Cities in CHILE


Geography and Landscape


Chile (officially: República de Chile) is a republic in South America, sandwiched between the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The total area of Chile is 756,626 km2. Chile is the fourth largest country in South America after Brazil, Argentina and Peru.

Chile Satellite PhotoChile Satellite PhotoPhoto: Mirek237 in the public domain

Chile stretches over 4,200 km as the crow flies along the Pacific Ocean and is a minimum of 64 km wide and a maximum of 350 km. The total length of the coastline is 6435 km. On the landward side, Chile is bordered to the east by Argentina (5150 km), to the north-east by Bolivia (861 km) and to the north by Peru (160 km).

Skyline Santiago with mountain peaks of the Andes behind itSkyline Santiago with mountain peaks of the Andes behind itPhoto: Victorddt CC 4.0 International no changes made

Two large islands in the Pacific belong to the territory of Chile: the Juan Fernández Islands ('Robinson Crusoe Island' 185 km2) at 670 km off the coast, and Easter Island or Rapa Nui (163 km2) at 3000 km from the coast. Chilean coast. Chile also includes the Desventurados Islands (San Félix, San Ambrosio, Gonzales, 3.3 km2), Sala y Gomez (0.12 km2), and the Diego Ramírez Islands. Tierra del Fuego is an island on the south coast and belongs to Chile and Argentina. The southern part of Chile consists of an archipelago with the passage Estrade de Magellanes and in the far south is the island of Cape Horn.

Chile also claims an area of approximately 1,250,000 km2 of Antarctica. Some parts are also claimed by Argentina and Great Britain.


Tierra del Fuego is an island at the southern tip of South America, divided into an eastern part belonging to Argentina and a western part belonging to Chile. The total area is 48,390 km2, of which 27,998 km2 belongs to Chile.

Foothills of the Andes (Andes Patagónico) form the southern part of the island (Mount Darwin, 2180 m), which is largely covered with snow and glaciers due to the low snow line (700 m). The southwestern part in particular has a strongly articulated fjord coast. The north is wooded, becoming a tundra plateau.

Only a few small, most nomadic groups remain of the original Indian population. The most important places in the Chilean part are Porvenir and Manantiales. The main economic activities are sheep farming and since around 1950 oil and natural gas extraction.

Tierra del Fuego was discovered in 1520 by Fernão de Magalhães, who saw fires burning there and named the island after it.


Easter Island ChileEaster Island ChilePhoto: Aurbinda in the public domain

Easter Island (Spanish: Isla de Pascua; native name: Rapa Nui = the Great or Te-pito-o-te-henua = navel of the earth) is a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean, about 3,500 km away from mainland Chile. . It is considered the easternmost of the Polynesian Islands. The total area of the island is approximately 162.5 km2 and it has approximately 2800 inhabitants, mainly of Polynesian descent.

The volcanic island, up to 600 m high, is triangular in shape, with a volcanic cone at each corner. There is livestock farming, some arable farming for own use, and tourism, including the sale of wood carvings. The island has been accessible to aircraft since 1967.

The island is best known for its gigantic stone statues (probably ancestor statues, called moai by the inhabitants) with an average height of 4-5 meters. The images are spread all over the island and are characterized by the striking long ears. Some statues originally had a cylindrical head covering of red tuff. In the past many statues have stood on a stone platform (called ahu), with their backs to the sea. UNESCO has counted more than 1000 statues and approx. 350 ahu platforms.

The core of these platforms, which sometimes contain a grave, is built in a way that corresponds to the techniques used in Cuzco (Peru): the often very large stone blocks fit precisely and are stacked without grouting material.

The island was discovered on Easter Sunday (April 6) 1722 and visited by a Dutch expedition under Jacob Roggeveen, who was looking for the unknown 'Terra Australis' (South Land). In november 1770 it was taken over by the Spaniard Felipe Gonzales y Haedo for the Spanish Crown under the name San Carlos. On September 9, 1888, the island was taken over by Chile and served as a penal colony for some time.


Chile Altacama DesertChile Altacama DesertPhoto: ESO/S. Guisard CC 4.0 International no changes made

Chile has a varied landscape due to the relief, geological conditions and different climates. Chile is of course dominated by the Andes Mountains or Cordillera de los Andes. This mountain range occupies the entire eastern border of the country.

Along the ocean lies the coastal mountain range Cordillera de la Costa, with peaks up to 3000 meters. This coastal mountain range is regularly interrupted by wide rivers from the Andes.

Between the two aforementioned mountain ranges is a central lowland, the Llano Intermedio or Valle Longitudinal. In the north of this valley is the Atacama Desert and the Pampa del Tamarugal, two dry mountainous desert areas. The heart of the Atacama consists of a 2000 km2 area, completely without vegetation. Here are also the large salt flats or "salares".

To the south is the fertile "central valley", where most of the people live.

In the far north, the Andes mountain range changes directly into the coastal mountain range. In the south, a small part of the Argentine Patagonian steppe belongs to Chile.

In the provinces of Antofagasta and Atacama there is a third mountain ridge, the Cordillera Domeyko. The actual Central Valley, more than 600 km long, starts at Santiago, turns into a wooded lake area in the province of Valdivia and reaches the Pacific Ocean at Puerto Mont.

In the provinces of Chiloé, Aisén and Magallanes, the Andes flows into the Pacific Ocean. Here, the ice sheet has given the coast a highly articulated character.

To the east of the Andes mountains, in the south is the Patagonian steppe or pampa. The ground here is quite stable and earthquakes hardly occur here. Because the land here fell several times, this area is often flooded by the sea. This created thick rock layers with rich gas and oil reserves. Part of this steppe consists of volcanic basalt layers, which typically form dark "table mountains" with flat tops.

What is special is that after the ice ages fields full of rolling stones, the so-called "rodados patagónicos", remained.


Chile Maipo Chile MaipoPhoto: Fortunat CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Chilean or "southern Andes", together with the Rocky Mountains, form the longest mountain system on earth, approximately 7250 km long. The structure of the Andes is quite simple, with long parallel north-south chains and virtually no transverse valleys. Deep valleys can be found between high mountain ranges or on vast plateaus.

Because Chile is located on the unstable western edge of the South American continental shelf, there are many earthquakes, especially in the center and south of the country. There are also hundreds of volcanoes in this area, such as the Tronador, the Fitz Roy and the Maipo.

The Chilean Andes has peaks of more than 7,000 meters and is more than 600 km wide at the height of Northern Chile. The highest peak in Chile is Nevado Ojos del Salado (6893 m) and the highest volcano is Llullaillaco (6739 m). In total there are more than 2000 volcanoes, almost half of which are active in one way or another.

From north to south, the Andes can be divided into four zones:

The Northern Andean Plateau or Altiplano

Due to the great volcanic activities, this area is filled with ash layers and volcanic rocks. The average height here is about 4000 meters. The Andes is here at its widest and dotted with partly still active volcanoes.

Central Andes

This very high part of the Andes is made up of volcanic rocks, but no longer has any active volcanoes. The great height differences in this area are very striking. From Santiago, at an altitude of 500 meters, the mountain range rises steeply within 50 km to the highest mountain in South America, the Aconcagua (6960 m), which by the way lies just on Argentinian territory. Other high peaks are the Tupungato (6800 m) and the Mercedario (6770 m).

Andes of the "Lake District"

The Andes is much lower here than in the Central Andes. The Andes here consists of a lake landscape formed by glaciers and many, often still active volcanoes (up to 3600 meters high). Occasionally earthquakes also take place here; one of the heaviest earthquakes ever recorded on Earth took place off the coast of southern Chile in 1960.

The Andes of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

The Andes (up to 4000 meters altitude) borders directly on the sea with steep mountain walls and deep fjords. The volcanoes in the Patagonian Andes are no longer very active. The landscape here is also mainly determined by glacier erosion in the four ice ages of the Pleistocene.

In the east, the glaciers drag out large basins: this created the large rim lakes of the Patagonian Andes, including Lago General Carrera and Lago Argentino. The Patagonian Andes is still covered by two large ice sheets.


Chile Rio MauleChile Rio MaulePhoto: Anaximander CC 3.0 Unported no changes

The very steep Andes chain on the west side forms the great watershed of southern South America. The rivers in Chile mainly flow from east to west. In the north, the Río Loa (443 km long) is the only river that has a regular water supply and reaches the ocean.

More to the south, the rivers break through the Cordillera de la Costa and reach the ocean. Irrigation (Río Maule and Río Bío-Bío) and electricity generation are possible here, but the rivers are of no importance to shipping.

Other important rivers are the Río Maipo, the Río Aconcagua and the Río Copiapó.

Climate and Weather

Smog above Santiago ChileSmog above Santiago ChilePhoto: Michael Ertel CC 3.0 Not Adapted no changes made

Chile's climate is defined by the subtropical region of high air pressure over the Pacific Ocean and the associated Peru or Humboldt Current, which carries relatively cold water north along the coast and through the Andes Mountains. Due to the Humboldt Current, temperatures along the west coast of South America are considerably lower than normal at this latitude. The difference with the temperatures on the east coast of the continent is on average 4 to 5 ° C over the year. As a result, the air that flows to the west coast is always cooled by the underlying sea surface and is therefore very stable in structure, so that showers cannot form. This means that little or no precipitation falls at a low latitude.

South of latitude 30 ° south, roughly on the axis of the above-mentioned subtropical high-pressure area, the depressions of moderate latitude can penetrate to the coast of Chile and bring precipitation there, which is further intensified by weirs against the mountain range. Tierra del Fuego is one of the wettest regions in the world.

In the mountains the temperatures decrease with increasing altitude, for the average annual temperature about 0.5 ° C per 100 m. The coastal area in the north of the country has many low clouds, while further south often fog occurs: an average of 50 days a year in Valparaíso and even 90 days in the Gulf of Peñas.

The enormous length of Chile is responsible for many climate zones. The following climate zones can be distinguished from north to south:

Climate zones of ChileClimate zones of ChilePhoto:Ali Zifan CC 4.0 International no changes made

Desert climate

Dominates the north of Chile, including the Atacama desert, where rain has never fallen in some places. The coast has a moderate climate; Inland, temperatures exceed 30 °C, but at night it can cool to temperatures around freezing.

High mountain desert climate

The Altiplano predominates, with little rain (50-300 mm per year) and much lower temperatures than in the north. Night frosts can occur all year round.

Semi-desert climate

In the "littke North" with irregular rainy periods. This semi-desert climate changes in some places into a warm steppe climate with rain in the winter months. These are the most pleasant areas to be in.

Mediterranean climate

Dominates central Chile up to the Bío Bío river, with rainy periods only in the cool winters. Summers are hot and dry and behind the coastal mountains near the capital Santiago, temperatures can exceed 35 °C.

Temperate rainy climate

Predominates in the Araucanía and the Lake District, it is a transition area between a Mediterranean and a temperate climate. Only the summer months are dry, the rest of the year it rains a lot. The average temperature in December is a pleasant 23 °C.

Maritime climate

Predominates on the islands along the coast and a zone close to the coast. Sea winds push humid ocean air up against the mountains, causing massive amounts of rainfall all year round, from 2000 to 5000 mm per year.

High mountain climate

Dominates the Patagonian Andes , with lots of storms and snow. In the direction of Tierra del Fuego, the snow line drops to 800 meters!

Continental steppe climate

Predominates on the Patagonian plains, with dry summers and annual rainfall of 200-500 mm. The average annual temperature is only 6-10 ° C.

Easter Island has a subtropical climate with year-round rainfall (approx. 1150 mm), and an average annual temperature of just over 20 °C.

The Juan Fernandez Islands have a Mediterranean climate, with rain especially in winter (approx. 900 mm on an annual basis), and an average annual temperature of 14 °C.

Climate table

avg. temperature (in °C)precipitation (in mm)
Puerto Montt15,37,71132752182
Punta Arenas11,42,11942372

Plants and Animals


Due to the climatic and geological conditions, Chile has no tropical flora. The fairly isolated location means that many species occur that cannot be found anywhere else, especially along the desert coast and in the temperate rain forests.

From north to south, the flora changes dramatically due to the decrease in temperature and the increase in the amount of rain. In the north almost barren deserts, at the height of Santiago Mediterranean scrub and further to the south evergreen rain forests. In the far south we find tundra vegetation and on the arctic peninsula only snow and ice.

From east to west the change of vegetation is even more spectacular. At a distance of 50-100 km the vegetation changes from evergreen rainforest, through deciduous deciduous forest to dry, very flora-poor semi-desert.

Brief description of the different ecosystems in Chile:

Atacama Desert

Especially on the edges of the desert, the plants have adapted to the very difficult conditions. Small oases in the middle of the desert with salt-loving thorn bushes and trees are called "tamarugales". The trees are widely spaced, including the thorny tamarugo tree and the chañar shrub. Where a lot of mist floats in, mist forests have been created. The vegetation that arises here is called loma vegetation, with various types of cacti, lichens, thorn bushes and tillantia species, plants with almost no roots that filter their water from the air with their leaves. The transition zone from the Atacama Desert to the Altiplano is characterized by the candlestick cactus and the columnar cactus.

Chile AltiplanoChile AltiplanoPhoto: Romanceor CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Altiplano highland steppe

On the dry grass steps or "pampas" grows mainly "tola" and "paja brava", two hard grasses."Bofedales" are wet areas in the north, where between 4000 and 5000 meters altitude some rocks are covered with azorella cushions. They are also known as "yaretas" or "llaretales". These very compact plants were used as firewood in the past and are not so common anymore. The only tree species in the Altiplano, the Queñoa, has also become quite rare.


The semi-deserts of the "Little North" are already much more densely covered with cacti and thorn bushes. Furthermore, bromeliads or "puyas", herbs and grasses also grow here. When it rains a lot, the desert turns into a sea of flowers that lasts for several weeks. A rare "loma cloud forest" has emerged in Fray Jorge National Park, with tree species that are otherwise only found in southern Chile.

Mediterranean forests

The original deciduous forest in central Chile has been reduced to a few remnants in the coastal mountains and in the Andes valleys. These mainly consist of an acacia species and extensive areas with high bushes and cacti. Beautiful euphorbias and bromeliads grow in between. The other forests here consist of the native species quillay (cork oak), naiten, radal, boldo and peumo, especially east of Valparaíso. The forests of Chilean palm trees are also special in this region, a protected species of which only about 200,000 copies remain. Juice can be extracted from the stem and concentrated to syrup.

Lapageria Chile Lapageria ChilePhoto: Shu Suehiro CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

South Chilean forests

The very humid zone along the ocean coast consists of temperate rainforests with a three-layer structure. First of all, a high tree layer with beech species such as tepa, canelo, mañio, tineo, roble and coigüe and conifers in the very swampy and mountainous parts of the rainforest.

Below is a low tree and shrub layer with tree species such as arrayán and fuinque. Lianas, bromeliads, ferns, mosses and lichens hang from the branches of these trees. Remarkable are the large tree ferns, beard mosses and in some places large fields with quila bamboo species. Another special appearance from the rainforest is the nalca, a giant rhubarb eaten by the Chileans. One of the most striking plants is the Lapageria rosea or copihue of the lily family, which has large red bells and is considered the national flower of Chile. The forest floor is covered with a decimetre thick layer of leaves, mosses and liverworts. Hundreds of species of moss grow in these forests, even more than 400 species on Tierra del Fuego. In the southern rainforest zone, the Valdivian rainforests are distinguished and the southernmost forests on earth are the Magellanic rainforests. On the islands in this region, tree growth is no longer possible due to the harsh climate, here we only find heather and swamp areas.

At an altitude of 1000-1500 meters and on the east side of the Andes, forests with deciduous deciduous trees occur, including lenga and ñirre. The beautiful "nothro", a shrub with a fiery red color, also grows in these lenga forests. Above the sharp tree line there are suddenly no more trees, due to the climate the tree line on Tierra del Fuego is already at 500 meters.

Alerce and araucaria coniferous forests are found high in the Andes of the Chilean-Argentine lake area. The araucaria (snake pine) is a 40 to 50 meter high tree with a palm-like trunk and a screen-like crown of branches. The Chileans speak of umbrella trees or "Los Paraguas". At least 200 million years ago these trees already grew here and they were found all over the world. Trees with an age of more than 2000 years are no exception because they grow very slowly. This special tree has a protected status throughout Chile. The alerce is related to the giant sequoias of North America. These trees can also reach a height of 50 meters and reach an age of more than 4000 years. They are therefore among the oldest living creatures on earth. They mainly live on steep slopes in the high mountains, in lowland swamps and in isolated forests in the Valdivian rainforest. It is not known how many of these trees there are.

Patagonian steppe

The plateaus on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains are completely without trees. The vegetation here consists of grasses and thorny shrubs such as the calafate. After heavy rain showers, many annual bulbous plants bloom on the steppe.

Southern Islands

On the outer islands along the coast of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, there is also treeless vegetation, with mainly heather and peat plants, the so-called "Tundra Magallanica".


The climate, landscape and vegetation are the factors that produce a highly varied animal world. Due to its isolated location, many ecosystems and fauna of their own have developed with many endemic species, especially along the west coast of the country. Unbridled hunting practices, poorly enforced conservation laws, and an expanding population are major threats to Chile's wildlife.

Brief description of the animal life in the different ecosystems of Chile:

Atacama Desert

Much of the Atacama Desert is completely lacking animal life; only at the edges of the desert are some animals, toads, frogs near the rare places where there is water, and also turtles, small lizards and some snake species. Most animals live on the desert coast. On the border of the cactus rock desert and the highland steppe, the gorges are the preserve of beautiful birds such as the pit's woodpecker and the Inca bird.

Vicunas ChileVicunas ChilePhoto: I, Luca Galuzzi CC 2.5 Generic no changes made


On the Chilean Altiplano, large numbers of wild vicuñas live in the "bofedales," the wet grasslands. Wild guanaco is still alive in the lower parts. The dry highland steppe includes the very rare deer species huemul, cougars, foxes, vizcachas and about 130 bird species.

Most notable bird species are the rhea, an ostrich-like, eagles, condors, and many thousands of flamingos, including the Chilean flamingo, James's flamingo and the Andean flamingo. Meadow and water birds are the giant coots, pennywort and various duck species.

The spectacled bear, the only bear species in South America, is still found in the north in the Andes. Wool mice, family of the chinchilla, are found up to 4000 m altitude. Tooth-poor animals include the lesser belt mouse or shield mole.

Forest animals

The South Chilean forest has few bird species due to a lack of insects. There are no dangerous animals except cougars. One of the few other predators is the shy fox.

Remarkable is the rare pudu, a dwarf deer with unbranched antlers that resides in the dense undergrowth. Furthermore, the huemul, also a rare deer species.

Common is the Patagonian woodpecker, with deep black plumage and a male with a bright red head. Special birds are also the Austral parakeet, the very rare Trichue parrot and the Picaflor austral, the most southerly common hummingbird. Many owls and bats become active at night. The beautiful bandúrria, a yellow-brown ibis, lives in swampy areas and along rivers. Mountain streams are home to the rare torrent duck or pato de los torrentes, a beautifully colored duck.

Patagonian steppe

The most famous animals of the Patagonian steppe are the armadillo, an armadillo, and the mara or Patagonian hare. The guanaco is a llama species that lives in groups of 10 to 30 animals. An impressive sight is also the rhea, the South American ostrich. The ferret, Patagonian fox, Fireland fox and cougar hunt the rhea and the guanaco.

Many birds live on the steppe. A beautiful flightless bird is the tinamou or martinetta and near lakes and ponds live among others bandúrria, highland goose, black-necked swan, coscoroba swan and the Chilean flamingo. Small animals are the prey of years, owls, falcons and eagles, including the carancho. The steppe also has the necessary scavengers, such as the condor, the chimango, the carara and the Turkish vulture.

Condor ChileCondor ChilePhoto: Colegota CC 2.5 Spain no changes made

Andean high mountains

Well-known apparitions in the high mountains are the vizcacha, a rodent, and the condor. The condor is the largest bird of prey on Earth, with a maximum wingspan of 3.20 meters. The bird is still revered by the Native Americans and is Chile's national bird.

Coasts and seas

Many animals live in the plankton-rich cold sea currents that flow along the Chilean coast. Many so-called "guano birds" live on the islands, which produce valuable fertilizer. The main guano birds are cormorant, gannet and brown pelican.

Fulmars and albatrosses live on the open seas in the south. The Royal Albatross is the largest bird in the world with a maximum wingspan of 3.5 meters.

Seven species of penguins live on the coasts of Chile, six of which are in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, the rockhopper penguin, the throat-band penguin, the macaroni penguin, the gentoo penguin, the king penguin and the Magellanic penguin. The Humboldt penguin lives on a few islands in the northern coastal area.

The oceans around Antarctica are home to about 20 species of whales (including blue whales and orca) and nine species of dolphins. Furthermore, the elephant seal, the southern sea lion and the southern seal. Rare is the sea otter or "chungungo".


Pre-Columbian Chile

Precolumbian petroglyphs ChilePrecolumbian petroglyphs ChilePhoto: Masteruk CC 4.0 International no changes made

Approx. 20,000 years ago, nomadic hunters spread from Asia all over North and South America. It is believed that the first humans eventually reached Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile between 17,000 and 12,000 years ago. These hunters and gatherers traveled around and were never in a fixed place for long. Around 5000 BC. many people throughout South America turned to agriculture, growing cotton and corn, among other things. This change also happened in Northern Chile, in Southern Chile the inhabitants remained hunters and gatherers due to the climatic conditions.

Prehistoric Peoples

The first populations in northern Chile were nomadic fishermen, sierra people, valley Indians and Aymara Indians on the plateau. All these groups were in contact with each other and traded extensively.

An example of nomadic fishermen were the Changos who lived all along the coast of the Little and Great North. The Changos survived the arrival of the Europeans until the late 19th century.

The Atacameños were initially hunters, but gradually turned to sedentary farming and stood out for making irrigation systems and terraced farming. The Atacameños stood in the 12th century AD. at their peak in both agriculture and culture. The rise of the Incas and the arrival of the Europeans caused the decline of the Atacameños culture.

The Aymaras lived on the plateau and just north of the Atacameños. Today's Aymaras descend from western Amazonian peoples and flourished during the Inca Empire.

Until the arrival of the Incas, different periods can be distinguished within the above cultures of the Great North.

The archaic period lasted from 8000-1000 BC. and was dominated by the Chinchorro culture best known for its remarkable burial finds and mummified bodies, which are among the oldest in the world. The height of this culture was between 4000 and 2000 BC, and became 1000 BC. permanently supplanted by the "Faldas del Morro" culture, who first made pottery. This "pottery" period is called the formative period and was also devoted to making llamas and alpacas pets. This early ceramic period lasted from 1000 BC. to 300 AD.

After the formative period, the whole of Northern Chile was under great influence of the Tiwanaku Empire, the most important cultural and political center of the time, headquartered in the Bolivian plateau. During the late ceramic period from 1000 to 1470 several independent kingdoms arose in the north of Chile, defended by fortresses (Atacameños).

The archaic period in the Little North of Chile lasted from 8000-2000 BC. and also during this period hunters moved from the coast into the interior and then across the Andes. The heyday of the El Molle culture in the Elqui Valley is between 0-800 AD. These semi-permanent farmers are best known for their new way of making pottery.

When the El Molle culture disappeared, the area was taken over by the Diaguitas around 900, who took agriculture to a much higher level by developing all kinds of new techniques, metalworking and making very beautiful pottery.

Mapuche ChileMapuche ChilePhoto: Koppas CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Of the earliest inhabitants in southern Chile, only the Mapuche or Araucanians survived the arrival of the Europeans. In the 12th century they moved from the Argentinian steppes over the Andes mountains to the forests of southern Chile. They were hunters, but they also cleared forests to grow crops such as maize, potatoes, beans and quinoa, a particular grain.

The small Tehuelche people lived on the Patagonian steppe east of the Andes mountain range and they are also called Aonikenk. They were real nomadic hunters forced by the harsh climate to move with the seasons.

The Chonos lived completely isolated, including on the archipelago of southern Chile. They were mainly fishermen, just like the people of Tierra del Fuego, who lived in the very south of Chile. When the explorer Magellan came to southern Chile, four Native American peoples lived here: the Haush or Manekenks and the Onas or Selk'nam were tribes that lived off hunting; the Yaghanes or Yamanas and the Alacalufes were mainly fishermen. These people of Tierra del Fuego were at a fairly low level of development, but knew their natural environment through and through, and had a rich religion that was peppered with legends and legends. It is remarkable that they wore very few clothes in the harsh, wet climate. When European settlers occupied Tierra del Fuego from 1881, it quickly happened to the Tierra del Fuego, partly due to diseases brought by the Europeans, but also due to ordinary massacres.

In the fifteenth century, the great Inca civilization developed in Central South America. From Peru they penetrated through the Atacama Desert into present-day Chile and conquered large parts of the country. Only the Mapuches in southern Chile managed to stop the Incas. At the time of the Incas, about 1 million people lived on what is now Chilean territory.

European conquerors, the "conquistadors"

Chile 'Victoria' ship from MagellanChile 'Victoria' ship from MagellanPhoto: Public domain

The southern tip of Chile was discovered by explorer Ferdinand Magelhaen in 1520. It was only after Peru was conquered from the Incas in the 1930s that the Spanish, led by Diego de Almagro, attempted to conquer Chile in 1536 mainly to find gold. However, both objectives were not achieved and it was not until 1541 that a new attempt was made. This attempt was made by Pedro de Valdivia, and he succeeded; Chile became a Spanish colony. De Valdivia did not waste any time and founded the cities of Santiago, Concepción, Valparaíso and Valdivia.

Chile was divided into so-called "encomiendas", large farms owned by large landowners and run by ex-soldiers and adventurers. The heavy work was of course done by Indians, who suffered badly from the Spanish occupation. Diseases unknown to the Indians broke out and many fled into the jungles or the mountains. As before, the Mapuches in the south held out against the Spanish for a long time, even into the 19th century.

In the 16th century, Chile was not yet economically interesting for the Spaniards and in 1700 the colony had only 100,000 inhabitants of European descent.

It was only after the development of agriculture and livestock farming in the 18th century that a period of economic growth began, which attracted many immigrants from Europe. The population now rose rapidly to over one million around 1800.

Independence struggle, Bernardo O'Higgins first president

Bernardo O'Higgins ChileBernardo O'Higgins ChilePhoto: Public domain

In the first half of the nineteenth, a struggle for independence breaks out in Chile, just like in the rest of South America. The liberal ideas originating from the French Revolution and the declaration of North American independence had a great influence on this. A kind of civil war broke out in Chile between the Spanish supporters and the autonomous people who were in favor of independence and were more than fed up with the Spanish influence in the administrative apparatus. The independence fighters were led by Irish-born Bernardo O'Higgins. He was assisted by Argentine troops, led by one of the "liberators" of South America, José de San Martin. The Spanish army was defeated by the autonomists at the Battle of Maipu, after which Chile gained independence in 1818 with O'Higgins as its first president. He designed a constitution that, however, came at the expense of the influence of the landowners and the church. Because of this he met so much resistance that he resigned in 1823. A very troubled period now followed with many uprisings and coups d'état.

Under Diego Portales, an authoritarian government came to power in 1833, in which the large landowners were actually in control. This meant a relatively stable period politically and economically, which was further reinforced by the development of an agricultural economy towards more and more income from trade and mining. The conservative policies of successive presidents increased tensions with more liberal movements. The 1871 constitutional revision changed the presidential election system somewhat, a small success for the liberals.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Chile turned its eyes to the guano and nitrate reserves in northern Peru and Bolivia. Chile annexed large parts of both countries in 1879 in the so-called "Pacific War" or "Nitric War". Chile did lose a large part of Patagonia to Argentina due to the efforts in the north. Chile also conquered the Easter Islands. The rebellious Mapuches were finally subjected to central authority and placed in reservations, where they still live in dire poverty. Finally, the south of Chile was also opened up and colonized, especially by thousands of Europeans who emigrated to Chile due to the population surplus in Europe. In the nineteenth century, large-scale investments were also made by England and especially Germany in the industry and mining of Chile.

Chile is the first parliamentary republic in South America

Chile Jose Manuel Balmeceda Chile Jose Manuel BalmecedaPhoto: Public domain

In 1884 universal suffrage was introduced in Chile and a parliament was formed, for the very first time in South America. The first democratically elected president was José Manuel Balmaceda Fernández (1886). He wanted to reduce dependence on British capital and a greater role for government in economic life. Congress rejected these plans and a governance crisis ensued, benefiting the fleet commander, Jorge Montt. He, along with his "Congressionalists", defeated government forces. Balmaceda committed suicide and Montt became the new president from 1891 to 1896. A kind of model democracy was now emerging in Chile, with good social services, good education and universal suffrage.

Economically, however, Chile failed to take advantage of this and remained a developing country in this area. The construction of the industry did not get off the ground at all and in fact it was completely dependent on nitrate exports, which were also completely in foreign hands. Dependence on one product became painfully evident when fertilizers were invented in 1914 and the nitrate trade completely collapsed. In the meantime, fortunately, the copper industry had picked up, but it was also in the hands of two American companies and dependent on the fluctuating prices on the world market. Moreover, the profits that were made largely disappeared abroad. Yet people still earned so much that social services could remain more or less intact. This changed in the 1930s when the global economic crisis also hit Chile hard and people had to start thinking about how to proceed now in the economic and social field.

In 1920, Arturo Alessandri was the first president who did not come from one of the wealthy families. With the help of the military, he was able to implement his reform plans, including restoration of the president's power, tax measures, and labor laws. In 1927, army officer Carlos Ibañez seized power and led dictatorial rule until 1931. In 1932 Alessandri succeeded in regaining power and then completed his term of office. The increased influence of the left was reflected in the election in 1938 as president of Pedro Aguirre Cerda, the candidate of the Popular Front. He improved education and stimulated industrialization.

The German-speaking minority managed to ensure that Chile remained neutral during the Second World War until January 1943; Chile then sided with the Allies. After the war, American influence became more and more evident. A law on the protection of democracy introduced by President Gabriel Videla (1946-1952) led to the dismissal of communist ministers and widespread persecution of members and sympathizers of the communist party. In the 1952 elections, the nationalist Ibañez was re-elected president. After the conservative government of Jorge Alessandri (1958-1964), Eduardo Frei came to power: for the first time a Christian Democratic president.

Period Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende Chile Salvador Allende ChilePhoto: Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile CC 3.0 Chile no changes made

At the time, parliament was under constant control by conservative parties, but the many social inequalities created an active leftist movement that increasingly opposed the state of affairs in Chile. Real coups did not happen, and it was not until 1970 that the Marxist Salvador Allende Gossens came to power, as a candidate of the left-wing coalition Unidad Popular (People's Unity). At that time, the economy was back in a total doldrums and Allende wanted to rectify this by means of radical reforms. Those reforms included large-scale nationalization and, of course, redistribution of large landholdings. However, the opposition from the right-wing parties was very strong and only the copper mines were eventually nationalized. The United States also completely disagreed with the path that Allende had taken, and showed this, among other things, by an economic boycott.

The poorest sections of the population got a little better under Allende because land was indeed redistributed and education and social services received new impulses. However, these measures were disastrous for unity in the country. There was chaos due to illegal land occupation, terrorist actions by large landowners and attacks by reacting leftist groups. The people, however, wholeheartedly supported Allende and showed this in the elections in 1973, which were again won by Allende. This was the signal for the right to carry out a carefully planned coup d'état on September 11, 1973, with the help of the military and police, and with the backing of the United States.

Dictatorship under Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet Chile Augusto Pinochet ChilePhoto: Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile CC 3.0 Chili no changes made

The Moneda Palace was bombed and Allende committed suicide. The 'Chilean experiment', which consisted in establishing socialism through a democratic and peaceful way, had lasted only three years, from November 1970 to September 1973. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte became the leader of the military junta and held a very dictatorial rule, mainly based on terror. Torture was commonplace and political parties and trade unions were banned; many social measures were reversed. Many Chileans fled abroad or were exiled. In the countryside, there was murder by soldiers and landowners. Under Pinochet's rule, 20,000 were killed and tens of thousands were detained in concentration camps and torture centers. The military regime has been repeatedly condemned in the General Assembly of the United Nations for widespread and continuous violations of human rights. Relations with the United States reached an all-time low with the Carter administration's withdrawal of military and economic aid.

In 1980 there was a constitutional amendment that allowed Pinochet to remain in the saddle until at least 1989, only then would democratic elections be possible again. This eased the repression, which gave the people some courage, and in 1983, 1985 and 1986 mass strikes (15,000 arrests) followed, the so-called "protestas". In November 1984 martial law was even declared. These protests were also a result of the economic downturn. The church also got involved in this battle between the common man and the establishment. The guerrilla movement Patriotic Front Manuel Rodriguez (FPMR) committed an attack on Pinochet in September 1986. He again declared martial law and opposition leaders were arrested. The 1987 promulgation of the Voter Registration Act and the Political Parties Act once again allowed the legal functioning of opposition parties.

Growing discontent from initial supporters of Pinochet, as well as from abroad (especially the United States), forced Pinochet to call elections and Chile was on the verge of becoming a democracy again.

First of all, a referendum was held in October 1988 on the re-election of Pinochet. 55% of the population was against this and now nothing stood in the way of holding free elections.

Free elections: Patricio Aylwin president

Patricio Aylwin Chile Patricio Aylwin ChilePhoto:Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional CC 3.0 Chili no changes made

Meanwhile, the opposition had joined together and the December 17 presidential election was won by Christian Democratic leader Patricio Aylwin. After 17 years of military rule, Aylwin's assumption of office took place on March 11, 1990. Chile was the last country in South America to make the transition to a parliamentary presidential democracy. That was all the more bitter in the fact that there had been only two coups d'état in 150 years. Other South American countries had already completed dozens in the same time.

Furthermore, the transition went fairly smoothly due to the cautious approach of the government. A "Commission of Truth and Reconciliation" was also established to investigate the murders and disappearances during the Pinochet period. The committee's report came out in 1991 and was disastrous for Pinochet; 2,000 people murdered by police and military, 1,000 people "disappeared", and many were tortured and imprisoned. The perpetrators have still not been brought to trial by an amnesty law passed in 1987, and the military has not really cooperated in getting the bottom stone out.

In March 1994, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle took office as president. Privatization and modernization of governance, education and poverty reduction were high on his agenda. In the parliamentary elections at the end of 1997, the ruling Concertatión por la Democracía retained its majority in the House of Representatives.

21st century

Ricardo Lagos ChileRicardo Lagos ChilePhoto: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

On January 16, 2000, Chilean voters elected moderate socialist Ricardo Lagos as president after a historic and fierce election battle. Lagos, a member of President Salvador Allende's former socialist government, became Chile's first socialist president since 1973. Lagos, a lawyer and former Minister of Public Works and Education, was a candidate for the ruling center-left coalition Concertación por la Democrácia.

The December 2005 presidential election required a second round. Socialist Michelle Bachelet took 46% of the vote, just not enough to win all at once. In the second round, Bachelet will face right-wing businessman and millionaire Sebastian Piñera on January 15, 2006, who received 25% of the vote. If Bachelet wins the second round, she will be Chile's first female president. In March, Bachelet was indeed sworn in as president. She won the second round of the election with 53% of the vote.

Chile Sebastian Piñera Chile Sebastian PiñeraPhoto: Government of Chile CC 3.0 Chile no changes made

In December 2006, Chilean former dictator Pinochet died in a military hospital in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Pinochet was 91 years old. He had at least 130,000 arrested in the first three years of his rule alone. Many Chileans, an estimated 3000, disappeared without a trace or were killed. Tens of thousands fled their country. In June 2007, the government promised compensation to a number of victims of the Pinochet regime. Local elections in October 2008 indicate that the political right is on the rise. In February 2009, President Bachelet visits Cuba, for the first time in nearly 40 years that a Chilean head of government has visited Cuba. In January 2010, right-wing candidate Sebastian Pinera wins the presidential election, ending 20 years of left-wing coalitions. He will be sworn in in March 2010.

In October 2010, the mining drama in Chile comes to an end. 33 miners were trapped for 68 days after an explosion in a mine at a depth of more than 600 meters. The world watched intently as the miners were brought up one by one through a specially drilled shaft. Chilean President Sebastiaan Pinera received them and announced that Chile will ratify a 15-year-old international agreement on mine safety.

Chile Michelle Bachelet Chile Michelle BacheletPhoto:Gobierno de Chile CC 3.0 Chile no changes made

In December 2013, Michelle Bachelet wins the presidential election in the second round. In February 2015, President Bachelet announced plans to end the total ban on abortion. In December 2017, former president Sebastiaan Pinera wins the elections. He focuses on economic growth. At the end of 2019 there are massive protests against economic inequality. These protests were prompted by an increase in the price of metro tickets in Santiago, which was subsequently reversed. A referendum held on 25 October 2020 approved forming a convention to draft a new constitution (the current one was adopted during the rule of August Pinochet), and on 15-16 May 2021, a referendum was held to elect members to the convention.



Chileans Chileans Photo: FernandoVeAb CC 4.0 International no changes made

Chile's population was estimated at 17.8 million people in 2017. The rate of natural population growth slowed steadily from the 1960s (1960: 2.3%; 1970: 2.0%; 1978: 1.8%; 1986: 1.6%), declined in the early 1990s increased slightly again (1995: 1.7%), but fell again to 0.77% in 2017.

The birth rate in 2017 was 13.6 births per 1000 inhabitants; the mortality rate in 2017 was 6.2 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants.

Life expectancy for women is 82.1 years and 75.9 years for men. (2017)

20% of the population is under 15 years old and 11% of the population is 65 years and older.

Distribution of the population

Santiago Chile Santiago ChilePhoto: Victor San Martin CC2.0 Generic no changes made

In recent decades, urbanization has accelerated, causing the inhabitants of Chile to be very unevenly distributed across the country. The majority of the population lives in the Central Valley with Greater Santiago at its center. Santiago had 1.5 million inhabitants in 1952, but in 2016 it had more than 6.5 million inhabitants. Other urban centers are Concepció Viña del Mar, Valparaíso and Temuco. About 90% of the total population lives in the big cities.

The population density in 2014 was on average approximately 24 inhabitants per km2. Outside the major cities, Chile is sparsely populated. Only the regions of Araucanía and Los Lagos have a population density of 23 and 13 inhabitants per km2 respectively. The Patagonian regions of Aisén and Magallanes have a very low population density with less than 1 inhabitant per km2.

The large slums on the outskirts of the big cities are called "poblaciones marginales" or "callampas" (mushrooms). As a result of the continuing migration to the cities, only about 10% of the population lives in rural areas.

It is estimated that from 1973 to the late 1980s, one million Chileans left the country for political or economic reasons.


The Chilean population is a mix of different population groups. Approx. 65% of the current population are "mestizos", descendants of Spanish settlers and Native American women. The Spaniards came mainly from the Spanish provinces of Andalusia, Estremadura, Castile, Leon and the Basque Country.

Approx. 10% of the total population consists of indigenous peoples or "pueblos indigenas". Due to the many mixed marriages, there are not many pure Indian races left.

Approx. 25% of the population consists of whites, who have emigrated to Chile from France, Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland, England, the Netherlands and especially from Germany since the end of the 19th century. For example, Valdivia is almost a "German" city, with even a German newspaper.

Because Chile did not have large-scale plantations in colonial times, the number of blacks imported from Africa as slaves remained very small. The few slaves gradually became completely absorbed by the rest of the population, so that Chile does not have a black culture.

Mapuche woman ChileMapuche woman ChilePhoto: Raul Urzua CC 2.0 Unported no changes made

Of the original Indian population, only the Araucan peoples successfully resisted Spanish colonization. It was not until 1883 that the army managed to conquer the territory of this indigenous population, consisting mainly of Mapuche Indians.

There are still more than 3,000 Mapuche communities in the south of the country, accounting for 9% of the total population. They mainly live in small, traditional communities around the city of Temuco. In total there are approximately 1 million Mapuches. The Mapuches ("people of the earth") live mainly in the southern regions of Araucanía, Los Lagos, and in some neighboring Argentine provinces.

The Mapuche people are made up of five groups: Mapuches in Araucanía, Huilliches ('people of the south') around Osorno and on the island of Chiloé, Pehuenches ('people of the mountains') in the Andes on the border with Argentina, Lafquenches or Cuncos ('people of the sea'), Nagches ('people of the plains'). Mapuche culture still has its own language, "Mapudungu", its own clothing, religion and traditions.

The two other indigenous peoples who have managed to preserve their own culture are the Aymaras and the Atacameños from the deserts and high plains of the "Great North." The Easter Islanders are still a small minority on their island.

The approximately 20,000 Aymara Indians are part of the Highland Indians of Chile, Peru and Bolivia. They lead a nomadic life and live alternately at high altitudes in summer and in the valleys in summer. They live by trading products from llamas, alpacas and sheep. In the valleys they grow maize, beans, barley, quiñoa and fruit.

The Atacameños also live in the "Great North" with San Pedro de Atacama as the center. They keep llamas and alpacas and do some arable farming. Although there are no longer purebred Atacameños, according to scientists, several thousand people are still classified as belonging to the Atacamian race. Many of them live in large cities such as Antofagasta and Calama. The Atacameños have also recently been recognized by the government as an "indigenous people".


Spanish Language MapSpanish Language MapPhoto: Simonsyo CC 4.0 International no changes made

The language of instruction in Chile is Spanish. The Spanish word for language is "español", but in most countries in South America it is preferred to say "castellano". When asked "do you speak Spanish", they also say "Habla castellano" instead of "Habla español".

Chilean in South America differs most from the original Castillian. Chilean is a bit more difficult to understand than the other South American variants; it is pronounced a bit faster and it contains quite a few own Chilean words. The Chilean language is further interspersed with terms from English, German, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and various Indian languages.

The Mapuche language, "Mapudungun" is still important regionally. About half a million Mapuches still speak this native language. In the north, Aymara is spoken by the small Aymara population.

fishing hookanzuelocùlí




Iglesia de la Tirana Chile Iglesia de la Tirana ChilePhoto: Christian Córdova CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Approx. 80% of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism was recognized as a state religion in the 1833 Constitution, but it was not until the 1925 constitutional amendment that the separation of church and state was formally established. However, the Roman Catholic Church still has a great influence on Chilean society (including education) and develops numerous social activities. It has gained much authority by providing shelter and assistance to the persecuted of the military regime and through the humanitarian work of the 'Vicariate of Solidarity', established in 1976. This received the United Nations Peace Prize in 1978. The great man behind this organization was the Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Raúl Silva Henriquez.

There are five archdioceses, sixteen dioceses, two prelatures and two apostolic vicariates. There has been a great shortage of priests for several decades; 50% of the male religious are therefore foreigners.

Due to the lack of mass immigration of people of other faiths to Chile, Chile is a much more traditional Catholic country than, for example, Uruguay and Argentina.

Yet the advance of other churches, especially evangelical sects, is also unstoppable in Chile.

Within Protestantism, the Methodists and the Lutheran churches are the most important groups. Six percent of the population belongs to a Protestant church.

The Pentecostal movement is on the rise, especially among the economically weaker groups. During the Pinochet dictatorship, numerous Protestant sects spread in Chile, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Presbyterians, Mormons, and Adventists.

Shamans, ancestor worship and traditional ceremonies still play an important role in the lives of the Mapuche Indians.

Remarkable religious buildings

Catedral de San Marcos de Arica (Chile) Catedral de San Marcos de Arica (Chile)Photo: Heretiq CC 2.5 no changes made

Arica - the church of San Marcos is a special design by Gustav Eiffel. The church is built in Gothic style and made almost entirely of iron. The preformed iron plates and pillars were shipped from France and assembled in Arica in 1876.

La Tirana - in the middle of the desert lies the famous religious village. In the village square is a gigantic church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del carmen de La Tirana. Every year between 12 and 18 July, tens of thousands of people come to La Tirana to honor Chile's patron saint, Virgen del Carmen.

San Pedro de Atacama - The Colonial Church of San Pedro is one of the largest churches in the Great North. The church was built in 1641, but in its current form dates from 1745; the tower is from 1890.

Barraza (Little North) - the colonial church dates back to 1680 and is a national monument.

Chiloé - on this island there are about 150 chapels and churches, many of which are from colonial times. Nine of these churches have national monument status. Most churches are made of wood and have a colonnade and usually an octagonal bell tower. The very special brightly colored Iglesia San Francisco de Castro is from 1906.


State structure

Coat of arms ChileCoat of arms ChilePhoto: Public domain

The first constitutional regulation dates from 1881, the first constitution dates back to 1822. The constitution defines the form of government as a unitary republic with a presidential system.

In September 1973, constitutional, legislative and executive powers were transferred to the military junta, and the National Congress was also dissolved. General Pinochet ruled Chile as dictator from 1973 to 1990. In 1980 a new constitution was approved by referendum, promising the establishment of a 'protected democracy' after an eight-year transitional period. The constitution provided for presidential elections every eight years, a Chamber of Deputies of 120 members and a Senate of 38 elected and nine appointed members, collectively referred to as "Congress".

Senate ChilieSenate ChiliePhoto: Loco085 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Nine senators are appointed, three by the president, two by the Supreme Court and four by the National Security Council. The 38 other senators are directly elected by the population, for which the country is divided into 19 electoral districts. Elections to the Senate take place every four years, each time for half the number of eligible seats.

The Chamber of Deputies is directly elected by the population in 60 districts for a period of four years.

A National Security Council was also established, of which the president, the members of the junta and the chairpersons of the Supreme Council and the Senate are part. The constitution restricts the right to strike, the freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of expression.

Since 1989, some changes have been made to the constitution, including a shorter presidential term of up to six years. It also became impossible for the incumbent president to choose a second, consecutive term. However, many reform proposals failed, as they require a two-thirds majority in parliament and the right-wing opposition has held over 36% of the seats since 1993. The president appoints and dismisses ministers, deputy ministers, commanders of the armed forces, ambassadors and governors. He is also chairman of the cabinet; there is no prime minister.

A unique place in the Chilean polity is occupied by the Contraloría General, an institution that oversees the financial, legislative and administrative plans of the executive branch. For the current political situation, see chapter history.

Administrative division

Chile RegionsChile RegionsPhoto:Public domain

The country is divided into 13 regions, including the capital Santiago; the regions are divided into fifty provinces, varying from two to six per province. Twelve regions, starting in the north, are identified by the Roman numerals I through XII.

The heads of municipalities, provinces (governors) and regions have been elected by direct elections since 1992.

Administrative regionpopulationsurfacecapital city
I Tarapacá432.40058.800 km2Iquique
II Antofagasta500.000125.000 km2Antofagasta
III Atacama256.00075.000 km2Copiapó
IV Coquimbo609.00040.500 km2La Serena
V Valparaíso1.564.00016.400 km2Valparaíso
VI Libertador General785.00016.500 km2Rancagua
Bernardo O’Higgins
VII Maule917.00030.500 km2Talca
VIII Bío Bío1.880.00037.000 km2Concepción
IX Araucanía877.00032.000 km2Temuco
X Los Lagos950.00067.000 km2Puerto Montt
XI Aisén87.900109.000 km2Coihaique
XII Magellanes1.154.000132.000 km2Punta Arenas
RM Region Metropolitana6.125.00015.500 km2Santiago


Universidad de ChileUniversidad de ChilePhoto: Richard Espinoza CC 3.0 no changes made

There are three school types in Chile. There is free public education, state-subsidized education by private individuals, and fully private education. The Ministry of Education does set minimum rules to which all types of schools have to adhere. The 1986 Education Act transferred responsibility for public education to the municipalities.

Primary school lasts eight years (6 to 14 years) and is compulsory. Chile therefore has, for a developing country, a very low percentage of illiterate people. After primary school, one can opt for a four-year secondary school or technical vocational education. The options for higher education are very extensive, with many state universities, private universities, professional institutes and higher technical education. In total, Chile has about 80 universities. The number of private universities in particular has grown spectacularly. In 1990 Chile had only 10 universities, a figure that has risen to about 80. Although this gives students more choice, there are quite a few institutions of mediocre quality. Some are closed after some time because they can manage financially. Approx. 25% of all students attend higher education. Low-income parents are supported with credits and grants.


Historical overview

GNP Chili Blue South America OrangeGNP Chili Blue South America OrangePhoto:User Vision_Thing of English Wikipedia CC3.0 Unported no changes made

From 1930 to the late 1950s, a national industry was built up to replace the import industry used until then. A miscalculation was that the domestic market was too small for this and purchasing power increased too little to make this turnaround a success. In the 1960s, it was attempted by means of agricultural reforms and the search for new markets in neighboring countries. The Allende socialist government wanted to redistribute incomes and increase production capacity.

After 1973, the strong liberal policy emphasis was on exports, the elimination of trade-restricting and other protectionist measures, the freeing of prices and the creation of favorable conditions for foreign investment.

This policy led to many government layoffs and many large and small companies went bankrupt. At the end of the 1970s, the economy grew on average by 9% per year, but in 1982 another serious economic crisis broke out. After 1985, the economy recovered thanks to an increase in exports and a favorable debt settlement with the International Monetary Fund. In the period 1990-1997, economic growth reached a record value of 10%. From 1985 to 1997, inflation fell to 7%, not much compared to the 20% of the early 1980s.

From 1998, the economy was characterized by a deficit in the Chilean trade balance, for the first time in years. Gross national product also fell again for the first time since 1984. Furthermore, unemployment doubled to 12% within a year and a tax deficit arose. In the period from 2003 to 2013, Chile's economy is growing strongly by an average of 5%. In 2017, growth slowed to 1.5%

The gap between rich and poor remains invariably wide. According to official figures, in 2017, 14% of the population was living below the poverty line.

Foreign investment

Chile is making great efforts to attract foreign investment. The investment legislation and the tax system ensure that there is little in the way of foreign companies.

At the end of 2013, Chile had about 5000 foreign companies within its borders, from 60 countries. Most investments are made in the mining, transportation, telecommunications and utilities sectors. The largest investor was the United States (31%), followed by Spain, Canada, England, South Africa and the Netherlands (2.8%).

The investments were mainly made in financial services, industry, mining, fish farming, horticulture and transport.

Labour market.

The official unemployment rate was 7% in 2017. Incomplete employment, hidden unemployment and seasonal unemployment are excluded from the official statistics, as is the large number of so-called 'inactive' people looking for work.

Combating unemployment is seen primarily as a task for private industry. The government only supports a few special job creation programs. 9.2% of the labor force works in agriculture, 23.7% in industry and 67.1% in services (2017).

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Granny Smith ChileGranny Smith ChilePhoto: Kristina Walter in the public domain

Approx. 42% of the total Chilean soil area is cultivated: 6% is arable land, 16% pasture land and 20% forest. Within the total agro-sector, the breakdown by sectors for the share in the gross domestic product is as follows: fruit cultivation 30%, livestock farming 27%, arable farming 17%, horticulture 13% and forestry 13%. Employment in the agricultural sector accounts for 780,000 employees, approximately 14% of the labor force.

Most agricultural products are grown in the central valley and the regions of Bío-Bío and La Araucana. The main products are cereals, potatoes, sugar beets, corn and fruit. The share of agriculture in the gross national product (15% in 1950) has fallen to 4.4%, while 9.2% of the labor force is employed in this sector. (2017) The export of agricultural products is strongly stimulated, and Chile is currently the largest fruit exporter in the world. Important products are table grapes, pears, apples, melons. The main export destinations are the United States, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Extensive livestock farming is possible due to the extensive natural pasture areas. In the southern region between Bío-Bío and Llanquihue, 50% of the cattle farming is concentrated. The importance of pig fattening and sheep farming for wool exports is increasing. The country can largely feed itself and is therefore hardly dependent on food imports. Since 2000, there has been a modest rise in meat exports.

Chile has extensive forest areas, but due to the lack of transport options, this sector is not yet much of an economic value. The main tree species are conifers, especially the pine "pino radiata", and the eucalyptus. The pino radiata only needs eighteen to twenty years to reach full maturity and already covers 82% of the total planted area. Its exploitation is mainly concentrated in the provinces of Cautín and Valdivia.

Major export products are plank wood, hardboard, veneer, wood chips and pulp, especially for the Japanese market. 70% of the forest area is privately owned. The forests in the south are threatened by overexploitation.

Chile benefits from the great wealth of fish and shellfish in its coastal waters and therefore has a thriving fishing and fish processing industry. The main fishing zone is in the north, the southern waters are important for crustaceans and molluscs. The total annual production is 6 to 7 million tons. This makes Chile the most important fishing country in South America and the largest fishmeal exporter in the world. Catches are further processed into fish oil and packaged products for human consumption.

The ceiling in the fishery has almost been reached due to overfishing. The focus is now more on mussel and salmon aquaculture. Chile, along with Norway, occupies the first place in the world ranking for the production of farmed salmon. The Dutch Nutreco is the market leader in Chile. After the production of salmon and trout has increased enormously, the focus in the coming years is on the cultivation of fish species such as turbot, shark and catfish.


Codelco ChileCodelco ChilePhoto: Warko CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Chile has large reserves of mineral raw materials. Copper mining is still by far the most important source of income, and still accounts for 34% of export revenues (1972 still about 75%!). The total stock is estimated at 700 million tons, which is 40% of the world stock. Chile is currently the largest producer of copper ore in the world. Since 1971, the five largest mines have been managed by the government company CODELCO, previously these mines were in American hands.

Major by-products of copper mining are gold, silver, zinc, lithium (the lithium reserves in Salar de Atacama are considered the largest in the world), nitrate, boron, cobalt, manganese and especially molybdenum, the exports of which are increasing spectacularly. Uranium and iron ore are also becoming increasingly important as export products. Saltpetre, Chile's most important source of income in earlier years, now plays only a modest role.

Oil and natural gas are extracted by the public company ENAP, but the aim is increasingly to cooperate with foreign companies. Own production is falling and people are forced to import more and more petroleum. Oil production currently does not yet meet 10% of Chile's oil needs. Rising world market prices mean that increasing oil imports are putting an ever greater burden on the trade balance.



Some companies operate on the world market. Examples are Methanex Chile (methanol), Group SQM (nitrates, iodine, iodides), and Sociedad Chilena de Litio (lithium carbonate). The natural gas derivative methanol is produced on a world scale in the far south of Chile, at Cabo Negro near Punta Arenas. The production of 3 million tons of methanol makes Cabo Negro the largest methanol complex in the world.


Due to the increased domestic demand and the successful export of products from agriculture, horticulture and the agro-industry, the Chilean production sector for food, beverages and tobacco is becoming increasingly interesting economically. The consumption of basic basic foods such as potatoes and wheat fell sharply, that of dairy and meat products increased sharply.


Chile Export Chile ExportPhoto: R Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. CC 3.0 no changes made

Chile has a very active policy in entering into bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, mainly with countries in Central and South America. In November 2002, the European Union and Chile concluded an association agreement including a free trade agreement, the goods part of which entered into force on February 1, 2003.

The association with Mercosur (common market in South America, consisting of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) in 1996 was of great importance, as it is the main outlet for Chilean products. Chile is committed to full membership of Mercosur.

The Chilean economy relies heavily on international trade. The number of different export products also increased very rapidly from 1,500 in 1989 to 3,800 in 2000. Traditional export products are gold, nitrates, fishmeal and especially copper. Important new export products are cellulose, fruit, salmon and especially wine.

Goods imports rose from $ 7.1 billion in 1990 to $ 60 billion in 2017, partly due to the high oil price.


The Chilean ICT sector focuses mainly on telecommunications. Due to a competitive battle, the rates for mobile telephony fell drastically. The result was a large increase in the number of mobile phones.


Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International AirportPhoto: Phillip Capper CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The road network is fairly well developed between the regions of La Serena and Puerto Montt, as well as between Valparaíso and Santiago and other important cities. The inland road network covered approximately 80,000 km in 2001. The main north-south connection is the Carretera Panamericana (Pan American Highway), which enters Arica from Peru and then extends beyond Puerto Montt, with even an extension on the island of Chiloé.

There are three motorways with Argentina: from Valparaíso to Mendoza (Carretera Transandina), in the north from Antofagasta to Salta and in the south from Osorno to Bariloche. A motorway runs from Arica to the Bolivian capital La Paz. A lot of money has been pumped into this infrastructure in recent years.

The railways are almost entirely owned by the state, but partial privatization and modernization of the railways are foreseen. The Iquique-Puerto Montt line, with several east-west branches, has three different track gauges. In 1975 the urban metro was opened in Santiago.

Chile has a large number of airports and airfields, 10 of which are used for international traffic. The largest airport is that of Santiago.

The main airline is Linea Aérea Nacional (LAN), which serves all major Chilean cities and has connections from Pudahuel International Airport near Santiago to the main Latin American cities, the United States and Western Europe.

Chile has a total of 47 seaports, 12 of which are suitable for international shipping and cargo handling. Valparaíso in central Chile is the largest of the seaports. Other major seaports are those of San Vicente in the south and Antofagasta in the north.

Private capital investment has been permitted since 1979 on the Santiago railways, shipping, airlines, ports and metro.

In 1999, the privatization of the country's three main ports brought hard clashes with dockers, but President Frei reached an agreement with the port unions. The privatization of the ten main Chilean ports will continue in the coming years.

Approx. 95% of Chile's foreign trade goes through its seaports.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Coat of arms region TarapacaCoat of arms region TarapacaPhoto: Public domain

Tourism in and to Chile has increased enormously in recent years.

Each year this sector grew by approx. 17%, the peak year was 1998. Most visitors come from South America, in 2002 in total there were approx. 1.2 million foreign visitors. Due to the economic recession in Argentina and the global economic downturn, this was about 500,000 fewer than in the year 2000. It is expected that from 2005 onwards Chile will be able to attract about 2.5 million visitors annually. That turned out to be too small an estimate in the year 2017, around 8.5 million foreign tourists visited Chile and the country received the Adventure Travel award for its opportunities in the field of nature travel and eco-tourist attractions.

Tourist attractions are the ski resorts in the vicinity of Santiago, trips to Antarctica, the capital Santiago, Valparaíso / Viña del Mar, the Los Lagos region and the Tarapacá region. The geographic shape and size of Chile and the associated diversity of landscapes and climatic zones means that Chile has opportunities for all types of tourism.

Santiago at nightSantiago at nightPhoto: Javmoraga CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The capital Santiago is located in a central valley between the Andes and the Chilean mountain range on the coast. It is a cosmopolitan city with its own version of Bond Street - Alonso de Cordova. Santiago has a number of museums, Spanish colonial buildings and parks and is best seen on foot. Santiago also has a wide variety of accommodations and restaurants. The Plaza de las Armes is the center of the city. In this square you will find several important buildings and other sights. The square is very old and dates back to the time when Santiago was founded. The National Historical Museum is on the north side of the Plaza de las Armes. This museum describes the history of Chile from the pre-Columbian period to the present day. The cathedral can be found on the west side of the square. The original building was destroyed by fire, the current building dates from the second half of the 18th century. The Italian architect Toesca built the town hall between 1785 and 1790.

Valparaiso ChileValparaiso ChilePhoto: Alex Proimos CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Valparaíso is Chile's main port and Viña del Mar is a green city of great tourist importance. You can enjoy beautiful beaches and bays here. The destination is picturesque because of the many viewpoints and an interesting architecture that contrasts with the modern buildings. The Cordillera de la Costa ridge reaches the coast and provides a landscape with lots of greenery. The good urban infrastructure makes these twin cities a destination that is visited by tourists all year round.

There are ski areas to the east of the Santiago (Valle Nevado, La Parva, El Colorado). El Colorado is located high (about 3000 meters above sea level) in the Andes and is less than 40 kilometers from Santiago. The village has more than 100 slopes of different levels that can be reached via a large number of ski lifts.

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Castillo-Feliú, G.I. / Culture and customs of Chile
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Chelsea House Publishers.

Filippo, H. / Chili

CIA - World Factbook.

BBC - Country Profiles.

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb