The Largest Countries In South America

By Joseph Kiprop on December 1 2020 in World Facts

South America is made of 12 sovereign nations with Brazil being the largest by area. Image credit: Seika Chujo/Shutterstock.com
  • South America has 12 sovereign nations including the world's 5th and 8th largest countries by size.
  • Brazil, the continent's largest country, occupies nearly half of the continent's landmass.
  • Bolivia is South America's biggest landlocked nation.

With an area of 17,840,000 sq. km (6,890,000 sq mi), South America is the fourth largest continent in the world. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atlantic to the north and east, and the Caribbean Sea and North America to the northwest. 12 sovereign nations are part of South America. These are some of the world's most biodiverse and culturally rich countries.

Brazil (8,515,799 sq. km), Argentina (2,780,400 sq. km) and Peru (1,285,216 sq. km) rank as the three largest countries of South America by area, while Suriname (163,820 sq. km) is the smallest one

The countries of South America by area.

South America's Largest Countries

Brazil

Synonymous with the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest tropical rainforest, Brazil also boasts of being the largest country in South America. Brazil covers an area of 3,287,968 square miles (8,515,799 sq. km), which is about half (47.3%) of the continent’s landmass. It is the world's fifth-largest country and the third largest one in the Western Hemisphere, after Canada and the US. Except for Ecuador and Chile, Brazil borders all other nations of the continent. 

Brazil was the only Portuguese colony in South America. They first settled in the northeast corner of the country in the 16th century, and as the population grew, farmers and cattlemen began exploring westward. Over two centuries after they first arrived, the Brazilian settlers began exploring the rugged highlands of the southeast and establishing mines, eventually leading to economic growth in the south. While different Spanish colonies bordered them, the colony of Brazil remained large and unified because of shared language and culture, and because the Portuguese crown kept in contact with all the regions for trade. As a colony, Brazil did not trade with the neighbouring Spanish colonies, so it remained isolated from the rest of the continent. This is what caused Brazil to be such a large country once it reached independence in 1822.

Argentina

The second-largest South American country is Argentina. It comes two places after Brazil, or eighth place, on the list of the world's ten largest countries. Argentina covers an area of 1,073,518 square miles (2,780,400 sq. km) in the southern part of the continent. It is bordered by Chile to the west, Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast and east, Paraguay and Bolivia to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

Argentina's vast geography can be divided into four different regions: the North, the Andes mountain ranges, the Pampas (flat plains), and Patagonia, a plateau with cliffs. It is because the terrain is so varied and challenging that the former colony of Argentina became expansive, as it led to greater difficulty trading with other colonies. The region relied on the economic power that was the city of Buenos Aires at the time, which kept the large colony from fracturing, paving the way for a large country upon independence in 1816. 

Largest Landlocked Country In South America

Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia rank in order after Argentina to complete the top 5 biggest countries of the continent. Bolivia is the only landlocked country among the top five and has an area of  424,164 square miles (1,098,581 sq. km).

The percentage of area occupied by the 5 largest South American countries in the continent. 

Suriname, South America's Smallest Nation

Occupying an area of 63,251 square miles (163,820 sq. km) in the Guiana Shielf, Suriname is South America's smallest country by area. It is bordered by Brazil to the south, French Guiana int he east, the Atlantic Ocean on its northern shore, and Guyana to the west.

Countries Of South America By Area

RankCountryArea (in sq. km)Population (in thousands)
1Brazil8,515,799211,049.53
2Argentina2,780,40044,938.71
3Peru1,285,21632,510.45
4Colombia1,141,74850,339.44
5Bolivia1,098,58111,513.10
6Venezuela916,44528,515.83
7Chile756,10218,952.04
8Paraguay406,7507,044.64
9Ecuador276,84117,373.66
10Guyana214,969782.77
11Uruguay176,2153,461.73
12Suriname163,820581.37

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