Regions of Chile:

An overview of the various regions of Chile

Since Chile is over 2500 miles long it has numerous regions that differ greatly in their climate and geography.  Want sunny, warm weather all year long? Go north.  For a milder, rainy climate with lots of vegetation, go south.  For everything in-between stick to the middle.  Below is a short overview of each of Chile's 15 administrative regions.

The First Region: Arica y Parinacota

The Arica y Parinacota region of Chile, is the most recent addition to Chile's administrative regions.  This region became operational on October 8th, 2007.  It is bordered by Peru to the North, Bolivia to the east, and Chile's Tarapaca region to the south.  Approximately 190,000 people live in this region of Chile.  About 175,000 live in the city of Arica and about 1200 people live in the city of Putre.  There are a significant number of immigrants in this region from the neighboring countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia.  Most of this region has a desert climate; however the coast has a mild desert climate due to the clouds that always form there. The coastal area is said to be the eternal spring of Chile, since the weather always stays so mild.   In this region, you can find deserts, green valleys, the volcanic Andes Mountains, and the high plains to the east.  The city of Arica serves as an important sea port for the inland regions of South America, particularly Bolivia. 


The Second Region: Tarapaca


The Tarapaca region of Chile is bordered by the Arica region to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, Bolivia's Oruro Department to the east, and the Antofagasta region of Chile to the south.  The capital city of this region is Iquique, which is also a port city.  A desert climate makes up a large part of the region, however near the coast, cloudiness can limit the temperature swing throughout the day, but in other drier areas, temperatures can vary greatly as in a typical desert. The total population of this Chilean region is about 295,000 people.  This region tends to be plagued with earthquakes, especially close to the city of Iquique. 


The Third Region: Antofagasta


The third region in Chile (going from north to south) is the Antofagasta region.  It is bordered by the Tarapaca region to the north, the Atacama desert to the south, Bolivia and Argentina to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.  This is Chile's second largest region.  The total population of this region is 530,879.  Most of the Antofagasta region is completely devoid of vegetation, except near the Loa River or the San Pedro de Atacama.  The climate is extremely arid, except near the coast where it is just slightly milder.  Most of the inland is covered by salt flats or lava flows.  Most of the economic activity is dominated by copper mining. The capital city of this region is Antofagasta. 


The Fourth Region: Atacama


This region is bordered by the Antofagasta region to the north, Coquimbo region to the south, Argentina to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.  The capital of this region is Copiapo.  The total population of this region is 284,992 people.  The Atacama region is the third least populated region of Chile after the Aysen region and the Magallanes region.  Most of the region is desert and has many natural mineral resources.  Despite being comprised of mostly desert, the Atacama region has a large variety of animal and plant life.  Mining accounts for 45% of the region's GDP and makes up 90% of the Atacama region's exports.  Fruit and vegetable farming has taken off in this region with grapes being the main crop and, on a much smaller scale, olives, tomatoes, peppers, onions, citrus fruits, nectarines, apricots, and oregano. 


The Fifth Region: Coquimbo

The fifth region of Chile is bordered by the Atacama region to the north, Argentina to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Valparaiso region of Chile to the south.  The capital city and the largest city of the Coquimbo region is La Serena, although the city of Coquimbo is an important sea port.  The total population of this region is 687,806 people.  A large number of European and North American immigrants came to this region in the 19th and 20th century.  This region forms the narrowest part of Chile, and is one of the country's more mountainous regions.  The coastal area of this region is a major tourist attraction because of its pure white, fine sandy beaches and a calm sea.  The Los Pelambres copper mine of this region is one of the world’s largest copper mines, with 2,100 million tons of reserves.  Mining and agriculture activities make up most of the economic activity in this region. 


The Sixth Region: Valparaiso


The Valparaiso region is bordered by the Coquimbo region of Chile to the north, the Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins region to the south, Argentina to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.  This is the third most populated region with 1,723,547 people.  The capital city (and also an important port city) is Valparaiso.  The city of Valparaiso is a famous tourist attraction and is nick-named "The Jewel of the Pacific".  It was declared a World Heritage site based upon its improvised city design and unique architecture.  The city of Valparaíso developed as a rest stop for fishing ships, sea cruise-liners, and international naval ships; therefore, a big portion of the residents have a variety of national origins.  Most of the economic activity in this region is dominated by agriculture, copper, cement, oil refineries, and wine production.  


The Seventh Region: Santiago Metropolitan


The Santiago Metropolitan region (or just Metropolitan) is the only land-locked region of Chile. It is the smallest region by area, however it is the most populated and most densely populated region is Chile.  The population of the entire region is 6,683,852 with about 5,120,000 people living in Santiago, the capital of the region and of Chile.  The majority of Chile's commercial and administrative centers are located in this region, as well as the main international airport of Chile (Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport).  With this being a large business hub a lot of expats that have moved to Chile for business live in this region.  The climate is temperate Mediterranean with most of the precipitation falling in the winter months.  Summers tend to be dry and hot, while winters can get quite cold with many snows and frosts.  The capital city of Santiago has one of the worst air pollution problems in the world, since it is nestled in the Andes Mountains.  Certain cars will have driving restrictions on certain days if the pollution is particularly bad. 


The Eighth Region: Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins


The Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins region (or simply O'Higgins region) has a population of 872,510. The population of this region is a mixture of both European and Indigenous races; therefore the region has a homogeneous culture known as Chileanidad. It is bordered by the Santiago Metropolitan region to the north, Argentina to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Maule region to the south.  The region was named after one of Chile's founding fathers, whose name was Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme.  This is a name that you will see in almost every town.  The capital city (and the largest city) is Rancagua with 206,971 inhabitants.  This region is a large agriculture area with agricultural products making up 30% of the regions GDP.  One out of every four hectares of fruit orchards is in the O'Higgins region.  The primary crops are apples, pears, table grapes, plums, kiwis, and nectarines.  Forestry is starting to take off with the primary trees being eucalyptus. 


The Ninth Region: Maule


The ninth region of Chile is the Maule region.  Its total population is 963,618 and the capital city is Talca.  The Maule region gets its name from a historically important river that runs through the region (the Maule River).  This river was historically significant because it marked the southern boundary of the Inca Empire. The Maule region is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Argentina, on the north by the O'Higgins Region, and on the south by the Bío-Bío Region.  Most of this region is farmland, therefore forestry and agriculture are the main economic activities in this region.  The agriculture industry is dominated by wine production.  50% of Chile's fine export wines are made in the Maule region and the country’s largest vineyards are located here.  Following forestry and agriculture, electricity, gas, and water are the third most important economic activities. The Maule River feeds five hydroelectric power plants. 


The Tenth Region: Bio-Bio


The Bio-Bio region is the second most populated region in Chile with a population of 1,965,199.  The capital city and largest city is Concepcion.  Bio-Bio is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Argentina, on the north by the Chilean Region of Maule, and on the south by the Chilean Region of Araucanía.  This region has been hit by many powerful earthquakes and many communities were greatly affected by the powerful earthquake of 2010 and the following tsunami that occurred on the coast of the Bio-Bio region.  35% of the Bio-Bio region's GDP comes from a diverse manufacturing industry.  This ranges from iron and steel making to foodstuffs manufacture, petrochemicals, metalworking, oil refining, and shipyards. Forestry is another major component of this region’s economy. The region contains almost 44% of Chile’s forest plantations, of which around 82% are Radiata pine.  The third most important economic activity of this region is fishing. 4% of the world’s catch of seafood comes from the Bio-Bio region. The primary catch includes shellfish, conger eel, sardines, anchovy, mackerel, hake, mollusks, crustaceans, and algae. 


The Eleventh Region: Araucania


The total population of the Araucania region is 907,333 with a third of the population being Mapuche (the biggest portion in Chile).  Its capital and largest city is Temuco.  The Araucanía Region has been the main location of the ongoing Mapuche conflict, as the Mapuche are trying to make their land claims against the central government.  This region has many popular national forests with native trees, including the beautiful monkey puzzle tree.  Until recently, Araucanía's main economic activity was cereal farming and was known as "Chile’s granary." Recently agriculture has become highly diversified. Wheat is still the primary crop, but production of oats, grape, and lupine has increased significantly.  Tourism is very popular in this region since it is home to the Villarica Lake and the city of Pucon. 


The Twelfth Region: Los Rios


The Los Rios region is the beginning of the beautiful Chilean Patagonia.  It is commonly known as the "gateway to Patagonia".  The total population is only 364,183, with about half of that living in the capital city of Valdivia.  The primary economic activities include forestry, cattle, tourism, manufacturing, and services. Important industries include the Valdivia Pulp Mill, Valdivia's shipyards, and the dairy farms and facilities located near La Unión.  Los Rios translates as "the rivers" in English and fulfills its name with many rivers and creeks running through the region.  There are four distinct geographical regions: coastal range, Intermediate Depression, the Precordillera and the Andes.  Most of the coastal area is covered by native Valdivian temperate rain forest, the largest temperate rainforest in the world.  The city of Valdivia was heavily settled by Germans and Europeans hence the major German influence on the town.  Valdivia is a major tourist attraction, with a large fish and vegetable market, endless artesanal breweries, lots of restaurants, and many events happening in the spring and summer months.


The Thirteenth Region: Los Lagos

The region of Los Lagos has a population of 767,714.  It is bordered by the Los Rios region to the north, Argentina to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Aysen region to the south.  Like the region of Los Rios (the rivers), Los Lagos translates as "The Lakes".  Unlike the Los Rios region, Los Lagos has many large lakes and a few rivers.  The region mostly has a natural vegetation of Valdivian temperate rain forest. Except for the south of the Chiloé Island, the coastal area has a temperate climate with cold winter rain. To the south, the climate is characterized by constant rain and not having dry seasons.  The region's main economic activities are dominated by agriculture, forestry, and fisheries; all of which have become increasingly industrialized.  The region is home to Monte Verde, one of the oldest archaeological sites of the Americas. 


The Fourteenth Region: Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo


The Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, or just Aysen region, is the most sparsely populated region in Chile with only 94,271 people.  This along with the Magallanes region is the heart of the Chilean Patagonia.  This area is known for dramatic mountains, trout fishing, clean air, and incredible national parks.  The capital of the Aysen region is Coihaique.  The region of Aysen contains ice fields - including the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world after those in Antarctica and Greenland.  The primary economic activities are the exploitation and processing of marine, mining, forestry, and animal resources. 


The Fifteenth Region: Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena


The last region of Chile is the Magallanes and Antarctica region.  This region has a population a little bit larger than that of the Aysen region with 159,152 people.  The capital city is Punta Arenas which hosts 80% of the region's population.  This region has many well-known places such as Torres del Paine National Park, Cape Horn, Tierra del Fuego island, and the Strait of Magellan.  The Chilean Antarctic territory is located in this region.  Despite being such a large region, much of the land is rugged or closed off for sheep farming, and is thus not suitable for settlement.  Its main economic activities are sheep farming, oil extraction, and tourism; and this region has the least amount of poverty in Chile.  Much of the region has dramatic mountain peaks or ice fields.