The Andes Mountains
The jaw-dropping Andes mountain range in South America offer the intrepid traveller a hike to remember.
The Andes Mountains offer a challenging, breathtaking and unforgettable destination for travellers.
Not located at the end of your armies, but in South America, the Andes Mountains run for 4,500 miles (7,000 km) from the north to the south of the continent along the western coast. The range travels through seven countries and a number of climates, from Cape Horn to Panama and Venezuela.
One of the highest and longest mountain ranges in the world, the Andes is separated into the southern, central, and northern regions, with the northern region closest to the equator and hottest.
Most settlements in the Andes are hard to reach and are accessible only by bus, plane or arduous trek. In many of the Andean villages, old ways of life and traditions are kept alive by tribes and they can prove fascinating places to visit, much like stepping back in time.
The northern region of the Andes, largely in Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia, tends to be rainy and warm, with impressive tropical rainforests teeming with plant and animal life. There are also some snow-covered mountains further from the sea, bleak grasslands and rich river valleys.
The central region of the Andes in Bolivia, Peru and northern Chile, is generally very dry and mild, with some tropical regions in Peru and Bolivia. Mountain animals, such as the lllama, chinchilla, South American condor and puma can all be found in the central Andes, as well as Puya raimondii, the largest herb in the world.
Lake Titicaca between Bolivia and Peru is simply stunning and home to an impressive Inca temple, while Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, is well worth the hike in Peru for an unforgettable experience.
The southern region of the Andes, in Argentina and Chile, is sparsely populated, rainy and cool. The mountain lakes provide a dramatic backdrop for fishing and walking and the impressive glaciers, peaks and wild terrain of southern Chile's Patagonia provide a spectacular and remote experience.
The name Andes comes from the Quechua word andi, or 'high crest', and the range has a number of active volcanoes, including the vast Cotopaxi, some of which can be visited.
There are hotels dotted around foothills of the Andes and visitors can stay in relative comfort. However, the region will be of most interest to those seeking adventure, jaw-dropping views and fascinating wildlife.
The Andean peoples of Bolivia, Chile and Peru also provide an insight into South America's past and the vibrant cultures that existed there before European settlers arrived.
Visit the ancient cites of the Incas, the ruins of past glories, the towns with their Spanish colonial architecture, the vibrant markets, the nature reserves and gaze out at some of the most extreme landscapes in the world.
A growing number of travel companies offer holidays and treks in the Andes mountains, which vary from relatively comfortable excursions into the towns, cities, rainforests and lower regions of the range, to more extreme trips.
The best way to see the Andes in a short space of time is to arrange a tour with a guide or reputable company specialising in the region.