South America is the fourth largest continent in the world, stretching from the Caribbean Sea in the north to the Drake Passage and Tierra del Fuego in the south. It has a total area of 17,840,000 km2 and is home to over 400 million people. The continent is made up of twelve independent states: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. It also includes two non-sovereign territories: French Guiana and the Falkland Islands. The landscape of South America is incredibly diverse with vast plains and mountains such as the Andes mountain range running through much of its length. The Amazon River basin covers much of northern South America and is home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. The continent also includes a variety of climates from tropical rainforests in Central America to arid deserts in northern Chile. South America has a rich cultural heritage with many ethnicities living side by side including Aymara, Quechua and Guarani peoples who have all had an impact on modern South American culture. Spanish and Portuguese are spoken widely across much of the continent while many countries have their own local languages too. Music is also an important part of South American culture with genres such as salsa originating here. The continent also has a long history stretching back thousands of years with some civilizations predating those found in North America or Europe by many centuries. Today it remains one of the most fascinating regions on Earth with its incredible natural beauty and unique cultures combining to create an unforgettable experience for those who visit it.