As the world’s proportionally longest and narrowest country – spanning 33 degrees latitude – or 4,200 km – from north to south, Chile has its fair share of different climatic zones.
In the far south, including the island of Tierra del Fuego, shared with neighboring Argentina, there is a strongly oceanic climate, with heavy rainfall – up to 4,000 mm (157 in) per year – and prevailing westerly winds. Yet the main city, Punta Arenas, lies in the rain shadow to the west and therefore only receives 410 mm (16 inches) of precipitation per year.
The capital of Chile, Santiago, is located roughly in the center of the country, has a more Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry and sunny summers and fairly cool winters; precipitation mainly occurs during the winter months, but it is still very low – only 275 mm (10.8 in) per year.
But it is the far north of the country that has the most extreme climate. The Atacama Desert is known as the driest place on earth, where it almost never rains. The reason for this is the cold offshore ocean current, named after European explorer Alexander von Humboldt, which prevents rain clouds from forming. Further inland, in the Andes, the climate is also extremely dry, but much colder due to the high altitude: nighttime temperatures can drop well below zero.