South America is a huge, spectacular continent, with great rivers, lush rain forests, snow covered mountains and tremendous glaciers, barren deserts and fertile agricultural areas. The countries are unique unto themselves, but can be grouped somewhat geographically.
The northern countries face the Caribbean Sea, have mixed populations, a tropical lifestyle and rugged mountains. Here you will find favorite destinations like Angel Falls, Los Roches and Margarita Island.
The Andean heartland contains the area that once was the core of the Inca Empire. Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador are still the most Indian of the South American countries. Here you will find the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, the highest navigable lake in the world in Lake Titicaca, snow-covered peaks and live volcanoes, like famous Cotopaxi in Ecuador, plus the dense rain forests of western Amazonia.
Brazil is like no other: language, culture, sheer size, superlatives, energy and style, but it does share the Pantanal with its neighbor, landlocked Paraguay where the Chaco is the last grand frontier on the continent. They share also the Parana river, where Friendship Bridge links the two nations near Iguazu Falls.
The countries of the “Southern Cone” are the most European in flavor. Argentina and Chile host some of the wildest extremes of climate and geography – pampas and desert, the Andes, Patagonian glaciers and the Straits of Magellan and Beagle Passage.
Falkland Islands, Galapagos Islands and Easter Island have very few characteristics of the mainland, are unique and out of the way, yet they reward the traveler with sights and experiences far beyond the norm.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our South America travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!