The Andes are the longest mountain range in the world, stretching 7,250 kilometers (4,200 miles) down the southern half of the world. The Andes run north to the warm equator, and stretch south towards Cape Horn and Patagonia, a windy, cold, semi-desert where the winter temperatures stay below freezing. The southern tip of the Andes is not far from Antartica, home of the south pole!
The name "Andes" comes from a native word whose meaning is unkown today. The tallest peak is Mt. Aconcagua, a giant volcano towering 6,959 meters (22,831 feet) above sea level. The Andes mountains have been formed by one of the crustal plates of the Pacific ocean floor pushing slowly against the American continental plate. This pressure has caused the sedimentary rocks to bend and fold up into long ridges, called "sierras". Most of the highest mountains in the Andes are volcanoes, some still active, many dormant or extinct. Eruptions and strong earthquakes can cause landslides on the steep slopes. Rich minerals formed here include gold, silver, tin, copper, platinum, lead, and zinc.
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 Picchu, 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.
As of July 2011, Machu Picchu has a limit of 2500 visitors per day, for this reason tickets must be bought in advance. Please enquire for ticket availability.
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