Land and People
- 17.5 million
Spanish is the official language, spoken by the majority of the population. Other indigenous languages: Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara, Pewenche, and Rapa Nui.
Varied because of its unique geography, Chile's climate ranges from the world’s driest desert in the north, to a Mediterranean climate in the center, to a cold and rainy climate in the south. Being a very narrow country with only 350 kilometers (217 mi) at its widest point east to west, the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Andes Mountains are never far away wherever you go.
CHILE is a land rich in contrasts! It stretches along the western coast of South America for 2,650 miles (4,265 km)—more than half the Pacific coastline of the continent. This makes it a land of unlimited variety, from the torrid deserts of the north to the fjords and glaciers of the south. Within this area lie rugged mountains rich in mineral ore, desert plains utterly barren, fertile valleys, forests, myriads of shimmering lakes and isles, and glacial areas hemmed in by a thundering ocean on the west and the formidable Andes Mountains on the east. Its elevation runs from sea level to the flanks of the highest mountain in the western hemisphere, Mount Aconcagua, which towers about 23,000 feet (7,000 m) on the Chilean-Argentine border.
Though largely composed of mountains, the country has a central zone that has a climate similar to that of California and favors the growing of fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, grapes, figs, oranges and lemons. In the south of the country is the lake region. Here is found the famous Lago de Todos los Santos, also called Lake Esmeralda. Theodore Roosevelt once called this lake “the most beautiful lake I have seen in all the world.” It lies nestled between mountain peaks, and its emerald-colored waters are disturbed only by waterfalls that plunge down the mountainsides into this placid lake.
Since colonial times, the Chilean culture has been a mix of Spanish colonial elements with indigenous culture. Chileans are a diverse people whose roots are found in both South America and Europe. While some regions of Chile have very strong indigenous heritage, others lack considerable native communities and some areas have noteworthy non-Spanish European immigrant heritage. Because of the unusual territorial shape, cultural expressions vary markedly in different parts of the country, some having their own distinctive traditions, including folk music and dance.