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South America Travel Guide - History, Culture, Holidays, Cheap Hotels, Tours, Accommodation Deals & more

South America is a sub-continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. South America ranks fourth in area and in population, after Eurasia, Africa, and North America. From the 1530s, the indigenous inhabitants of South America were invaded by European conquistadors, first from Portugal, later from Spain, who divided it into colonies. In the course of the 19th century, these colonies won their independence.

South America consists of the countries of: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands (UK), French Guiana (Fr.), Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The mixture of African, Indian and European influences have given South America a very distinct flavor.

South America has a host of marvelous attractions, with most suitable for the whole family. Travelers will find science, nature and history exhibits throughout the continent as well as a host of natural attractions, from volcanoes to cold glaciers and strange animals. The continent offers incredible pre-Columbian sights all along the Andes Mountains in Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. The best known of these are probably the Nazca Lines (Ica), Chan Chan (Trujillo) and Machu Picchu (Cuzco) in Peru and Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. Any city has its own important archeological findings nearby. The Inca civilization didn't leave the only archeological findings. From Colombia to Argentina, language and culture are still alive. Furthermore, in every South American country there are lots of stylish colonial churches and palaces. There is no question the lovers of architecture and history will surely find what they are looking for.

For travelers looking for active holidays: there is good skiing in summer in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina; the biggest rainforest and the longest river in the world is in Brazil and great wildlife abounds almost everywhere. The Wadden Islands (off the coast of Ecuador) deserve a special mention here. The Caribbean is a great place to relax a bit: the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia have great beaches and very good atmosphere. Brazil has great beaches and cheap hotels as well.

Those who are into the fast paced life of big cities have a number of cities to choose from. Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago or Lima all combine modern life with a South-American touch. In South America most countries are Spanish speaking, with Portuguese-speaking Brazil as the most notable exception. Furthermore the three Guyana's (French Guiana, British Guyana and Suriname) speak the language of their former colonial masters as well as their own languages. In all of South America, native Indian languages are still spoken, but they become less frequently so. In countries like Paraguay and Bolivia the indiginous languages are (almost) dominant.

The Amazon River (Rio Amazonas) of South America is one of the longest two rivers on Earth, the Nile River in Africa being the other. The Amazon has by far the greatest total flow of any river, carrying more than the Mississippi, Nile, and Yangtze rivers combined. It also has the largest drainage area of any river system. The quantity of fresh water released to the Atlantic Ocean is enormous: 184,000 m³ per second (6.5 million ft³/s) in the rainy season. Indeed, the Amazon is responsible for one-fifth of the total volume of fresh water entering the oceans worldwide.

The Amazon Rainforest in South America encompasses 1.2 billion acres (7 million km²), with parts located within nine nations: Brazil (with 60% of the rainforest), Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. This forest represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests. States or departments in four nations bear the name Amazonas for the Amazon. This region is home to 2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, and some 2000 birds and mammals. The diversity of plant species is the highest on earth with some experts estimating that one square kilometer may contain over 75,000 types of trees and 150,000 species of higher plants. One square kilometer of Amazon rainforest can contain about 90,000 tons of living plants. This constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world.

South America is home to many interesting species of animals including parrots, tarantulas, snakes, and mammals. There are not many large predators in South America, but the Jaguar is one of the strongest predators in the world. Unlike the African leopard, which looks very much like a jaguar, the jaguar does not have to carry its food into a tree, because there are no other animals in South America that would challenge a jaguar. There are three animals found mainly in South America that look very different from each other, but are closely related. These are the sloth, the anteater and the armadillo. One of the most famous animals that lives in the Amazon river is the piranha fish. They are known for their sharp teeth and an aggressive appetite for meat and flesh. The largest snake in the world, the Anaconda, lives in the rivers and dense forests of South America. Brightly colored poisonous frogs live inside the forests. The camel-like Llama is another important animal that lives in South America.

The world's highest free-falling waterfall Angel Falls is located in the wilderness of Venezuela. Another important waterfall is Iguacu Falls, which is taller than Niagara Falls. The water level rises and falls with the season, but the spectacular Devil's Throat with its high-flying plume of spray is always a thrill. The fact that the newly discovered Gocta Falls in Peru are the third largest in the world, says a lot about the exoticness of the continent. The world's second highest active volcano Cotopaxi (5897m) is situated about 50 km south of Quito, Ecuador.

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Text credits:
May 29, 2006 change by joosts (2 points)
April 26, 2006 change by ms_jes
November 01, 2008 change by approaching genius

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