THE world's tallest waterfall, driest desert, longest mountain range and biggest carnival are all found in Latin America, with the spectacular natural and cultural marvels drawing increasing numbers of tourists to the continent each year.
As Australia's first and longest-running tour operator for Latin America, Contours Travel has released a list of the top 15 record-breaking attractions across South and Central America:
1. Tallest waterfall in the world - Angel Falls, Venezuela
At 979m tall, the majestic Angel Falls tumbles from a cleft on the edge of the Auyan-tepui mountain. It is considered one of the world's most spectacular natural wonders.
2. Widest street in the world - July 9 Avenue, Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires' grand boulevard, July 9 Avenue, is the world's widest street. Named after Argentina's Independence Day, the avenue is 140m wide and includes seven lanes of traffic in each direction and another two, parallel side streets as well as medians containing monuments and gardens.
3. Driest desert in the world - Atacama Desert, Chile
The huge Atacama Desert receives on average 15mm of rain per year, while many of its weather stations have never recorded a single drop.
4. Highest volcano in the world - Nevado Ojos del Salado, Argentina / Chile
Towering 6893m above sea level, the world's highest active volcano is located on the border of Argentina and Chile.
5. Biggest rainforest in the world - Amazon Rainforest
Spreading across the territory of nine different countries, the Amazon Rainforest covers 5.5 million square kilometers. The Amazon River is also the world's largest river in volume, containing 20 per cent of the earth's fresh water.
6. Deepest Canyon in the Americas - Cotahuasi Canyon, Peru
With a depth of 335m - twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Cotahuasi Canyon is also among the deepest in the world.
7. Highest capital city in the world - La Paz, Bolivia
Located 3640m above sea-level and 1400m higher than Australia's Mt Kosciusko. La Paz is also an important cultural and historical attraction.
8. Longest mountain range in the world - The Andes
7000km long and stretching across seven countries, the Andes is the longest mountain range on the planet.
9. Oldest ruins in the Americas - Caral, Peru
Dating back to 2000 BC, Caral is exceptionally well-preserved, features pyramids, monuments and temples and is sometimes known as the 'cradle of civilization'.
10. Closest point on the Earth to the Sun - Mt Chimborazo, Ecuador
Because of the earth's bulge at the equator, the 6268m-tall Mt Chimborazo is the farthest point from the centre of the planet, and the closest to the sun.
11. World's First World Heritage Site - Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
In 1978, the Galapagos Islands was designed as one of UNESCO's first World Heritage sites because of its abundant, rare and diverse wildlife.
12. Southernmost town in the world - Puerto Williams, Chile
Located 54 degrees south of the equator, the far south Patagonian town of Puerto Williams (population 3000) sits just south across the channel from the world's southern-most city, Ushuaia (population 57,000).
13. Longest and narrowest countries in the world
Many assume Chile, which stretches 4270km and contains seven distinct climates, is the world's longest country from north to south but Brazil beats it by just 125km. Nevertheless, Chile takes the record for the world's narrowest country, averaging a width of just 175km.
14. Biggest carnival in the world - Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro
Rio's vibrant and colourful annual festival is held before Lent in February each year, and attracts about two million people per day. Its origins date back to 1723.
15. Highest navigable lake in the world - Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia
Fabled as hiding the lost city of Atlantis beneath its surface, Lake Titicaca sits 3810m above sea level and is a popular tourist destination.
Contours Travel offers an extensive range of hosted trips and purpose-built itineraries designed for independent travellers, taking Australians to many of Latin America's record-breaking attractions and other natural, cultural and historic sites.
For more information, call Contours Travel on 1300 135 391 or go to www.contourstravel.com.au.
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