South America Wonders

1.- Iguazu Falls, Argentina / Brazil Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls (Spanish: Cataratas del Iguazú [kataˈɾatas ðel iɣwaˈsu]; Guarani: Chororo Yguasu [ɕoɾoɾo ɨɣʷasu]; Portuguese: Cataratas do Iguaçu [kataˈɾatɐʒ du iɡwaˈsu]) are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The Iguazu River rises near the city of Curitiba. For most of its course, the river flows through Brazil, however, most of the falls are on the Argentine side. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi words “y” , meaning “water”, and “ûasú “[waˈsu], meaning “big” Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. The first European to record the existence of the falls was the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541 Iguazu Falls are located where the Iguazu River tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau, 23 kilometres (14 mi) upriver from the Iguazu’s confluence with the Paraná River.[1] Numerous islands along the 2.7-kilometre-long (1.7 mi) edge divide the falls into many separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60 to 82 metres (197 to 269 ft) high. The number of these smaller waterfalls fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level. Approximately half of the river’s flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese).[1] The Devil’s Throat is U-shaped, 82 metres high, 150 m wide, and 700 m long (269×492×2,297 ft). Placenames have been given also to many other smaller falls, such as San Martín Falls, Bossetti Falls, and many others. About 900 metres (2,950 ft) of the 2.7-kilometre (1.7 mi) length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes by 3 mm (0.1 in) per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains into the Paraná River, a short distance downstream from the Itaipu Dam. The junction of the water flows marks the border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. There are points in the cities of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil,Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, which have access to the Iguazu River, where the borders of all three nations may be seen, a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the three cities

2.- Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It is located in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosí in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes and is at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above mean sea level.

The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50 to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, which is in the process of being extracted. The large area, clear skies, and the exceptional flatness of the surface make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites. The Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of pinkflamingos. Salar de Uyuni is also a climatological transitional zone since the towering tropical cumulus congestus and cumulonimbus incusclouds that form in the eastern part of the salt flat during the summer cannot permeate beyond its drier western edges, near the Chilean border and the Atacama Desert.

3.- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands area situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the Ecuadorian coast. This archipelago and its immense marine reserve is known as the unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Its geographical location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual plant and animal life – such as marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, huge cacti, endemic trees and the many different subspecies of mockingbirds and finches – all of which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.

Criterion vii: The Galapagos Marine Reserve is an underwater wildlife spectacle with abundant life ranging from corals to sharks to penguins to marine mammals. No other site in the world can offer the experience of diving with such a diversity of marine life forms that are so familiar with human beings, that they accompany divers. The diversity of underwater geomorphological forms is an added value to the site producing a unique display, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Criterion viii: The archipelago´s geology begins at the sea floor and emerges above sea level where biological processes continue.. Three major tectonic plates—Nazca, Cocos and Pacific— meet at the basis of the ocean, which is of significant geological interest. In comparison with most oceanic archipelagos, the Galapagos are very young with the largest and youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, with less than one million years of existence, and the oldest islands, Española and San Cristóbal, somewhere between three to five million years. The site demonstrates the evolution of the younger volcanic areas in the west and the older islands in the east. On-going geological and geomorphological processes, including recent volcanic eruptions, small seismic movements, and erosion provide key insights to the puzzle of the origin of the Galapagos Islands. Almost no other site in the world offers protection of such a complete continuum of geological and geomorphological features.

Criterion ix: The origin of the flora and fauna of the Galapagos has been of great interest to people ever since the publication of the “Voyage of the Beagle” by Charles Darwin in 1839. The islands constitute an almost unique example of how ecological, evolutionary and biogeographic processes influence the flora and fauna on both specific islands as well as the entire archipelago. Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, land snails, giant tortoises and a number of plant and insect groups represent some of the best examples of adaptive radiation which still continues today. Likewise, the Marine Reserve, situated at the confluence of 3 major eastern Pacific currents and influenced by climatic phenomena such as El Niño, has had major evolutionary consequences and provides important clues about species evolution under changing conditions. The direct dependence on the sea for much of the island’s wildlife (e.g. seabirds, marine iguanas, sea lions) is abundantly evident and provides an inseparable link between the terrestrial and marine worlds.

Criterion x: The islands have relatively high species diversity for such young oceanic islands, and contain emblematic taxa such as giant tortoises and land iguanas, the most northerly species of penguin in the world, flightless cormorants as well as the historically important Darwin’s finches and Galapagos mockingbirds. Endemic flora such as the giant daisy trees Scalesia spp. and many other genera have also radiated on the islands, part of a native flora including about 500 vascular plant species of which about 180 are endemic. Examples of endemic and threatened species include 12 native terrestrial mammal species (11 endemic, with 10 threatened or extinct) and 36 reptile species (all endemic and most considered threatened or extinct), including the only marine iguana in the world. Likewise the marine fauna has an unusually high level of diversity and endemism, with 2,909 marine species identified with 18.2% endemism. High profile marine species include sharks, whale sharks, rays and cetaceans. The interactions between the marine and terrestrial biotas (e.g. sea lions, marine and terrestrial iguanas, and seabirds) are also exceptional. Recent exploration of deep sea communities continues to produce new additions to science.

4.- Atacama Desert, Chile The Atacama Desert (Spanish: Desierto de Atacama) is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000-kilometre (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world. According to estimates the Atacama Desert proper occupies 105,000 square kilometres (41,000 sq mi), or 128,000 square kilometres (49,000 sq mi) if the barren lower slopes of the Andes are included. Most of the desert is composed of stony terrain, salt lakes (salares), sand, and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes. The World Wide Fund for Nature defines the Atacama Desert ecoregion as extending from a few kilometers south of the Peru–Chileborder to about 30° south latitude. The National Geographic Society considers the coastal area of southern Peru to be part of the Atacama Desert and also includes the deserts south of the Ica Region in Peru. Peru borders it on the north and the Chilean Matorral ecoregion borders it on the south. To the east lies the less arid Central Andean dry puna ecoregion. The drier portion of this ecoregion is located south of the Loa River between the parallel Sierra Vicuña Mackenna andCordillera Domeyko. To the north of the Loa lies the Pampa del Tamarugal. The coastal cliff west of the Chilean Coast Range is the main topographic feature of the coast

The Atacama Desert is commonly known as the driest non-polar place in the world, especially the surroundings of the abandoned Yungay town (in Antofagasta Region, Chile). The average rainfall is about 15 mm (0.6 in) per year, although some locations, such as Aricaand Iquique, receive 1 to 3 mm (0.04 to 0.12 in) in a year. Moreover, some weather stations in the Atacama have never received rain. Periods of up to four years have been registered with no rainfall in the central sector, delimited by the cities of Antofagasta, Calama andCopiapó, in Chile. Evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971.

The Atacama Desert may be the oldest desert on earth, and has experienced extreme hyperaridity for at least 3 million years, making it the oldest continuously arid region on earth. The long history of aridity raises the possibility that supergene mineralisation, under the appropriate conditions, can form in arid environments, instead of requiring humid conditions. Geological research suggests that in some sections of the Atacama Desert, such as in today’s Chile, hyperaridity has persisted for the last 200 million years (since the Triassic), competing only with Africa’s Namib Desert for such a title. This desert is so arid, many mountains higher than 6,000 m (20,000 ft) are completely free of glaciers. Only the highest peaks (such as Ojos del Salado, Monte Pissis, and Llullaillaco) have some permanent snow coverage. The southern part of the desert, between 25 and 27°S, may have been glacier-free throughout the Quaternary (including during glaciations), though permafrost extends down to an altitude of 4,400 m (14,400 ft) and is continuous above 5,600 m (18,400 ft). Studies by a group of British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years.[15]However, some locations in the Atacama receive a marine fog known locally as the camanchaca, providing sufficient moisture for hypolithic algae, lichens, and even some cacti—the genus Copiapoa is notable among these. Geographically, the aridity of the Atacama is explained by it being situated between two mountain chains (the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range) of sufficient height to prevent moisture advection from either the Pacific or the Atlantic Oceans, a two-sided rain shadow.

5.- Amazon River

Amazon is the greatest river in the world by so many measures; the volume of water it carries to the sea (approximately 20% of all the freshwater discharge into the oceans), the area of land that drains into it, and its length and width. It is one of the longest rivers in the world and, depending upon who you talk to, is anywhere between 6,259km/3,903mi and 6,712km/4,195mi long.

For the last century the length of the Amazon and the Nile Rivers have been in a tight battle for title of world’s longest river. The exact length of the two rivers varies over time and reputable sources disagree as to their actual length. The Nile River in Africa is reported to be anywhere from at 5,499km/3,437mi to 6,690km/4,180mi long. But there is no question as to which of the two great rivers carries the greater volume of water – the Amazon River.

At its widest point the Amazon River can be 11km/6.8 mi wide during the dry season. The area covered by the Amazon River and its tributaries more than triples over the course of a year. In an average dry season 110,000 square km of land are water-covered, while in the wet season the flooded area of the Amazon Basin rises to 350,000 square km. When the flood plains and the Amazon River Basin flood during the rainy season the Amazon River can be up to 40km/24.8 mi wide. Where the Amazon opens at its estuary the river is over 325km/202 mi wide!

Because the Amazon drains the entire Northern half of the South American continent (approx. 40% landmass), including all the torrential tropical rains that deluge the rainforests, it carries an enormous amount of water. The mouth of the Amazon River, where it meets the sea, is so wide and deep that ocean-going ships have navigated its waters and traveled as far inland as two-thirds of the way up the entire length of the river.

6.- Angel Falls, Venezuela

In the western part of Canaima National Park, is the Auyantepuy, one of the largest and better known “tepuy” (A flat top mountain ending with vertical walls). From this tepuy is where the Angel falls are formed. The fall is 979 meters high (around 3000 ft.), and is the higher waterfall in the world.

There are two ways to see the Angel Falls. One of them is from the air in an small airplane. The other one is an excursion that starts with a 3 hour and a half navigation upstream the Carrao River, and then the Churun river. From there, a one hour walk through the jungle takes you to the base of the falls. For a Slide Show, of this trip

The Angel Falls were named after the american aviator that discovered them in 1937. However, the local indians, the Pemones, already knew it and called it theChurún Merú.

If you ever have the opportunity to reach the Angel Fall don’t miss it. Those images will stay in your memory for all your life.

7.- Torres del Paine, Chile Torres del Paine National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) is a national park encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers in southern Chilean Patagonia. The Cordillera del Paine is the centerpiece of the park. It lies in a transition area between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. The park is located 112 km (70 mi) north of Puerto Natales and 312 km (194 mi) north of Punta Arenas. The park borders Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the west and the Los Glaciares National Park to the north in Argentine territory. Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-nay.

Torres del Paine National Park is part of the Sistema Nacional de Áreas Silvestres Protegidas del Estado de Chile (National System of Protected Forested Areas of Chile). In 2003, it measured approximately 242,242 hectares. It is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile. The park averages around 150,000 visitors a year, of which 60% are foreign tourists, who come from all over the world.

The park is one of the 11 protected areas of the Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctica (together with four national parks, three national reserves, and three national monuments). Together, the protected forested areas comprise about 51% of the land of the region (6,728,744 hectares). The Torres del Paine are the distinctive three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif. They extend up to 2,500 meters above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine. The area also boasts valleys, rivers such as the Paine, lakes, and glaciers. The well-known lakes include Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. The glaciers, including Grey, Pingo and Tyndall, belong to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.

8.- Laguna Colorada, Bolivia Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) is a shallow salt lake in the southwest of the altiplano of Bolivia, within Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve and close to the border with Chile. The lake contains borax islands, whose white color contrasts with the reddish color of its waters, which is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae Laguna Colorada is part of the Los Lípez (formerly Laguna Colorada) Ramsar wetland. It was listed as a “Ramsar Wetland of International Importance” in 1990. On, July 13, 2009 the site was expanded from 513.18 to 14,277.17 km2 (5,512.45 sq mi) to include the surrounding high Andean endorheic, hypersaline and brackish lakes and associated wetlands (known as bofedales)

9.- Aconcagua, Argentina Aconcagua (Spanish pronunciation: [akoŋˈkaɣwa]) is the highest mountain outside of Asia, at 6,961 metres (22,838 ft), and by extension the highest point in both the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. It is located in the Andes mountain range, in theMendoza Province, Argentina, and lies 112 kilometres (70 mi) northwest of its capital, the city of Mendoza. The summit is also located about 5 kilometres from San Juan Province and 15 kilometres from the international border with Chile; its nearest higher neighbor is Tirich Mir in the Hindu Kush, 16,520 kilometres (10,270 mi) away. It is one of the Seven Summits.

Aconcagua is bounded by the Valle de las Vacas to the north and east and the Valle de los Horcones Inferior to the West and South. The mountain and its surroundings are part of the Aconcagua Provincial Park. The mountain has a number of glaciers. The largest glacier is the Ventisquero Horcones Inferior at about 10 km long, which descends from the south face to about 3600 m altitude near the Confluencia camp. Two other large glacier systems are the Ventisquero de las Vacas Sur and Glaciar Este/Ventisquero Relinchos system at about 5 km long. The most well-known is the north-eastern or Polish Glacier, as it is a common route of ascent. The mountain was created by the subduction of the Nazca Plate beneath the South American Plate during the geologically recent Andean orogeny; but it is not a volcano. The origin of the name is contested; it is either from the Mapuche Aconca-Hue, which refers to the Aconcagua River and means “comes from the other side the Quechua Ackon Cahuak, meaning “‘Sentinel of Stone or Quechua Anco Cahuac, “White Sentinel” or the Aymara Janq’u Q’awa, “White Ravine”, “White Brook”.

10.- Tierra del Fuego, Argentina Tierra del Fuego (Spanish for “Land of Fire”; Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtjera ðel ˈfweɣo]; officially Provincia de Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur) is an Argentine province. The province is divided into four departments, all of which are discontiguous with the Argentine mainland: * Río Grande Department, on the eastern section of the Isla Grande of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, bordering the Chilean province of Tierra del Fuego, and separated from mainland Argentina by the Strait of Magellan. Under undisputed Argentine administration * Ushuaia Department, also on Isla Grande bordering Chilean territory. This department includes the provincial capital Ushuaiaand Staten Island of 534 square kilometres (206 sq mi) to the East. Also undisputed * The disputed Antártida Argentina Department, a vast claimed triangular section of Antarctica extending to the South Pole, which geographically overlaps with British and Chilean claims in Antarctica. However, all territorial claims in Antarctica are suspended by the Antarctic Treaty System, of which Argentina is a founding signatory and permanent consulting member * The disputed Islas del Atlántico Sur Department, consisting of Argentinian claims to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas in Spanish) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (both of which are self-governing overseas territories of the United Kingdom), along with the South Orkney Islands and South Shetland Islands (both of which lie south of 60°S and therefore within the scope of the Antarctic Treaty)

The province had been inhabited by indigenous people for more than 12,000 years, since they migrated south of the mainland. It was first discovered by a European in 1520 when spotted by Ferdinand Magellan. Even after Argentina achieved independence, this territory remained under indigenous control until the nation’s campaign known as the Conquest of the Desert in the 1870s. After defeating most of the Indians in the desert part of Patagonia, Argentina organized this section in 1885 as a territory. European immigration followed due to a gold rush and rapid expansion of sheep farming on large ranches in the area. Tierra del Fuego is the most recent Argentine territory to gain provincial status, which occurred in 1990.