Andean Highlands - Physical Landscapes
The dominant geographic feature of the Andean highlands is the cordillera of the Andes. The Andes range extends from the Caribbean coast of Venezuela to Cape Horn. The cordillera rises on the west from the Pacific ocean to over 6400 metres at its highest point, and descends on the east into the Amazonian jungle. The extreme differences in altitude create distinctive zones: the Pacific coastal desert, the Andean highlands or sierra, and the jungle lowlands. The environmental and ecological features are very different within each zone.
A person climbing through the mountains would find many unique environmental zones, located close together, but at different elevations. This landscape shaped the growth of civilization in the area. Ancient peoples sought ways to use and control resources from different environmental zones.
A cordillera is the entire system of mountain ranges in the same general region.