From north to south, Chile extends 2,269 miles, and yet it only averages 110 miles east to west. On a map, Chile looks like a long ribbon reaching from the middle of South America's west coast straight down to the southern tip of the continent, where it curves slightly eastward. Chile's northern neighbors are Peru and Bolivia, and its border with Argentina to the east is one of the worlds longest.
Chile's shape was determined by the fact that it began as a Spanish settlement on the western side of the mighty cordillera of the Andes, in the central part of the country. This range, which includes the two tallest peaks in the Americas--Aconcagua and Nevado Ojos del Salado--is a formidable barrier, whose passes to the Argentine side are covered by a heavy blanket of snow during the winter months. As a result, Chile could expand beyond its original colonial territory only to the south and north. The colony grew southward by occupying lands populated by indigenous groups, and it grew northward by occupying sections of both Peru and Bolivia that were eventually awarded to Chile.
The main tourist regions are the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, the Central Valley, where Santiago, the capital city, the wine country and the main ski resorts in the country are located, the Lake Region, famous for its beautiful landscapes and colonial architecture, Patagonia, the land of glaciers, cold rainforests, imposing national parks and endless plains, and Easter Island, the most remote island in the world and home to the world famous stone statues and one of the most enigmatic civilizations on earth.