Chile, officially the Republic of Chile (Spanish: República de Chile), is a country in South America occupying a long and narrow coastal strip wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage at the country's southernmost tip. It is one of only two countries in South America that does not have a border with Brazil. The Pacific forms the country's entire western border, with a coastline that stretches over 6,435 kilometres. Chilean territory extends to the Pacific Ocean which includes the overseas territories of Juan Fernández Islands, the Salas y Gómez islands, the Desventuradas Islands and Easter Island located in Polynesia. Chile claims 1,250,000 km² (482,628 sq mi) of territory in Antarctica.
Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 km (2,672 mi) long and on average 175 km (109 mi) wide — has given it a hugely varied climate, ranging from the world's driest desert — the Atacama — in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a snow-prone Alpine climate in the south, with glaciers, fjords and lakes. The northern Chilean desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper. The relatively small central area dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. This area also is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century, when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. The Andes Mountains are located on the eastern border.
Prior to the coming of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians (also known as Mapuches) inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared its independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879-83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Araucanian Indians were completely subjugated. The country, which had been relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted the South American continent, endured a 17 year military dictatorship (1973-1990), one of the bloodiest in 20th-century Latin America that left more than 3,000 people dead and missing.
Currently, Chile is one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations. Within the greater Latin American context it leads in terms of human development, competitiveness, quality of life, political stability, globalization, economic freedom, low perception of corruption and comparatively low poverty rates. It also ranks high regionally in freedom of the press and democratic development. Its status as the region's richest country in terms of gross domestic product per capita (at market prices and purchasing power parity) is however countered by its high level of income inequality, as measured by the Gini index.
A long and narrow coastal Southern Cone country on the west side of the Andes Mountains, Chile stretches over 4,630 kilometers (2,880 mi) north to south, but only 430 kilometers (265 mi) at its widest point east to west. This encompasses a remarkable variety of landscapes. It contains 756,950 km² (292,260 sq mi) of land area.
The northern Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, primarily copper and nitrates. The relatively small Central Valley, which includes Santiago, dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. This area also is the historical center from which Chile expanded in the late nineteenth century, when it integrated the northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests, grazing lands, and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. The Andes Mountains are located on the eastern border. Chile is the longest north-south country in the world, and also claims 1,250,000 km² (482,628 sq mi) of Antarctica as part of its territory. However, this latter claim is suspended under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, of which Chile is signatory.
Chile controls Easter Island and Sala y Gómez Island, the easternmost islands of Polynesia, which it incorporated to its territory in 1888, and Robinson Crusoe Island, more than 600 km (373 mi) from the mainland, in the Juan Fernández archipelago. Easter Island is nowadays a province of Chile. Also controlled but only temporally inhabited (by some local fishermen) are the small islands of Sala y Gómez, San Ambrosio and San Felix. These islands are notable because they extend Chile's claim to territorial waters out from its coast into the Pacific.