Lies between the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and the South Atlantic Oceans. The continent is one of the wilder Americas, a continent of superlatives. South America is the fourth largest continent in size, and the fifth largest in population. Located mostly in the Southern Hemisphere and small portions in the Western and the Northern Hemisphere, it is also considered and recognised as a subcontinent of the Americas. It is the home of twelve sovereign states – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela, and two non-sovereign areas – French Guiana and Falkland Islands.
Realistically South America can be split into 3 different physically regions: Mountains and Highlands, River Basins and Coastal Plains. These all play a massive part in the build of the continent to create the landscapes that attracts the number of visitors and tourists that it has each year.
South America is home of some of the world’s best tourist attractions, the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela; The Andes which is the longest mountain range, this area is what dominates the western South America; The Amazon River which is the largest river measured by volume; And the driest place on earth, The Atacama Desert in Chile. It is also home to the largest rainforest, The Amazon Rainforest; the highest capital city, La Paz in Bolivia; the world’s southernmost permanently inhabited community, Puerto Toro.
Spanish and Portuguese are the most common spoke languages in South America with approximately 200 million speakers each. Spanish is the official spoken language of most of the regions along with the native languages which some of them have. Portuguese is the official language of the largest populated country, Brazil. Some countries have an Indigenous language which is spoken by the Indigenous people from the southern tip of South America.
South America is also home to the Galapagos Islands which are just off the country Ecuador which is a group of Volcanic Islands. The Island and their surrounding waters form a National Park, an Ecuadorian province and a biological marine reserve. The main language of the island is Spanish. At the minute there are only cruise based tours to the Galapagos Islands as there is not yet any tourist accommodation. The boats stop at the islands and allow guests to exit the boat and take a tour around the islands in search for wildlife and landscapes.
Central America is a section of land which links North America to South America. It has seven small and mostly tropical countries that have a lot in common with South America and Mexico. Mexico is sometimes referred to as being part of Central America due to the language and cultural heritages it shares with most of the countries in the region. It is bordered by Mexico to the North, Colombia, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The combined population between the seven countries; Belize, Cost Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama is an estimated 42,688,190.
The official language spoken in most of Central American countries is Spanish, however, in Belize the official language is English. Guatemala formally recognised 21 of the 26 Mayan languages constitute which is a language family. The culture can be very similar within the continent in terms of music, it is dominated by the popular Latin music or Black Caribbean trends which include salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción. The different countries within the continent have produced their own forms of these genres such as the Panamanian salsa. The most important folk instrument across Central America is a type of xylophone as it is widespread throughout the region. A well-known form of Central American music is the Punta which is a style initiated by syncretic Garifunas who live in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize.
There are also some great tourist attractions across Central America. One place to visit is the Panama Canal; it first opened in 1914 and is approximately 50 miles long. The job of the Panama Canal is to raise ships up from the Pacific carry them through Panama to then lower them back down to the Caribbean.
Carnivals are also a massive thing across Central, the biggest carnival in the region is La Cieba in Honduras, where the streets are filled with bright costumes and dancing and the bars and clubs explode with locals and tourist who are excited to soak up the party atmosphere and culture the region has to offer.
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Essentially South America’s climate is wet and hot. However, with the continent being so large it makes the climate vary between each of the regions, this also will be dependent on the location of the region in comparison to the winds and ocean currents.
The regions located around the Amazon River (Brazil, Peru, Colombia) have a usual hot and wet climate which helps the growth of the Amazon Rainforest with temperatures reaching 20-30°C within the Amazon Basin. However, The Andes Mountains remain cold throughout the year; the western areas of the mountains receive slight rainfall due to the westerly winds which tend to reach the Andres. Whereas the eastern portions of the mountains remain very dry and cold. The driest region of South America is the Chile deserts, however, Peru can get very dry on the coast due to the cold Peru Current which is unable to hold much moisture.
The highest temperature of the continent are seen in Gran Chaco in Argentina with highs of 110°F, the wettest part is Quibdo in Columbia as it receives an annual rainfall of 350 inches each year.
Central America is a strip of land that connects North and South America. Generically it lies within the tropic which gives Central America a tropical humid climate. It was no real winter even in the coldest months when the weather averages 18°C, in summer the temperature reaches 27 to 28°C. The wet season runs from June to October when rainfall is 1,100 to 2,000mm regularly, the dry season is from November to May. However, it is not unusual to have a flash flood in the dry months or two weeks of hot weather in the middle of the wet season. The mountains and plains tend to have heavy rainfall September to February and the Pacific side sees very little rainfall December to April. The wet seasons give a very hot and humid temperature which makes it difficult to determine the weather.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
With South America being such a large continent with so many different regions and so many tourist attractions there is no single best time to visit South America. The best time to visit the Amazon which is home of the largest river ‘The Amazon River’ and the largest rainforest ‘The Amazon Rainforest’ would be in June when temperatures can reach as high as 30°C and is when the experience is at its peak. If you are a sports enthusiast and looking to enjoy your time spent in South America on the slopes then the best time to travel would be April and May when the tropical haze is pushed away and the crystal air from the Arctic blows over. You will find the best place to visit for skiing is Bariloche in Argentina.
For a more relaxed visit where you know you are going to get nice weather and a great holiday all year round is when visiting Peru. Here you will see a temperate mild temperature throughout the year meaning there is no best time to visit the country. However, like any country in the world you can get some rainy seasons this happens once a year from November to February and usually happens in the Peruvian cloud forest where Machu Picchu is located and also high up in the Andes Mountains.
There is no best time to travel to Central America; however, the best tourist time is the dry season which is November to May. Throughout these months you can experience some of South Americas best holidays which are Christmas and Easter where the street parties begin. We all know the Central Americans love to party. The best country to experience these carnivals is Panama when the streets become so colourful and the locals and tourists can enjoy their day. Also through the dry and summer months Central America has some beautiful beaches across the Pacific and Caribbean coasts which tourists love.
Health & Vaccinations
Before travelling we would recommend that you check with your GP that you are up to date with any usual vaccinations that cover you from diseases that could affect public health if they were brought into the country. For example, Tetanus, Hepatitis A + B, Flu jab and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). You should then ask your GP if he for advice with any other jabs specific to the country you are travelling to prevent any risk of diseases to you and any brought back into our country.
We recommend before travelling that you check with your doctor that you are up to date with your vaccinations including Hepatitis A + B, Typhoid and your Flu Jab and possibly Rabies depending on where abouts you are travelling to. You should also take the itinerary to your doctors so they can advise any health care to take with you and if you need any anti-malarial protection as some parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica have some risk of Malaria and high risks in southern parts of Panama.
Passport & Visa
Many holidays when travelling to South America will take you across multiple borders, so making sure you have an up to date passport is key. To check this, you must have 6 months validity remaining on the date of entry to each country you are travelling to, also you should have at least one blank page for each country you will be visiting. You can still book the holiday with an out of date passport as long as you are in the process of changing it and the details will be swapped over when the new one arrives.
If you have a valid British passport you do not need a visa to travel to any country in South America as long as you have what is specified above. However, many people fly to South America through the US and when doing so you have to clear immigration and customs. This means that you have technically entered the US and therefore will need a visa or will need to be registered for the ESTA programme (formerly known as the Visa Waiver). Almost all UK passport holders are eligible to apply for the ESTA which you will have to apply for online. It is valid for two years and only costs £15, although you almost definitely don’t need a visa when travelling to South America it is a pain have to get one for your travels.
When entering Central America’s countries they are very welcoming and offer tourists with visas on arrival to those who hold an American, Australian, European and New Zealand passport. This will let them stay for a minimum of 30 to 180 days depending on the country. When enter Belize, Costa Rica or Panama you will require proof of your onward travel, so make sure this is available at the border. An entry fee between $5 and $20 USD may apply when travelling to El Salvador, Nicaragua and for some passport holders Panama. Some countries require a departure fee when exiting the country, particularly by air, it can sometimes be paid for in your flight payment so you should check with us if this is the case.