The Andes range is a vast mountain system forming a continuous chain of highland along the west coast of South America. It is about 7,000km long, with an average height of 4,000m, second to the Himalayas in altitude, but wice as long

The Altiplano, or the high plain, is an extensive area of high plateau lying in the central Andes, occupying parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, with an average height of 3,300. Unlike the Tibetan Plateau, the Altiplano is dominated by the massive peaks of active volcanoes to the west. Despite its seemingly desolated environment, life thrives (next page)