• Colombia!

    Colombia: Caribbean Sea coast. Go Now!

    Although most of the people live inland, Colombia also has its share of coastline along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea (pictured). Go Now!

  • Ecuador!

    Ecuador: Sally Lightfoot Crab. Go Now!

    The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador are home to incredible wildlife, such as the famous Galapagos Turtle and the lesser known, but more common Red Rock or Sally Lightfoot crab (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Chile!

    Chile: Torres del Paine National Park. Go Now!

    The Andes dominate much of Chile, including the breath-taking Torres del Paine National Park (pictured). However, the country also hosts the world's driest desert and a thriving metropolis. Begin Your Journey!

  • Venezuela!

    Venezuela: Los Roques. Go Now!

    Rooted in Europe, Venezuela boasts an impressive history, culture, and beauty, including the Caribbean Coast (pictured). Explore Venezuela!

  • Bolivia!

    Bolivia: Salt flats. Go Now!

    This hidden gem is full of surprises, from the impressive salt flats (pictured) to the migrating flamingos. It also clings to the most historic indigenous culture on the continent. Explore Bolivia!

Geography, Weather, & Wildlife of Chile


Chilean Geography - Patagonia

Chile is a long and narrow country with the peak of the Andes Mountains in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. The mountains rise quickly as elevations rise up from sea level to the highest point on the continent in less than 100 miles (170 kilometers). This highest point is Mt. Aconcagua, which stands at 22,834 feet (6,960 meters), just over the border in Argentina.

The whole country rise in elevation rapidly and nearly everywhere outside the narrow coast is mountainous. The major geographical differences in the country are in livability and weather. The far north is the Atacama Desert, one of the world's driest deserts and almost no one lives here as few plants can be grown and there is almost a complete absence of animal life.

Chilean Geography - Osorno Volcano
Osorno Volcano

In the region around Santiago the valleys protect the people from the harsh mountainous weather as rivers make life quite comfortable. These rivers also provide water, plant growth, food, and the region is home to numerous animals as well, making this the most livable part of the country. Nearly the entire country's population lives in this or nearby valleys.

In the far southern part of the country islands are more common than a crisp and defined coastline as few people call this region home. Again there is little rain, plants, or animals and the cold temperatures prevent life in many forms.


Chilean Geography - Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert

Chile's geography and landscape may indicate similar weather patterns throughout the country, but Chile stretches so far north and south temperatures and precipitation vary drastically. Additionally, the high Andes in Chile's north drain the clouds leaving little to no rain to fall on the Atacama Desert, which is the driest desert in the world. Due to the country stretching so far north and south, as well as the mountains, few places in Chile are ideal for people. The far north is generally too dry, the far south generally too cold, leaving only a few valleys in the central part of the country. The region stretching slightly north and south from Santiago is the best part of the country from a temperature and weather standpoint for human settlement. This has led to great animal and plant life as well as numerous water sources as the region gets regular rains and there are numerous rivers. It is no doubt why almost the entire country's population lives in this region.

Summers in Chile run from about December to February when the temperatures rise. During this time Santiago has daily lows of about 55° F (13° C), but day time highs average 85° F (29° C). This is also the dry season in Santiago and elsewhere as almost no rain falls. The far south is also warmer during this time of year, but temperatures can still be very cold, especially at night when temperatures can dip to the freezing point. In the Atacama Desert day time highs usually reach 77° F (25° C), but lows fall to about 63° F (17° C) and rain is unheard of.

Winters run from about June to August as temperatures can plunge in the north and south. Santiago remains at a fairly regular temperature as highs are only about 58° F (14° C), but nights usually stay above the freezing point with an average low of 37° F (3° C). This is the rainy season in much of Chile, including the central part of the country as rains fall many afternoons, but even during this time 3 inches (75 mm) is generally the most rain Santiago gets in any given month. In the northern deserts temperatures range from about 52-63° F (11-17° C) and if any rain falls (which it may not for years in a row), this is generally when it will fall. The south is again freezing, literally, as many inlets and lakes are frozen as roads are inaccessible.

The spring and fall (autumn) come between these two extremes from both a temperature and a precipitation standpoint. Generally speaking, these are also the most unpredictable seasons as temperatures can vary greatly from week to week and month to month.


As a fairly mountainous country the wildlife in Chile is limited. Most of the animals can handle the cold weather and snows, meaning many of the animals are mammals or birds as reptiles, fish, and other animals are not as common. Despite these limitations, the wildlife is fairly diverse as the country moves from semi-tropics to Antarctic weather, it has alpine peaks and sea level coastline, and in the north is the world's driest desert.

Chilean Wildlife - Albatross

Most of the animals native to Chile are mammals, both large and small. Among the largest of these animals are llamas and alpacas, which are both native to the Andes. The Vicuna (a camel species), deer, beers, boars, emus, cougars (puma), fox, tapir, monkeys, armadillos, and porcupines also live in the mountains. Among the smaller mammal species in the Chilean Andes are opossum, sloth, bats, rabbits, mice, squirrels, rats, and the chinchilla, a native rodent.

The sea life is very limited inland as most rivers move too quickly for much life and most of the lakes are alpine lakes, which also limits the life. Most of the sea animals live off the western coast in the Pacific Ocean. This ocean is home to large mammals such as whales, sea lions, and dolphins, but most of the life is fish or shell fish. Sea bass, loco, picorocosole, sole, cod, grouper, salmon, tuna, sharks, prawns, squid, and eels are present throughout much of the coast. Further north in the warmer waters snapper, mackerel, tuna, puffer fish, mahi-mahi, seahorses, starfish, sea urchins, crab, rays, and jellyfish can also be found.

Chilean Wildlife - Chinchilla

The long coastline and the high mountains also attract numerous birds, including many water fowls and predatory birds adapted to mountain life. One of the most famous of these birds is the penguin, which primarily lives in the south, but some species live along the entire coast. Egrets, pelicans, geese, albatross, seagulls, sandpipers, eagles, condors, Andean flamingos, partridges, coots, finches, hummingbirds, wrens, and owls are also common.

The reptilian, amphibian, and insect life in Chile are somewhat limited, but definitely present at lower elevations and in the northern desert. Many of these animals are spiders, including the tarantula, and snakes, including the rattlesnake. Few insects can survive at high elevations, however flies, mosquitos, butterflies, and other insects can be found at lower elevations.

Chilean Wildlife - Puma (Cougar)
Cougar (Puma)

When it comes to native plant life, South America is home to many famous edible plants and these plants quickly spread throughout Chile, South America, and beyond. The pineapple is from the region where Brazil and Uruguay meet while potatoes and tobacco originated in the Andes Mountains. A few others, including cacao trees (used to make chocolate), peanuts, and tomatoes are also from South America, although their actual origin is unknown. Peppers, both sweet and hot peppers are from Central America or northern South America while vanilla, avocado, papaya, and corn (maize) are likely from Central America itself. No matter each food's origin, what is known is that these foods spread throughout the continent and to the country of Chile with the help of pre-historic people, animals, and winds. These people have had these foods for nearly as long as people have inhabited the region and each makes an important part of the people's diet and culture now and for thousands of years into the past.

More than just these plants, Chile is home to thousands of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers. The larch tree is one of the world's longest living trees (it can live for 3,000 years), the myrtle or luma tree (commonly referred to as a cinnamon tree in Chile), pine trees, eucalyptus trees, and cypress trees also exist in Chile.

This page was last updated: April, 2013