A country with haphazard geography

Geography

There are not that many countries that can offer mountains, glaciers, deserts, cold jungles, salt flats, beaches, fjords and geysers all in one territory.

Sunday, August 02, 2009  
Geografía (Photo: Sernatur)

Few countries can match Chile's geographic diversity. This is an essentially mountainous country marked by large two large mountain ranges: the Andes, which range throughout the entire country and create a natural border between Chile, Bolivia and Argentina; and the coastal mountains, well settled between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.

The Andes make up one of the highest mountain ranges in the world, second only to the Himalayas, and range throughout all of South America. This mountain range starts in Chile's Large North and runs right up to the country's far south. 

There are permanently active volcanoes in the Andes mountain range. Studies have confirmed that intense geological activity is making this mountain range higher and narrower every year.

Altiplano

Chile's altiplano is truly outstanding, a huge network of mountain plains shared between Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Argentina. The altiplano features lofty summits, generally volcanoes, measuring 6,000 meters high and more.

Weather conditions are extreme in the altiplano, but a wide diversity of flora and fauna make a visit worth your while. Altitude is a challenge when it comes to traveling to the altiplano. To avoid mountain sickness due to the lack of oxygen, try the local chachacoma tea and, above all, avoid making any brisk movements or running.

The Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, stretches out from the foot of the altiplano. It is mountainous, in contrast with the Sahara, and some areas have not seen rain for the last 400 years. Some tourist attractions here are peaceful hot springs, imposing salt flats, impressive volcanoes and strange geological formations.

Central Valley

Green valleys peek out between the mountains towards the central and southern regions of Chile. These are especially fertile for the winemaking industry. We highly recommend you visit the country's Wine Routes where you can visit wineries, taste exquisite varieties of wine and steep yourself in ancient winemaking tradition.

The most remarkable valleys are Maipo, Casablanca, Maule and Cachapoal.

The south of Chile teems with rivers, lakes and rain forests ranging throughout a dense cold jungle, with age-old trees, followed by breathtaking islands, fjords and glaciers.

Patagonia

The country's far south, also known as Patagonia, is home to steppes, islands, straits, fjords and capes; with places not to be missed, including the Southern Highway, Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine National Park and the Ice Fields, with summits untouched by any mountain climber. The sheer majesty of it all makes travelers feel a little small.

Chile's continental territory ends at Cape Horn, with its harsh climate, severe wind and rain. This is the land at the end of the world; the backdrop for novels, sailors and shipwrecks.

Ten thousand kilometers of coastline and beaches stretch out between Cape Horn and the Peruvian border, but most of this water is cold because of the Humboldt Current. This makes the country's beaches a little less welcoming for bathers but ideal for exquisite mollusks such as razor clams and abalone.

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