South America is one of the most amazing continents on this planet. From natural wonders and unique cultures to interesting historical facts, this continent has so much to offer. Here is a selection of fascinating facts about South America.
- Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. It is 979 meters high, and its water plunges for 870 meters uninterrupted.
- The Atacama Desert in Chile is considered the driest place in the world. Some parts of it have never received a single droplet of rain since scientists began keeping records. Still, it supports over a million people.
- The Amazon River has the largest water volume of any river in the world. In fact, it has more water than the next seven largest rivers combined.
- The Andes Mountains is the longest mountain range in the world. It stretches for 4,400 miles along the west coast of South America, from Chile to Venezuela. It passes through Argentina Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
- The Amazon Forest is the largest natural rainforest forest in the world. At 2.7 million square miles, it covers 40% of South America. Its square area can fit about 40 USAs.
- At its narrowest point, the mighty Amazon River is just 1.8km across. However, it is 130m deep. This point is located in the town of Óbidos in Pará State, Brazil.
- The Amazon River has over 15,000 tributaries. Four of these tributaries are over 1,000 miles long. The Amazon itself is 4,195 miles long – making it the second-longest river in the world.
- The Aconcagua in Argentina is the highest mountain in South America. At 22,837ft, it is actually considered the second-highest mountain in the world – after Mount Everest in Asia.
Plant and Animal Facts
- It is estimated that around 40% of the world’s plant and animal species are found in South America. This is despite it covering less than 12% of the earth’s total land surface.
- The Green Anaconda, a native of the Amazon, is the largest snake in the world. The largest ever captured was 5 meters long, and weighed 99 kgs. There are unverified claims of mega Anacondas growing up to 8.8 meters and weighing 227 kgs.
- Ecuador is home to over 1000 species of orchids. In 2009, Botanists discovered what they described as “the world’s smallest orchid.” At only 2.1mm wide it is termed as a “minuscule orchid.”
Interesting Facts about South America
La Paz and Sucre (both in Bolivia) are the two highest altitude capitals in the world. They are located at 11,942 feet and 9,022 feet respectively. Sucre is considered the constitutional capital of Bolivia, but La Paz is the seat of its government.
In Brazil alone, around 150 different languages are spoken. However, the most widely spoken languages are Portuguese and Spanish.
The Brazilian Amazon is home to the largest uncontacted native populations in the world. It is estimated that there are at least 70 native communities living within the forest who’ve never had contact with the outside world.
The language of Quechua is the most common indigenous language in South America. It is believed to have originated from the Incas. It has 46 dialects and is spoken by 8 million people scattered across parts of Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.
The largest country in South America by far is Brazil. It covers about half of the continent’s land mass. At approximately 202 million, Brazil’s population is also the largest on the continent.
The smallest country in South America is called Suriname. It is about 50 times smaller than Brazil. At only 540,000 people, it also has the smallest population on the continent (and one of the smallest in the world).
Suriname is the most heavily forested country in South America. According to the UN F.A.O, approximately 94.6% of the country’s total land mass (which is 64,000 square miles) is covered by forests.
Sao Paolo in Brazil is the largest City in South America. With a population of 20 million (as of 2014), it is also one of the largest cities in the world.
Fun Facts about South America
- In Laguna – southeastern Brazil – fishermen have learned how to catch fish with the help of dolphins. The dolphins drive schools of fish towards the fishermen’s nets and even signal to them when to cast the nets.
- Ecuador is the first country in the world to have granted constitutional rights to Nature. This means that the ecosystem is a legal entity which can sue or get sued in a court of law.
- The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was named one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” in 2007. It is 124 feet high (38 meters) and weights 1.4 Million lbs (635 tons).
- The Virgen de la Paz monument in Argentina is the largest statue in both North and South America. Measuring 154 feet high, it is taller than both the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the Statue of Liberty.
- In Venezuela, there is a unique meteorological phenomenon called, “Catatumbo lightning.” It occurs at the point where River Catatumbo meets Lake Maracaibo. During the phenomenon, lightning can strike Lake Maracaibo continuously for about up to 10 hours at a time. The phenomenon lasts for around 160 days.
- South America was named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Although the continent was first discovered by Columbus, it was Amerigo who first proved that it wasn’t part of the Far East (as postulated by Columbus). He was therefore given the honor of having the continent named after him.
- The country Venezuela was named after the Italian city of Venice. Americo named it “Veneziola”, Italian for “Little Venice”, after observing the native houses built on Lake Maracaibo. The houses had reminded the explorer of Venice.
- The most famous mythical creature in South America is “el chupacabra.” This vampire-like creature is believed to attack cattle and goats and drain their blood.
- The port city of Buenaventura in Colombia is considered the wettest inhabited place on earth. It is also considered the rainiest city in the world. This city remains an average of 6,000 to 7,000 mm of rain per year.
- For close to 150 years, Brazil has been the largest exporter of coffee in the world. In the 1920s, close to 80% of the world’s coffee came from Brazil. Currently, it supplies roughly one-third of all the world’s coffee.
- Venezuela has the largest known oil and gas reserves. It has about 300 billion barrels of oil and 21,000 quadrillion cubic feet of gas reserves. It also has one of the most heavily subsidized petroleum products markets on the planet. A liter of petrol costs $0.1 – courtesy of the fuel subsidies.
There are surely more facts about South America that we have missed. Please use the comments section below to share your favorite facts about South America!