At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks

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Are you ready to uncover some fascinating and lesser-known facts about Chile? This stunning South American country is bursting with natural wonders, captivating culture, and surprising highlights that make it an irresistible destination.

From traveling to Easter Island to visiting the otherworldly Atacama Desert and everything in between, Chile is a treasure trove of fascinating places, traditions, and history. Its vibrant cities, rich heritage, and warm hospitality all add to its allure.

One of the best parts of traveling to new places is learning about what makes each destination special and unique. And when it comes to Chile, there are many things to discover that might surprise you.

So, let’s get into 21 interesting facts about Chile that will surely intrigue you. Who knows, maybe it inspires you to plan a trip and explore everything this incredible country has to offer.

1. Chile’s Official National Dance Is the Cueca

The La Cueca dance is a vibrant spectacle that brings to life the courtship ritual of a rooster and a hen. As the music fills the air, dancers elegantly twirl their handkerchiefs, an essential prop in this captivating performance.

Cueca tells a story of love, flirtation, and Chilean culture with each step and movement.

This mesmerizing dance was officially declared the national dance of Chile in 1979. Its origins date back to the Spanish colonial era (14th – 16th centuries), and over time it has become one of the most iconic dances in South America.

Destroyed Buildings by Earthquake

2. Chile Is One of the Most Earthquake Prone Countries

Due to its geographical location along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Chile has a reputation for being  one of the world’s most earthquake-prone nations.

This region is characterized by intense volcanic and seismic activity. Consequently, the country experiences thousands of earthquakes annually, ranging from minor tremors to significant quakes.

Experiencing frequent earthquakes has shaped the country’s history and influenced its approach to disaster preparedness.

Over the years, Chile has developed a comprehensive seismic monitoring system, implemented strict building codes, and invested in resilient infrastructure to ensure the safety of the Chilean population.

3. The Largest Earthquake Ever Recorded Was in Chile

While we’re on the topic of earthquakes, you might be interested to know that Chile holds the title for experiencing the largest earthquake ever recorded.

On the 22nd of May, 1960, a devastating natural disaster struck the country, measuring a staggering magnitude of 9.5 on the Richter scale.

Known as the Great Chilean Earthquake or the Valdivia Earthquake, it originated near the city of Valdivia in southern Chile. The earthquake unleashed immense energy, causing widespread destruction across the region.

It triggered landslides, collapsed buildings, and generated powerful tsunamis that affected coastal areas as far away as Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines.

Chinchorro Mummy, Chile
Image form Wikipedia

4. The World’s Oldest Mummies Were Found in Chile

Chile holds a surprising ancient secret: it is home to the world’s oldest mummies, known as the Chinchorro mummies.

While Egypt is renowned for its mummification practices, it turns out that the Chinchorro people of the Atacama Desert were mummifying their dead long before the Egyptians.

Dating back to around 5050 BC, these mummies predate their Egyptian counterparts by a staggering two thousand years. What’s even more fascinating is that the Chinchorro mummies include individuals from all walks of life, not just elite pharaohs.

These ancient mummies, along with associated sites, were recognized for their cultural significance and inscribed on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list in 2021.

Santiago's Skyline, Chile

5. The Tallest Building in South America Is in Chile

Rising above the Santiago skyline, the Gran Torre Santiago proudly claims the title of the tallest building in South America. With an impressive height of 980 feet (300 meters) and a whopping 62 stories, this architectural marvel is a sight to behold. 

It’s not just about the height, though. The Gran Torre Santiago is also part of the Costanera Center, which is the largest shopping mall in Latin America.

Visiting the Sky Costanera is an absolute must if you are a thrill-seeker. This observation deck, perched on floors 61 and 62 of the Gran Torre, offers a mind-boggling 360° view of Santiago, Chile’s capital city, and the majestic Andes mountain range.

6. Chile Is One of the Longest Countries in the World

Chile shares the honor of being one of the world’s longest countries with Brazil. The country stretches an impressive distance of more than 2,670 miles (4,300 kilometers) from north to south.

This elongated shape is a result of its geographical location, nestled between the towering Andes Mountains on the eastern side and the Pacific Ocean on the western side.

Despite its length, Chile’s average width is only about 112 miles (180 kilometers) from east to west, also making it one of the narrowest countries in the world.

This unique geography grants Chile diverse landscapes and climates, from majestic mountains to picturesque coastal regions.

7. Chile Is the Biggest Producer of Copper in the World

Chile’s mineral resources are a treasure trove, with abundant gold, silver, iron, coal, and lithium reserves. But the star of the show is copper, and the country takes the crown as the world’s leading exporter and supplier of this precious metal.

In 2022 alone, the country proudly produced an estimated 5.2 million metric tons of copper, accounting for a whopping 60% of Chile’s exports. The majority of copper mines, including the renowned Chuquicamata, are nestled in northern Chile.

This is where the arid landscapes of the Atacama Desert provide the backdrop for these impressive operations.

Atacama Desert, Chile

8. The World’s Driest Desert Is in Chile

One of the most captivating places in Chile is the Atacama Desert, which is widely recognized as the driest desert in the world.

Located in northern Chile, it stretches for approximately 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) along the Pacific coast, encompassing an area of about 41,000 square miles (105,000 square kilometers).

The Atacama Desert experiences an average rainfall of less than 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) annually, and certain areas have recorded no precipitation for decades.

These arid conditions create an otherworldly landscape characterized by vast salt flats, sand dunes, and rocky terrain.

In fact, the conditions of the desert are so similar to that of Mars that Nasa often field tests new equipment, including the Mars Rover, in the Atacama Desert.

BUT, here’s another fun fact within this fun fact. While the Atacama desert is the driest desert (in the traditional sense of a sandy desert), the actually driest place in the world is in Antarctica! (which is also a desert in itself!)

Pisco Drink in Chile

9. Chile’s Official National Drink Is Pisco

In Chile, the alcoholic drink pisco holds a special place in the hearts of the locals. This traditional South American brandy is the official national drink, and Chileans have even dedicated a day to celebrate it.

On February 8th, they commemorate the “Day of the Pisco Sour,” where people come together to honor this beloved spirit.

One of the most famous drinks featuring pisco is the Pisco Sour cocktail. This refreshing drink combines pisco with freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar or syrup, and a frothy topping of beaten egg whites.

World's Largest Pool in Chile

10. Chile Is Home to the World’s Biggest Swimming Pool

The San Alfonso del Mar Resort in Algarrobo is the Guinness World Record holder for having the world’s largest swimming pool. Its spectacular length is equivalent to 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and it contains a staggering 66 million gallons of crystal-clear water.

Opening in 2006, the pool’s construction was no small feat, taking five years and a staggering cost of nearly $1 billion. With an annual maintenance cost of around $2 million, this pool is the epitome of luxury and grandeur.

11. Married Couples Often Don’t Share a Surname

In Chile, it is a common practice for married couples to retain their own surnames. Wives typically keep their maiden names, while husbands retain their family names. This unique tradition reflects the importance placed on individual identities within marriage.

The decision to keep maiden names is supported by Chilean law, which does not require women to change their surnames upon marriage. This legal provision aligns with the country’s commitment to gender equality and women’s rights.

Viña del Mar Beach in Chile

12. The Chilean Coastline Is One of the Longest in the World

Chile’s coastline stretches over 4,039 miles (6,500 kilometers) along the vast Pacific Ocean. It ranks as the fifth-longest coastline in the world, showcasing the country’s remarkable geographic diversity.

Traveling along the coast, you’ll see rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, dramatic fjords, and picturesque islands, offering breathtaking views at every turn.

The coastline also plays a vital role in Chilean life, as more than 90% of the population resides within 62 miles (100 kilometers) of the ocean. This fosters a deep connection and reliance on the coastal environment.

Huasos and their horses in Chile

13. Chilean Cowboys Are Called Huasos

Just like Argentina has Gauchos and the USA has cowboys, Chile has its own unique group of skilled horsemen known as Huasos. These countrymen embody the cowboy spirit, balancing their roles as farmers, cattle herders, and expert horse riders.

Huasos don a straw hat called a “chupalla” and wrap themselves in a poncho called a “manta.” Their presence is so deeply woven into Chilean culture that no parade, fiesta, or holiday would be complete without their participation.

14. The Country’s National Sport Is the Chilean Rodeo

The national sport of Chile is rodeo, a traditional equestrian event that holds a significant place in the country’s culture. Chilean rodeo is deeply rooted in the rural areas of the country, where it is celebrated with great enthusiasm.

It reflects the country’s rich ranching and agricultural heritage. The riders wear traditional attire, including straw hats, ponchos, and rawhide leather boots, adding to the cultural charm of the event.

Unlike the high-speed, adrenaline-fueled rodeos commonly seen in other parts of the world, Chilean rodeo is a more rhythmic and skilful affair.

This captivating sport is known for its elegance, as the Huasos demonstrate their mastery of horsemanship, coordination, and communication with their horses.

Red Wine Glass at a Vineyard

15. Chile Is One of the Top Wine-Producing Countries in the World

Chile has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the top wine-producing countries in the world. The unique combination of favorable climate, diverse terrains, and skilled winemakers has made Chile a prominent player in the global wine industry.

Chilean wines have gained international acclaim, winning prestigious awards and earning the admiration of wine enthusiasts worldwide.

The combination of exceptional quality, value for money, and consistent craftsmanship has established Chile as a go-to destination for wine enthusiasts.

16. Two Chileans have won the Nobel Prize in Literature

Chile is affectionately called the “Pais de Los Poetas” or the “Country of Poets.” This title holds true thanks to the remarkable achievements of two iconic Chilean literary figures who captured the hearts of readers worldwide.

In 1945, Gabriela Mistral captivated audiences with her lyrical poetry and became the first South American Nobel Laureate in Literature.

Then, in 1971, Pablo Neruda, hailed as Chile’s national poet, claimed his rightful place among literary greats by receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature.

A group of Penguins in Tierra del Fuego

17. You Can See Penguins in Chile

Despite the country’s reputation for dry and barren landscapes, the Chilean coastline offers a different story altogether. This stretch of paradise is home to not just one but five penguin species.

From the iconic Magellanic penguins to the unique Humboldt, Rockhopper, Macaroni, and King penguins, these charming creatures can mainly be found along the country’s southern tip.

National parks and conservation efforts protect penguins in Chile. You can visit numerous penguin colonies where these charming birds gather for breeding, nesting, and raising their young.

Stargazing at the Atacama Desert in Chile

18. Chile is a popular Stargazing Destination

The Atacama Desert in Chile is renowned as one of the world’s best destinations for stargazing and observing the Milky Way. Its dry conditions and high elevation result in low humidity and excellent visibility, making it an ideal location for astronomers.

The Atacama Desert’s remote location, far from major cities and light pollution, also ensures minimal interference, allowing for crystal-clear views of the celestial panorama.

With over 300 clear nights per year, the desert offers an abundance of opportunities to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the cosmos.

Villarica Volcano in Chile

19. Volcanoes Are Abundant in Chile

Situated along the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire, Chile claims the title of possessing the second-longest chain of volcanoes on the planet after Indonesia.

This extraordinary concentration of volcanic wonders can be attributed to Chile’s position within this dynamic geological zone that has sculpted Chile’s landscape with an array of majestic peaks and craters.

While the exact number of volcanoes in Chile is uncertain, estimates suggest that there are around 2,000 volcanoes spread across the country. Among these, experts believe that over 500 are potentially active volcanoes.

20. Chile has Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Chile proudly boasts five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each offering a captivating glimpse into the country’s rich history and cultural tapestry.

These sites include the enchanting Churches of Chiloé; the vibrant Historic Quarter of Valparaíso; the haunting Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works; the enigmatic Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island; and the captivating Sewell Mining Town. Each of these sites holds a unique significance.

So, while Chile might be one of the lesser-known South American countries, it has a variety of fascinating attractions. Its collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites places it firmly on the map as a country of remarkable cultural and historical importance.

Moai statues at Rano Raraku, Easter Island

21. Easter Island Is Part of Chile

One of the most fascinating parts of Chile isn’t even on the mainland — the mysterious Easter Island.

This remote Pacific Island, also known as “Rapa Nui” or “Isla de Pascua” in Spanish, has intrigued people worldwide for centuries. Located a whopping 3,700 kilometers off the coast, it’s one of the most remote islands in the world.

Easter Island is a treasure trove of wonders, with its 900 stone statues known as moai stealing the show. Carved by the ancient Rapa Nui people, these monolithic figures, some standing as tall as 20 feet (six meters), add an air of mystery to the island.

The origin of the moai statues remains clouded with intrigue, adding to the allure and fascination that surrounds Easter Island.

So, there you have it, 21 facts about Chile to give you a taste of the intriguing wonders that the country has in store.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply curious about the world around you, there’s something for everyone in Chile. Hopefully, these fun facts have inspired you to pack your travel gear and explore this beautiful South American country.

Fun and Interesting Facts About Chile That Might Surprise You
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