Civilisation/World Geography - South America

From Quiz Revision Notes



Flag of Argentina was created by Manuel Belgrano in 1812. Features the Sun of May that is a national emblem of Argentina and Uruguay

Capital Buenos Aires
Largest cities Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario
Currency Peso
Highest point Aconcagua

Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second-largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. The country has its roots in Spanish colonization of the region beginning in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776

Buenos Aires is served by Ministro Pistarini International Airport

Buenos Aires is known as “Paris of the South”. Spanish seaman Juan Diaz de Solís was the first European to reach the Río de la Plata, in 1516, but his expedition was cut short by an attack in which he was killed by the native Charrúa or Guaraní tribe. The city was first founded as the 'city of Good Air' (old Spanish for 'Fair Winds’) in 1536 by a Spanish gold-seeking expedition under Pedro de Mendoza

Buenos Aires was originally named City of the Holy Trinity and Port of Saint Mary of the Fair Winds

La Boca is a district of Buenos Aires

Teatro Colon is an opera house in Buenos Aries

July 9 Avenue in Buenos Aires honours Argentina's Independence Day, July 9, 1816

Inhabitants of Buenos Aires are known as portenos

Plaza de Mayo is a city square in Buenos Aires

Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego is the most southerly city in the world

Perito Moreno is a glacier in Patagonia. Named after the explorer Francisco Moreno

Aconcagua is the highest mountain (22,800’) outside of the Himalayas, in the province of Mendoza

Mendoza produces 70% of the wine from Argentina

A villa miseria is a type of shanty town or slum found in Argentina

Laguna del Carbon (Spanish: Coal Lagoon) is an endorheic salt lake in Argentina. At 105 metres (344 ft) below sea level, it is the lowest point of both the Western and Southern hemispheres

Straits of Magellan are between Argentina and Tierra del Fuego


Capital La Paz (see note below)
Largest cities Santa Cruz, El Alto, La Paz
Currency Boliviano
Highest point Nevado Sajama

Note: La Paz is the seat of government. Sucre is the constitutional capital

Bolivia is named after Simon Bolívar

Bolivia became a landlocked country after Chile seized the province of Litoral in the War of the Pacific in 1884. Bolivia is the largest landlocked country in the Southern Hemisphere

In the late 19th century, an increase in the world price of silver brought Bolivia relative prosperity and political stability. During the early 20th century, tin replaced silver as the country's most important source of wealth

La Paz is, de facto, the world's highest administrative capital. Towered over by Mount Illimani

El Alto International Airport in La Paz is the highest international airport in the world. Until 1999, El Alto was known as John F. Kennedy

Mi Teleferico is an aerial cable car urban transit system serving the La Paz–El Alto metropolitan area

Potosi was the major supply of silver for Spain during the period of the New World Spanish Empire

The US Geological Service estimates that Bolivia has 5.4 million cubic tonnes of lithium which represents 50% – 70% of world reserves

Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. It is located in southwest Bolivia

Tiwanaku is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire

Lake Poopo is a dried-up saline lake in Bolivia

Sajama Lines are a network of thousands of geoglyphs

Yungas Road is a cycle route which links the city of La Paz and the Yungas region. Nicknamed the "Road of Death"



Flag of Brazil features a blue disc with 27 stars and the motto "Ordem e Progresso" (‘Order and Progress’)

Capital Brasilia
Largest cities Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Salvador, Fortaleza
Currency Real
Highest point Pico da Neblina

Brazil is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population. It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. It borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile and occupies 47% of the continent of South America. The country's economy is the seventh largest by GDP. Brazil has been the world's largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years

The name of Brazil is shortened from Terra do Brasil "land of brazilwood"

Largest states by area – Amazonas, Para, Mato Grosso

Largest states by population – Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Portugal in the 19th century

Corcovado, meaning ‘hunchback’ in Portuguese, is a mountain in central Rio de Janeiro. It is known worldwide for the 38-meter (125 ft) statue of Jesus atop its peak, entitled ‘Christ the Redeemer’

Sugarloaf Mountain (in Portuguese, Pao de Acucar), is a peak situated in Rio de Janeiro, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay

Ipanema is a district of Rio de Janeiro

Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio and in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro International Airport is named after songwriter Tom Jobim

Petropolis was the official capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro between 1894 and 1903

Carioca is a demonym used to refer to anything related to the City of Rio de Janeiro

Tijuca Forest is a mountainous hand-planted rainforest in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is the world's largest urban forest

Petropolis was the official capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro between 1894 and 1903

Fluminense is a demonym for people indigenous to the state of Rio de Janeiro

President Kubitschek ordered the construction of Brasilia, enacting a long-forgotten article of the country's republican constitutions stating that the capital should be relocated from Rio de Janeiro. Its main urban planner was Lucio Costa. Oscar Niemeyer was the chief architect of most of the public buildings and Roberto Burle Marx was the landscape designer. The city plan was based on the ideas of Le Corbusier. Brasília was built in 41 months, from 1956 to 1960, when it was officially inaugurated

Brasilia is laid out in the form of an airplane

The Cathedral of Brasília in the capital of the Federative Republic of Brazil is an expression of the architect Oscar Niemeyer. This concrete-framed hyperboloid structure, seems with its glass roof to be reaching up, open, to heaven

The Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, also known as the JK Bridge, crosses Lake Paranoá in Brasília. It is named for Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, former president of Brazil. It was designed by architect Alexandre Chan and structural engineer Mário Vila Verde. Chan won the Gustav Lindenthal Medal for this project

Sao Paulo is the largest city in Southern hemisphere and in Latin America. The name of the city honours Saint Paul of Tarsus

Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia. Until 1763, Salvador was the capital of Brazil

Belo Horizonte was the second planned city in Brazil, after Teresina

Santos is a coffee-exporting port

Manaus is the largest city along the Amazon River. It is the capital of the state of Amazonas

Opera house in Manaus was built in 1896

Londrina is a city in Parana state

Natal is the capital city of Rio Grande do Norte, a northeastern state in Brazil. It was founded on 25 December 1599

Recife is a major port on the Atlantic Ocean. The name Recife means ‘reef’ in Portuguese

Marajo is an island located at the mouth of the Amazon River. It is the largest island to be completely surrounded by freshwater in the world

Fordlandia is a now-abandoned, prefabricated industrial town established in the Amazon Rainforest in 1928 by American industrialist Henry Ford for the purpose of securing a source of cultivated rubber for the automobile manufacturing operations of the Ford Motor Company

Curitiba is the capital and largest city of Parana

Oscar Niemeyer Museum is located in Curitiba

Belem was founded in 1616 by the Kingdom of Portugal and was the first European colony on the Amazon

Brazil has largest Japanese population outside of Japan

Pantanal is a natural region encompassing the world's largest tropical wetland area. It is located mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul

Cerrado is a tropical savanna ecosystem

Sao Francisco is the longest river entirely in Brazil

Brazil has the largest Arabic diaspora

Brazil is the only country on the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator


Capital Santiago
Largest cities Santiago, Valparaiso, Concepcion
Currency Peso
Highest point Ojos del Salado

Chile declared its independence from Spain in 1818

Santiago was founded by conquistadors in 1541

Gran Torre Santiago is a 64-story tall skyscraper in Santiago. It is the tallest building in Latin America

Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernandez, Salas y Gomez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania

The Mapocho River flows from the Andes Mountains onto the west and divides Chile's capital Santiago in two

Chile is world’s largest exporter of copper

33 miners were rescued from the San Jose copper–gold mine north of Copiaco in 2010

Casablanca valley is in Chile

Loa is the longest river in Chile

Punta Arenas (English: ‘Sandy Point’) is the capital city of Chile's southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena

Puyehue and Cordon Caulle are two coalesced volcanic edifices that form a major mountain massif in Puyehue National Park in the Andes of Ranco Province, Chile. Erupted in 2011

Nevado Ojos del Salado is a massive stratovolcano in the Andes on the Argentina-Chile border and the highest volcano in the world at 6893 metres. It is also the second highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere and the highest in Chile

Calbuco volcano erupted in 2015

Torres del Paine National Park is in Patagonia

Cape Froward in Chile is the southernmost point in mainland South America

Diego Ramirez Islands are a small group of subantarctic islands. Most southerly point of South America

Juan Fernandez Islands are composed of three main volcanic islands: Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara. named after Juan Fernandez, the explorer who discovered them in the 1570s

Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego is an island near the southern tip of South America from which it is separated by the Strait of Magellan. The western portion of the island is in Chile, while the eastern portion is in Argentina

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. named after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands


Capital Bogota
Largest cities Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla
Currency US dollar
Highest point Pico Cristobal Colon (see note below)

Note: Pico Simon Bolivar has almost the same elevation as Pico Cristobal Colon

Colombia is derived from the last name of Christopher Columbus

Bogota has been called "The Athens of South America”

El Dorado International Airport serves Bogota

Gold Museum (Spanish: El Museo del Oro) in Bogota displays the largest pre-Hispanic gold work collection in the world

Cartagena is a major port. Named after Cartagena, Spain

Punta Gallinas in Colombia is the northernmost point in mainland South America

Nevado del Ruiz is a stratovolcano in Colombia. Eruptions often cause massive lahars

Pico Cristobal Colon is named after Christopher Columbus

Magdalena river is the principal river of Colombia

Chiribiquete National Natural Park is the largest natural park in Colombia and the largest tropical rainforest national park in the world

Galeras is considered the most active volcano in Colombia



Coat of arms on the flag of Ecuador features a condor over Chimborazo

Capital Quito
Largest cities Guayaquil, Quito
Currency US dollar
Highest point Chimborazo

Ecuador takes its name from Spanish for ‘equator’

At an elevation of 2,800 meters above sea level, Quito is the highest official capital city in the world

Quito is located on the slopes of Pichincha volcano

Guayaquil is the main port of Ecuador

Cotapaxi is the world’s highest active volcano

Chimborazo is a currently inactive stratovolcano located in the Andes. With a peak elevation of 6268 m, Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador. It is the highest peak in close proximity to the equator. While Chimborazo is not the highest mountain by elevation above sea level, its location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth's surface from the Earth's centre

Cayambe is a volcano with permanent snow cover

Galapagos Island Names.svg

Galapagos Islands were discovered by the Bishop of Panama. Charles Darwin reached the islands in 1835 in HMS Beagle. Islands include Espanola (oldest) and Guy Fawkes

Galapagos Islands were formerly known as the Columbus Archipelago

Fernandina Island (formerly known in English as Narborough Island) is the third largest, and youngest, island of the Galapagos Islands. The island is an active shield volcano that last erupted in 2005

Isabela Island is the largest island of the Galapagos, nearly four times larger than Santa Cruz, the next largest of the islands. This island was named in honour of Queen Isabella of Spain who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. By the English, it was named Albemarle after the Duke of Albemarle. Shaped like a seahorse

Wolf Volcano is the highest peak in the Galapagos Islands, and is situated on Isabela Island



Flag of Guyana is known as The Golden Arrowhead

Capital Georgetown
Largest cities Georgetown
Currency Dollar
Highest point Mount Roraima

Guyana was originally colonised by the Netherlands. Later, it became a British colony, known as British Guiana, and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence in 1966. In 1970, Guyana officially became a republic

Guyana is a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and has the distinction of being the only South American nation in which English is the official language. The majority of the population speaks Guyanese Creole

Georgetown was named after George III in 1812

Kaieteur Falls is a waterfall on the Potaro River in Kaieteur National Park

Demerara River is a river in eastern Guyana

Essequibo is the largest river in Guyana, and the largest river between the Orinoco and Amazon



Flag of Paraguay differs on its obverse and reverse sides: the obverse shows the national coat of arms, and the reverse shows the seal of the treasury

Capital Asuncion
Largest cities Asuncion, Ciudad del Este
Currency Guarani
Highest point Cerro Pero

Paraguay is sometimes to as the “Heart of America”

Paraguay's indigenous language and culture, Guaraní, remains highly influential

Asuncion is home to nearly a third of Paraguay's population


Capital Lima
Largest cities Lima, Arequipa, Trujillo
Currency Sol
Highest point Huascaran

Peru was home to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua

Lima airport named after Jorge Chavez, the first person to fly across the Alps

Cuzco is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley) of the Andes. Cuzco was the capital of Inca Empire. Cuzco is said to have been originally designed in the shape of a puma

Machu Picchu is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley which is 80 km northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas”. Hiram Bingham made public the existence of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911 with the guidance of local indigenous farmers

Arequipa is known as the “white city”. It is the second most industrialized and commercial city of Peru

Moray is a town in Peru approximately 50 km northwest of Cuzco that is noted for a large complex of unusual Inca ruins. These include most notably several enormous terraced circular depressions that were used to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops

Punta Parinas in Peru is the westernmost point in mainland South America

Yumbilla Falls is considered the world's fifth tallest waterfall

Huaynaputina is a volcano that erupted in Peru in 1600, which is the largest eruption ever recorded in South America

Callao is the chief seaport of Peru


Capital Paramaribo
Largest cities Paramaribo
Currency Dollar
Highest point Julianatop

Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America (French Guiana, while less extensive and populous, is an overseas department of France)

In 1667 Suriname was captured by the Dutch, who governed Suriname as Dutch Guiana until 1954. Gained independence in 1975, but Dutch is still the official language

Most of the population lives on the country's north coast, in and around Paramaribo



Flag of Uruguay features the Sun of May

Capital Montevideo
Largest cities Montevideo, Salto
Currency Peso
Highest point Cerro Catedral

Uruguay is officially the Eastern Republic of Uruguay. It is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, and quality of living

Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname

Uruguay is home to 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo

Montevideo was first found by Juan Diaz De Solis in 1516

Montevideo is served by Carrasco International Airport

Punta del Este is a city and seaside resort. Known as ‘the Monaco of the South’



An eighth star was added to the flag of Venezuela in 2006

Capital Caracas
Largest cities Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia
Currency Bolivar
Highest point Pico Bolivar

Official name is Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves

In 1499, an expedition led by Alonso de Ojeda visited the Venezuelan coast. The stilt houses in the area of Lake Maracaibo reminded the navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, of the city of Venice, so he named the region "Veneziola"

River Orinoco flows through Venezuela

Lake Maracaibo is the largest lake in South America. Catatumbo lightning (named after the Catatumbo River) regularly produces more lightning than any other place on the planet

Margarita Island is the largest island in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, situated in the Caribbean Sea

Pico Humboldt is the second highest peak in Venezuela

Angel Falls is the world's tallest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 metres. The waterfall drops over the edge of the Auyan-tepui mountain in the Canaima National Park. Named after Jimmie Angel, an American aviator, who was the first person to fly over the falls

Overseas territories

French Guiana

Officially called Guiana. An overseas department and region of France, on the north Atlantic coast of South America. A large part of the department's economy derives from the presence of the Guiana Space Centre, now the European Space Agency's primary launch site near the equator, at Kourou

Devil’s Island is the smallest and northernmost island of the three Iles du Salut located off the coast of French Guiana

Cayenne is the capital city

Falkland Islands

The islands took their English name from Falkland Sound, the channel between the two main islands, which was in turn named after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland by Captain John Strong, who landed on the islands in 1690

The archipelago consists of two main islands, West Falkland and East Falkland, and 776 smaller islands

Stanley, or Port Stanley, is the capital of the Falkland Islands. It is located on the island of East Falkland. It was renamed Puerto Argentino, briefly, during the Falklands War of 1982

In May 2022, it was announced that, as part of the Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours, Stanley would receive city status

Mount Usborne is the highest point on Falkland Islands

RAF Mount Pleasant airport serves as the islands' main international airport

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

British overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean. South Georgia is by far the largest island in the territory. The South Sandwich Islands lie about 700 km southeast of South Georgia and are uninhabited

Grytviken is the principal settlement of South Georgia and is the site of a disused whaling station

King Edward Point is the capital and has a population of 22

Mount Paget on South Georgia is the highest peak in any territory under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom

Mount Asphyxia forms the summit of Zavodovski Island, northernmost of the South Sandwich Islands

Physical Geography


Gran Chaco is a sparsely populated, hot and semi-arid lowland region of the Río de la Plata basin, divided among eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, northern Argentina and a portion of the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, where it is connected with the Pantanal region

Llanos is a tropical grassland plain situated to the east of the Andes in Colombia and Venezuela

Atlantic Forest extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil and inland as far as Paraguay and Argentina. It was the first environment that the Portuguese colonists encountered over 500 years ago

Southern Cone is a geographic region composed of the southernmost areas of South America, south of and around the Tropic of Capricorn. Traditionally, it covers Argentina, Chile and Uruguay

Triple Frontier is a tri-border area along the junction of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where the Iguazu and Parana rivers converge

Tres Fronteras is the Spanish name for an area of the Amazon Rainforest in the Upper Amazon region. It includes, and is named for, the tripoint where the borders of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia meet.


Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world, stretching for 4,300 miles through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. The Altiplano plateau is the world’s second-highest following the Tibetan plateau

Parinacota, a composite volcano, is located on the Chilean / Bolivian frontier and is one of two volcanoes that make up the Nevados Payachata range. The other older volcano, Pomerape, is located to the northeast of Parinacota and makes up the northern part of this volcanic range

Mount Roraima includes the triple border point of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana

Highest mountains in South America – Aconcagua, Ojos del Salado, Monte Pissis


Amazon River is the largest river by discharge of water in the world. The Amazon basin is the largest drainage basin in the world. Flows for 4,000 miles through Brazil, Colombia and Peru

Pororoca is a tidal bore on the Amazon

Javary River is a tributary of the Amazon that forms the boundary between Brazil and Peru for more than 500 miles

In its upper stretches, above the confluence of the Rio Negro, the Amazon is called Solimoes in Brazil

Parana River runs through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina

Itaipu is the world’s most powerful hydroelectric dam, and lies on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, on the Rio Parana. Gravity dam, completed in 1982

Longest rivers in South America – Amazon, Parana, Madeira, Purus, Sao Francisco


Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, at 3,812 m above sea level. Located in the Altiplano high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia, Titicaca has a maximum depth of 281 m. The western part of the lake belongs to the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department


Drake Passage is the body of water between the southern tip of South America at Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica

Beagle Channel is a strait separating islands of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago. The Beagle Channel, the Straits of Magellan to the north, and the open ocean Drake Passage to the south are the three navigable passages around South America between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. Most commercial shipping is through the Drake Passage


Iguazu Falls are located on the border of the Brazilian state of Parana and the Argentine province of Misiones. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls, including The Devil’s Throat