Lofty Aspirations

A wall of peaks that run along the spine of South America, the Andes Mountains span across 7 countries and is the world’s longest mountain range (7,240km).

Enveloped in contrasting terrains ranging from towering snow-clad summits and cloud forests, to rain shadow deserts which are habitats to a multitude of wildlife, the Andes not only stacks up with breathtaking scenery, it is also a mecca for outdoor activities.

Beyond adventure sports, its unique history and culture (influenced by the Inca Empire – one of the world’s most studied civilisations) live on to this day, which makes the Andes stand out as it offers everything from virgin forests and bustling towns, to unique indigenous peoples and more.

VENEZUELA 

Hugging the northern end of the Andean chain, the Venezuelan Andes cover the states of Trujillo, Merida and Tachira, encompassing the southwest portion of the country. Dotted with tropical cloud forests, jungle-covered valleys vpnarena.se, tepuis (tabletop mountains) and lagoons, most of Venezuela’s Andean peaks range from rocky to snow-clad summits.

SIERRA NEVADA NATIONAL PARK

The highest peak in Venezuela, Pico Bolivar (5,007m) sits in the Sierra Nevada National Park in Merida, the only state in Venezuela with partially alpine conditions. The trek to reach Pico Bolivar involves traversing across bamboo forests veiled in clouds, meadows and lagoons like the Laguna El Suero which rests at the foot of a giant glacier (one of Venezuela’s five expansive glacial areas).

The snow-capped peak is not advisable for inexperienced climbers because of its steep, rocky ridges. Pico Bolivar has various routes for intermediate climbers, the most popular being the well-marked but challenging Weiss Route, which involves scrambling up south face of the peak. Most routes take 5 or more days, which actually helps to acclimatise on the way to the summit.

From the summit, trek to nearby Loma Redona and take the world’s highest and largest cable car for a bird’s eye view, or head back to Merida to visit villages like the striking San Jose, wedged between several steep hills and dotted with well-kept little streets, colonial buildings and churches. Within Sierra Nevada National Park are several other lofty peaks like Pico Humboldt (4,942m) and Pico Bonpland (4,883m). Surrounded by glaciers, the climb up both mountains involve less technical skills, as they are less rocky and steep.

Both Pico Humboldt and Pico Bolivar are also popular springboards for other adventure activities like paragliding or whitewater rafting down mountain streams, which lead to wild rapids on the Acequias and Siniguis rivers.

CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK

Situated in Bolivar State, the Canaima National Park – a World Heritage Site – is the second largest national park in Venezuela. Dappled with rugged terrain from towering tepuis to craggy cliffs, imposing waterfalls and rippling rivers, the park’s two main attractions are the towering Angels Falls and Mt. Roraima. One of the world’s oldest mountain formations, at 2,810m Mt. Roraima (or Roraima Tepui) is the highest peak in the Pakairama range. The majestic summit now serves as a natural border separating Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana.

The ascent up the plateau involves passing cloud forests, waterfalls and villages, taking about 4 days. Looming nearby is Mt. Auyantepui (2,450m) – known as Devil Mountain to the indigenous locals – and cascading over its edge is the world’s tallest waterfall, Angel Falls (979m). Along with breathtaking views, the waterfall is also a starting point for a variety of activities, ποιες ειναι οι καλυτερες στοιχηματικες εταιριες from swimming and kayaking to trekking across the mountaintop, or rock climbing along the precipitous cliffs.

COLOMBIA

Apart from the main coffee regions of the Colombian Andes (which lie in the heart of the country), there is a dramatic mix of rolling valleys, deep canyons, expansive plateaus and snow-covered peaks that form the South American edge of the famous Ring of Fire – a ring that’s capped by the Tolima Peak and runs all the way down to Argentina. There are also over 20 peaks that range from 2,900m to 5,800m nestled within the area, as well as several national parks and numerous colonial towns around the area.

LOS NEVADOS NATIONAL PARK

Covering the western section of Colombia and located in the highest part of the Colombian Andes range at altitudes of 4,500m+, the Los Nevados National Park’s backdrop is dominated by snow-capped volcanoes – like Mt. Quindío (4,760m) and Mt. Tolima (5,216m) – and forests housing the world’s tallest palm trees, Colombia’s own national tree, the 70m tall Wax palm.

Within this park there are a variety of adventure sports to try, from biking and trekking through montane grasslands, scenic villages and waterfalls to ascending peaks like the Nevado del Ruiz (5,311m), which is the only mountain in the park with vehicular access. Upon reaching the summit, there are plenty of the areas to explore, including craters (formed by past eruptions), hot springs and snowfields. Alternatively, sport fishing can be done at the adjacent Otun and Green lakes, both brimming with trout and other species.

EL COCUY NATIONAL PARK

Stretching across the eastern portion of the Colombian Andes, the El Cocuy National Park has massive glaciers, high-altitude lakes and over 30 towering, snow-clad peaks, including Ritacuba Blanco (5,330m) and La Aguja (5,000m).

Relatively isolated compared to the other national parks dotted across the region because of its rugged, hilly terrain, El Cocuy National Park is best explored on foot. Some adventure activities to try include climbing Pulpito del Diablo (4,900m), which has multiple routes to scramble up the north wall or El Concavo (5,200m), an easily accessible mountain that rises right next to Laguna Grande de la Sierra lake. There is also the option of trekking across the expansive and remote Lagunillas Valley, or various other routes that teem with fauna like chinchillas and pumas across the traditional territories of the U’wa Indians. Besides trekking, you can also explore the park on horseback.

BOLIVIA

Besides being the cradle of the Inca civilisation, Bolivia is also known for its rugged terrain as a country. Home to one of the world’s highest cities, La Paz (4,060m), merely acclimatising to the elevations might be tough on some, but there are several local remedies to try.

Bolivia has plenty of rugged terrain to explore from heavily glaciated volcanoes over 5,000m high and alpine meadows in the west, to rainforests, savannahs and the expansive Altiplano – the world’s second largest plateau and its highest lake, Lake Titicaca (3,811m), in the east.

MADIDI NATIONAL PARK

Situated in the northwest of Bolivia – occupying parts of the upper Amazon River basin and even glacial mountains, Madidi National Park is regarded as one of the world’s most diverse landscapes – combining flora and fauna from both the Andes and the Amazon. It is also one of the most popular parks in the region because of its eco-friendly tourism and its high concentration of wildlife, from herons and caimans to the titi monkey (a newly-discovered species) and over 1,000 types of birds. Readily explored on foot, 4WD or canoe in the case of nearby Chalalan Lagoon, the park’s a showcase of Bolivia’s rich biodiversity.

LA PAZ – COROICO

Regarded as the world’s most dangerous road, the ominously-named ‘Death Road’ that links Coroico and La Paz is a 75km dirt track that snakes perilously around the side of a steep mountain. Roughly taking 2 hours from Coroico to La Paz, only hardy (and experienced) mountain bikers should tackle this perilous route, which plunges more than 3,000m.

INCA TRAILS

While the Inca Trail in Peru is undoubtedly the most famous, the Bolivian portion offers several options of ‘Inca’ trails without the herd of trekkers. The most popular trails include the Choro Trail (3-4 days, 47km) and the Takesi Trail (2-3 days, 40km). Both routes are relatively easy to hike along Incan stone paths, and both offer a wide variety of attractions ranging from traditional mountain villages to pretty lakes and views of soaring mountains, dotted with ancient Incan artefacts.

LAKE TITICACA

Stretching across the heights of the Altiplano (itself the second largest mountain plateau in the world after Tibet) – is the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca (3,812m). With its distinct turquoise water, Titicaca offers visitors a range of exploration options – you can trek across eucalyptus groves and willow trees that surround the lake while passing sheep-grazing fields, or kayak across the lake to enjoy a vista of the Apolobamba mountain range, or even arrange a homestay on one of the lake’s distinctive manmade reed islands.

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