Stretching for 2,670 miles, Chile covers most of South America’s western coast. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the highest peaks of the Andes Mountains, Chile spans a variety of climates, from the Atacama Desert in the north to glaciers in the south. Most of the population lives in the fertile central zone where the climate is mild. The official language in Chile is Spanish and the people are predominantly Roman Catholic. Chileans often greet close friends and relatives with an abrazo, a greeting that includes a handshake, a hug and, for women, a kiss on the right cheek. Popular foods in Chile include empanadas de horno (meat turnovers), cazuela de ave (chicken soup) and sopaipillas (deep-fried pumpkin dough). Fútbol, or soccer, is the most popular sport in Chile; theater and music are also popular activities.
Education is highly valued in Chile; schooling is free and mandatory between the ages of five and 17.