The Andes are a mountain range along the western coast of South America. They stretch over 7,000 km / 4,400 miles from the south of Argentina and Chile to the north of Colombia. They are also found in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. The Amazon River system has its sources in the eastern flanks of the Andes. The Andes are the longest exposed mountain range of the world, and the second-highest after the Himalayas. The Andes mountain range is the highest mountain range outside Asia. Aconcagua, the highest peak, rises to 6,962 m (22,841 ft.) above sea level. The top of Mount Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is the point on the Earth's surface most distant from its centre. Mount Chimborazo is an inactive volcano in Ecuador, which last erupted over a thousand years ago. The Andes run the entire length of South America, from the humid tropics of the Caribbean to the ice fields of Patagonia. The longest north-south mountain range in the world, the Andes encompass a tremendous range of ecosystems and are home to a rich variety of plant and animal species and human communities.
With European colonization and the collapse of the Incan Empire, mountain areas not only lost their political and economic status, but also the transportation infrastructure throughout the mountain areas disappeared. Stone ruins lost for centuries have only recently come to light. Ancient civilizations such as the Chachapoyas "Cloud People" have left but a few clues to the mysteries of the Andes Mountains. Archaeology discoveries are now becoming a frequent event and an exciting time for the adventurous traveler now presents itself.
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