Chile is a long and thin country, in fact the longest in the world. Superimposed on a map of the United States, Chile would stretch from northern Maine to southern California. On a map of Europe, Chile would stretch from Moscow to Lisbon.
Chile was founded as a Spanish colony on the western side of the Andes Mountains along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It was easier to expand to the south in the territories of the indigenous groups and to the north into the neglected parts of Peru and Bolivia than it was to cross the mountains and venture farther inland.
Geographically and climatically you could compare Chile with the west coast of North America, upside down. Instead of forests and glaciers in the north, followed by a temperate region, and deserts of southern California and Mexico, Chile is characterized by deserts in the north, fertile valleys in the center and forests, glaciers and fjords in the south.
Chile is often referred to as the star or "model" of Latin America in terms of its economic performance. In the wake of free-market reforms which promote foreign trade, Chile is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America.
Chile also promotes itself as being one of the safest countries. In a recent study, Santiago ranked first in South America on personal safety and security. The criteria centered at the city's relationships with other countries, internal stability and crime (including terrorism), law enforcement, censorship and limitations on personal freedom.
Chilean cuisine includes hearty meat, rich seafood, and some main dishes which do not include any meat or fish. Fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance and very affordable.
The Lonely Planet has a more extensive summary of Chile available online.