10 Things You Might Not Know About: Chile

The long, only slightly wide strip of land constitutes Chile’s South American nation, which can look back on a rich, vibrant history. Chile is a country with a fascinating cultural heritage that ranges from archaeological sites to ancient civilizations to the expressions of the politically turbulent 20th century and tells many interesting stories. 

We’ve collected the ten most unique and interesting facts about Chile you can imagine, but take a look for yourself.

1) Chilean Spanish

Credits: L’odyssée Belle

Chilean Spanish is the local take on the Spanish language. Visitors will usually get by with English, though knowing a few words in Chilean Spanish will go a long way. Native Spanish speakers should take notes: There are some significant differences since the locals in Chile have developed a unique slang that varies depending on the region. Chilean consonants are pronounced much softer, and there are several words that people outside of Chile most probably wouldn’t recognize. Chileans also love to talk pretty fast, which leads to them swallow some word endings, leaving you with a feeling of listening to a verbal sprint.

2) Driest Place On Earth

Credits: Hailey Kean

At 7,500 feet, the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile is the driest place on Earth and probably the oldest desert. The surreal beauty receives an average annual rainfall of only 0.6 inches a year while spreading out over an area of 363,000 square kilometers between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. However, when it’s raining, you can see several blooming fields of beautiful purple flowers that stretch for miles.

3) Mars Rovers & UFO Research

Credits: NASA/CampoAlto/V. Robles

Following up on the previous topic, scientists have used the Atacama desert’s harsh conditions to test their Mars rovers, as the terrain and volatile conditions resemble those on Mars. 

Talking about outer space: Chile is one of the few countries on Earth to have an official department, as part of the Air Force, solely dedicated to research and monitor unusual aircraft activity, including “UFOs.” 

4) Oldest Mummies

Credits: Peter Langer/Design Pics/UIG/Bridgeman Images

If you think of mummies (which is an obscure thing to think about in the first place), you might immediately connect it to Egypt and its famous “Valley of the Kings.” However, before colonization, several indigenous peoples lived in Chile, including the tribe of the “Chinchorro.” These people were known for their oldest preserved mummies in the world. While the oldest mummy in Egypt was dated back to 3,000 BC, one of the Chinchorro mummies discovered in the Camarones Valley dates from 5050 BC. 

5) Chile’s Irish President

Credits: José Gil de Castro (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Back in 1810, when the Argentine liberator José de San Martín and his ally, Bernardo O’Higgins, defeated the Spaniards in the battle of the Andes, Chile became an independent country. 

O’Higgins, who was the illegitimate son of an Irish immigrant, was elected the Chilean Republic’s first supreme head. However, he was later dismissed from office by the noble landowners in 1823 for his plan to abolish titles, limit inheritance, and increase taxes.

6) Earthquakes

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY NOAA

With a staggering 9.5 on the Richter scale, the most massive earthquake ever recorded was near Valdivia, Chile, in 1960. It lasted between eleven to thirteen minutes and claimed nearly 6,000 lives due to the quake’s severity and the resulting tsunami. 

7) Home of the Largest Swimming Pool

The world’s largest swimming pool is the length of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools (~1,000 yards and 20 acres) and holds 66 million gallons (~250 million liters) of crystal clear seawater. This enormous pool is housed at the San Alfonso del Mar Resort in the coastal city of Algarrobo, Chile, and took five years of construction work.

8) Penguins

Credits: Hector Marquez

We know by now that penguins don’t only live in Antarctica or at the zoo, but also in other (warmer) parts of the world such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile. To be precise, they can be found in several areas of southern Chile, including the Seno Otway Penguin Colony, located near Puntas Arenas. But there are also penguins (the “Humboldt Penguins”) found on the north coast of Chile with a total population of ~12,000 breeding pairs.

9) One of the Longest Coastlines

Chile is the second longest country in the world, with a length of 4,270km ( ~2,653 miles). It’s only narrowly beaten by Brazil, which is just 95km (~59 miles) longer than Chile. But the country is also one of the narrowest in the world, with a width of 200 km (~124 miles.) Chile’s also one of the countries with the longest coastline of around 6500 km compared to other countries’ coast/area ratio. 

10) A Volcanic Place

Credits: Diego Marin

Chile is one of the countries with the most volcanoes at a count of just over 1,300. Around 500 of them are still active, but in the last 450 years, “only” 60 Chilean volcanoes have erupted. Among the better-known and most-watched volcanoes are Cerro Arul, Cerro Hudson, and Villarrica. Those three volcanoes are so-called “stratovolcanos” or “composite volcanos” since they’re all cone-shaped due to having built up many layers of lava, pumice, ash, and tephra over time. Adventurous climbers worldwide come to Chile to enjoy hikes on the country’s mountainous and volcanic terrain.