Towering peaks, primeval forests, rich river valleys, deserts and 2,700 miles of coastline are among Chile’s unusually diverse physical features. Its borders encompass a long swath of land, equal in length to the distance between New York and San Francisco, but only 150 miles wide.
The wall of the Andes Mountains rises on Chile’s eastern border with 50 active volcano peaks. On the west lies the Pacific Ocean and to the south a stormy maze of islands, inlets and twisting peninsulas often washed by storms. Chilean Patagonia, a region of steppe-like plains almost bare of vegetation, lies at the southern tip. The Atacama Desert, a nearly uninhabitable landscape said to be the driest non-polar desert in the world rises to the north. The great mineral wealth of this region is mainly in copper.
An expansive river valley is located in the center of Chie. his 500-mile corridor is occupied by vineyards and farms in the north and ancient forests and lakes in the south. The Elqui, Aconcagua, Maipo, Mapocho and the Maule are rivers that flow through the valley, fed by snowmelt from the Andes in the summer and by winter rains. Away from the coastline, the Juan Fernandez Islands and Easter Island, both administered as national parks, also belong to Chile.