The country is divided in a north-south direction by the two main Andean ridges, Cordillera de la Costa and Cordillera de los Andes. The coastal cordillera reaches a height of up to 2,000 m, the main cordillera up to 7,000 m, in between is the longitudinal valley “Valle Longitudinal”, in which most of the population lives.
Due to the extreme extent, Chile is divided into 5 regions that extend from north to south:
The “Great North” consists of the “Atacama” desert, which stretches along the coast for a length of 1,000 km and is created by the action of the Humboldt Current. In the west, the current prevents rain clouds from forming due to the formation of fog over the sea. The Atacama desert is one of the driest regions on earth. It consists mainly of sand and stones, but has large deposits of saltpeter, which gave the country wealth as they formed the basis for artificial fertilizers and explosives. This part of the country originally belonged to Peru, but was assigned to Chile after the Saltpeter War. The mining town of Chuquicamata developed into the largest open cast copper mine(40% of the world’s copper deposits) in the world. The rivers that come from the Andes form small oases with orange and lemon groves. The largest place is the port city and regional capital Antofagasta, where mainly exports are handled. A special feature is the Salar de Atacama salt lake , located at the height of Antofagasta, with hot thermal springs and geysers.
The “Little North” consists of steppe bushes in which there are fertile fields that enable the cultivation of fruit, olives and barley.
Central Chile consists mainly of the ” Valle Longitudinal “, a 600 km long valley that lies between the coastal cordillera in the west and the main Andean chain in the east. The main cities are the capital Santiago de Chile, Valparaíso and Concepción . Due to the mild winter rainy climate, extensive agriculture is possible here (fruit, grain, vegetables, wine). In addition, many industrial companies have their headquarters here. 80 km southeast of Santiago is the largest copper mine in the world “El Teniente”. Due to the numerous jobs, the majority of the population is concentrated in central Chile, which, however, only makes up 12.5% of the country’s area. The climatically very favorable location and the beautiful sandy beaches along the coastline attract locals and tourists alike.
In the “Little South” the most important city is Temuco. The landscape is characterized by numerous lakes and wooded mountains, so that the Little South is often referred to as “Chilean Switzerland”. Most of the German immigrants settled here because of the cool, temperate climate and the homely landscape.
The “Great South” stretches from the island of Chiloé to the Strait of Magellan and is the most sparsely populated region in Chile. Characteristic is a landscape of temperate rainforest, but also plains with little vegetation, wild rivers and lakes, glaciers, fjords and countless islands off the coast. While sheep farming used to be the main industry in southern Chile, today salmon farming, trade and increasingly tourism are also of greater importance. Oil and gas have also been found in the area around the waterway that connects the Pacific with the Atlantic. Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in the worldand center of the sheep farming area. At the same time it is an export port for wool and meat.
The indigenous population was subjected as elsewhere in South America, first by the Incas and later by the Spaniards, the country in her viceroy of Peru eingliederten. In 1818 independence was proclaimed. From 1879 to 1883 Chile was involved in the saltpeter war with Peru and Bolivia, which Chile won. The Great Depression in 1925 hit the people of Chile hard. The mining of saltpetre had given the country a certain degree of prosperity. Natural disasters, social unrest and several changes of power exacerbated the situation, which ended in a military coup in 1973. Augusto Pinochet’s reign of terrorbegan and several hundred thousand Chileans fled into exile. In 1989, for the first time after 15 years of dictatorship, free elections were held. The new government tried to hold Pinochet accountable, but he died on December 10, 2006 without ever being convicted. The following governments tried to cope with the aftermath of unemployment and economic downturn, with noticeable success. On January 17th, 2010, Sebastián Piñera was elected as the new President. Parts of parliament were also re-elected. The new government is expected to deal with the problems of unemployment and collective bargaining.
Flora and fauna
Very different plants thrive in the 5 regions. Visit printerhall for Chile Tour Plan.
While there is hardly any vegetation to be found in the “Great North”, the salt lake “Salar de Atacama” provides the habitat for a large number of flamingos, rheas, llamas and alpacas. The semi-desert joins bushland with farmland further south. Central Chile is richest in vegetation with oaks, poplars and eucalyptus as well as extensive vineyards.
Bay and cinnamon trees, pines, cypresses, araucarias and pine forests grow in the Little South. The Great South is covered by evergreen forests, which in the very south of Patagonia change into a vegetation of dwarf shrubs, ferns and mosses.
One of the most famous trees in Chile is the “araucaria”, which also grows in our latitudes and is usually called the “monkey tail tree”.
Llamas and the humpless South American camels (vicuñas) live in the mountains of the south. Otherwise Chile is relatively poor in species compared to the other countries in South America. Eagle, condor, chinchilla and nutria are representatives of the native animals.