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South America

The Highlands And Plateaus, The Andes, The Amazon Basin, The Climate, Venezuela, EcuadorThe continent, The countries, Uruguay

The South American continent stretches from about 10° above the equator to almost 60° below it, encompassing an area of about 7 million sq mi (18 million sq km). It is divided into ten countries. The continent can be divided into three main regions with distinct environmental and geological qualities: the highlands and plateaus of the east, which are the oldest geological feature in the continent; the Andes Mountains, which line the west coast and were created by the subduction of the Nazca plate beneath the continent; and the riverplain, between the highlands, which contains the Amazon River. The South American climate varies greatly based on the distance from the equator and the altitude of the area, but the range of temperatures seldom reaches 36°F (2°C), except in small areas.

The continent of South America extends over 68° of latitude, and encompasses an area of 6,880,706 sq. mi (17,821,028 sq. km). This is almost 12% of the surface area of the earth. It is about 3,180 mi (5,100 km) wide at its widest point.


Colombia borders on Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru, and encompasses an area of 440,831 sq. mi (1,141,748 sq. km). It is found where Panama of Central America meets the South American continent, and its location gives it the interesting feature of having coastal regions bordering on both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. It is a country of diverse environments, including coastal, mountain, jungle, and island regions, but in general can be considered to consist of two major areas based on altitude: the Andes mountains and the lowlands.

The Andes in Colombia can be divided into three distinct ranges, which run approximately from north to south in parallel ridges. The Cordillera Occidental, or westernmost range, attains a maximum altitude of about 10,000 ft (3,000 m). The Cordillera Oriental, which is the eastern range, is much higher, and many of its peaks are covered with snow all year round. Its highest peak is about 18,000 ft (5,490 m) high, and it has many beautiful waterfalls, such as the Rio Bogota which falls 400 ft (120 m). The Cordillera Central, as its name implies, runs between the Occidental and Oriental Cordilleras. It contains many active volcanoes as well as the highest peak in Colombia, Pico Cristobal Colon, which is 19,000 ft (5,775 m) high.

The lowlands of the east cover two thirds of Colombia's land area. It is part of the Orinoco and Amazon basins, and thus is well-watered and fertile. Part of this region is covered with rich equatorial rain forest. The northern lowlands of the coastal region also contain several rivers, and the main river of Colombia, the Magdalena, begins there.

Uruguay, which is 68,037 sq. mi (176,215 sq. km) in area, is a country bounded by water. To the east, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, and there are many lagoons and great expanses of dunes found along the coast. In the west, Uruguay is bordered by the river Uruguay, and in the south, by the La Plata estuary. Most of the country consists of low hills with some forested areas.

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