The Andes are the longest mountain range in the world. Owing to its unique geology and diverse climates, the range has given rise to civilizations that flourished under extreme conditions, high levels of endemic flora and fauna, and breath-taking landscapes.
No other mountain range offers such a diversity of landscapes as the Andes, from mighty glaciers to arid deserts, misty coffee plantations to sparkling-white salt flats. What else can be seen in this spectacular region? Sit back and enjoy these 30 interesting facts about the Andes Mountains from the comfort of your home!
The etymology of the word Andes has been debated. The majority consensus is that it derives from the Quechua word anti, which means “east” as in Antisuyu (Quechua for “east region”), one of the four regions of the Inca Empire.
The formation of the Andes was as a result of the global plate-tectonic forces. The movement occurred roughly around 65 million ago during the Cenozoic Era.
The rise of the mountains is believed to have started around 25 million years ago due to the difference of more than 40,000 feet between the lowest point of the range in Peru and Chile’s Atacama Desert and the highest peak mountain in Argentina.
The range of the Andes is estimated to stretch 4,300 to 4,500 miles (7,000-7242 km) long from Chile to Venezuela. The widest part of the range is between the latitudes 18° south and 20° north and measures approximately 120 to 430 miles (approx. 650 km) between Peru and Bolivia.
Horizontally the mountain rise to an estimated average height of 13,000 feet (4,000 m). The highest peak of the Andes Mountain is in Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua where it rises to a height of 6,962 m.
The climate varies greatly throughout the Andes’ path, with habitats ranging from lush rainforests and cloud forests to dry steppe, snow-covered peaks, and glaciers.
The volcanic activities experienced along the Andes Mountain are due to the on-going plate-tectonic processes that formed them. The parts that are associated with the Ring of Fire, the circum-Pacific volcanic chain, have active volcanoes that trigger earthquakes that occur frequently in the area.
Andes Ojos del Soldado Mountain is the world’s highest inactive volcano. It is located on the border of Chile and Argentina with a height of 6,893 m.
The world’s highest active volcano is located in Ecuador called the Cotopaxi Mountain. The Cotopaxi has a height of 5,897 m.
The peak of Chimborazo is the earth’s farthest point. The peak is located in Ecuadorean Andes where it rises to a height of 6,268 m above sea level. The distance from the centre of the earth to the peak is 6,384 km which is 2 km higher than the Himalayas.
Two of South America’s major river systems begin in the Andes. They are the Amazon and the Orinoco systems.
High in the mountains at an altitude of 3,812 meters (12,507 feet) between Bolivia and Peru is Lake Titicaca. It’s the highest commercially navigable body of water in the world.
The Andes contribute 52% out of the 63.6% of hydroelectricity that is supplied in the seven countries that it crosses.
Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world that extends for 10,582 km2 and is found in the Andes region. It is located at an altitude of 3,650 meters in Bolivian Andes.
A Condor in the Andes, Peru
The Andes have several plateaus that host major cities. The cities are Quito, La Paz, Medellin, Bogota, Sucre, Arequipa, and Merida.
The population in the Andes is estimated to be 84,500,000 people with 44% located in the Andean countries.
About a third of all the people in South America live in the Andes. Most of them live in cities and towns.
The Andes are rich in iron, copper, silver, tin, and gold which have attracted thousands of miners.
The plateau regions of the Andes are mainly utilized as pastures. The livestock reared in the region are the llama, sheep, alpaca, and goats.
There are almost 1,000 different species of animals found in the region. Two-thirds of the total species found in the region have lived in the mountains for thousands of years.
There are approximately 30,000 species of plants located in the region. The Andes are the only place in the world with such diverse plant species.
Birds, too, have adapted to the high altitudes. About 140 hummingbird species can be found in the Andes, and research has discovered that these hummingbirds have evolved to thrive despite the low levels of oxygen.
The Andes were the origin of important crops such as potatoes, tobacco, tomatoes, and Cinchona pubescens – which produces quinine for treating malaria.