Andes Mountains...
The greatest mountain range of South America

Two llamas at the Bolivian Andes
Two Llamas at the Bolivian Andes - © Istockphoto

The mighty Andes mountains or Cordillera de los Andes is an integral part of the geography of South America.

Great civilizations have raised and became extinct in this region, leaving behind a trail of superb constructions and archaeological remains that are still being discovered in modern times.

From the "cloud people" or Chachapoyas of Northern Peru to the greatest Inca civilization, whose empire - Tawantinsuyo - run almost the entire length of the Andean range, from Colombia to central Chile and NW Argentina.

In fact, the Andes mountain range encompass six countries along the western coast of South America, from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Over 7,000 km long stretch of rugged terrain composed of high peaks, volcanoes, glaciers, high altitude lakes, grasslands, deserts and forests, with a tremendous range of ecosystems and a superb variety of plant and animal species.

Formed by two great ranges: Cordillera Oriental and Cordillera Occidental, in Colombia, north to the border with Ecuador, The Andes split in three parallel ranges: Cordillera Occidental, Central and Oriental.

Canyons near Lima. Peru
Canyons near Lima. Peru - © NASA

To visually appreciate the magnificent Andes browse through the five-part South America from Space photo gallery, an impressive collection of images taken from a unique perspective: Astronaut photography.

Regarding its origins, a recent study published by the SmithsonianTropical Research Institute, the Andes's rise started much earlier than previously thought, they became active around 25 million years ago.

The name "Andes" comes from the Quechua word "Anta" which means "copper" or from the word "Anti", meaning "east cardinal point".

Its climate varies greatly according to altitude, location and proximity to the ocean. While the northern Andes are humid and warm, the central part is dry and the southern Andes rainy and cold.

Among the most important Andean cities we find Huaraz and Cuzco in Peru, Quito and Baños in Ecuador, La Paz, capital of Bolivia, Pucon and Puerto Natales in Chile - Puerto Natales is the main gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.

In Argentina, Salta, Mendoza - Mendoza province is home to Mount Aconcagua (6,972 m / 22,842 f.) above sea level, the highest peak in the whole range and Western Hemisphere - and Bariloche, main city in Nahuel Huapi National Park.

People of the Andes - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

High Altitude Sickness:

Whether you come to the Andes for trekking, mountaineering, hiking or just to discover its beauty as a tourist, an important factor to take into consideration is High Altitude Sickness.

To enjoy better - and safer - your South America travel experience - particularly if you plan to reach a high altitude (over 4,000 meters) - is to take a few days acclimatization period.
A good starting point is in the 3,000 meters range.

It commonly starts with a persistent headache - sign of poor acclimatization. If develops into a more severe and persistent headache and nausea, this condition is known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
At this point is safer to go down quickly to a lower altitude.

Please note this could develop into two very serious - even fatal - conditions: High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE).

Chile. Mayo glacier and Argentino lake
Chile. Mayo Glacier and Argentino Lake- © NASA

How to avoid it?...

It all boils down to a good acclimatization period and simple changes in your diet and drinking habits.

Above all drink LOTS OF WATER. Hot, sweet tea is even better to help you to re-hydrate faster.

Coca leaves tea is a good alternative as well, or other stimulants such as coffee (within limits). Avoid depressants such as alcohol

Avoid tap water, ice, unwashed fruits and any kind of seafood.

Although there is a huge difference in how well people do at high altitude, to be fit is a very good starting point. The fitter you are the better you will do. To learn more about High Altitude Sickness visit the South America Travel Library, particularly the High Altitude Medicine Guide.

Andes's Top Five Peaks Per country:


  • Aconcagua: (6,952m). Mendoza province. Highest in the Andes and Western Hemisphere.
  • Ojos del Salado (6,891m). Puna de Atacama
  • Monte Pissis (6,792m)
  • Cerro Mercedario (6,770m)
  • Cerro Bonete (6,759m). Puna de Atacama


  • Nevado Sajama: (6,542m)
  • Illimani: (6,438m)
  • Ancohuma: (6,427m)
  • Illampu: (6,368m) (5,750m)
  • Huayna Potosi: (6,088m)


  • Ojos del Salado: (6,891m)
  • Nevado Tres Cruces: (6,629m)
  • Llullaillaco: (6,739m)
  • Tres Cruces Central: (6,629m)
  • Incahuasi: 6,621m)


  • Ritacuba Blanco: (5,410m)
  • Nevado del Huila: (5,365m)
  • Nevado del Ruiz: (5,321)
  • Nevado del Quindío: (5,215m)
  • Galeras: (4,276m)


  • Chimborazo: (6,268m)
  • Cotopaxi: (5,897m)
  • Cayambe: (5,790)
  • Antisana: (5,752m)
  • El Altar: (5,320m)


  • Huascarán: (6,768m)
  • Yerupaja: (6,635m)
  • Siula Grande: (6,344m)
  • Yerupaja Chico: 6,089m)
  • Artesonraju: (6,025m)


  • Pico Bolívar: (4,981m)
  • Pico Humboldt: (4,940m)
  • Pico Bondpland: (4,880m)
  • Pico La Concha: (4,870m)
  • Pico Piedras Blancas: (4,740m)

Peruvian Woman at Sillustani
Peruvian Woman at Sillustani by Benjamin


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