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Andes Mountains
The Andes run the entire length of South America, from the humid tropics of the Caribbean to the ice fields of Patagonia. The longest north-south mountain range in the world, the Andes encompass a tremendous range of ecosystems and are home to a rich variety of plant and animal species and human communities.

With European colonization and the collapse of the Incan Empire, mountain areas not only lost their political and economic status, but also the transportation infrastructure throughout the mountain areas disappeared. Stone ruins lost for centuries have only recently come to light. Ancient civilizations such as the Chachapoyas "Cloud People" have left but a few clues to the mysteries of the Andes Mountains. Archaeology discoveries are now becoming a frequent event and an exciting time for the adventurous traveler now presents itself.

This rugged chain of volcanoes, grasslands, deserts, high altitude lakes and lush forests are home to some of the most diverse habitats on earth.

More than 30 spectacular volcanoes occur in the Andes Mountain range. At 19,347 feet, Cotapaxi Volcano is the highest active volcano in the world. Some of the other volcanic peaks include Cayambe (18,991 feet), Imbabura (15,117 feet), Pichincha (15,724 feet), Chimborazo (20,697 feet) and Sangay (17,154), also one of the most active in the Andes.


Andes Mountains    the Central Andes Top of Page
andes mountains
UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme classifies the Andes into three zones:
  1. the northern or humid Andes, which includes Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and parts of northern Peru;
  2. the central Andes, which covers Bolivia, Peru and the northern Argentina and Chile;
  3. the southern Andes, which includes Argentina and Chile.

The central Andes
The central Andes stretches from northern Peru to northern Chile and Argentina. The climate is semiarid, and the land is characterized by high altitude plains, known as the puna or altiplano.

The mountains and high plateaus of the central Andes, especially in Bolivia and Peru, were the political and economic centre of the Incan Empire. In Peru, the magnificent city of Machu Pichu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a testament to this highly developed civilization and is a major tourist destination. Indigenous communities exist throughout the entire Andean region, but it is Altiplano of the central Andes that remains the heartland of the Andean indigenous peoples. The overwhelming majority of the rural population is of indigenous heritage.

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