From the Amazon rainforest to Inca ruins - beaches and city life - South America is an amazing experience for any traveller.
Our beautiful Earth offers seven amazing continents that are vast enough for us to explore. One of the continents that is full of mystery and riddles is South America. Not only is it home to the largest Latin population, but it also has a very interesting past.
Long before the continental drift happened, the Earth only had one enormous landmass called Pangea. The latter means “all lands” and South America was not the continent that we know today. It took the planet millions upon millions of years to present the South American continent of today. And, we couldn’t be any more grateful.
Today, South America is home to the worl0d’s most beautiful landmarks that attract tourists from all over the globe. It’s a paradoxical continent where the world’s driest desert and longest river are found. Those are the Atacama Desert and the Amazon river, respectively.
In this article, we will walk you through everything that South America is. We’ll also give you a quick glimpse into the enchanting South American countries to help you make up your mind. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
A Brief Introduction to the Continent
South America is the world’s fourth largest continent. The continent mostly lies in the Western Hemisphere with different seas surrounding it, the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. This explains the continent being laden with different fisheries and ports.
Needless to say, South America is part of the huge landmass called the Americas, encompassing 12 countries. According to scientists, the South American continent used to be connected to Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. That supercontinent was formerly known as Gondwana, but that was around 550 million years ago.
It took other hundreds of millions of years for the Gondwana supercontinent to break apart, forming the lands we know today.
A Glimpse into the History of South America
We all know that Christopher Columbus was the first explorer to set foot in the two Americas. He arrived in the Americas in what we know today as Venezuela. But, have you ever wondered where the continents’ names come from?
Well, the continents were named after the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci although his voyages took place shortly after Columbus first discovered. Vespucci was the one to set the concept that the two lands that Columbus discovered were separate continents. It was a revolutionary theory back then, thus he was honoured by naming the lands after him.
South America is rather known as Latin America, for its heritage comes from countries that speak Latin-based languages. Those countries were Spain, Portugal, and France; no wonder these are the dominant languages of the continent.
Interestingly, there are over 300 languages spoken on the continent, but Spanish and Portuguese are the most common. Well, we forgot to mention the fact that Columbus claimed the lands to Spain as soon as he landed there. That’s why we see the Spanish heritage taking over South America.
Moreover, South America is also where the Inca people lived and developed their famous civilization. The Inca Empire may have been the most famous as it spanned several parts of the continent. Yet, there were other great civilizations that lives on the South American continent. These include the Chavin, Paracas, and Nazca civilizations.
The 12 South American Countries
South America is home to 12 beautiful countries that host charming landmarks and interesting spots for you to explore. There are many natural landscapes that will leave you spellbound, including fascinating mountain ranges and staggering waterfalls.
Besides the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River, there are other amazing tourist attractions. Check out these pretty countries and their most famous spots to visit.
Argentina is one of the most famous countries in South America. It’s a captivating destination that juggles between two extremes for being home to real jungles as well as urban cities. That unique blend of wilderness and sophistication give Argentina its peculiar charm.
Some of the most iconic landmarks that you can visit are the Obelisk of Buenos Aires. This historical monument is 71 meters tall, dating back to 1936. Lying close to the Obelisk is another famous landmark, 9 de Julio Avenue. Being the world’s widest avenue, it became among the top tourist attractions in Buenos Aires.
If you have a thing for places with the notoriety of being haunted, you shouldn’t miss the Recoleta Cemetery. This site is rich in art with several mausoleums; it’s also where the graves of wealthy families lie.
Make sure you also visit the highest mountain in South America, Aconcagua. Not only that, but it is also the highest mountain in the two Americas. This mountain lies in the Province of Mendoza, being among the Andes mountain range.
Bolivia happens to be one of the most underrated travel destinations in South America. It is home to mesmerizing landscapes, bustling cities, invigorating activities, and hyping festivals. Sadly, it doesn’t receive the same recognition that other countries in South America do.
The Bolivian capital, La Paz, is famous for being the highest capital in the whole world. This captivating city restfully sits on the Altiplano plateau of the Andes, rising over 3,500 meters above sea level.
La Paz is famous for its vibrant nights and special markets, with the Witches’ Market being the most popular. It’s a lively spot that tourists flock to – to purchase its luck-bringing souvenirs, especially the dried llama fetuses. They say it brings prosperity and opulence to your life.
In southwest Bolivia, you will find the Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flat). It is the largest salt flat in the world. According to history, it used to be a lake that went dry and became what we see today. You will be fascinated by the vast landscape of white salt and rock formations that fill the area.
Brazil stands out among the popular countries of South America. Not only is it home to the world’s most famous football players, but it’s also home to iconic landmarks. If your next adventure will be in Brazil, we’ve got your back.
Brazil is where the largest river by volume courses through its lands, the Amazon River. Want to know an interesting fact about this river? Well, it used to flow in the opposite direction million years ago. If you have the guts, take a leap into the river for an energetic swim alongside the rarest dolphin species.
Moreover, the amazon river is connected to the world’s ultimate haven, the Amazon Rainforest. You can take an invigorating jungle walk where you can learn about the world’s rarest plants used for medicinal purposes. Kayaking is also a popular activity that gives guests the opportunity to calmly cruise through secluded parts of the forest.
South America, in general, is known for its abundant waterfalls. But, Brazil, in particular, is home to the world’s largest and most alluring waterfalls, the Iguaza River. It’s one of the New Seven Natural Wonders. Interestingly, the vertically cascading river lies at a point that connects Brazil with Argentina and Paraguay. This means you can explore those waters from any of those three points.
Your trip to Brazil cannot really be complete without heading to Rio de Janeiro. The latter is home to another landmark voted among the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s the most prominent monument in the country, Christ the Redeemer. This enormous statue proudly sits on top of Mount Corcovado at a height of 700 meters where you can overlook the scenic landscapes of the city.
We have already mentioned that South America was named after the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. Well, the efforts of Christopher Columbus did not go in vain. One of the popular countries in South America was named after him, Colombia.
The most interesting fact about Colombia is no matter what month you visit it, it’s always warm. You can experience different temperatures in Colombia based on the elevation, but other than that, there are no real season exchanges. This unique climate has aided in making the country among the world’s best coffee producers.
Moving to the important part, the Colombian capital city, Bogota, is home to the renowned Monserrate Mountain. It rises at over 10,000 feet above sea level, offering panoramic views of the Andes Mountains and the whole city. Monserrate is a significant spot for pilgrimage; worshippers take the time to hike to the top where Catholic buildings await.
South America also offers magnificent spots where you can relax and enjoy your time away from the buzzing cities. The Rosario Islands are the perfect destination to enjoy the magical Caribbean Sea. It’s also one of Colombia’s prominent national parks. This natural wonder offers a myriad form of coral reefs and marine life to enjoy.
Among all the countries in South America, Chile is the one to be labelled as the Country of Poets.
The country received that label after the two Chilean poets, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, won Nobel Prize in Literature. Anyway, there is so much more to Chile than just that!
Thanks to Chile, South America earned the reputation of the presence of Extraterrestrial creatures. It became popular among the locals to watch the skies to spot UFOs hovering over the country. The long history of UFO sightings has attracted tourists from every corner of the planet. One of the best observing sites in the Atacama Desert.
In fact, the Atacama Desert is one of the most prominent landmarks of South America. It’s the driest desert that the planet has ever witnessed with little to no rain at all throughout the year. The extremely dry weather and little pollution made the skies so clear. Consequently, that encouraged the chase of alien activity. Also, the desert is home to several plant species.
Los Flamencos National Reserve is an unmissable tourist destination that you can reach from San Pedro de Atacama. This site sets South America on top of every traveller’s bucket list. It houses myriad species of flamingos that you can observe in admiration.
Another iconic tourist attraction in Chile is the Marble Caves in Patagonia. The location in which the magnificent caves sit is in common waters between Chile and Argentina. Tourists who are eager to watch the caves can access them only by boat. Moreover, it is dangerous to get into the waters as they are extremely cold all year long.
Ecuador sits in the western corner of South America and it’s the fourth smallest nation in the continent. This terrific country is famous for its panoramic views, colonial architecture, and rainforests.
Home to the reputable Galápagos Islands, this site has been attracting tourists since its discovery back in the 16th century. The region is a perfect spot for nature lovers; it also embraces a wide array of rare bird species. These wonderful species surprisingly include the Galápagos penguin, but, unfortunately, they’re threatened by climate change.
Comes second among the top tourist attractions in Ecuador is the Oriente. It is the small portion of the Amazon Rainforest that Ecuador shares with the other countries in South America. The Ecuadorian Amazon is home to astounding species of wildlife, be they mammals, fish, or reptiles. It is a true haven for nature enthusiasts.
The Hot Springs of Baños is another destination that missing it is deemed sinful. Those public thermal baths rest at the feet of La Virgen Waterfall. This is your perfect getaway to beat stress and relieve tension from your body. The minerals in hot springs have been holding several health benefits that people have sworn by.
Guyana is one of the most underrated South American countries. In fact, it is the only English-speaking country in all of South America. Just like many countries on the continent, it is home to flawless rainforests. It is also famous for possessing vast rice fields and sugarcane plantations.
One of the most significant landmarks in Guyana is George’s Cathedral located in Georgetown, the capital city. Not only are its walls rich in history, but it’s also an impressive masterpiece in the world of architecture. The fascinating building has been an appealing destination for tourists. Besides, stepping past the threshold will take you on a journey to the country’s colonial past.
Apparently, South America is so fond of waterfalls that you can find them on almost every corner. Well, Guyana is no exception, for it is home to the significant Kaieteur Falls. This giant single-drop waterfall sits on the Potaro River in a little section where the Amazon Rainforest resides in Guyana.
The Kaieteur Falls is located in the Kaieteur National Park. The waterfalls usually steal the limelight of the park, but there is more to it than just that. This national park sits on the highlands of Guyana. It renders its visitors with an exceptional jungle experience. Hiking through the Amazonian jungle while observing scenic landscapes is a dream come true.
Haven’t we mentioned that South America is full of contradictory facts? Paraguay has its own paradox as well. It owns the largest navy although it has no access to the sea. Weird isn’t it? Well, Paraguay sits between three land borders, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. For that very reason, it earned its notable nickname as the Heart of South America.
The Iguazú Falls is one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls that South America offers to us. This unmissable destination should be on top of your list when visiting Paraguay. If you’re into hiking, this region is the best pick for you. You can find a magnificent trail nearby where visitors hike while observing the spectacular scenes of the Iguazú Falls.
Roaming the streets of the capital city of Paraguay has its own charm. Asunción was among the sturdiest colonial strongholds that the Spanish founded in 1537. Thus, it’s rich in history and old tales. The Palacio de los López is a historical landmark that is too good to miss. Visit during the opening hours and witness a splendid combination of history and architecture.
The land where the reputable Incan Empire developed and lived for many years is an unmissable haven of splendour. Peru is a renowned country in South America that attracts visitors from all around the globe for its magnificence. It is laden with cascading waterfalls and historical landmarks along with heavenly lands of nature.
When we say Peru, the first thing to pop into our minds is Machu Picchu. It is, with no doubt, the highlight of Peru, and a significant landmark in South America. The Citadel of Machu Picchu sits high in the Andes Mountains within its lush forest. Travellers head straight to this mysterious destination in an attempt to unravel its centuries-old secrets.
There are several ways by which you can reach Machu Picchu, and this is through the Ince Trail. This hiking trail consists of three different routes that intersect at different points and they all terminate at Machu Picchu. No matter which trail you choose, you will stay amused by the tremendous landscape along the way.
The Sacred Valley is another highlight in Peru that will take you on an invigorating journey to remember for years. This region is nestled in the Andean highlands of Peru, and it sits relatively close to Machu Picchu and the town of Cusco.
Moreover, it is known as the heart of the Inca Empire. There are many things to do and see in the Sacred Valley, including the Sea Salt Pans and the White River. Also, don’t forget to drink the Inca Cola.
Suriname is the smallest country in all over South America and one of the world’s poorest as well. However, it is still safe for tourists to travel with plentiful landmarks and tourist attractions to visit.
Like most countries in South America, Suriname is home to multiple waterfalls, scenic mountains, and lakes. Brownsberg is one of the country’s highlights; it is a nature reserve that lies in the south of Paramaribo. This nature haven is rich in birdlife, including parrots, woodpeckers, toucans, and more. There is also a wide array of mammals that dot the spacious park.
The town of Paramaribo seems to offer a lot to its visitors. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Historic Inner City of Paramaribo. This little town was formerly a Dutch colonial site where the sugar industry thrived. Thus, you will come across remains of history within its humble lands.
Voltzberg is one of the many mountains that South America encompasses as well as the highlights of Suriname. Located in the Sipaliwini District, the Voltzberg is part of the Emma Range. Moreover, it forms a nature reserve along with the Raleigh Falls that sits nearby.
Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America. It literally translates into “river of painted birds,” and it comes from the renowned Uruguay River that borders Argentina. There are several landmarks and tourist attractions that you can visit and enjoy in Uruguay.
Casapueblo is a fascinating white building that rests at Punta Ballena. This magnificent construction belongs to Carlos Páez Vilaró, an Uruguayan artist who used it as a workshop and his summer home. The building also encompasses an art gallery, a museum, and a cafeteria, offering a full-board trip within the same walls. It also hosts a hotel in which you can stay.
One of the highlights of Uruguay is the sculpture of La Mano, also known as The Fingers of Punta del Esta. This huge depiction of human fingers rising from the sands has been attracting many visitors for years. You can snap a few pictures besides this creative statue and then explore the surrounding region where the Playa Brava lies nearby.
Santa Teresa National Park is a significant national park in Uruguay that the National Army operates. Located on the Atlantic coast southeast of Route 9, it is a seaside area that encompasses a lush forest. It’s a wonderful site for camping and surfing, allowing you to explore the Uruguayan shore. This area creates a fascinating balance between tourism and nature.
Venezuela is home to the highest waterfalls, not only in South America but in the whole world, the Angel Falls. It also embraces the largest lake in South America. Venezuela offers its tourists a huge diversity of nature, mountains capped with snow, and delightful jungles. It is a combination that you can’t say no to.
Since Angel Falls is the highest waterfalls in South America, it makes sense that you make it on top of your list. This waterfall cascades from the top of the Auyán-tepui mountain in the Canaima National Park. It makes for a perfect hiking spot for adventure gurus who like to indulge in scenic landscapes along.
Venezuela is home to several national parks, including the Canaima National Park where Angel Falls is located. There is also Morrocoy National Park on the Caribbean coast where coral reefs, plentiful fish and dolphins, and sea turtles are featured. El Ávila National Park is another muse that protects the forested mountains of Caracas.
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