South America

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There are almost 200 sovereign states in the world today; in 1950 there were only 82. Over the last half-century national self-determination has been a driving force for many states with a history of colonialism and oppression. As more borders have been added to the world map, the number of international border disputes has increased. In many cases, where the impetus toward independence has been religious or ethnic, disputes with minority groups have also caused violent internal conflict. While many newly-formed states have moved peacefully toward independence, successfully establishing government by multiparty democracy, dictatorship by military regime or individual despot is often the result of the internal power-struggles which characterize the early stages in the lives of new nations.

World Route Planner provides a searchable South America gazetteer based on Google Maps, Driving Directions and Google Street view in the cities of South America. World Route Planner and Google Maps together are the most comprehensive Online Satellite Imagery ever available on the Internet. Thousands of cities in South America divided into countries, counties, administrative regions and cities. World Route Planner also provides detailed Time Zones and Daylight map for South America. Google Maps is here for you, do not wait, explore South America now!

The Google Street View service, i.e. to activate Street View on any city of South America, drag above the Zoom feature the yellow little man in the map.

Facts of South America

Reaching from the humid tropics down into the cold south Atlantic, South America has an area of 6,886,000 sq miles (17,835,000 sq km). There are 12 separate countries, with the largest, Brazil, covering almost half the continent.

  • Greatest extent, North–South: 4750 miles / 7640 km
  • Greatest extent, East–West: 3100 miles / 4990 km
  • Most northerly point: Punta Gallinas, Colombia 12° 28’ N
  • Most southerly point: Cape Horn, Chile 55° 59’ S
  • Lowest point: Laguna del Carbón, Argentina -344 ft (-105 m)
  • Most westerly point: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador 92° W
  • Most easterly point: Ilhas Martin Vaz, Brazil 28° 51’ W
  • Largest lake: Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru 3220 sq miles (8340 sq km)
  • Highest recorded temperature: Rivadavia, Argentina 120°F (49°C)
  • Lowest recorded temperature: Sarmiento, Argentina -27°F (-33°C)
  • Highest point: Cerro Aconcagua, Argentina 22,833 ft (6959 m)
Three major physiographic regions characterize South America. The oldest, the ancient Brazilian Shield and the smaller Guiana and Patagonian shields, form the stable core of the continent. Stretching along the entire west coast are the younger Andean fold mountains with many summits rising to 20,000 ft (6100 m). These two diverse regions are separated by a number of sedimentary basins carrying South America’s large river systems to the sea. These include the massive Amazon Basin and the basin of the Gran Chaco.


The climate of South America is influenced by three principal factors: the seasonal shift of high pressure air masses over the tropics, cold ocean currents along the western coast, affecting temperature and precipitation, and the mountain barrier produced by by the Andes, which creates a rain shadow over much of the south.

Shaping the continent

South America’s active tectonic belt has been extensively folded over millions of years; landslides are still frequent in the mountains. The large river systems that erode the mountains flow across resistant shield areas, depositing sediment. Present-day glaciation affects the distinctive landscape of the far south.

Political South America

Modern South America’s political boundaries have their origins in the territorial endeavors of explorers during the 16th century, who claimed almost the entire continent for Portugal and Spain. The Portuguese land in the east later evolved into the federal state of Brazil, while the Spanish vice-royalties eventually emerged as separate independent nation-states in the early 19th century. South America’s growing population has become increasingly urbanized, with the growth of coastal cities into large conurbations like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. In Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, a succession of military dictatorships has given way to fragile, but strengthening, democracies.


Most major road and rail routes are confined to the coastal regions by the forbidding natural barriers of the Andes mountains and the Amazon Basin. Few major cross-continental routes exist, although Buenos Aires serves as a transportation center for the main rail links to La Paz and Valparaíso, while the construction of the Trans-Amazon and Pan-American Highways have made direct road travel possible from Recife to Lima and from Puerto Montt up the coast into Central America. A new waterway project is proposed to transform the River Paraguay into a major shipping route, although it involves considerable wetland destruction.


Almost half of South America’s population lives in Brazil but, due to the large uninhabited expanses of the Amazon Basin, its overall population density is much lower than in other countries. During the 20th century the most important population trend was the movement from rural to urban areas, giving rise to great population concentrations in large cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Lima, Bogotá, and Buenos Aires.


Prior to European exploration in the 16th century, a diverse range of indigenous languages were spoken across the continent. With the arrival of Iberian settlers, Spanish became the dominant language, with Portuguese spoken in Brazil, and Native American languages such as Quechua and Guaraní, becoming concentrated in the continental interior. Today this pattern persists, although successive European colonization has led to Dutch being spoken in Suriname, English in Guyana, and French in French Guiana, while in large urban areas, Japanese and Chinese are increasingly common.

South American resources

Agriculture still provides the largest single form of employment in South America, although rural unemployment and poverty continue to drive people towards the huge coastal cities in search of jobs and opportunities. Mineral and fuel resources, although substantial, are distributed unevenly; few countries have both fossil fuels and minerals. To break industrial dependence on raw materials, boost manufacturing, and improve infrastructure, governments borrowed heavily from the World Bank in the 1960s and 1970s. This led to the accumulation of massive debts which are unlikely ever to be repaid. Today, Brazil dominates the continent’s economic output, followed by Argentina. Recently, the less-developed western side of South America has benefited due to its geographical position; for example Chile is increasingly exporting raw materials to Japan.

Standard of living

Wealth disparities throughout the continent create a wide gulf between affluent landowners and those afflicted by chronic poverty in inner city slums. The illicit production of cocaine, and the hugely influential drug barons who control its distribution, contribute to the violent disorder and corruption which affect northwestern South America, destabilizing local governments and economies.


Argentina and Brazil are South America’s most industrialized countries and São Paulo is the continent’s leading industrial center. Long-term government investment in Brazilian industry has encouraged a diverse industrial base; engineering, steel production, food processing, textile manufacture, and chemicals predominate. The illegal production of cocaine is economically significant in the Andean countries of Colombia and Bolivia. In Venezuela, the oil-dominated economy has left the country vulnerable to world oil price fluctuations. Food processing and mineral exploitation are common throughout the less industrially developed parts of the continent, including Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.

Environmental issues

The Amazon Basin is one of the last great wilderness areas left on Earth. The tropical rain forests which grow there are a valuable genetic resource, containing innumerable unique plants and animals. The forests are increasingly under threat from new and expanding settlements and “slash-and-burn” farming techniques, which clear land for the raising of beef cattle, causing land degradation and soil erosion.

Using the land and sea

Many foods now common worldwide originated in South America. These include the potato, tomato, squash, and cassava. Today, large herds of beef cattle roam the temperate grasslands of the Pampas, supporting an extensive meatpacking trade in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Corn is grown as a staple crop across the continent and coffee is grown as a cash crop in Brazil and Colombia. Coca plants grown in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia provide most of the world’s cocaine. Fish and shellfish are caught off the western coast, especially anchovies off Peru, shrimps off Ecuador and pilchards off Chile.

Mineral resources

Over a quarter of the world’s known copper reserves are found at the Chuquicamata mine in northern Chile, and other metallic minerals such as tin are found along the length of the Andes. The discovery of oil and gas at Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in 1917 turned the country into one of the world’s leading oil producers. In contrast, South America is virtually devoid of coal, the only significant deposit being on the peninsula of Guajira in Colombia.

Countries in South America with Google Maps and Gazetteers

Browse the most comprehensive and up-to-date online directory of countries and administrative regions in South America. Regions and Google Maps with places in South America are sorted in alphabetical order from level 1 to level 2 and eventually up to level 3 regions. Google Maps and Driving Directions to South America are here for you, do not wait, explore South America and the beautiful countries of this continent now.

Argentina (24 google map locations)
Bolivia (9 google map locations)
Brazil (27 google map locations)
Chile (13 google map locations)
Colombia (33 google map locations)
Ecuador (22 google map locations)
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) (54 google map locations)
French Guiana (591 google map locations)
Guyana (10 google map locations)
Paraguay (18 google map locations)
Peru (26 google map locations)
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (2 google map locations)
Suriname (10 google map locations)
Uruguay (19 google map locations)
Venezuela (25 google map locations)

The nature of politics

Democracy is a broad term: it can range from the ideal of multiparty elections and fair representation to, in countries such as Singapore, a thin disguise for singleparty rule. In despotic regimes, on the other hand, a single, often personal authority has total power; institutions such as parliament and the military are mere instruments of the dictator.

The changing world map

Decolonization In 1950, large areas of the world remained under the control of a handful of European countries. The process of decolonization had begun in Asia, where, following the Second World War, much of southern and southeastern Asia sought and achieved self-determination. In the 1960s, a host of African states achieved independence, so that by 1965, most of the larger tracts of the European overseas empires had been substantially eroded. The final major stage in decolonization came with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc after 1990. The process continues today as the last toeholds of European colonialism, often tiny island nations, press increasingly for independence.

The determination of international boundaries can use a variety of criteria. Many of the borders between older states follow physical boundaries; some mirror religious and ethnic differences; others are the legacy of complex histories of conflict and colonialism, while others have been imposed by international agreements or arbitration.

Post-colonial borders

When the European colonial empires in Africa were dismantled during the second half of the 20th century, the outlines of the new African states mirrored colonial boundaries. These boundaries had been drawn up by colonial administrators, often based on inadequate geographical knowledge. Such arbitrary boundaries were imposed on people of different languages, racial groups, religions, and customs. This confused legacy often led to civil and international war.

Physical borders

Many of the world’s countries are divided by physical borders: lakes, rivers, mountains. The demarcation of such boundaries can, however, lead to disputes. Control of waterways, water supplies, and fisheries are frequent causes of international friction.

International disputes

There are more than 60 disputed borders or territories in the world today. Although many of these disputes can be settled by peaceful negotiation, some areas have become a focus for international conflict. Ethnic tensions have been a major source of territorial disagreement throughout history, as has the ownership of, and access to, valuable natural resources. The turmoil of the postcolonial era in many parts of Africa is partly a result of the 19th century “carve-up” of the continent, which created potential for conflict by drawing often arbitrary lines through linguistic and cultural areas.

This South America map is for informational use only. No representation is made or warranty given as to its content. User assumes all risk of using Google Maps and Google Driving Directions. World Route Planner assumes no responsibility for any loss or delay resulting from such use of free South America map.

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