Choquetacarpo during the Vilcabamba trail

Travel Inspiration Facts About the Andes Mountains

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10 Interesting Facts on the Andes Mountains

The Andes Mountain range which spans 7,000km across seven countries in South America, from Venezuela in the north to Argentina in the south, is known for its high peaks, incredible natural biodiversity, culture, and cuisines.

Not only are the Andes Mountains one of the longest mountain ranges in the world but also the highest range outside of the Himalayas, making them a significant natural landmark and ultimate bucket list destination for adventurers, offering plenty of fantastic trekking opportunities.

Dreaming of conquering Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America and one of the worlds famed ‘Seven Summits’? Here are 10 fascinating facts about the Andes Mountains:

Aconcagua from the air

1. How long is the Andes Mountain range?

At over 7,000km in total, the Andes Mountains are the world’s longest continental mountain range stretching across 7 countries: Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. They lie as a continuous chain along the western coast of South America.

While the Andes Mountain range is the longest above-water mountain range, the longest mountain range on Earth is called the mid-ocean ridge, spanning 65,000km. About 90 percent of the mid-ocean ridge system is under the ocean, formed by the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates.

2. The Andes Mountains are more than just one mountain range

The Andes Mountains are a collection of numerous mountain chains which join in what are called orographic knots. Over its length, the Andean range is split into several mountain ranges.

The Venezuelan Andes run parallel to the Caribbean Sea coast in Venezuela west of the Caracas before turning to the southwest and entering Columbia.

In Columbia the Andes form three distinct ranges Cordillera Oriental, Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Occidental.

In Ecuador the Andes form two parallel groups of mountain ranges, one facing the Pacific and the other descending abruptly eastward toward the Amazon basin.

Three mountain ranges run through Peru and are known as the Eastern Cordillera, the Central or Blanca Cordillera, named for the glaciated summit of Mount Huascaran.

Moving south of Peru and extending through western Bolivia, the Andes Mountains branch into two distinct ranges.

Along the border between Chile and Argentina, the Andes form a single chain with many of the systems highest peaks. In southern Chile part of the cordillera descends beneath the sea.

3. How were the Andes formed?

The Andes Mountains were formed due to tectonic activity between the South American and Nazca plates, whereby earth is uplifted as one plate subducts under another plate. There is controversy over when this occurred but the geologic faults responsible for the rise of the Andes Mountains in Columbia became active 25 million years ago.

4. Most Andean Mountains are volcanic

The majority of the Andean Mountain chains are volcanic. The landscape of the central Andes Mountains, near the border between Chile and Argentina is dominated by volcanoes and associated landforms.

Many volcanic cones show grooves where water has eroded the rock to form gullies. Such erosion has occurred since the volcano was built up, indicating that most volcanoes in this view have been inactive for centuries.

Stratovolcanoes such as Cerro El Cóndor, Peinado and Nevado Ojos del Salado, the highest peak in Chile, are formed partly by the build-up of lava flows and partly by the build-up of explosively vented material dropping back down onto the surface.

What’s more, the highest active volcano in the world, Ojos del Salado, which stands at 6,900m is found here along the Chile-Argentina border. The most recent confirmed eruption has been dated between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago but minor eruptive activity may have occurred as recently as 1993.

Torres del Paine mountain range, Patagonia

5. The Andes Mountains are home to one of the world’s seven summits

Located in the Argentinian Andes, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya and one of the ‘seven summits’ (the tallest mountains on each continent). Unsurprisingly, Aconcagua is a popular trekking peak as it requires no technical expertise meaning it is often seen as a step up for trekkers who have previously summited Kilimanjaro. That being said, you need to be in great physical condition to climb Aconcagua as it can take up to 15 days or more at extreme altitude.

With a short climbing season, Aconcagua only supports a small number of climbing operators. Their expertise and health and safety procedures are second to none so you’re in the safest hands possible as you take on this epic challenge.

6. The Andes Mountains comprise of three different climatic zones

The South America Andes Mountains consist of three different climate zones known as the Tropical Andes (in the north), Dry Andes (in the centre) and the Wet Andes (in the south). Boasting such incredible biodiversity, the Andes region is home to a vast amount of wildlife.

7. The Amazon River originates in the Andes Mountains

Although there are some disputes about the Amazon River’s actual start point, there is no doubt that it starts in Peru’s Andes Mountains. Historically five different rivers, all located in the Andes of Peru, have been heralded as its source, the most widely accepted being Lake Ticlla Cocha in the headwaters of the Apurimac River. Originating in the high Andes Mountains of Peru, the Amazon River then travels eastwards meandering on a 4,000 mile (6,400 kilometre) journey through Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil before meeting the Atlantic Ocean.

8. The Andes Mountains are home to the world’s highest navigable lake

The Andes Mountain range is home to the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca. Located at an altitude of 3,810m, Lake Titicaca resides between Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east. The lake is known as the birthplace of the Incas and along its shores are numerous Incan ruins, but the highlight of this fascinating area is the amazing floating islands of Uros, located a 2-hour boat ride from Puno. Built entirely from a special type of giant bulrush, called totora, it is a spectacular site to see.

At Kandoo Adventures, we can arrange an extension to your Machu Picchu trek to visit Lake Titicaca or incorporate this into a longer circuit visiting all the highlights of Peru. Our most popular itinerary explores the beautiful Taquile Island, visits the floating islands of Uros and allows visitors the opportunity to take a swim in the cold waters of Titicaca.

Peruvian woman navigating on Titicaca lake

9. The Andes Mountains are home to a wide variety of animal species which are found nowhere else in the world

The Andes Mountain range is home to about 3,700 species of animals, including 500 species of mammals, 1,600 species of birds, 500 species of reptiles, 300 species of fish and more than 100 species of amphibians. The region supports a wide variety of animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world such as the Vicuña, Andean Condor, Spectacled Bear, Andean Cat and many more. Due to the altitude range from sea level to over 6,900 metres, many of these incredible species have adapted to the unique climates and environments of the Andes.

10. The Andes Mountains are the ultimate trekking destination

A richly diverse region, the Andes Mountains are home to both high mountains and coastline, making it a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. The Andes Mountains are one of the most sought-after travel destinations in South America, especially for adventurers who love high-altitude trekking. The region is perhaps most well-known for its breathtaking scenery, including the iconic spires and peaks of Patagonia, that is like nowhere else on the planet. These mountain ranges offer a playground for a variety of outdoor adventures, including mountain climbing, stargazing, hiking, cycling, skiing, horse riding and much more.
At Kandoo Adventures, we offer an exciting range of trekking holidays to Chile, Argentina and Peru where adventurers can experience the highlights of the Andes Mountains and tick off bucket list destinations such as Aconcagua and Lake Titicaca. To get the most out of your trip, join Kandoo Adventures on your next South American adventure and enjoy the wonders of trekking in this incredible part of the world.