World Facts

Major Mountain Ranges Of South America

The Andes is the most prominent mountain range in South America.

A mountain range refers to a series of hills or mountains arranged in a line and linked together by high ground. There are several mountain ranges located in South America, namely the Andes, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Cordillera Blanca, Cordillera Occidental, Serra do Mar, Mantiqueira Mountains, Cordillera Paine, Cordillera Oriental, Wilhelmina Mountains, and the Cordillera Huayhuash. The largest mountain range in the continent is the Andes Mountains.

1. Andes Mountains

The Andes Mountains is a large mountain range that extends through six countries, which are Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela. The range has a length of 4,300 m, and cities such as Sucre, Quito, La Paz, and Medellin are situated on its plateaus. The Andes is subdivided into three primary divisions: Wet Andes, Tropical Andes, and Dry Andes. Its highest peak is Aconcagua, which has an elevation of 6,962 m, and is among the world’s Seven Summits. Other mountains within the Andes include Mount Ojos del Salado, Monte Pissis, Mount Mercedario, Mount Incahuasi, and Mount Bonete. The Andes is the longest mountain range in South America, and was formed during the Mezosoic Era and Tertiary period through the movement of tectonic plates.

2. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Located in Colombia, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is among the world’s highest coastal mountain ranges. The range is pyramid-shaped, covers an area of 17,000 km2, and is located near the city of Santa Marta. The highest peak in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is Pico Simón Bolívar, which has an elevation of 5,700 m. Other mountain in the range include Mount Colón and Mount Bolivar. The Sierra Nevada ranges were formed by plate tectonic movement during the Mesozoic Era. It is famous for its pristine forests and approximately 160 billion years of granite formation. The mountain range also serves as the source of 36 rivers.

3. Cordillera Blanca

The Cordillera Blanca is a mountain range located in Peru, which is part of the larger Andes range, and is 200 km long and 21 km wide. Most of the range falls within Huascarán National Park. The highest peak in the range is Huascarán, which is 6,768 m high, and is also the highest mountain in Peru. Other peaks in the Cordillera Blanca include Santa Cruz, Copa, Pucaranra, Huantsán, Alpamayo, Pisco, Andavite, Tuco, Kima Rumi, and Pucaraju. The Cordillera Blanca has the largest ice concentration in Peru, and is known worldwide as the most extensive tropical ice-covered mountain range. Consequently, snowmelt from the range is a major source of water for northern Peru. Some of the notable lakes found in the Cordillera Blanca are Lake Querococha, Lake Alicocha, and Lake 69.

4. Cordillera Occidental (Central Andes)

The Cordillera Occidental is a mountain range in Bolivia and Chile. Its highest peak is Nevada Sajama, which is 6,542 m tall and permanently covered in snow. The mountain range is divided into three sections: the northern section, central section, and southern section. The northern section contains Nevada Sajama, the highest peak in the range. The central section is located between Coipasa and Uyuni, and features the Ollagüe volcano. The southern section is dominated by volcanic activity, fog, and sandstorms, and its highest peak is Licancabur, which is 5,920 m tall.

5. Serra do Mar

The Serra do Mar is located in Brazil, near Sao Paulo and Parana. It is 1,500 km long and its highest peak Pico Paraná, which is 1,877 m tall. The Serra do Mar runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil, and extends to islands such as Ilhabela and Ilha Anchieta. The mountain range was formed approximately 60 million years ago.

6. Mantiqueira Mountains

The Mantiqueira Mountains are located in Southeast Brazil, within the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Minas Gerais. The mountain range starts at the bank of the Paraiba do Sul River and extends northeast to Serra do Espinhaço. The highest peak in the Mantiqueira Mountains is Pedra da Mina, which has an elevation of 2,798 m. The name Mantiqueira is derived from a word in the Tupi language that means "crying mountains," and is a reference to the range's many springs and streams.

7. Cordillera Paine

The Cordillera Paine is a mountain range located in Torre del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The name Paine means "blue" in the indigenous Tehuelche language, and describes the range's blue appearance. The Cordillera Paine's highest peak is Cerro Paine Grande, which has an elevation of 2,884 m. Other peaks in the range include Cuerno Principal and Cerro Paine.

8. Cordillera Oriental

The Cordillera Oriental is a mountain range located in Colombia that is 1,200 km long and covers an area of 144,252 km2. The mountain range provides basins for the Magdalena River, Amazon River, and Orinoco River, among others. The Cordillera Oriental is believed to have been formed in the Neoproterozoic-Holocene Age, and its highest peak is Ritacuba Blanco, which has an elevation of 5,410 m.

9. Wilhelmina Mountains

The Wilhelmina Mountains is a mountain range located in Suriname, within the district of Sipaliwini. It is 113 km long and was named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. The highest peak in the range is Julianatop, which is 1,280 m tall, while the second highest peak is Tafelberg, which has an elevation of 1,026 m. The Wilhelmina Mountains are surrounded by tropical rain forest and inhabited by over 3,000 species of higher plants.

10. Cordillera Huayhuash

The Cordillera Huayhuash is located Peru, within the borders of the provinces of Lima, Huanuco, and Ancash. The name Huayhuash is thought to have originated from two words in the indigenous Quechua language that mean "weasel" or "squirrel." The mountain range is 30 km long and is situated in a relatively isolated area. The nearest villages to the mountain range are Cajatambo and Chiquian. The highest peak in the Cordillera Huayhuash is Yerupajá, which is 6,635 m tall. Other peaks in the range that have elevations greater than 6,000 m include Siula, Jirishanca, Sarapo, Yerupaja Chico, and Rasac.

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