Top tip: Some say ‘cycling is for psychos’
Chile situated in South America, and borders Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. To its west lies the Pacific and to the south the Antarctic. It is a ribbon of land, 2610 miles long and nowhere more than 115 miles wide. The Andes and a coastal highland range take up one third or half of the width in parts, and run parallel to one another. The coastal range forms high, sloped cliffs between the country’s north and its central region. Between the ranges runs a fertile valley, except in the north where east-west mountain ranges join the two major north-south ones, and in the far south where the sea breaks through the coastal range to form archipelagos and channels.
Soil types vary widely across the country, which also has vastly different climates depending on the region. The northern area consists mainly of the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world. The south is forested, and contains some agriculture; further south still the forests on the Atlantic side give way to rolling grassland on which sheep and cattle graze. Chile exercises sovereignty over a number of islands, including the Juan Fernandez Islands, where Alexander Selkirk (on whom Robinson Crusoe was based) was shipwrecked, and Easter Island, far out in the Pacific.
The climate ranges from hot and dry in the north to very cold and wet in the far south. The central areas have a mild Mediterranean-type climate with a wet season between May and August. South of the city of Puerto Montt is one of the wettest and stormiest areas in the world.
Facts and Figures
|Area||756,096 sq km (291,930 sq miles).|
|Population||15,823,957 (2004 estimate).|
|Capital||Santiago (de Chile) – population 6,000,000.|
|Language||The official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken.|
|Religion||Predominantly Christian, of which 72 per cent are Roman Catholic.|
|Time||Chile spans various time zones depending on the mainland and the islands seasons GMT – 2 to GMT -6.|
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