South America Facts...
A bird's view over the 4th. largest continent


Let's review some South America facts to help you to get acquainted with it, or simply to refresh some basic facts and figures as a manner of introduction.

The Western Hemisphere, or the Americas as they are commonly known, is composed by North America and South America, covering an area of 8,3% of the Earth's total surface and an estimated population of around 900 million or 13,5% of the total.

South America is the fourth largest continent in the world with approx. 17,849,000 square km. (6,890,000 square miles) and a population of 371,090,000, estimated by 2005.

Connected through the isthmus of Panama to its northern counterpart, it is bordered by the Pacific ocean to the West and Atlantic ocean to the North and East. The Caribbean sea lies to the NW.

South America broke off from the West of the supercontinent Gondwanaland around 135 million years ago.

Its geography is marked by the imposing Andes mountains, stretching from the southern tip to the northernmost coast of South America, from Chile and Argentina -sharing borders- with Venezuela.

It is politically divided into twelve sovereign states: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela, plus the overseas administration of French Guiana.

Predominant languages spoken in South America are Spanish and Portuguese (Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, biggest country in the continent).

There are small enclaves of other spoken languages such as French (French Guiana), English ( Guyana and Malvinas Islands - also known as Falkland Islands - and Dutch, official language of Suriname.

As for native, indigenous languages, we find predominantly Aymara (around 2.2 million speakers) in the Andean region of Bolivia and Peru, GuaranĂ­ (4.6 million) in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay and the largest: Quechua, with some 10-13 million speakers spread over NW Argentina, Northern Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

Religious faith in South America is predominantly represented by Roman Catholicism - around 93% of the total population, followed by Protestantism and Judaism (Argentina has the largest Jewish community).

There are some indigenous religions in the Andean region, embracing NW Argentina, northern Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. Brazil, on the other hand, has many African and afro-derived religions.


South America Facts:

South America Map
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  • largest river (by volume): Amazon river
  • largest rainforest: Amazon rainforest
  • largest mountain range: Andes Mountains
  • largest commercially navigable lake: Lake Titicaca, shared by Bolivia and Peru
  • largest salt lake in the world: Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt flats), Bolivia
  • driest place on Earth: Atacama desert, Chile
  • highest capital city: La Paz, Bolivia
  • highest point in the Western Hemisphere: Mount Aconcagua (6,962 m.a.s.l.) in Mendoza province, Argentina
  • lowest point in the Western Hemisphere: Laguna del Carbon (-105 m.). Santa Cruz province, Argentina
  • world's highest waterfall: Angel Falls, Venezuela
  • world's southernmost inhabited community: Puerto Toro, Chile