valley disappears below the sea at Puerto Montt. The long chains of islands along the Pacific coast are formed by the peaks of submerged coastal mountains. Numerous fjords—narrow, steep-sided inlets—indent the coastline here. Glaciers discharge icebergs into the coastal fjords. The southern Andes have elevations that seldom exceed 1,800 m (6,000 ft), but many summits have snowcaps. The region has some of the world’s most beautiful mountain peaks, glacial valleys, lakes, and tumbling waterfalls. Chile lies in a zone of geologic activity and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. "Chile" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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