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A journey round the world: South America

Laguna Garzón circular bridge, UruguayLaguna Garzón circular bridge, UruguaySouth America stretches from the tropical coast of the Caribbean to the icy Southern Ocean. The Andes, the Earth’s longest mountain range, runs down the western side of the continent. Between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean is the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. The vast rainforest of the Amazon Basin dominates the northern part of the continent. Rising in the east are the Brazilian Highlands. Further south, in Argentina and Uruguay, there are large areas of grassland, known as pampas. In the far south, these give way to the dry, bleak scrublands of Patagonia.

A map of South AmericaA map of South America
Street carnival, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilStreet carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


The people of South America are descended from Native American peoples (Amerindians), Spanish and Portuguese settlers from the 16th century onwards, African slaves brought over by Europeans, and later immigrants from other parts of the world. The numbers of native peoples in South America fell rapidly after the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, mostly because of the diseases they brought with them.

Even though Colombia takes up less than 1% of the world’s land area, 10% of all animal species live there.

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