How Many Countries Are There In South America?

Map of South America
  • South America contains 12 countries and 2 dependencies.
  • Brazil is the largest and most populous county in South America, while the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) is the least populous and smallest.
  • More than 433 million people live in South America.
  • Peru was the home of the Inca civilization.

South America contains 12 countries and 2 dependencies. Its total population is more than 433 million. Brazil is the largest and most populous country in South America, while the British-controlled Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) is the least populous and smallest. The vast majority of countries in South America are Spanish-speaking, though Brazil’s official language is Portuguese, French Guiana’s is French, Suriname’s is Dutch, Guyana’s is English, and the Falkland Islands’ is also English. Here are some brief notes on the countries and dependencies in South America.

12 Countries Of South America

Argentina

National flag of Argentina
National flag of Argentina

Argentina is located in the southern half of South America, alongside Chile to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The country has four geographic regions: The Andes in the north, the Pampas in the country’s center, and Patagonia in the south. Argentina has a population of more than 45 million people, the vast majority of whom live in cities. The largest city in Argentina is its capital, Buenos Aires. The city has a population of just over 13 million. Most of Argentina’s population is concentrated in its northern half of the country. Spanish is the country’s official language, though interestingly, more than half of Argentina’s population is of Italian descent.

Bolivia

National flag of Bolivia
National flag of Bolivia

Bolivia is a landlocked country in the center of South America. Three main geographic areas exist in the country: The Alto Plano highlands, the valleys, and the tropical lowlands. Bolivia contains about 11 million people. More than half of the country’s population is of indigenous origin, with the rest being of mixed or European ancestry. Spanish is the country’s most understood language, but the indigenous languages of Quechua and Aymara are also prevalent. Bolivia has the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest country in South America. 

Brazil

National flag of Brazil
National flag of Brazil

Brazil is the largest country in South America. It contains the bulk of the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil is also the most populous country in South America. More than 212 million people call Brazil home. Most of the country’s people live in urban centers. The majority of Brazil’s biggest cities are concentrated on the country’s coastline. The largest city in Brazil is Sao Paolo, with a population of more than 10 million. Brazil’s official language is Portuguese, as it was formerly a Portuguese colony, though the Portuguese spoken in Brazil is significantly different from that which is spoken in Portugal.

Chile

National flag of Chile
National flag of Chile

Chile is located on the Pacific coast of the South America’s southern half. The country has a unique geographical configuration, as it is very long from north to south, but is very narrow from east to west. The country’s population is roughly 19 million, most of whom live in cities. Chile’s population is largely concentrated in the country’s northern half. In fact, one fifth of the country’s population is concentrated in the capital, Santiago, which boasts more than 4 million residents. Some consider Chile the continent’s most stable and prosperous country.

Colombia

National flag of Columbia
National flag of Colombia

Colombia is located in the northwest corner of South America. The country can be divided into six natural regions, which are the Andes Mountain range, the Lianos plains, the Pacific coastal region, the Caribbean coastal region, and the Amazon Rainforest region. Colombia contains more than 51 million people. More than 80% live in cities, the largest of which is the capital, Bogota, with a population of more than 7 million. Most of Colombia’s population is concentrated on the Caribbean coast and the Andean highlands. Colombia contains the 3rd largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, after Mexico and the United States.

Ecuador

National flag of Ecuador
National flag of Ecuador

Ecuador is Spanish for equator. Indeed, the world’s equator passes right through the country, which lies on the Pacific coast of South America’s northwest. Ecuador has three distinct regions. One is the central highlands, otherwise known as Sierra. The second is the Oriente in the east, which is largely covered by jungles. The third region is the coastal plains. The Galapagos Islands to the west of the mainland, are also controlled by Ecuador. These are the islands that Charles Darwin traveled to in the 19th century. His observations there helped him come up with his Theory of Evolution. Today, Ecuador is a country of nearly 18 million people, of which nearly two thirds live in cities.

Guyana

National flag of Guayana
National flag of Guayana

Guyana is located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. Guyana’s population is about 789,000. Nearly a third of this population lives in the country’s capital, Georgetown. The two largest ethnic groups are the Indo-Guyanese, who are of Indian descent, and the Afro-Guyanese, who are of African descent.

Paraguay

National flag of Paraguay
National flag of Paraguay

Like Bolivia, Paraguay is also a landlocked country. Its population is approximately 7 million, most of which is urban. Paraguay’s largest city and capital is Asuncion. The most common indigenous people in Paraguay are the Guarani, though most of the country’s population is of mixed ancestry. The Paraguayan economy is still very much underdeveloped. Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy. Paraguay is also rich in hydro-electric power.

Peru

National flag of Peru
National flag of Peru

Peru is located on the Pacific coast of South America, in the northern half of the continent. Generally, the country consists of three geographic regions, including the Andes Mountains, the coast, and Amazon Rainforest region. Peru has a population of over 33 million, most of whom live in cities. The largest population center is the country’s capital, Lima, in which approximately 7.7 million people live. Spanish is the most widely-spoken language in the country, however, two indigenous languages, Quechua and Aymara, also have many speakers. Quechua was the language of the pre-Colombian Inca civilization, whose heartland was in Peru. Various Inca sites, such as Machu Picchu are located in the country.

Suriname

National flag of Suriname
National flag of Suriname

Suriname has a population of around 590,000, most of whom live on the country’s Atlantic coastline. In fact, more than 40% of Surinamese live in the country’s coastal capital, Paramaribo. People of East Indian descent make up about a third of the population, while Creoles, who are of mixed European and African descent, make up another third. The remaining population are of mostly Indonesian or African descent.

Uruguay

National flag of Uruguay
National flag of Uruguay

Uruguay is a small country in South America’s southeast, on the Atlantic coast. It is sandwiched between Brazil to the north and Argentina to the west. The country has a population of roughly 3.5 million. About a third of Uruguayans live in the country’s capital, Montevideo. The overwhelming majority of Uruguayans are of European descent. Uruguay’s economy is heavily dependent on exports, of which beef is the most significant. 

Venezuela

National flag of Venezuela
National flag of Venezuela

Venezuela is located in northern South America, on the Caribbean coast. The country has four geographic regions: the Maracaibo lowlands of the northeast, the northern mountains, the Orinoco plains in the country’s center, and the Guiana highlands in the southeast. Venezuela’s population is an estimated 28 million, most of whom are urban dwellers. Caracas, the country’s capital, is also the country’s largest city, with around 3 million inhabitants. Most of Venezuela’s population is concentrated in the north of the country. Venezuela is well-known for its vast oil resources.

Two Dependencies Of South America

French Guiana

As its name implies, French Guiana is a dependency of France. The territory is on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. French Guiana’s population is about 300,000, most of whom are Creoles. French Guiana is home to the Guiana Space Center, from which a number of space launches take place.

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)

The British-controlled Falkland Islands are located off the southern coast of Argentina. In fact, Argentina claims the islands as their own, and in 1982, invaded them, only to be driven out by British forces. The islands consist of two main islands and several smaller ones. The population of the British dependency is approximately 3,500, making the Falklands the least populous territory in South America. About two thirds of the Falkland Islands’ inhabitants live in the territory’s capital, Stanley.

12 Countries of South America

CountryPopulation
Argentina44,938,710
Bolivia11,513,100
Brazil211,049,530
Chile18,952,040
Colombia50,339,440
Ecuador17,373,660
Guyana782,770
Paraguay7,044,640
Peru32,510,450
Suriname581,360
Uruguay3,461,730
Venezuela 28,515,830
Share

More in World Facts