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21 Fascinating Facts About the Andes Mountains

The Andes mountains are so mysterious and beautiful and they are steeped in history. A visit to this South American mountain range provides much more than a hike, it provides an immersive and fascinating experience. But what exactly makes these mountains so interesting? Read on to find out…

Facts About the Andes Mountains 

Running across the eastern side of South America, the Andes are a magnificent mountain range. These mountains form the terrain of seven countries in South America and are also the source of some of the most important rivers

If you want to know such facts about the Andes Mountains, I’ve covered most of them in this article. So, without any further ado, let’s get into it!

1. Most Andes Mountains Are Volcanic

21 Fascinating Facts About the Andes Mountains

These facts about the Andes Mountains are quite explosive! 

From the outside, most Andes Mountains look like normal mountains! But as they say, don’t judge a book by its cover, as these mountains are actually volcanic. 

The region of the Central Andes Mountains, especially near the border of Chile and Argentina, has many volcanoes

The highest active volcano in the world, named Cotopaxi, is also located in these mountains. It has a height of 19,347 feet, and it last erupted in January 2016. Apart from this volcano, there are more than 150 other active volcanoes in the Andes range. 

2. The Highest Navigable Lake in the World Is in the Andes Mountains 

Lake Titicaca, located in the Andes Mountains, and between Bolivia and Peru is considered the highest navigable lake in the world!

This lake is located at a height of 12,507 feet (3,812 metres) above sea level and is the largest freshwater lake in South America. It’s also the highest lake among other the world’s largest lakes and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Lake Titicaca is considered the highest navigable lake, due to its area and depth. The lake has an area of 8,372 square kilometres and a depth of 920 feet, which makes it suitable for navigation by many vessels.

Additionally, there are many harbours and ports near the lake, making it navigable for the vessels. 

3. The Amazon River Originates in the Andes

This is one of my favourite facts about the Andes Mountains, as the Amazon has always intrigued me!

The Amazon River, the largest river in the world by volume, is known to originate in the Andes. The river’s source starts from the Andean mountains of Peru, and then the river starts moving eastwards. Due to this reason, one-third of the river is in Peru, and two-thirds is in Brazil. 

In its long journey, the Amazon River meets many other small rivers such as the Rio Negro, Japurá River, Madeira River, Xingu River, and many more. 

After passing through the Amazon rainforest, the mouth of the river drains into the Atlantic Ocean. 

4. The Biodiversity in the Andes Is Incredible

These facts about the Andes Mountains are for flora and fauna lovers!

As the Andes Mountains span a huge area of 3.371 million square kilometres, there’s a lot of biodiversity in this mountain range. 

Almost 1/6th of the planet’s plants are found in the Andes range. 

Along with that, the whole mountain range is home to over 1500 bird species, 800 amphibian species, 500 reptile species, and 600 species of mammals. Many of these birds and animals are endemic to the mountains. Hence, they aren’t found anywhere else in the world!

5. Is Mount Chimborazo the Actual Highest Point on Earth?

21 Fascinating Facts About the Andes Mountains

These facts about the Andes Mountains will make you question your knowledge a little bit. 

As a kid, we’ve all learnt that the highest point on Earth is Mount Everest, as it has a height of 29,031.7 feet above sea level

However, when we actually measure the height from the Earth’s centre, it is found that Mount Chimborazo is the highest point. This mountain is located in the Andes range of Ecuador and has an elevation of 20,548 feet above sea level. 

Now, there’s a reason why Mount Chimborazo is higher than Mount Everest when you measure it from the Earth’s centre. 

The Earth has an equatorial bulge, due to its rotation, and isn’t a perfect sphere. Hence, the summit of Mount Chimborazo is farther away from the centre, compared to Mount Everest.

6. Your Vegetables May Come From the Andes Mountains! 

Apart from its rich biodiversity, many staple vegetables, like potatoes and tomatoes, are also grown abundantly in the Andes Mountains. Let’s discuss these facts about the Andes Mountains in a bit more detail.

Both tomatoes and potatoes have originated from the Andes Mountains. In fact, Peru has more than 3,800 varieties of potatoes! Other Andean countries like Ecuador and Colombia are also known for their potato and tomato harvests. 

7. The Andes Are the Longest Chain of Fold Mountains in the World

Before I delve into these specific facts about the Andes Mountains, let’s understand what fold mountains are. 

Fold mountains are a special type of mountains that are formed when two tectonic plates are pushed together and lead to the folding of the Earth’s crust. 

Now, the Andes are the longest chain of fold mountains, as they stretch for an area of 7,250 kilometres! These mountains cover seven countries (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela) along the western coast of South America. 

8. The World’s Largest Salt Flat Is In Bolivian Andes

Are you looking for a true heaven on Earth? Continue reading these facts about the Andes Mountains!

The Bolivian Andes has the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, which covers an area of 10,582 square kilometres. 

The fascinating thing about this salt flat is that during the rainy season, the water covers the flat area, and makes the land look like a mirror! It looks as if the sky is on the ground too. 

If you don’t believe me, simply look at its gorgeous pictures!

9. A Plane Crashed in the Andes in 1972

This is one of the most tragic facts about the Andes Mountains. 

In 1972, an Uruguayan plane, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, was flying over the Andes. The plane had 45 passengers, including the Uruguayan rugby team, and their close ones. However, the plane crashed along the Andes region in the Argentina-Chile border, on October 13, 1972. 

In the plane crash, only 16 passengers out of the 45 passengers survived. 

The story doesn’t end there. These 16 passengers lived in extremely harsh conditions in the mountains, and (Trigger Warning!) even ate the meat of the deceased to stay alive. Finally, they were rescued after being stranded for two months. 

10. These Islands Are Actually Andes Peaks!

21 Fascinating Facts About the Andes Mountains

Here’s one of the most shocking facts about the Andes Mountains.

There are some islands that are actually submerged Andes Mountains’ peaks. These islands include Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. They’re also known as the ABC islands. 

The ABC islands are situated in the Caribbean Sea, near the Venezuelan coast. According to geologists, the tectonic movements of the Earth caused the submerged Andes’ peaks to rise above the sea. This gave rise to the unique ABC islands. 

11. The Andes Were Home to the Incas

Here are some historical facts about the Andes Mountains for history lovers!

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Inca civilization was pretty huge in the Andean Mountains of South America. They even had their own capital city, Cusco, which is located in present-day Peru. 

The Incas are quite popular for Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel, built above the Urubamba River valley, on the Peruvian side of the Andes Mountains. 

Machu Picchu is often praised for its excellent architectural style and breathtaking location. No wonder it’s one of the seven wonders of the world!

12. The Andes Are Loaded With Minerals

The Andes are a huge mountain range. So, let’s discuss some facts about the Andes Mountains related to the minerals found there. 

The world’s largest gold mine, Yanacocha, is located in the Andes Mountains, in Peru. Additionally, the copper deposits found in the Chile and Peru side of the Andes also account for over 50% of the globally mined copper!

Many people believe that there are more than 750 million tons of copper deposits in the Andes which aren’t discovered yet. 

Similarly, there might also be 20 million tons of molybdenum, 13,000 tons of gold, and 250,000 tons of silver yet to be discovered from the Andes. 

13. Tectonic Activity Formed the Andes

In the previous facts about the Andes Mountains, I’ve mentioned how the Andes are a folding mountain range. Well, let’s understand the formation of the Andes in detail.

The Andes Mountains are a result of the tectonic activity between two plates – the Nazca Plate, located below the eastern Pacific Ocean, and the South American Plate, below South America.

Now, due to the tectonic movements of these plates, the Nazca Plate went below the South American Plate. This led to many volcanic eruptions, and the folding of the South American Plate, which further gave rise to the Andean peaks that we see today!

14. The Andes Are the Birthplace of Many Freshwater Rivers

The Amazon River isn’t the only river that originates from the Andes Mountains. In fact, this mountain range is the birthplace of many other important freshwater rivers. Let’s talk about a few of these facts about the Andes Mountains. 

Apart from the Amazon River, the Orinoco River also originates from the Venezuelan Andes and flows through Venezuela and Colombia. Just like the Amazon River, it also empties into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Other rivers originating from the Andes include the Paraná River (near Brazil) and the Ucayali River (near the Peruvian Andes).

15. Climate Change Could Impact the Andes

Climate change is ruining a lot of natural resources, including the Andes. 

It can lead to problems such as the melting of the Andean glaciers, which can severely affect the rivers flowing from the Andes region. 

Additionally, an increase or decrease in the temperature or rainfall in the Andes can also harm the endemic species there, as they’re used to the original environment. 

16. Nobody Knows the Origins of the Name “Andes”

21 Fascinating Facts About the Andes Mountains

In most instances, people know where the name of a particular region came from. However, in the case of the Andes, people aren’t so sure. 

There are many theories about the origins of the name “Andes”. Some think that the name originates from the Quechua word, “anti”, meaning east. 

On the other hand, some think that it is from the Aymara word “anta”, which means “copper colour”. 

Well, it’s still a mystery!

17. 85 Million People Live in the Andes

The Andes Mountains aren’t just home to the birds and the animals, but also many humans!

As these mountain ranges extend over seven countries, it isn’t surprising that there are around 85 million people residing here. Therefore, it’s considered one of the most densely populated mountain ranges in the world too.

18. Locals Use Animals for Transportation in the Andes

As you may already know, the Andes Mountains have rugged and rocky terrain. Hence, it’s quite difficult and even dangerous to drive a vehicle there. Due to this reason, the locals living in the Andes Mountains rely on animals for transportation. 

Llamas and alpacas are two of the main domesticated animals that are used for transportation in the Andes. These animals can handle the steep slopes, and (unrelated) they’re also incredibly adorable!

The locals also use horses and mules for transportation in the Andes. 

19. Andes Has the Second Largest Plateau in the World

The Altiplano, located in the central Andes, is the second-largest plateau in the world after the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. 

This plateau spans across Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, and covers a region of around 200,000 square kilometres. It also has an elevation of 13,123 feet above sea level.

20. The Andean Condor Is the Symbol of the Andes Region

One of the largest flying birds in the world, the majestic Andean Condor is a bird native to the Andes Region. 

This bird is considered sacred to the indigenous people of the Andes. It is known to represent wisdom and power. Hence, it has become the symbol of the entire Andean landscape.

21. The Andes Range Is of the Best Places for Trekking

21 Fascinating Facts About the Andes Mountains

If you’re an outdoorsy person, hear these facts about the Andes Mountains!

As the Andes Mountains are quite extensive, there are many peaks that are suitable for trekking. Every peak has unique and breathtaking views to offer.

One of the most popular treks in the Andes is the Cotopaxi trek. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the highest active volcano. Therefore, you’ll get some stunning views of the landscape around it. 

If you want to explore the trails of the Incas, you can trek on the Salkantay Route to reach Machu Picchu. 

Similarly, there are many exciting trekking points in the Andes, like Rainbow Mountain, Nahuel Huapi National Park, and Mount Fitz Roy.

Further Reading – Facts About the Andes Mountains

The Andes Mountains offer spectacular views, but within these views, there are so many things that we don’t care to know about. 

So, I hope these facts about the Andes Mountains help you learn a thing or two about this beautiful mountain range.

There are other such mountain-related articles on my blog as well, that you can check out!