Surinam is one of the “top three”, three countries in the extreme north of South America, previously known as the Guianas, and somewhat separated from the rest of the continent in history. Unlike the rest of South America which was colonized by the Iberian countries, and provided something of a shared heritage among them, Surinam was colonized by Dutch settlers. There is a broad mix of languages among its people, but Dutch is the most common, and as a consequence, Surinam is not part of Latin America.
Perú has always an important role in the history and development of South America. Starting with the rise of the Inca Empire with its capital in Cuzco, later the Spanish established the seat of the Viceroy for South America in Lima. The port of Callao was the most important on the continent, and the principal link of communication with Spain. It was from here that the Conquistadores landed and then traveled to what would later be Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.
Sandwiched between Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, Paraguay could often go unnoticed if it weren’t for one very large and spectacular thing: The Iguazú Falls, or Foz do Iguaçu in Portuguese. Comparing them to the Niagra falls is to fall sort on the description; they are much bigger and spectacular than that.
But gushing about the falls aside, Paraguay has plenty of interesting places and activities that make it worth a visit. By South American standards, it’s a relative small country –barely the size of Germany- which is located predominantly in an arm of the Amazon basin called the Chaco valley.
Guyana has managed to stay out of the well-beaten South America travel trail, and it’s hard to see why. There is a wonderful array of attractions and reasons to visit this country, yet it has slipped the mind of most tourists. This makes it ideal for anyone looking to have a pristine look at one of the undiscovered treasures of Latin America. But hurry! After this article, it might be too late…
Ecuador not surprisingly gets its name from the Equator which passes just a few miles north of its capital Quito. It’s a very interesting place to visit, and a must-see if you are in Ecuador, but there are plenty of other reasons to go there.
Let’s start with the beaches, with warm ocean water to swim in and fairly unpopulated in comparison to others. They are located along the Pacific, so there are lots of places where you can go surfing. Of course if you are on vacation you might want to just chill out on the beach withough worrying about being disturbed by hoards of people.
Colombia has two things that have made it famous, and both of them are actually not deserved: coffee and drug cartels. Yes, Colombia produces a lot of coffee, but Brazil produces a lot more, and frankly, a lot better. And while Colombia has been struggling with a virtual civil war financed by the drug trade, the conflict has stayed mostly on the fringes of society, and the country has blossomed despite it. Now its pretty much coming to an end, and Colombia is as safe to visit as any other Latin American country.
Chile is the smaller twin-brother to Argentina (but don’t tell that to an Argentine). It runs along the west side of the Andes, mostly bordering Argentina, and is just as geographically diverse though it is even longer. Surrounded either by mountains or the Ocean, Chile has developed a unique biosphere that its government guards jealously. Seriously, don’t try to bring fresh fruit, meat or vegetables into the country; you will get into trouble at the border.
Bolivia is fairly well-known outside of the continent, in comparison to other countries, but it’s PR department seems to have been slacking off on the job. The latest Bond film, for example, featured an impoverished country under threat of a military dictatorship. This is not exactly fair to the rich culture and heritage that includes one of the largest empires in the world.
Not only is Brazil the largest country on the continent, it’s also one of the largest in the world, both in population and land mass. This means there are lots of things to see. Most of the country is dominated by the Amazon rainforest, which accounts for well over half of the total land surface. Most of it remains unexplored to this day, with indigenous populations dotted throughout living as they did before European influence.
Argentina is one of the most diverse countries in South America, and indeed, the world. Located on the southern part of the continent, it extends over three thousand miles from tropical rainforests and impenetrably arid deserts in the north to the frozen plains of Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south. It is bound to the west along the peaks of the Andes, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.