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Chile Geography

Easter Island Easter Island
With a toothy coastline of almost 4,000 miles, pencil-thin Chile is wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Andes, the world's longest mountain range. This land of incredible and unusual contrasts is also home to the numerous beaches, fjords, deep sea channels, glaciers and icebergs - and the Atacama Desert - a virtually rainless plateau made up of salt basins and lava flows.

Most of the country's interior is covered by mountains. The snowcapped Andes cover almost all of its eastern border; generally lower, non-Andean ranges dissect Chile (north to south) with the largest being the Cordillera de la Costa in the far south.

Located along the Ring of Fire, the Andes are geologically a young mountain range that includes over 600 volcanoes (within Chile alone), many of them active, and almost 10% have erupted (at least once) within the last century.

Throughout the country deep valleys and high plateaus front these mountains, most winding east to west; the central valley (or Pampas) runs to the Pacific Ocean shoreline.

Lake District of ChileThe Lake Region of the south, is a group of mostly small, clear blue, cold-water lakes; in this area, waterfalls are common.

In the far south, an almost uncountable group of mountainous islands (forming varied archipelagos) front the coastline, forming a series of winding channels and fjords. Cape Horn, directly south of the island of Tierra del Fuego, is the southern-most point in the world, next to Antarctica.

Mixed into the stunning landscape are the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields that form the largest continental mass of ice in the world, outside of Greenland and Antarctica.

Hundreds of glaciers branch off the ice fields, many extend all the way to sea level. Meltwater from the glaciers gather in lakes such as the General Carrera - the second largest lake in South America.

And as for rivers....dozens rise in the upper reaches of the Andes and flow either to the Pacific Ocean, or east through neighboring Argentina.

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This page was last updated on September 29, 2015.