Chile is divided into three general topographic regions: the lofty Andean cordillera on the east; the low coastal mountains of the west; and the fertile central valley between. The Andes, occupying from one-third to the entire width of the country, stretch from the Puna de Atacama in the north, a high plateau with peaks averaging 4,600 m (15,000 ft), to middle Chile, where, on the border with Argentina, rises the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, Aconcagua (6,960 m/22,834 ft), and then, diminishing in height, run south into the Chilean lake country, with its snow-capped volcanoes and several passes. The coastal range, verging from 300 to 2,100 m (1,000 to 7,000 ft) in height, rises from the sea along most of the coast. In the extreme north, the coastal mountains join with the Andean spurs to form a series of plateaus separated by deep gorge like valleys. In the south, the valleys and the coastal range plunge into the sea and form a western archipelago; fjords reach into the range at about 42°S. The central valley, an irregular alluvial plain 965 km (600 mi) long, 73 km (45 mi) wide at its maximum, and up to 1,200 m (4,000 ft) high, begins below the arid Atacama Desert of the north and ends at Puerto Montt in the south. Fertile between the Aconcagua and Bío-Bío rivers, this valley is the center of agriculture and of population. Although some 30 rivers rise in the Andes and descend to the Pacific, cascades and great waterfalls severely limit navigation; the ocean itself facilitates transportation between the different regions of this narrow country.
The northern side of the Strait of Magellan, part of Patagonia (a region shared by Chile and Argentina), and part of the island of western Tierra del Fuego (divided between Chile and Argentina) is low, glaciated, morainal country.