The Andes Mountains are the world’s longest mountain range. Learn where the Andes are located, and learn facts about the Andes’ climate, people, and animals.

Where are the Andes Mountains?

The Andes Mountains line the western edge of South America, from Venezuela all the way along Chile to South America’s southern tip (about 9,000 km in all), making them the longest mountain range in the world. Along that route, they cross through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. By width, they cross into Argentina, which borders with Chile. The Andes are one of the tallest mountain ranges, too, trailing only the Himalayas of Asia in height. Many summits (tops of the mountains) reach higher than 20,000 feet.

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Climates

Because the Andes stretch from the north end of the continent to the southern tip, the range of climates of the mountains varies. Some climates are bone-freezing cold, while others are quite warm. This has to do with the elevation of each climate, as does how close that climate is to the equator. Also, the height of each mountain can play a role in its climate. Each climate supports its own type of animal and plant life.

Regions

The Andes contain three main regions – northern, central, and southern. The northern region is closer to the equator, so it is warmer than the others. In the central region, the weather is mild, while the southern region is colder, since its mountains are further away from the equator. They are closer to the Antarctic than the other two regions.

Each country through which the Andes runs has its own peaks and regions. Traveling from the north, you can enter the Andes through the Trujillo, also known as ‘The Portable City,’ a small town in Venezuela. In Colombia, the Andes are divided up into two chains: the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Central (the Western mountain range and the Central mountain range). Ecuador also has two chains: parallel ranges of mountains aligned from north to south. Between the two is a valley known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes.

The fact that the Andes run the entire length of Chile – a country that is 18 times longer than it is wide at its widest point makes the country virtually impassable. It’s very difficult to pass from Chile into Argentina or vice versa. Also, the two chains of mountains don’t end at Chile; all along the country, there is a deep, if narrow, depression.

In Chile, the Andes contain more than 50 active volcanoes. The land is notoriously treacherous; the farther south one travels, the colder it gets, yet there’s also the Atacama Desert – a dangerous and inhospitable place. Chile’s center is much more hospitable to life; a long river valley with farms and vineyards runs through it.

Two chains also run through Bolivia, but the names change to Cordillera Oriental (the Eastern mountain range) and the Cordillera Occidental (the Western mountain range). In the Eastern mountain range, there are peaks reaching 6,500 meters. The Western mountain range is known for its volcanic activity. It also contains desert areas. In between the two ranges is the Altiplano.

Animals

Because of the sheer size of the Andes, the range supports many different types of animal life. Not only do the Andes house many different types of birds, including the flamingo and the condor, it also provides an environment for the mountain lion, the llama, and the spectacled bear. It houses as well the giant toad and the Andean iguana, one of the few lizards to be found in such a cold climate.

People

Some places of the Andes, such as Peru, were once the home of the Incas. Many people of the Andes live in the Valley of the Volcanoes, due to its rich and fertile soil. Here, they farm, yielding a high productivity of all sorts of foods, including beans, corn and potatoes, among other types of vegetables. Still, it’s very difficult to farm in the Andes in many places, particularly at higher peaks, where there are only two seasons: hot and cold. (It’s hot during the day and cold at night.) Farmers at high altitudes constantly risk loss of crops due to frost.

Dangers

The Andes has many volcanic peaks, and people who live near them typically do not fare well when those peaks erupt. Some villages and towns have had to move several times due to their close proximity to a volcanic peak. Also, due to climate changes, such as water droughts, some tribes of the Andes face extinction, as do many plants and animals.

Regardless of these dangers, the Andes attract tourists, particularly in places where the weather and climate are milder, such as Peru. This can both help and hurt the Andes – the money tourism brings in can help South American countries, but tourists also pose a danger, since they can overuse local resources that aren’t easy to replace, such as water. But the Andes, due to their sheer size, will be around for a long time no matter how much they change.

Lesson Summary

The Andes Mountains line the western edge of South America, from Venezuela all the way along Chile to South America’s southern tip (about 9,000 km in all), making them the longest mountain range in the world. Along that route, they cross through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Because the Andes stretch from the north end of the continent to the southern tip, the range of climates of the mountains varies. Some climates are bone-freezing cold, while others are quite warm.

The Andes contain three main regions – northern, central, and southern. In Colombia, the Andes are divided up into two chains: the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Central (the Western mountain range and the Central mountain range). Between the two is a valley known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes. In Chile, the Andes contain more than 50 active volcanoes. The land is notoriously treacherous; the farther south one travels, the colder it gets, yet there’s also the Atacama Desert. Two chains also run through Bolivia, but the names change to Cordillera Oriental (the Eastern mountain range) and the Cordillera Occidental (the Western mountain range).

Not only do the Andes house many different types of birds, including the flamingo and the condor, it also provides an environment for the mountain lion, the llama, and the spectacled bear. It houses as well the giant toad and the Andean iguana. Some places of the Andes, such as Peru, were once the home of the Incas. Many people of the Andes live in the Valley of the Volcanoes, due to its rich, fertile soil. The Andes has many volcanic peaks, and people who live near them typically do not fare well when those peaks erupt. Regardless of these dangers, the Andes attract tourists, particularly in places where the weather and climate are milder, such as Peru.

Learning Outcomes

When you are finished, you should be able to:

  • Locate the Andes Mountains
  • Name some of the countries crossed by the Andes Mountains
  • Describe the three regions of the Andes
  • Discuss the people and animal life of the Andes Mountains
  • Recall the dangers associated with the Andes