Welcome to the World's Slenderest Country
Chile's most striking feature on the map is its startling anorexic length - 2,600 miles (4300km) long, the country never exceeds 150 miles (240 km) in width. From the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert bordering Peru in the north to the Drake Passage in the south is about the same distance as Edinburgh to Baghdad. The whole western border is made up by the Pacific Ocean, a detail that has been fought over with Peru and caused Bolivia to lose its access to the sea in the War of the Pacific, something that still riles the Peruvians and Bolivians - in need of a nationalistic cause - to this day. The list of attractions in Chile is exhausting: lunar desertscapes, national parks, the azure Laguna Verde lake, the Villarrica volcano, the jagged formations of the hiker's mecca of the Torres del Paine, the islands and fjords in Chiloé, and the imposing Moai of Easter Island way out in the Pacific Ocean (indeed, virtually into Polynesia). One of the most striking journeys is to catch the ferry south from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales over several days, passing shipwrecks, narrow fjords, isolated towns, the bleak yet intriguing south. Blessed with years of consistent economic growth, Chile is the economic model for other Latin American countries to emulate.