South America Overview

If you want to get to know South America in all its facets, you have to plan a lot of travel time. Nature and culture are particularly diverse and have countless offers for every type of holiday and taste, whether adventurer or leisurely beach holidaymaker. Round trips are particularly popular holiday options. Get to know the destination South America.


South America is the southern part of the American double continent. The continent is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

There are three main areas:

  • the Andes, high mountains in the west
  • three river plains in the east of the Andes
  • three mountainous countries in the east of the Andes

The Andes on the west coast represent the longest overseas mountain range in the world. The 6,962 meter high Aconcagua is the highest point in the Andes, South America and the highest mountain outside of Asia.

The Amazon basin or Amazonia is the largest river level. The longest river in the country is the Amazon.

The mountain lands consist of

  • the Guiana Mountains
  • the Brazilian hill country as well
  • the East Patagonian mountain country.

States and political structures

According to Countryaah, South America consists of twelve independent states. In addition, there are some dependent areas, which geographically can be classified as part of South America, but politically in other countries. The following table provides a corresponding overview.

The Caribbean state of Trinidad and Tobago listed there is generally culturally and geographically part of North America. Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao together make up the ABC islands.

State /
Dependent Territory
Capital Area in km² Residents National language
Argentina Buenos Aires 2,766,890 43,416,755 Spanish
Aruba (NL) Oranjestad 180 106,050 Dutch,
Bolivia Sucre 1,098,581 10,426,154 Spanish, Quechua,
Bonaire (NL) Kralendijk 288 13,389 Dutch
Brazil Brasília 8,514,215 193,252,604 Portuguese
Chile Santiago de
756,950 17,948,141 Spanish
Curacao (NL) Willemstad 444 142,180 Dutch, English,
Ecuador Quito 283,560 16,144,363 Spanish, Quechua
Falkland Islands (UK) Port Stanley 12,173 3,000 English
French Guiana (F) Cayenne 86,504 216,000 French
Guyana Georgetown 214,970 770,000 English
Colombia Bogotá 1,138,910 45,528,082 Spanish
Paraguay Asunción 406,752 6,831,000 Spanish, guaraní
Peru Lima 1,285,220 29,461,933 Spanish, Quechua,
South Georgia and the
South Sandwich Islands (UK)
Grytviken 4,066 30th English
Suriname Paramaribo 163,820 542,975 Dutch
Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain 5,128 1,360,088 English Spanish
Uruguay Montevideo 176,220 3,431,555 Spanish
Venezuela Caracas 916,445 28,833,845 Spanish

Politically, the country can be divided as follows:

  • Andean countries: Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru
  • Amazon Basin States (Amazonia): Areas in the states of Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Colombia, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
  • La Plata States: Argentina and Uruguay
  • Cono Sur (southern cone): Argentina, Chile, Uruguay
  • Caribbean countries: French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela
  • Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (ABC Islands): Part of the Leeward Islands


The climate is subject to different influences throughout the year; this includes

  • the cold Humboldt Current on the western coast
  • which is the intertropical convergence zone
  • tropical cyclones
  • Trade winds

Coastal deserts occur off the coast of northern Chile and Peru. Heavy rainfall in winter is possible here. The inner tropics, however, are affected by precipitation all year round.

In the Andes there are five climatic levels:

  • Tierra Caliente (up to 1,000 m): warm earth
  • Tierra Templada (up to 2,000 m): temperate earth
  • Tierra Fria (up to 3,500 m): cold earth, cultivation and frost line
  • Tierra Helada (up to 4,500 m): icy earth, snow line
  • Tierra Glacial (up to 6,000 m): glacial earth, anecumene

You can also find glaciations, in Peru the largest intra-tropical glaciations in the world.

Animal diversity

Its fauna is as diverse as the landscape of South America. Whether in the Amazon basin, in the tropical rainforest or in the high mountains of the Andes, South America is home to a unique fauna. The rainforest and the great rivers in particular offer extensive habitats for countless species, including many rare and exotic species that specialize in certain niches.

The fauna of the tropical rainforest

The tropical rainforest creates the living conditions for an extremely diverse fauna. Exotic birds like parrots and hummingbirds can be found as well as an amazing abundance

  • snakes
  • Frogs and

Wild animals such as gorillas and jaguars that have become extremely rare are native to some regions.

The millions of different insect species that populate the rainforest are also fascinating. In caves under the earth, for example, live tarantulas.

The largest spider species reaches a stately diameter of 30 centimeters. Even though mice and birds are on the tarantula’s menu, it is not dangerous to humans.

The hummingbird is a more beautiful and no less fascinating creature in the South American rainforest. The tiny bird weighs only around 20 grams, but is a feast for the eyes because of its shiny metallic plumage and its spectacular flight.

The jaguar is a big cat that has become rare. In the Amazon rainforest, the jaguar is still at home where it can find hunting grounds of sufficient size. The hunting technique of the jaguar is spectacular as it lurks motionless on a branch to pounce on a passing prey.

In the north of South America the great rivers are populated by caimans, a species of alligator that can grow up to 180 centimeters long.

Animals in forests, savannahs and in the Andes

Not only in the rainforests of South America one can encounter an abundance of wild animals, but also in other habitats. Anteaters are native to savannahs and forests between Argentina and Guatemala. With their special proboscis, they feed on ants that are found in abundance in these regions.

In the mountains of the Andes is condor, the king of the skies. The giant bird of prey has a wingspan of over three meters and reaches an altitude of up to 8,000 meters.

In the south of Chile and Argentina one notices the transition to the Arctic in the fauna. Four species of penguins can be found in this region,

  • the Humboldt penguin
  • the African penguin
  • the Magellanic penguin and
  • the Galapagos penguin.

Popular travel destinations

South America has a large number of different travel destinations, which cannot all be named here in detail. Every country has its own characteristics – by clicking on the individual countries, you get further options in terms of vacation. Popular travel destinations in South America include:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Colombia
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

When choosing a travel destination, the question always arises of how you want to spend your vacation. Whether beach vacation, adventure vacation in nature or cultural city trips – South America has it all to offer.

Round trips

Round trips are particularly popular in South America. Public transport is best for such a road trip, as you have to cover very long distances, which can be difficult with a rental car.

There are a large number of offers for long-distance bus travel. The starting point could be, for example, Rio de Janeiro; From there you travel towards the beaches of Paratay and Sao Paolo.

The Iguazu waterfalls represent the point for the border crossing to Argentina. From here we continue by plane to Buenos Aires, with a stopover in Uruguay. A trip to Chile follows.

The next main travel destination is Bolivia; from there it goes to Peru. There are many ways to take a tour of Brazil. It is important to choose your personal highlights and design the route accordingly.

Travel for nature lovers

If you want to experience as much nature as possible, you should take a look at the various national parks in South America. There are a few of them; Particularly recommended are, for example:

  • the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
  • the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador
  • the Iguazu National Park in Brazil-Argentina
  • the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina
  • the Manu National Park in Peru
  • the Tayrona National Park Colombia
  • the Sajama National Park in Bolivia
  • the Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador
  • the Canaima National Park in Venezuela
  • the Serranía de la Macarena National Park in Colombia

The highlights in terms of natural beauty include (also):

  • Iguazu falls
  • Salar de Uyuni
  • Amazon
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Atacama Desert
  • Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Angel Falls
  • Rainbow Mountains
  • Perito Moreno Glacier

Experience history and culture

For example, you get special cultural experiences and the opportunity to follow historical traces

  • in Machu Picchu
  • in Cusco
  • in Kuelap
  • in Ciudad Perdida (“The lost city”)
  • on Easter Island

Relaxing beach vacation

Of course, you can also spend an unforgettable beach holiday in South America. In this area, too, there are a few offers to choose from. The recommended beaches include, for example

  • the beach in the Copacabana district of Rio de Janeiro
  • the beach on Isla Margarita north of Caracas
  • the “crab bay” of the island of San Andrés
  • Arpoador Beach from Rio de Janeiro
  • Brava Beach in Uruguay
  • the beach of Morro de Sao Paulo on the island of Ilha de Tinharé in Bahia
  • the beach in Los Roques, Venezuela
  • Praia Joao Fernandes near Rio de Janeiro

South American cuisine

The cuisine of the South American countries is also diverse and colorfully mixed. Basic foods include, for example

  • Potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Corn
  • paprika
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet potatoes,

popular types of fruit include papayas and pineapples, while vanilla and chilli are used to flavor. Influences of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine can be shown.

The popular dishes of South America, to name just a small selection, include

  • Meat, especially beef, on rotisseries or in the form of steaks
  • Feijoada, a bean stew with meat
  • Empanadas, filled dumplings
  • Guinea pig
  • Ceviche, Peruvian dish made from meat / fish marinated with lemon juice
  • grilled trout
  • Pastel de Jaiba, crab cake
  • Matambre, a kind of roll roast

South American cuisine