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Interesting Facts About South America

Updated on January 26, 2014

South America is the fourth largest and the fifth most populous continent in the world. It is located mostly in the Southern Hemisphere with only a small portion spanning the Northern Hemisphere. It includes 12 sovereign states and 2 non-sovereign areas which are overseas territories of the French and the British. In this section we look at some of the interesting facts about South America.

A View Of The Amazon Rainforest
A View Of The Amazon Rainforest

South America - On The Map

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South America
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  • South America was named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
  • The Inca, the Maya and the Aztec were the three great civilizations in South American history.
  • The Mayans flourished during the Pre-Classic & Classic Era and disappeared gradually after that.
  • The Incas lived in cities built of stone in the Andes Mountains. They perished due to too many conflicts and wars.
  • The Aztecs were one of the most powerful civilizations with a mighty capital called Tenochtitlan. They were powerful until 1519, before the conflict with the Spanish.
  • South America is divided into 13 countries.
  • Brazil is the largest country in South America (fifth largest in the world).
  • It shares boundaries with 11 countries except Chile and Ecuador.
  • The remaining territories are divided into The Andean States, The Guianas and The Southern Cone.
  • Suriname is the smallest country in South America.

The Ruins Of The Maya Civilization.
The Ruins Of The Maya Civilization.
  • South America has the shortest coastline for any continent of its size. This is due to its triangular shape.
  • The Equator and Tropic of Capricorn passes through South America.
  • Sao Paulo (Brazil) is the largest city in South America.
  • La Paz is the Administrative Capital of Bolivia (Seat of the Government).
  • Sucre is the Legal Capital of Bolivia (Seat of the Judiciary).
  • La Paz is the highest capital in the world.
  • Buenos Aires is the most populous city in Argentina. It is also Argentina’s capital.
  • Argentina is called ‘Land of Cattle and Wheat’.
  • Cueva da las Manos popularly known as the ‘Cave of the Hands’ is in Argentina.
  • Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World is in Peru.

The 15th Century Inca Site, Machu Picchu.
The 15th Century Inca Site, Machu Picchu.
  • Paraguay and Bolivia are the only landlocked countries in South America.
  • Bolivia is the largest landlocked country in South America.
  • The Andes (7,000km) is the longest mountain range in the world.
  • It is also the second highest mountain system in the world next only to the Himalayas.
  • The Andes, like the Himalayas are young fold mountains.
  • Mt. Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Andes measuring up to 6,962m.

The Andes Mountain Ranges.
The Andes Mountain Ranges.

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  • Cotopaxi in Ecuador is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.
  • Amazon originates in the Andes Mountains.
  • The Amazon is the largest river in the world in terms of volume.
  • It is the longest river in South America and the second longest (after the Nile) in the world.

The Amazon River.
The Amazon River.
  • The Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world.
  • Around 20% of all the plants discovered to have anti-cancer properties are found only in the South American Rainforests.
  • South America is home to 40% of the world’s plant and animal species.
  • Anaconda, the heaviest snake on earth is found in South America.
  • Andean Condor is the largest bird of prey in the world.

The Andean Condor.
The Andean Condor.

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  • Ant-eaters and Armadillos are the most ancient mammals found in South America.
  • Llamas are strange domesticated South American camels used as meat and pack animals.
  • Minuscule Orchid (world’s smallest orchid) was discovered in Ecuador.
  • Quinine, the first drug that was used to treat malaria is obtained from the Cinchona tree in Ecuador.

The Llamas Of South America.
The Llamas Of South America.
  • South America is one of the most bio-diverse continents on the planet.
  • Around 20% of Earth’s oxygen is produced in South America.
  • The Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest waterfalls in the world.
  • The Atacama Desert (Chile) is the driest place on the planet.
  • Lake Maracaibo (Venezuela) is the largest lake in South America.
  • Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world.
  • Slar de Uyuni (Bolivia) is the largest salt water lake in the world.

The Angel Falls In Venezuela.
The Angel Falls In Venezuela.
  • South America is connected to North America by the Isthmus of Panama.
  • Spanish and Portuguese are the main languages of South America.
  • The official language of Guyana is English.
  • The official language of French Guiana is French.
  • The major religions are Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
  • Brazil won the highest number of FIFA World Cups.
  • Patagonia (Argentina) has one of the highest wind energy potential on earth.
  • The most popular genres of music in South America include ‘Samba’ of Brazil, ‘Tango’ of Argentina & Uruguay and ‘Cumbia’ of Colombia.


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    • Travel Musings profile image

      Vishnu Pradeep 4 years ago from India

      Yes, the population growth and natural resource exploitation have led to the destruction of innumerable forests. Lots of animals have already become extinct and several more endangered. I distinctly remember that here in India we started taking things a bit more seriously only when the tiger population went down to around 1000. Now thankfully its on the increase..

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      The rainforests of South America have been calling me for many years. I so would love to travel there while they are still in existence. I pray that our fragile rainforests are watched over so that generations to come can witness their majesty.

      Thanks for sharing this info with us. Angels are on the way ps