Famously long and narrow, Chile is sandwiched for most of its 4000 kilometre (2500 mile) length between the impressive ranges of the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country's inhabitants are mainly Spanish speakers of European descent, though indigenous Aymara Indians still farm the foothills of the Andes. Extending from north of the Tropic of Capricorn, almost to the Antarctic, Chile presents a tremendous variety of climates and landscapes. At the northern tip is the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth, with a harsh and beautiful landscape characterised by salt lakes, lagoons, dunes, weird geological formations and lofty peaks. Further south, the Chilean Lake District is another outstanding area for trekking and climbing amongst snow-capped volcanoes, high mountain lakes and forests of monkey puzzle trees. Even further south lies Patagonia with the last, dramatic Andean peaks rising as bare rock towers in the Torres del Paine National Park.

Geography

Bordered by Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, Chile is sandwiched for most of its 4000 kilometre (2500 mile) length between the impressive ranges of the Andes to the east and the Pacific to the west. The country’s inhabitants are mainly Spanish speakers of European descent though Aymara Indians still farm the foothills of the Andes, and the Atacama region once the part of the Inca Empire, has many important archeological sites. Along with most of the rest of the continent, the area which now forms Chile was colonized by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century and formed part of an empire which stretched from Florida to Patagonia. The country gained independence from Spain in the early 19th century and with the significant exception of the rule of General Pinochet from 1973 to 1989, has had a constitutional government for most of that time. Though rarely exceeding185 kilometres (115 miles) in width, Chile stretches from north of the Tropic of Capricorn almost to the Antarctic and presents a tremendous variety of climates and landscapes. At the northern tip is El Norte Grande (the Big North) and the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. Its harsh and beautiful landscape is characterized by salt lakes, lagoons, dunes, weird geological formations and volcanic peaks. Above the Laguna Verde just across the Bolivian border is Volcan Licancabur (5916m / 19400ft.) the summit of which is believed to be a sacred Inca burial ground.

Time Zone

The time in Chile is: October to March GMT -3 hours (Daylight saving time); March to October GMT -4 hours