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GEOGRAPHY


Chile is a slinky thin country that extends some 4300km from Peru in the north to the Strait of Magellan in the south, but averages less than 200km wide. The most obvious feature in Chile is the long Andean chain, reaching a height above 6000m in some areas.

The Norte Grande (Big North) extends from the Peruvian border to the province of Chañaral and is dominated by the Atacama Desert. The region gets an average of only 0.10cm of rainfall a year. The climate there is moderated by the cool, north flowing Humboldt Current, which parallels the coast. High humidity produces an extensive cloud cover and thick fogs known as camanchaca, which condense on coastal-range escarpments. Toward the Bolivian border, the canyons of the precordillera lead to the Altiplano, or high steppe, and to High Mountain passes.South of the Río Aconcagua begins the fertile heartland of Middle Chile, the main agricultural and wine-growing region. Further south begins the Lake District with green pastureland, temperate rainforest, and many foothill lakes. It also has a score of snow-capped volcanoes. In winter the region receives about 3m of rainfall annually, mostly between May and September. The Aisén region has fjords, roaring rivers, thick forests and high peaks, a similar nature to Alaska or New Zealand. The Campo de Hielo Sur, the southern continental ice field, separates the mainland from Magallanes and Tierra del Fuego. The incessant winds can be brutal there.