South America

South America is a continent located in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It can also be considered as a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. It includes twelve sovereign states – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela – and two non-sovereign areas – French Guiana, an overseas department of France, and the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory (nonetheless claimed by Argentina). In addition to this, the ABC islands of the Netherlands may also be considered part of South America.

South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq mi). Its population as of 2005 has been estimated at more than 371,090,000. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America). Most of the population lives near the western or eastern coasts of the continent while the interior and the far south are sparsely populated. The geography of western South America is dominated by the Andes mountains; in contrast, the eastern part contains both highland regions and large river basins such as the Amazon, Paraná and Orinoco. Most of the continent lies in the tropics.

Best Places to Visit in South America

Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Paraguay/Brazil

If you're heading for a fall, do it in style. Iguazu Falls is made up of 275 waterfalls to make up one of the biggest falls in the world, so big that they straddle the border between three countries. The biggest drop is a frightening 80 meters.

Praia Vermelha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

With all those beach volleyball and Barry Manilow associations, Copacabana takes the world fame while poor little Praia Vermelha lies in its shadow. Take the cable car up to Sugar Loaf mountain for this view, enjoyed by 007 during his tussle with Jaws in Moonraker.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Doesn't this picture make you think of Flight of the Condor? What a theme tune. Anyway, one place to experience the Andes in all their spectacular glory is Torres del Paine National Park - a sublime region of glacier-clad massifs, snow-splodged mountains, towering pinnacles, pristine ice-blue lakes, sparkling clear rivers, and lama-like guanaco.

Huacachina, Peru

Huachina wasn't there until the 1930s, when some Peruvians decided it would be a good idea to build around the lake - a real oasis in the desert. These days, unsurprisngly, it attracts tourists, hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary mermaid said to inhabit the lake.. and go sand buggying.

Sau Paulo, Brazil

As far as bridges go, the Octávio Frias de Oliveira Bridge is quite an interesting example. Bridge enthusiasts will lap up the fact that It is the only bridge in the world that has two curved tracks supported by a single concrete mast. It's also a hotspot for crime - thieves keep nicking stuff from it, like wire, and the lights.

Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

'Brazil's capital of happiness' is so called because of its tendency to throw parties, no doubt fuelled by enormous amounts of rum (just to be cliché), The highlight of the social calendar is the city's carnival, officially the biggest party on the planet, when four million people get merry for a week, then swear never to drink rum again.

Huayhuash, Peru

You might think that someone has been dabbling in Photoshop, but the Huayhuash trek, in the Waywash range of the Andes, was rated 'second most beautiful trek in the world' by National Geographic magazine. Quite impressive, eh?

Montevideo, Uruguay

You go down to the seafront to take in the sunset and go for a stroll to get up an appetite for a massive slap-up steak sandwich with eggs and veg (the Uruguayan speciality, chivito, or 'cholesterol bomb', and look what happens. The weather in Montevideo is generally sub-tropical, but apparently sleet is a 'regular occurence' in winter.

Bogota, Colombia

You may be put off by Columbia's dangerous reputation, and while it may not be too safe to wander about late at night after a few too many lychee martinis in Bogota, that goes for anywhere. Don't miss the historic part of the city, La Candelaria, and get orientated (it is massive) by taking the cable car up Mount Monsserate.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Well, we couldn't leave this out, could we? You can actually climb up to the top of the hill you can see there, but a head for heights is an essential requirement.

Rio de Janeiro

With its sugary white sands, gorgeous vistas and vibrant nightlife, Rio de Janeiro makes for a fun getaway at any time of year. Whether you're looking for a glittery Carnival costume or a striking view of Christ the Redeemer, Rio has it. And soaking up the sun at Copacabana and swiveling your hips to samba won't cost you a dime.

Buenos Aires

This sophisticated city known as the "Paris of the South" has a lot going for it. You'll find it hard not to fall in love with Buenos Aires' wide boulevards and Parisian-style cafes. And with its burgeoning food scene and kid-friendly attractions, Buenos Aires suits all types of vacationers. Arrive in fall or spring for gorgeous foliage and affordable room rates.

Cusco

As the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the home base for travelers visiting the legendary Machu Picchu. If you're not worn out from the hike along the Inca Trail, spend time marveling at lesser-known attractions like the extensive Pre-Columbian Museum. For a heavenly spectacle, stargaze at the Cusco Planetarium.

Argentine Patagonia

Argentine Patagonia's scenery will captivate you, from the glistening peaks of the Lake District to the rustic cattle ranges of Southern Patagonia. You can unravel history at the Cave of the Hands and get to know Punta Tombo's quirky Magellan penguins. Vacationing here is taking a "road less traveled," but it's an enchanting one at that.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is more than a simple beach vacation. There are volcanoes to hike, misty rainforests to explore and a vibrant culture to experience. R&R seekers can immerse themselves in the good life, or "pura vida," as the locals say, and sprawl across Nicoya Peninsula's cream-colored sands. Be forewarned: You'll be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave.

Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands are best known for their rich array of creatures — ranging from giant tortoises and lizards to seals and penguins. Plus, the islands boast a minimal human footprint, only adding to their allure. Getting here will cost you, but isn't admiring towering volcanoes, gorgeous sands and unique wildlife worth it?

Belize

It's hard to imagine visiting Belize without sprawling across its beautiful beaches. But stepping away from the soft sands to admire the magnificent Mayan ruins should also be a priority. If ancient sites won't pull you away from your jungle bungalow, perhaps the striking jaguars and keel-billed toucans found at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary will.

Chilean Patagonia

It's no wonder windswept Chilean Patagonia caught the attention of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Where else can you gallop on horseback across untouched frontiers, raft through azure fjords and admire Torres del Paine's striking peaks? Exploration can be exhausting, so make sure to recuperate with a scrumptious seafood dinner.

Bogota

Although Bogotá has long held a dangerous reputation associated with its southern slums, other aspects of the city make it a worthwhile trip, as long as you keep your wits about you. The northern region boasts eclectic architecture and an emerging cultural scene. For Old World charm, head to the La Candelaria district, where you'll encounter grandiose churches and colonial mansions. Just allow time to savor an authentic Colombian meal.

Machu Picchu

It's hard to match the grandeur of the "lost city of the Inca Empire." Forgotten until the 20th century, this sky-high Inca paradise dazzles with mystical temples and archeological sites. Plus, the verdant mountains in the backdrop aren't bad to gaze at, either. Embrace the steep elevation and come discover this ancient city's secrets for yourself.

Best time to Visit

Spring - September to December
Summer - December to March
Fall - March to June
Winter - June to September