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South America

The continent of South America is the world's fourth largest continent, with a total surface area of 17,820,900 square kilometres. It lies across the tropic of Capricorn and the equator. The continent extends 7,400 km from the Caribbean Sea on the north to Cape Horn in the south and its maximum width, between Ponta do Seixas, on Brazil's Atlantic coast, and Punta Pariñas, on Peru's Pacific coast, is 5,160 km.

The continent population has more than doubled between 1960 and 2000. Approximately half of the population lives in Brazil. Average population growth rates approached 2.4% per year for the years between 1965 and 1990. The estimated number of people under the age of 15 in 2000 was 31% and the median age in 2000 was 25.1 years.

Several territories of South American republics are islands that lie in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In the Pacific Ocean lies the Juan Fernández Islands and Easter Island, which are part of Chile and the Galápagos Islands which are a part of Ecuador. In the Atlantic Ocean lie the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, a territory of Brazil and the British dependency of the Falkland Islands, which was claimed by Argentina as the Islas Malvinas.

South America can be roughly broken into four upland regions and three lowland regions. The northern and western regions are dominated by the worlds second largest mountain range the Andes, and the eastern regions are the highland areas of Guiana and Brazilian massifs and the Patagonian region. In the northern half of South America only the Andes region has a cool climate.

The largest lowland region is in the equatorial part of the continent, the Amazon basin. The climate in these regions is wet and tropical. The rain forests in these regions are the largest forests in the world, covering much of equatorial South America, including the Brazilian coast and the lower slopes of the Andes.

The lowest part of South America is the on the Península Valdés in eastern Argentina, which is 40 meters below sea point. The highest elevation is 6,960 meters above sea level, atop Aconcagua in western Argentina.

Spanish is the official language of 9 of the 13 countries on the continent. The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, English is the official language of Guyana, Dutch of Suriname, French of French Guiana and both Guaraní and Spanish of Paraguay. Many Native American languages are also spoken, they are primarily Quecha, Aymara and Guaraní.

For More Info See South America Travel Guide

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