The town of Punta Arenas sits almost at the southern end of South America. This Mirador (lookout) on Cerro La Cruz shows a panoramic view of the town and beyond. Across the water isthe outline of Tierra Del Fuego (End of the Earth), the largest island in Chile, and the most southern part of the country excluding Antartica. The large river is the Straight of Magdalena, once a busy shipping route from Europe to west coast USA before the Panama canal.
Before 1850 few people lived in this area, it was a military garrison and penal settlement before it later became a port as ships heading for the California gold passed through the straight.
Today it's a common stop for tourists travelling by bus or cruise heading further south towards Ushuaia (the worlds southermost city) and eventually Antartica.
South America makes up the southern half of the Americas and a large part of Latin America. It's home to the world's longest mountain range, biggest waterfall and largest river -- even these mammoths pale in comparison to the stunning variety of life forms thriving in the rainforest. To the northwest, off the coast of Ecuador, lie the Galapagos Islands, which are unique for hosting species not found anywhere else on earth. These were the subject of study for Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution, which he himself said will require proof in every single case. The main languages in South America are Spanish and Portugese, which basically tells you which European countries colonized the place. The South American wars of independence took place over two decades in the early 19th century, led by Simon Bolivar of Venezuela and Jose san Martin of Argentina. Following liberation from Portugal and Spain, South America took off into its own development, capitalizing on the rich deposits of oil, gold, copper, silver and tango musicians. Brazil is the largest country in South America and home to one of the world's best parties, Carnaval. Have you heard of samba music? How about bossa nova? Maybe dancing for three days straight? I can't say enough good things about South America. All the world's continents have amazing secrets and treasures laying in wait for your discovery, but in South America... just have a look at our pictures while you're waiting for online confirmation of your plane tickets to hit your inbox.Text by Steve Smith.