The ranges of the Andes Mountains, around 5,500 miles (8,900 km) long and 2nd only to the Himalayas in typical elevation, constitute a formidable and continuous barrier, with many summits exceeding 20,000 feet (6,100 metres). The Venezuelan Andes—the northernmost selection of the system—run parallel to the Caribbean Sea coast in Venezuela west of Caracas, before turning to the southwest and entering Colombia. In Colombia the Andes—which trend normally to the north and also south—form three distinct ranges: the Cordilleras Oriental, Central, and Occidental. The sink of the Magdalena River, in between the Oriental and the central ranges, and also the valley of the Cauca River, in between the main and the Occidental ranges, are vast rift valleys formed by faulting fairly than by erosion. An aerial view of the Andes in Colombia shows, within fairly short distances, a sequence of hot lowlands interspersed v high arrays with snowcapped peaks.

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South that Lima, Peru, and also extending through western Bolivia, the Andes branch into two unique ranges. In between them lies the Altiplano, a vast complicated of high plateaus between about 12,000 and also 15,000 feet (3,700 and 4,600 metres) in elevation and also as much as 125 mile (200 km) wide. The Altiplano forms a maze of depressions, hills, and vast plains there is no equivalent other than in Tibet. Water accumulates in closed basins to type marshes and lakes, the biggest of which is Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and also Bolivia. That main region of the Andes has actually been dissected by number of rivers, all of which have reduced spectacular gorges under the eastern slopes.


Tablelands referred to as tepuis rise behind Hacha drops on the Carrao River, in the Guiana Highlands the southeastern Venezuela.

Covering an area of around 580,000 square miles (1,500,000 square km), the Brazilian Highlands (also dubbed the Brazilian Plateau) rise to an typical elevation of about 3,000 feet (900 metres) and are crowned by plenty of sierras (ranges). Consisted of in that an ar is Bandeira height (9,482 feet <2,890 metres>), among the highest possible points in Brazil. The São Francisco River, draining a huge basin come the east, has reduced deeply into the highlands. In the north the highlands slope gently to the sea, yet in the eastern they drop abruptly, as much as 2,600 feet (800 metres) within a few miles. Skirting their southern edge, the Serra do Mar has actually summits of an ext than 7,000 feet (2,100 metres) in elevation. The sea has actually partly invaded the lower sections of the original coastal ranges and also formed Guanabara Bay, which has the harbour that Rio de Janeiro. Nearby are together steep-sided rocky peaks as Sugar bread (Portuguese: Pão de Açucar; 1,296 feet <395 metres>) and also Mount Corcovado (2,310 feet <704 metres>), which rise substantially from the sea.


Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, with Sugar loaf Mountain.
Jeremy Woodhouse—Digital Vision/Getty Images

In the far south, Patagonia constitutes a collection of vast tablelands that rise, terracelike, indigenous the Atlantic come the Andes and also are spanned with rounded pebbles and also crumbling sandstones. Geologically recent volcanic eruptions have actually spread sheets the basaltic lava over large parts of southern Patagonia and also have dotted the sedimentary plateaus with volcanic cones.

The lowlands

The Orinoco River basin is nearly coextensive with the Llanos. It lies in between the Venezuelan Andes and also the Guiana Highlands and also is extended with alluvia carried down through the Andean torrents.

Orinoco River, Venezuela
Orinoco River near Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela.
Carl Purcell

The Amazonian depression, the largest river container in the world, forms an massive region, bounded by the Andes to the west, the Guiana Highlands to the north, and also the Brazilian Highlands come the south. The old platform of Precambrian absent underlying the depression is extended with deep great of alluvial sand and also clay, so that it forms an tremendous plain of low undulations, the basic eastward incline being incredibly slight. The river port of Iquitos, Peru, i beg your pardon is around 2,500 mile (4,000 km) native the Atlantic Ocean, is at an elevation of just 384 feet (117 metres), when Manaus, Brazil, far downstream in the heart of the basin, has an elevation of 144 feet (44 metres).

The container of the Paraguay River, in between the Bolivian Andes in the west and also the Brazilian Highlands in the east, is composed of a series of alluvial levels drained by a complex network the rivers interspersed v marshes. To the east, the marshes are referred to as the Pantanal. Castle are only a couple of hundred feet above sea level. Annual flooding during the rainy season (about November with March) reasons an immense swamp come form. The considerable plains west of the river, referred to as the Gran Chaco, usually are arid.

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The Pampas the Argentina, covering almost 300,000 square miles (777,000 square km), consist of a thick build-up of loose sediments lugged down indigenous the Andes. Those deposits, some 1,000 feet (300 metres) deep in ~ Buenos Aires and even depth in other places, have completely buried the old features the the land. The landscape appears perfectly level, back it in reality rises imperceptibly towards the west—from close to sea level at Buenos Aires to 2,320 feet (707 metres) in ~ Mendoza. Part ranges, such as Córdoba and also San Luis, are conspicuous attributes on the otherwise level plains.