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Overview to South America: Travel Guide and Tourist Information

Llamas in the Mountains

The writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez once spoke of the “awesome reality” of South America. An incomprehensibly vast and variable continent with a host of natural attractions from volcanoes and glaciers to the imposing Andes mountain ranges, it’s hard to think of a better way of describing it.

For sun-seekers, Brazil offers some of the best beaches on the planet. Party animals, meanwhile, flock to the lively nightlife and rich regional cuisine of fabulous Rio de Janeiro. The city is also home to the remarkable scenes of the Carnival, one of the world’s biggest and boldest parties.

One of the largest of the South American countries, Argentina could hardly be fuller with things to see and do. In addition to its array of breathtaking landscapes, the country's capital, Buenos Aires, offers vibrant nightlife, chic shopping and scores of high-quality restaurants.

Many travelers think that Peru begins and ends with the staggering ruins of Machu Picchu. But, in addition to the lively cities of Cusco and Lima, it doesn’t take long to realize, that when it comes to sightseeing, they’re just the beginning of the country’s attractions.

The fabulous Inca Trail is studded with the ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, while to the south of the city of Lima, the landscape is riddled with the mysterious Nazcar Lines.

The long, thin strip of land that makes up Chile is, once more, home to an infinite variety of landscapes. From the soaring peaks of the Andes to the desolate, stark beauty of Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, it’s uniformly beautiful.

For a serene, off the beaten track retreat, landlocked Bolivia has it all. The country is home to ten national parks and eight protected areas of natural beauty (as well as many more under consideration), all of which offer breathtaking mountains and stunning lakes.

South America is also home to the Amazon Rainforest, which encompasses a mammoth 1.2 billion acres of the continent. Nature lovers and ecotourists can find a dizzying number of different species in the rainforest, as it’s home to over 2.5 million species of insect, 2,000 birds and mammals and tens of thousands of plants.

The dazzling Angel Falls are another South American 'must-see'. The falls, located in Venezuela, are the world's highest free-falling cascades. Like Venezuela, the (comparatively small country) of Ecuador has a staggering biodiversity that really puts it on the map for ecotourists. It's also home to the world's second highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, which stands at 5,897 meters.

Most South American countries are Spanish-speaking, with Portuguese-speaking Brazil the notable exception to the rule. Fascinating indigenous languages and cultures are still widely practiced, although they - as with everything else in this remarkable continent - also vary enormously from place to place.