How Long is Chile?

"2,653 miles" doesn't quite convey it; these maps do.

Pretty long. It is, after all, the longest country in the world. But why is it that long? And how long is it exactly? 


Chile is as narrow as it is because of the Andes Mountains, which separate it from Argentina. That's why the country is only 110 miles (177 km) across, on average. The country derives its length from the successful colonial expansion of the Spanish, and independent Chile's own military successes. In 1818, when Chile broke free from Spain, the country comprised only the middle third of its current north-south extension.

In the 1880s, Chile triumphed in the War of the Pacific over Peru and Bolivia. It annexed Peru's southern shoreline, and Bolivia's entire Pacific coast, landlocking the country. Around the same time, Chilean troops pushed south of the Biobio River, conquering the indigenous Mapuche people, which had successfully resisted encroachment by both the Incas and the Spanish. This opened up the road to the southern tip of the continent.

As a result, Chile measures 2,653 miles (4,270 km) from north to south. It is the world's most prominent example of the elongated type of territorial morphology. Other examples include Norway and Vietnam. There are four other types of territorial morphology: compact, prorupt, fragmented and perforated (for more, see #595).

While that distance quoted above is more precise than 'pretty long', it still doesn't quite convey the enormity of Chile's extent. For that, there are these maps.

Travelling from the northern tip of Chile to its deepest south is like travelling from Piccadilly Circus in London to the Rond Point des Nations Unies in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Few things sound further away than Ouagadougou. With the possible exception of Piccadilly Circus, if you're in Ouagadougou.

To put things in an American context: imagine you're travelling from New York all the way down to Bogotà, the capital of Colombia. You're flying past the entire East Coast, Cuba, Jamaica and Panama before you land. And when you get off the plane, no need to show your passport: you're still in the same country.

Other bizarre north-south pairings covered by Chile's north-south extremities include a trip from Berlin to Lake Chad, the northern tip of Cameroon, coincidentally one of Germany's former colonial possessions. Or the distance between Moscow and Eritrea, two places also linked by a prevalence of Orthodox Christianity and a robustly un-liberal governmental attitude towards press freedom.

Or the road from Kiev, capital of Ukraine to the Upper Nile state of South Sudan – two countries locked in simmering conflicts with their erstwhile overlords. Or the long voyage from the Cape in South Africa to the Antarctic mainland, two places sharing, eh, well: penguins!

Map found here on Reddit. 

Strange Maps #775 

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

Update 23 March 2016 – some interesting reader perspectives on Chile's stretchedness.

→ For an intra-European perspective on Chile's length, Xideral sent in this map, commenting that “Arica, the northernmost city of Chile, could be located at Madrid, and also sharing hot climate. Otherwise, Punta Arenas the southernmost city, could be compared with Moscow, also with same cold climate features”.

→ “For American folks, I tend to explain Chile as the inverted (N-S) 100-mile-wide stretch of land from the top of the Alaska panhandle to the southern point of Baja California”, says Pablo Yanez. “This pretty much gets the climate regions that one can see in Chile”. Also: “I once had an argument with an Icelander that Chile has more glacier-covered land than Iceland. He wouldn't believe me... but it does, by almost a factor of two”.

→ “I had the great privilege of seeing most of Chile's regions, including Patagonia”, says Bob Hepokoski, who lived in the country for 15 years. “In my first visit to that extreme region, I remember encountering a surprising sight. Just a few kilometers fron the southernmost tip of the continent, there is a monument marking the geographic center of Chile! It claims to be the north-south midpoint of the nation. The monument is a white obelisk with a map of Chile that includes a wedge of Antarctica reaching to the South Pole”.

Map of 'Greater Chile' sent in by Mr. Hepokoski.

Chile's claim is not only not recognised internationally, but also overlaps with similar claims by Argentina and the UK. Yet in Chile, Mr. Hepokoski says, official maps include the country's Antarctic claim. “So Chileans boast of their country as being both elongated and fragmented”. 

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less