15 Totally Weird Facts About South America
Some facts about South America are standard. It’s the fourth largest continent on Earth and covers a land area of 17.84 million square kilometers, for example. Packed with picturesque places to visit from mountains to beaches, exhilarating activities to take part in, and beautiful cultures to get to know, South America is a gem for travelers.
The 12 countries in South America are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The continent’s total population is approximately 424 million.
Other facts about South America are more on the weird, bizarre, or quirky side. For instance, due to its triangular shape, South America has the least amount of coastline of any continent. (Yet there are still plenty of great spots for surfing in South America!)
Keep reading to discover 15 more cool facts about South America that just might blow your mind!
15 Weird and Fun Facts about South America
Check out these super interesting facts about different countries on the fascinating continent of South America.
1. The Amazon forest is home to untainted indigenous tribes.
Did you know that there are still some indigenous tribes out there in the world which have had little to no contact with modern civilization?
Some of these indigenous tribes have been discovered deep in the Amazon rainforest. And researchers believe that 77 uncontacted tribes are out there, dwelling even deeper inside the forest.
2. Paraguay holds the world record for the longest hot dog.
The biggest perro caliente (hot dog) in the world was made in Paraguay in 2011 as a celebration of the country’s 200 years of independence. It measured 203 meters and used a whopping 120 kg of meat. After the celebration, it was cut into thousands of pieces and distributed to the public.
3. Houses don’t have doorbells in Paraguay.
Most casas (houses) in Paraguay don’t have doorbells. Instead, visitors clap their hands for a few seconds to announce themselves.
This landlocked country’s climate is so hot that people generally leave their windows open, allowing them to hear the clapping of visitors.
4. Another river flows below the Amazon River.
The Hamza River is located about 4 kilometers under the famous Amazon river. Both the Amazon and the Hamza flow from west to east and span approximately 6,000 km.
While the Amazon ranges from 1-100km in width, the underground river Hamza is much wider, ranging from 200-400km.
5. South America is home to the world’s largest snake.
The Amazon rainforest has the greatest biodiversity in the world, with hundreds of animals, over 40,000 plant species, and 2.5 million species of insects.
One native of the Amazon, the green anaconda is the largest snake in the world. The biggest anaconda ever captured was 5 meters long and weighed 99 kg. There are unverified claims of mega anacondas growing to over 8 meters in length and weighing more than 200 kg.
6. The continent has 12 countries yet hundreds of languages.
Despite consisting of just 12 sovereign countries, South America is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world, with about 450 recorded languages.
Spanish and Portuguese top the list, by far, with the highest numbers of speakers. Other major languages include:
When it comes to indigenous languages, Quechua is the most common with about 8 million speakers. Originating from the Incas, it has 46 dialects and is spoken by 8 million people scattered across Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina.
Other indigenous languages include Guarani and Aymara. In addition, linguists estimate that more than 300 languages are spoken on a daily basis on the continent of South America.
7. Argentinians eat gnocchi on the 29th of the month.
On the 29th of every month, Argentinians have a tradition of eating ñoquis (gnocchi), a tradition that Italian immigrants brought in the 19th century.
People place money under their plates of gnocchi to attract good luck and fortune. Many restaurants in Argentina serve special gnocchi dishes monthly on the 29th.
8. South America is home to the driest and wettest places on Earth.
The Atacama Desert in Chile is the absolute driest place on Earth. In fact, some parts of it have yet to receive any rain since scientists began keeping records.
Parts of this desert area are known to regularly go without rain for up to four years at a time. Nonetheless, it supports over a million people.
In contrast, the Colombian port city of Buenaventura is considered the wettest inhabited place on the planet. The rainiest city in the world receives an average of over 20 feet of rain per year.
9. Bolivia was the first country to get rid of Mcdonald’s.
Bolivia is larger than the states of Texas and California combined. And there’s no McDonald’s there!
The world-famous fast-food franchise operated in the country for 14 years but closed all of its locations by 2002 due to rejection from locals and the government. Aside from Cuba, Bolivia is the only Latin American country without the golden arches.
10. South America is home to pink dolphins.
One of the most magical animals on Earth, the Amazon river dolphin—also known as the pink river dolphin or boto—lives exclusively in freshwater. It is found throughout much of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela.
Its estimated population is in the tens of thousands. However, the pink dolphin is classified as vulnerable in certain areas due to dams and the contamination of rivers and lakes.
11. Salt is prohibited in Uruguay.
Countries like Uruguay take an active role in what you can and can’t eat, all in the name of public health. In 2015, Uruguay banned salt shakers from restaurants and schools in an effort to tackle the nation’s rising obesity rates.
Ketchup, mayonnaise, and other high-sodium condiments are also absent from these places. If you want a saltier meal, you’ll have to ask your waiter.
12. Guinea pig is a delicacy in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru.
Cuy, also called cobaya or conejillo de indias, is a guinea pig and a traditional entrée in South American Andean culture. In ancient Incan times, cuy was both eaten by nobles and used as a fortune-telling method and sacrifice.
The meat is usually served whole after being baked or barbecued, and the taste is similar to wild fowl or rabbit. Cuy is a common gift for children, special guests, or newlyweds.
Cuy has been a South American delicacy for over 5 millennia. Peruvians even celebrate a national cuy holiday every year on the second Friday of October!
13. Ecuador granted constitutional rights to nature.
Ecuador is home to over 1,000 species of orchids. In 2009, botanists discovered “the world’s smallest orchid,” which is just 2.1 millimeters wide.
What’s more, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands feature a vast range of endemic species, which provided the basis for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 19th century.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Ecuador is the first country in the world to have granted constitutional rights to Nature. In other words, the ecosystem is a legal entity that can sue or be sued in a court of law.
14. Chile witnessed the largest earthquake on record.
On May 22, 1960, a 9.5 earthquake devastated Valdivia, a prosperous port city. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. It occurred in the afternoon and lasted for approximately 10 minutes.
15. Venezuela has a crazy lightning phenomenon.
In Venezuela, a unique meteorological phenomenon called, “Catatumbo lightning” occurs. At the point where River Catatumbo meets Lake Maracaibo, lightning can strike the lake continuously for up to 10 hours at a time. The phenomenon lasts for approximately 160 days.
Speak Spanish with South Americans
I hope you enjoyed learning those weird facts about South America! Being able to speak the language makes travel to Spanish-speaking countries simpler and more significant. Plus, being bilingual improves your cognition and decision-making abilities. Practicing your conversational skills in preparation for your trip is key! Sign up for a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to practice your Spanish before your adventure in South America.
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