Chile is one of the richest and most powerful countries in South America. It’s also one of the most beautiful, with sights ranging from the towering, snow-capped peaks of the Andes, to the warm, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. Did that short description of Chile facts make you want to hop on a plane and visit there? You better think twice, because once you visit Chile, you might never want to leave!
Even if you’ve been in the country for a long time, there will always be something, someplace, or someone to keep you fascinated. And that’s a fact! There are so many unique and fun things to do in Chile. For instance, it is home to one of the world’s longest coastlines, the world’s biggest swimming pool, and the largest penguin colony on the planet! How’s that for diversity?!
If you love sharing a drink with loved ones, you’ll be happy to know that Chile is the seventh-largest producer of wine in the world. Chile, despite its small size, has the perfect climate and landscape for growing grapes and producing wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère are the most common grapes in Chile. Despite the fact that Carmenère was originally a French wine, Chile now produces it.
Learn more about this wonderful country with these 50 Chile Facts.
- Chile covers a total area of 756,096 square kilometers.
- Water makes up only 2.1% of the country’s total area.
- An estimated 17.57 million people live in the country.
- The country’s population density measures 24 people for every square kilometer.
- 86% of the country’s population follow the Roman Catholic religion.
- Humans first arrived in Chile around 18,500 years ago.
- The first few human settlements were seen in Chile 10,000 years ago.
- The Mapuche people repelled many Inca attempts to conquer the country.
- Spanish conquistador Diego del Amagro and his fellow conquistadores became the first Europeans to reach the country in 1535.
- Pedro de Valdivia began the European conquest of Chile in 1540.
- Chileans revolted against the Spanish from the 16th to 17th century.
- The Spaniards abolished slavery in Chile in 1683.
- Chile officially declared its independence from Spain in 1818, after years of insurrection.
- Spain finally conceded the fight to keep Chile in 1826.
- Chile cemented its power in South America over the rest of the 19th century.
- Only Canada has a higher homicide rate than Chile in the whole of the Americas.
- Chile mostly falls in the GMT-4 time zone.
- Parts of the country’s territory falls in the GMT-6 time zone.
- The country also follows Daylight Saving Time in the summer.
- The country uses peso as its national currency.
Various theories lie behind Chile’s name.
Based on one theory, the Incas of Peru, who failed to conquer the Araucanians, called the valley of the Aconcagua “Chili” after Tili, a tribal chief who ruled the area at the time of the Incan conquest. Another theory is due to the similarity of the Aconcagua Valley with that of the Casma Valley in Peru. In Casma Valley, there is a town and valley named Chili.
Other theories say Chile got its name from the indigenous Mapuche word “chilli,” which means “where the land ends,” “the deepest point of the Earth,” “sea gulls,” etc. Another meaning attributed to Chile is the onomatopoeic ‘cheele-cheele,” which is the Mapuche version of a traditional bird call.
Chile’s flag has several meanings behind it.
The flag has two horizontal bands of white and red, with the white band running along the top of the flag. The upper left corner of the flag features a blue square, with a white, five-pointed star inside.
The white portion of the flag symbolizes the snowy Andes Mountains, while the red symbolizes the blood spilled to win the country’s freedom. The blue in the flag symbolizes the sky, while the star symbolizes progress and honor. How’s that for colorful Chile facts?
Chile claims territory in Antarctica.
They call it the Chilean Antarctic Territory, and it includes the whole of the West Antarctic Peninsula with much of the surrounding land. Overall, it reaches an estimated area of 1.25 million square kilometers.
Chile first made its claims in the early-19th Century, soon after their independence, and cooperated with Argentina in formally staking their claims in the 1940s. Their claims, along with those of other countries such as those of Britain, received international recognition in the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.
They also have several islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Now, there’s a surprising example of Chile Facts. Those include Easter Island in the Polynesians, which the Chileans annexed in 1888. The annexation resulted from a treaty signed between the Chilean government and Atamu Tekena, the Catholic-backed king of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island.
Today, many of the Rapa Nui contest the validity of the said treaty, and how it gave their land to Chile.
Chile turned to Communism in the late-20th century.
It began with Salvador Allende’s left-wing coalition gaining a plurality of seats in the Chilean Parliament, following the 1970 election. An economic recession in 1972 allowed the coalition to introduce left-wing measures, starting with price controls and wage increases.
Tax reforms followed, along with joint government and private infrastructure programs. Large parts of the banking, mining, and industrial sectors of the government also saw nationalization programs implemented. These measures caused the country’s industrial production to go up, and unemployment rates go down.
The United States Of America didn’t react well to the rise of Communism in South America.
As part of Cold War politics, the USA refused to allow a left-wing country to succeed in South America. US President Richard Nixon sent special operatives into Chile, while also restricting the country’s ability to access credit on the international market.
With American backing, Chilean opposition figures and businessmen organized resistance against Allende’s government. Large-scale spending by the government’s programs also pushed inflation out of control, causing strikes and demonstrations from the middle class, as prices continued to rise.
Eventually, the Chilean Supreme Court declared the Allende government illegal, setting the stage for Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup. Allende committed suicide rather than face capture by the military. After the coup’s success, United States State Secretary Henry Kissinger informed President Nixon of the American assistance in the coup.
The Pinochet Regime became one of the bloodiest in history.
Pinochet maintained his grip on power by simply killing anyone and everyone who could challenge him. In October 1973 alone, Chilean death squads moving by helicopter killed 73 people around the country in a single month.
More deaths followed in the following years, with an estimated list of 40,000 victims. Another 27,000 suffered from torture, including nearly a hundred children younger than 12.
And in all that time, the USA looked the other way, so long as Pinochet supported America’s Operation Condor, their anti-Communist campaign in South America.
Democracy returned to Chile towards the end of the 1980s.
An economic collapse in 1982 caused public opinion of the Pinochet regime to fall, with widespread cases of civil disobedience from 1983 to 1988. This forced the regime to restore freedom of assembly to freedom of speech, as well as allow trade unions to resume activity.
A new constitution removed Pinochet’s legal backing in 1988, with Patricio Aylwin becoming President of Chile. In the decades since, Chilean democracy stayed stable, with the country even electing its first female president in 2006, Michelle Jeria.
In 2010, trapped miners in the north of the country made headlines around the world.
The accident resulted from a cave-in on August 5, at the San Jose gold and copper mine in Northern Chile. It left 33 miners trapped 700 meters underground. After the mine’s owner’s San Esteban’s, initial efforts to rescue the miners failed, the Chilean government-owned company Codelco took over the rescue operation.
17 days after the cave-in, hopes in the miners’ survival increased after they taped a letter to a drill sent down from the surface. It told the rescue teams that the miners were alive and well and waiting for rescue.
They finally succeeded on October 13, 69 days after the accident, with all the miners found in good medical condition. The accident resulted in a series of investigations against San Esteban, but in 2013, the company found itself cleared of all charges.
Chileans widely erupted in protest in 2019.
The protests first erupted in the country’s capital, Santiago, before spreading to all other major cities. They erupted in outrage over an increase in train fare, as well as in rising living costs caused by widespread privatization of the country’s infrastructure and services.
Massive social inequality also contributed to the protests, with statistics actually showing that half of the country’s workers barely make more than the minimum wage per year.
COVID-19 did not spare the country during the 2020 pandemic.
The first COVID-19 cases in Chile appeared in March of 2020, which investigators believe to have come from travelers from Europe and Southeast Asia.
By the month’s end, the country’s cases soared past the 1000 mark, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare Chile in Phase 4 of the outbreak.
At first, the government only imposed a curfew, but in May, they placed Santiago under quarantine. The number of cases peaked in June, with 195 deaths per day, and an estimated 7,000 cases in the country. In July, the country’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic’s start reached 10,000, but the rate of new cases began to drop starting that month.
Chile’s borders with Peru and Argentina remain contested to this day.
The tension goes back to the 19th century, with Peru claiming what makes up Northern Chile today. This led to the War of the Pacific from 1879 to 1883, ending in the Treaty of Ancon that cost Peru two provinces that went to Chile.
A US-supervised plebiscite in 1929 allowed Peru to regain Tacna, but Chile retained Arica. In the 1990s, Argentina and Chile argued with each other over their common border, except at the Patagonian Ice Field.
Decades later in 2008, Peru took Chile to the International Court of Justice over maritime disputes. The court ruled in Peru’s favor, which had a negative effect on the fishing industry of Northwestern Chile.
Chile and Bolivia also have issues between them for geostrategic reasons.
Bolivia actually started the War of the Pacific in the 19th Century, with Peru dragged into it, thanks to their alliance with Bolivia. The war proved disastrous for Bolivia, as their territorial losses cost them direct access to the sea.
The Treaty Of Valparaiso gave them indirect access via a railway running through Chile, while Chile also bound to give Bolivian trade freedom of access.
Even then, Bolivia has never given up its desire to regain a seaport of its own. This led to the two countries cutting off diplomatic contact with each other in 1978, and which has continued to the present day.
Chile’s geography is rather unique among the countries of the world.
The country stretches an estimated 4,300 kilometers from north to south, but at its widest, the country only measures an estimated 350 kilometers from east to west. While this places Chile among the longest countries in the world, it also makes it the narrowest.
The country retains a powerful military even to this day.
The army alone numbers an estimated 45,000 men, divided into 6 divisions stationed around the country. As for the navy, it counts an estimated 25,000 men, with their most advanced ships including 8 frigates and 4 submarines.
As for the air force, it counts an estimated 12,500 men, with F-16s purchased from America and Europe as its most advanced planes. That said, Chile has no ambition to become a nuclear power, having signed the Nuclear Ban Treaty in 2017. Now there’s an interesting twist, as far as we see it, here at Chile Facts.
The country also has a diverse climate.
Northern Chile has an arid climate as it is dominated by the Atacama Desert. Going south from there, the climate moderates to Mediterranean standards in the country’s center.
The east and south of the country enjoy oceanic climates, with Alpine Tundra along the Andes, and a polar climate in Antarctica. Finally, Chile’s Pacific Island territories enjoy a humid and subtropical climate.
Chile also has a rich biodiversity.
That said, the country’s geography makes it less diverse than other South American countries. The northern desert region counts as among the most lifeless in the world, with scientists calling it a near-absolute desert.
The Andes Mountains also serve as a barrier crossing into Chile, as evidenced by the differences between the country’s native life and those of neighboring Argentina. However, fungi have proven among Chile’s most diverse life forms, with over 3,000 distinct species thus far discovered.
Even then, scientists claim that probably represents only 7% of the country’s native fungal life. And even the country’s desert and mountain barriers can’t keep South America’s most common animals out.
Those include pumas, cougars, as well as guanacos, and chillas. The wetter climate of the south also allows forests to grow, including trees like laurels and magnolias. Forest animals include various marsupials, as well as the deer-like pudu.
Chile has a well-developed agricultural sector.
In particular, Chile counts among the top five producers of the world’s cherries and cranberries. They also count as the 9th biggest producer of grapes in the world, at an estimated 2 million tons per year. Other Chilean agricultural goods include 1.7 million tons of apples per year, as well as 1.4 million tons of wheat, and 1.1 million tons of corn.
The country also has a solid fishing industry.
Enough to count as the world’s second-largest salmon producer in the world, in fact. That said, it took large-scale foreign investments and technology transfers to allow the industry to grow to that level.
Chile also export lumber and lumber-based products.
They account for an estimated 13% of the country’s total exports. Pine and eucalyptus count among the country’s main exports, however, wood pulp actually makes up Chile’s biggest lumber-based product.
The country also has a large mining industry.
Chile has rich nitrate deposits, which became the foundation for the Chilean economy in the 19th Century. They exported the nitrates to other countries, which used them to make fertilizer and gunpowder, among other uses.
It wasn’t until the Germans developed the Haber-Bosch Process to synthesize ammonia in World War 1 that the Chilean nitrate industry faced international competition. Starting in the late 20th Century, copper became the Chilean mining industry’s primary export.
In fact, Chile supplies about a third of the global supply of copper. Chile also exported large amounts of gold and silver starting in the 1970s. And in 2015, the country’s lithium reserves also gained importance, due to lithium’s demand for use in producing batteries.
The country also has a well-developed communications industry.
The network covers the whole country, not just in South America, but also extending to Antarctica and the Pacific Islands. Statistics estimate 3.28 million phone lines in use in Chile’s South American mainland, along with 24.13 mobile phone users.
The radio industry is also well-developed, with multiple microwave relay stations, as well as satellite services. An estimated 61.42% of all Chileans also have access to the internet, the most out of any South American country.
The country’s energy industry has a varied background.
Chile consumed an estimated 68.9 terrawatt hour of electricity in 2014 alone. Most of the country’s energy needs come from fossil fuels, though, with gas as the most common at 30%. Coal follows at 20%, and then oil, at 13%, for a total of 63%.
Green energy is currently under development in Chile.
Hydroelectricity supplies an estimated 33% of the country’s energy needs. The country also has South America’s first geothermal power plant, Cerro Pabellon. Located in the Atacama Desert, it produces an estimated 48 milliwatts of electricity.
Also located in the Atacama Desert is the El Romero Solar Plant, the biggest solar farm in Latin America. It produces an estimated 246 milliwatts of electricity, with other solar farms planned for construction. The country also has the El Arrayan Wind Farm, able to produce 115 milliwatts of electricity, and again, the largest of its kind in Latin America. Talk about green examples of Chile Facts.
Millions of tourists come to Chile every year.
Chilean statistics estimate that 2 million tourists visit the country every year. Most come from other American countries, usually Argentina and the United States Of America. In recent years, though, the number of European tourists has increased.
Most tourists go to natural sights in the more extreme parts of the country, such as Chungara Lake in Putre. Other natural wonders include the Parinacota and Pomerape volcanoes, among others. Other tourists also flock to see the Incan ruins at San Pedro de Atacama.
Chilean poets have long since made their mark on history.
Gabriela Mistral became the first Latin American to receive a Nobel Prize. She won the 1945 Nobel Prize in Literature. Pablo Neruda later won another Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.
Chilean cuisine includes influences from both natives and Europeans alike.
Here’s a tasty example of Chile Facts. Traditional Chilean recipes include asado, cazuela, curanto, empanadas, and humitas among others. The diverse background appears in the ingredients, such as the use of llama meat instead of beef, as well as large amounts of shellfish and rice bread, derived from Quechua Andean cuisine.
Vegetables like onions and garlic, as well as condiments such as mayonnaise and yogurt, and drinks like beer, all point to European influence on Chilean cuisine.
Football has a massive following in the country.
Chile has participated in no less than 9 different FIFA World Cups, with the Chilean national team even finishing third in the 1962 tournament. They’ve also participated in the Copa America, as well as the Pan American and Olympic Games.
Tennis also enjoys popularity in the country.
Chileans won the World Team Cup twice, first in 2003, and again in 2004. Even before that, they contested the Davis Cup decades ago in 1976, against Italy.
In 1998, Marcelo Rios became the first Latin American man to win the number 1 spot in the ATP Singles. And again, decades ago in 1937, Anita Lizana became the first Latin American woman to win the US Open.
Plenty of Chileans enjoy playing and watching basketball.
The Chilean team won a bronze medal in the FIBA World Championship in 1950, and again in 1959. They also hosted the first FIBA World Championship for Women years before the latter in 1953.