South America is a continent located in the western hemisphere, connected to North America at the narrow Isthmus of Panama. Most of the continent is in the southern hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the northern hemisphere; thus, most of the continent lies in the tropics. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America). Brazil is by far the most populous South American country, with more than half of the continent's population living there, followed by Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela and Peru. In recent decades Brazil has also concentrated half of the continent's GDP and has become a major regional power.
South America is believed to have been joined with Africa until the supercontinent Pangaea began to fracture and break apart about 225 million years ago. Therefore, South America and Africa share similar fossils and rock layers. Those hundreds of millions of years of divergent evolution have resulted in very diverse biospheres. South America is thought to have been first inhabited by modern humans who crossed the Bering Land Bridge (now the Bering Strait) between Russia and Alaska at least 15,000 years ago and migrated south along the Pacific coast. Some anthropologists have hypothesized that a population from coastal East Asia migrated in boats along the Kuril island chain, the Beringian coast, and down the west coast of the Americas during the decline of the Last Glacial Maximum. The oldest-known site of human habitation (in all of the Americas) is Monte Verde, halfway down the Pacific coast of Chile, which is dated to between 16,000 and 12,000 BCE. The archaeological site of Caral, a few hours’ drive north of Lima, Peru, is the oldest urban complex on the continent and was contemporaneous with the Old Kingdom of Egypt (2600-2000 BCE). The Inca Empire (1453-1533 CE) was the preeminent culture of Pre-Columbian South America, and the Inca sites of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu are among the most visited places on the continent. Many other less well-known cultures predate the Inca and have left fascinating sites at Tiahuanaco, Nazca, Chiclayo, and Trujillo in Bolivia and Peru.
The continent has much to recommend to visitors: the vast, tropical forest of the Amazon River basin with its rich biodiversity; the longest mountain range on earth; cosmopolitan, European-tinged cities and the remnants of indigeneous civilizations; and much more. It is also the closest gateway to Antarctica. Through several trips over the years, I've managed to see some of the sites of the interior, and have made port stops along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the southern coast of the Caribbean Sea. Still much to see.
Enjoy the photos!
Places I've visited are marked in red and bright green outlines
Around the Bottom of South America – February, 2014
Peru and Bolivia – September, 2013
Rio Negro, Brazil – January, 2013
The Amazon River, Brazil – January, 2013 & December, 2006
Devil's Island, French Guiana – December, 2006
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