South America is the world’s fourth largest continent. It has a total area of 17,814,000 sq km.
The Andes Mountains, which run over 4500 km down the west side, are the world’s longest mountain range.
The heart of South America is the vast Amazon rainforest around the Amazon River and its tributaries. The southeast is dominated by the huge grasslands of the Gran Chaco, the Pampas and Patagonia.
No other continent reaches so far south. South America extends to within 1000 km of the Antarctic Circle.
Three-quarters of South America is in the tropics. In the high Andes are large zones of cool, temperate climate.
Quito, in Ecuador is called the ‘Land of Eternal Spring’ because its temperature never drops below 8°C at night, and never climbs above 22°C during the day.
South America’s triangular shape gives it the shortest coastline, for its size, of any of the continents.
The highest volcanic peak in South America is Aconcagua, 6960 m high.
Eastern South America was joined to western Africa until the Atlantic began to open up 90 million years ago.
The Andes have been built up over the past 60 million years by the collision of the South American plate with both the Nazca plate under the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean plate. The subduction of the Nazca plate has created the world’s highest active volcanoes in the Andes.