The Andes

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12545

Did you know there is a mountain range that spans seven countries? You can find volcanoes and deserts and glaciers and ruins . . . Tour the Andes and find out why they are fascinating and important!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What is the longest mountain range in the world?
  • Does the answer really concern you, even if you don't live there?

You may be surprised!

The Andes is a beautiful region located in South America.

It boasts a unique climate and some of the largest mountains in the world. As you learn about this remarkable region, take notes on the interesting facts you come across regarding the geography of this region.

At around 4,500 miles long, the Andes mountain range is considered the longest mountain range in the world. These mountains run along the western coast of South America, spanning seven countries. Those countries are Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.

Look at the map of South America below.

  • Can you find all seven countries that contain the Andes?

map of South America

While the Andes may comprise the longest mountain range, they are not the highest mountains. That title belongs to the Himalayan Mountains, located in southeast Asia. The tallest mountain in the Andes is Mount Aconcagua, which is 22,841 feet tall. That’s 6,188 feet shorter than Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, located in the Himalayas.

The following image shows Mount Aconcagua, which is located in Argentina.

  • As you look at the image, what observations can you make about Mount Aconcagua and the surrounding peaks?

Mount Aconcagua

The Andes are also home to the tallest volcano in the world, Ojos del Salado. Ojos del Salado is located along the border between Chile and Argentina. It is 22,615 feet high. In addition to Ojos del Salado, the Andes is home to more than 50 volcanos.

Look at the image of Ojos del Salado, pictured below.

  • How does it compare to Mount Aconcagua?

Ojos del Salado

Image by sergejf, via flickr, is available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

What is the climate like in the Andes?

The Andes act as a large wall between the Pacific Ocean and South America, creating a unique climate with temperatures and precipitation that are drastically different throughout the region. As with any mountain, the farther north you go, the colder it becomes. Many of the mountain peaks are covered in snow.

Also, the farther South you move through the Andes region, the colder it becomes. In the United States, we traditionally think the farther south you go, the warmer it becomes.

  • Why is it the opposite in the Andes?

Use the map below to help you develop an answer:

world map

By looking at the map, you should have observed that the Andes are located below the equator. The farther away from the equator you move, in either direction, the colder it becomes. Therefore, in the Andes, the farther south you move, the colder the temperatures will be.

Temperature is not the only thing that changes throughout the Andes. The landscape and precipitation are also uniquely different. Within the seven-country region, you can find rainforests, deserts, plains, and 99% of the world’s tropical glaciers. The northern and southern parts of the region are traditionally wet while the central part of the region is dry. Take a look at the climate below.

Find the seven countries that make up the Andes. Make a list of the different climate zones that make up the region:

South America climate map

Image by the University of Melbourne, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

  • Based on the climate, which part(s) of the Andes would you most like to visit?
  • How could the climate(s) you selected make for an enjoyable vacation?

Who lives in the Andes?

The rough terrain, cold temperatures, and lack of oxygen make it difficult for human life to live on the mountains. A few cities have appeared along the Andes in recent years, including Bogota, Columbia. Evidence shows that human life first appeared in the region a few thousand years ago. Remarkably, these mountain shepherds lived at elevations of 17,000 feet. Scientists have discovered the cells of these shepherds changed to allow them to adapt to the temperature and elevation of the region.

In 1911, historians discovered the city of Machu Picchu in Peru. This city that sits at an elevation of around 7,700 feet was home to an Inca civilization in the 1400s before they were killed off by wars and disease. This abandoned city had remained untouched for thousands of years and offered historians a glimpse into the lives of the Incas. Today, Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination.

The image below shows the ruins of Machu Picchu.

  • What do you notice about where the city was located?
  • What challenges might the Incas have faced living in this location?

As you have read, the Andes is a very diverse region in South America. The following video shows a variety of images of the Andes. The video lacks narration, but gives you an opportunity to see and experience the beauty of the Andes. As you watch 4K Video - The Andes Ultra HD, from LoungeV Films, think about the following questions:

  • What different types of landscapes do you see?
  • What different types of wildlife do you see?
  • How can the landscape for one region look so different?
  • How does the Andes’ landscape compare to the landscape where you live?
  • Would you want to visit the Andes?


After you have finished watching the video, discuss the questions above with your teacher or parent.

Then, move on to the Got It? section to read about a big problem that is occurring in the Andes and what scientists are doing to combat this problem.

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