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Land of winds > The land > Geography | Issue 04. Mar.-Apr.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The Argentinean Andes

The Argentinean Andes
The Andean range runs from north to south along the western border of Argentina, stretching from the province of Jujuy up to the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (literally, “The Great Island of the Land of Fire”). The beauty of the Andean scenery varies from the sculpted, parched earth found in the northern altiplanos (high plateaus) to the lakes and glaciers dotted in the southern region. The northern third of the Argentinean Andes is the southern part of the so-called “Andean cultural area”, an area that was under the influence of the ancient Tawantinsuyu or “Inca Empire”. It is the only region regarded as purely “andean” in the broadest sense of the word. Located in northwest Argentina (NOA), this area extends across the provinces of Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca and La Rioja.


The Argentinean Andes
Different punas cover most of the province of Jujuy (puna de Jujuy, de Lípez, de Atacama). This region comprises desolated high plateaus and cliffs, whose flora includes icho and iro scrublands as well as the tola (a bush typical of South American puna). In addition, there are large salares (salt flats) and beautiful endorheic basins such as the “Laguna de Los Pozuelos” and “Laguna de Guayatayoc” lakes scattered among the valleys. Native mammal and bird fauna includes the vicuna, the viscacha, the chinchilla and the condor.


The Argentinean Andes
These plateaus descend to the east constituting minor mountain ranges (the pre-Cordillera) and intermontane basins such as the long valley, with the Grande River running through the bottom, located to the east of the central Andean Altiplano better known as the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

Jujuy Province, in Wikipedia.
Puna de Atacama, in Wikipedia.
Laguna de Pozuelos, in Wikipedia [es].
Laguna de Guayatayoc, in Wikipedia [es].
Río Grande de Jujuy, in Wikipedia [es].
Quebrada de Humahuaca, in Wikipedia.

Picture 01. Purmamarca, Jujuy.
Picture 02. Argentinean puna (high plateau).
Picture 03. Susques, Jujuy.
Picture 04. Argentinean puna (high plateau).
Picture 05. Salinas Grandes, Jujuy.

The Argentinean Andes
Further south, in the province of Salta, the puna continues to be quite impressive and remains dotted with salares (e.g. Salar de Pocitos and Salar de Arizaro, the latter including the Cono de Arita a perfectly triangular volcanic cone). The puna ends in the Quebrada del Toro, where the picturesque small town of San Antonio de los Cobres is located surrounded by rugged landscape of huge cardones (cactus) and ochre mountains
Along this extensive chain of mountains we found the Nevado de Cachi (6,380 m) and the Nevado de Chañi (5,896 m), the Llullaillaco volcano (from Quechua llullaq yaku, “deceptive water”, 6,739 m) and the Valles Calchaquíes (Calchaquí Valleys). The latter, which stretch up to the province of Tucumán across an enchanting landscape of red rocks and cardones, became the last rebount of the Diaguita culture and the tritonic music (e.g. the baguala and the vidala).

Salar de Arizaro, in Wikipedia [es].
San Antonio de los Cobres, in Wikipedia.
Nevado de Cachi, in Wikipedia.
Nevado de Chañi, in Wikipedia.
Llullaillaco volcano, in Wikipedia.
Calchaquí Valleys, in Wikipedia.

Picture 06. Llullaillaco volcano.
Picture 07. Nevado de Cachi.
Picture 08. Cono de Arita and salar de Arizaro.
Picture 09. Calchaquí Valleys 01.
Picture 10. Calchaquí Valleys 02.

The Argentinean Andes
The puna runs southward into the province of Catamarca. Imposing salares and volcanoes such as the Antofalla (from Kunza “where the sun dies”, 6,440 m) lie in this desolated rocky landscape. Significant summits of the cordillera are the Monte Pissis (6,795 m), the Nevado Ojos del Salado (6,893 m) and the Nevado Tres Cruces (6,748 m).

Antofalla, in Wikipedia.
Monte Pissis, in Wikipedia [es].
Ojos del Salado, in Wikipedia.
Nevado Tres Cruces, in Wikipedia.

Picture 11. Vicunas in the puna of Catamarca.
Picture 12. Antofalla.
Picture 13. Pissis.
Picture 14. Ojos del Salado.
Picture 15. Nevado Tres Cruces.

The Argentinean Andes
The central part of the Andean range extends across the provinces of La Rioja, San Juan
Mendoza and Neuquén. According to the Britannica Encyclopaedia, the mining industry of the Andes is one of the most important of the world. Mining is especially extensive in the south and several deposits of petroleum are distributed along the eastern side of the Andes. However, this region is also known by the vineyards located in the foothills of the Andes, in wading lovely valleys with streams and torrents coursing through them. In the province of San Juan, the range is a succession of narrowly spaced mountain ridges with snow-covered peaks including the imposing figure of the Cerro Mercedario (6,770 m). In Mendoza are located the Tupungato volcano (maybe from Huarpe “stars viewpoint”, 6,550 m) and Aconcagua (maybe from Quechua “stone guard”, 6,962 m), the highest mountain in the Americas.

Mercedario, in Wikipedia.
Tupungato, in Wikipedia.
Aconcagua, in Wikipedia.

Picture 16. Mount Mercedario.
Picture 17. Tupungato volcano.
Picture 18. Aconcagua 01.
Picture 19. Aconcagua 02.

The Argentinean Andes
Located in the province of Neuquén there are several volcanoes such as Lanín (3,776 m) and Domuyo (4,709 m) and mountain lakes (Traful, Lácar) of incomparable beauty. Many of them are protected inside National Parks, which also protect all native animals and plants that in these latitudes became lush and abundant including an endangered species of deer native to the mountains of Argentina and Chile known as huemul (south Andean deer) and emblematic trees such as the pehuén (Araucaria Araucana) and the arrayán (Luma Apiculata).

Lanín volcano, in Wikipedia.
Domuyo volcano, in Wikipedia.
Traful Lake, in Wikipedia.
Lácar Lake, in Wikipedia.
Lanín National Park, in Wikipedia.
Los Arrayanes National Park, in Wikipedia.
Pehuén, in Wikipedia.
Huemul, in Wikipedia.
Arrayán, in Wikipedia.

Picture 20. Lanín volcano.
Picture 21. Domuyo volcano.
Picture 22. Lácar Lake.
Picture 23. Traful Lake.
Picture 24. Lanín National Park.
Picture 25. Arrayanes forest.
Picture 26. Pehuenes.
Picture 27. Huemul.

The southernmost part of the Argentinean Andes (and the Cordillera itself) lies in the Patagonia. Its altitude decreases as it goes southward and reaches the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro are home to one of the most beautiful Andean scenery and natural wonders in Argentina, the Nahuel Huapi Lake, located within the National Park of the same name.
Further south, in the province of Chubut, the mountains are not that high and the valleys are dotted with stunning glacial lakes such as Puelo, Epuyén, Futalaufquen and Fontana Lake (some of them located in National Parks).
In the province of Santa Cruz, Mount Fitz Roy or Chaltén (3,375 m, sacred mountain for the Tehuelche people) the lakes Argentino, Viedma, San Martín / O’Higgins, Buenos Aires / General Carrera and Cochrane / Pueyrredón (the latter three are shared by Argentina and Chile and have, therefore, two names) and the massive Perito Moreno glacier enhance the beauty of this region, which includes the Southern Patagonian Icefield, one of the world’s largest water reserves.
The Patagonian Andes are home to the guanaco, the puma, the condor and the cauquén (Kelp goose), all of them commonplace in the mythology of native peoples of the region (Tehuelches Aonikenk and Gününa Küna).

Nahuel Huapi Lake, in Wikipedia.
Puelo Lake, in Wikipedia.
Epuyén Lake, in Wikipedia [es].
Futalaufquen Lake, in Wikipedia.
Fontana Lake, in Wikipedia [es].
Mount Fitz Roy, in Wikipedia.
Argentino Lake, in Wikipedia.
Viedma Lake, in Wikipedia.
O’Higgins / San Martín Lake, in Wikipedia.
Buenos Aires / General Carrera Lake, in Wikipedia.
Cochrane / Pueyrredón Lake, in Wikipedia.
Southern Patagonian Icefield, in Wikipedia.

Picture 28. Nahuel Huapi Lake 01.
Picture 29. Nahuel Huapi Lake 02.
Picture 30. Nahuel Huapi Lake 03.
Picture 31. Puelo Lake.
Picture 32. Epuyén Lake.
Picture 33. Futalaufquen Lake.
Picture 34. Fontana Lake.
Picture 35. Mount Fitz Roy 01.
Picture 36. Mount Fitz Roy 02.
Picture 37. Argentino Lake.
Picture 38. Viedma Lake.
Picture 39. O’Higgins / San Martín Lake.
Picture 40. Buenos Aires / General Carrera Lake.
Picture 41. Cochrane / Pueyrredón Lake.
Picture 42. Patagonian guanacos.

The Cordillera of the Andes in Tierra del Fuego culminates in the snow-capped peaks of Mount Darwin and Mount Sarmiento (2,200 m) on the Chilean border and Mount Cornú (1,490 m) on the Argentinean. These heights are inconsiderable when compared with those of the Andes further north. The range is bounded by the deep depression of Fagnano (or Kami) Lake, considered as sacred waters by the now extinct Selk’nam people. Part of the Cordillera upper valleys is occupied by glaciers that reach down to the sea amid dense temperate forests consisting mainly of evergreens such as the canelo (winter’s bark), the lenga (or lenga beech), the ñire (Antarctic beech) and the calafate (Magellan barberry). The latter, an evergreen shrub that is grown commercially for its fruit and potential medical uses, is a symbol of Patagonia and has its own Tehuelche legend.

Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, in Wikipedia.
Fagnano Lake, in Wikipedia.
Southern beeches, in Wikipedia.
Calafate, in Wikipedia.
Tehuelche people, in Wikipedia.

Picture 43. Fagnano Lake 01.
Picture 44. Fagnano Lake 02.
Picture 45. Mount Cornú.
Picture 46. Solitaria Lenga Beech.
Picture 47. Lenga Beeches in the autumn.
Picture 48. Tierra del Fuego forests.

There is a variety of Andean musical cultures in Argentina and all of them reflect the spirit of the landscape in which they are created. Many songs describe the nature of the land over which the song passes such as rivers, ravines and mountains, a tribute to the flora and fauna of the region.


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