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Chile country of contrasts: deserts, mountains and glaciers

Chile (República de Chile/Republic of Chile) is a presidential republic situated in the south-west of South America. It is washed by the Pacific Ocean to the west, to the north it borders with Peru, to the north-east with Bolivia and to the east with Argentina. The Easter Island, the Sala y Gómez island, the Juan Fernandez Archipelago and the Islas Desventuradas in the Pacific Ocean are a part of the country.

Chile extends in the north-south direction for 4,300 km. The Pacific Ocean lies on one side and the Andes on the other side. The north of Chile is an extremely arid area. Here lies the Atacama desert, one of the most arid areas of the planet.

The Andes stretch for the entire length of the country from the Bolivian highlands to the Tierra del Fuego. In the northern part the highest peaks often exceed 6,000 meters, Here are the major volcanic cones: San Pedro with 6,063 m, Socompa with 6,031 metres, Llullaillaco with 6,723 metres, Cerro Tupungato with 6.550 meters and the Ojos del Salado volcano, the highest elevation of the country, reaching 6,880 meters. Chile has almost 200 volcanoes, of which 55 are still active.

To the south of these mountains the Cordillera gradually decreases. The southern section of the Cordillera reaches its maximum height by Mount San Valentin with 4,058 meters. Other beautiful mountains of this area are the Fitz Roy or Cerro Chaltén with 3,375 metres and the Torres del Paine with 2,750 metres.

Chile possesses the western section of the Tierra del Fuego, the promontory of Cape Horn. On Horn island is the southernmost point of the American continent to be found. The rivers of Chile are generally short due to the short space between the Andean mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In the southern part of the country large freshwater basins like the lake Buenos Aires and General Carrera with 1,850 sq km, being divided between Chile and Argentina, and the Lake Llanquihue with 860 sq km, which is dominated by the Osorno volcano with 2,652 metres.

The economy of Chile is one of the strongest in Latin America. It is based on mining, especially on copper and molybdenum, for which Chile is one of the leading world producers. The extraction of iron, silver, natural gas, gold, manganese, zinc, sulphur and oil is also important. The main agricultural products are wheat, potatoes, sugar beet, barley, oats, wine and fruits. Besides fishing breeding is practised for sheep, poultry, pigs, cattle, lamas and alpacas. The industry is mainly linked to the processing of agricultural products like foodstuff, sugar, wine and meat and also to the manufacturing of textiles. Thanks to the many natural beauties of the country like the Atacama Desert, the Easter Island and Torres del Paine tourism increasingly becomes an important source of income.

English text correction by Dietrich Köster.

  • Area: 756,626 sq km: arable land 5,6%, pastures 18%, forests and bushland 21,8%, uncultivated and unproductive land 54,6%
  • Population: 16,284,000 (as of 2007): Mestizos (descendants of Europeans and Amerindians) 65%, Europeans 30%, Amerindians 5%.
  • State Capital: Santiago de Chile.
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Religion: Roman Catholics 70%; Protestants 15%.
  • Currency: Peso (CLP)
  • Time Zone: UTC-3 hours, between October and March (summer) daylight saving time (DST) UTC-4 hours

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