Chile is a long and narrow country in South America. It measures some 4,200 kilometers from north to south, but is never more than 180 km at its widest. It is bordered by Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage to the far south. It is just one of two countries in South America – the other being Ecuador – that does not share a border with Brazil.
The Pacific Ocean forms a 5,000-km-long coastline to the west of the country. Due to the great difference in latitude, Chile is a country where you can experience the hottest, driest deserts as well as frigid fjords and snop-capped mountains. In between, you can find a Mediterranean climate in the center, and a temperate climate to the south.
According to the 17th century Spanish chronicler Diego de Rosales, the name Chile may have been derived from the name of a Pichunche tribal chief called Tili, who ruled the area during the Incan conquest of the 15th century. That is just one of several theories as to how the country got its name.
With an urban area population of 5.6 million people, Santiago de Chile is the largest city as well as capital of Chile. Other notable cities include Concepción, Valparaíso, Antofagasta and Punta Arenas.
Fast Facts about Chile
- Official Name: Republic of Chile
- Capital: Santiago (6,300,000, metropolitan area)
- Population of Chile: 15,980,912
- Languages: Spanish
- Currency: Chilean peso (CLP)
- Religions: Roman Catholic (89%), Protestant (11%), others
- Size: 756,950 sq km (292,261 sq miles)
- Region: South America
Budget Travel to Chile
The nationals of the following countries may visit Chile for up to
90 days without a tourist visa: Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States, EU Countries except Greece, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, San Marino, Slovenia, South Africa, Surinam, Switzerland, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela and Serbia & Montenegro.
Nationals of the following countries may visit Chile for up to 60 days without a tourist visa: Peru and Greece
Nationals of the following countries may visit Chile for up to 30 days without a tourist visa: Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
The main international airport for Chile is the Santiago Airport (
Aeropuerto de Santiago de Chile), also known as Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL). The national flag carrier is LAN Airlines.
Budget Travel within Chile
Chile has a good public bus system enabling you to explore the country town to town. The main bus companies are Turbus and Pullman.
You can – if you are able to spend the money – take domestic flights to explore the country. Chile has good airport infrastructure (although at time of writing, May 2010, it may have been disrupted by the 2010 Earthquake) that allows you to take domestic flights to the many major cities in the country. The major domestic airlines are LAN, Sky Airline, Aerolineas del Sur and Principal Airlines.