Mountain Ranges in South America: Guide To Notable Mountains & Hikes

Mountain Ranges in South America: Notable Mountains, Hikes, And All Things Altitude

mountain ranges in south america

On this page we explore the mountain ranges of South America.

From the vast Andes that span seven countries and run the full length of South America, to the coastal range of the Brazilian Serra do Mar and tropical rain forest of Suriname's Wilhelminagebergte.  

We also look at some of the most iconic mountain peaks on the continent, and best South American hikes.

South American Mountain Ranges

Although there are a number of notable mountain ranges in South America, none come close to the scale and vastness of the Andes. In fact most South American ranges are just sub-ranges of the Andes.

Below we take a brief look at the Andes and one of it's sub-ranges, Cordillera Blanc. We also provide a table of the main ranges in South America. 

Andes

The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the World, around 7,000 km (4,300 miles) long. The range spans the full length of the western side of South America, passing through seven countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Outside of Asia, the Andes also has the highest mountains in the World - with 100 peaks exceeding 6,000m in elevation. Due to its sprawling length and breadth, the Andes is often categorised into three main climate zones: the tropical Andes, wet Andes and dry Andes. 

Apart from the incredibly diverse fauna and flora that is found in the Andes, and the amazing array of cultures that call the Andes home, the mountains have a number of claims to fame. For example, the Andes are home to Chimborazo, a mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes, which at its summit is the farthest point from the Earth's center - this is due to the equatorial bulge resulting from the Earth's rotation. Moreover, the World's highest volcanoes are in the Andes, including Ojos del Salado (6,893m / 22,615ft).

Cordillera Blanca

The Cordillera Blanca (in English: 'White Range') is a Peruvian mountain range that is part of the wider Andes. 

The range is around 200km (124 miles) long and is home to many 6000m peaks, including the highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán (6,768m / 22,205ft).  

Top 10 Mountain Ranges in South America

Range

Countries

Highest Point

Andes

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile

Aconcagua (6,961m)

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Colombia

Pico Simón Bolívar (5,700m)

Cordillera Blanca

Peru

Huascarán (6,768m)

Cordillera Occidental (Central Andes)

Bolivia and Chile

Nevado Sajama (6,542m)

Serra do Mar

Brazil

Pico Paraná (1,877m)

Mantiqueira Mountains

Brazil

Pedra da Mina (2,798m)

Cordillera Paine

Chile

Cerro Paine Grande (2,884m)

Cordillera Oriental

Bolivia and Chile

Nevado de Illimani (6,438m)

Wilhelminagebergte

Suriname

Julianatop (1,280m)

Peru

Yerupajá (‎6,635m)

Notable South American Mountains

South America has a number of iconic mountain peaks. Here are a few South American mountains worthy of particular mention.

Aconcagua

Aconcagua is the highest peak in South America and one of the 7 Summits.

Standing at 6,962m / 22,837 ft, Aconcagua is a serious challenge for any mountaineer. The Normal Route up Aconcagua is relatively non-technical, but high winds, inclement cold weather and high altitude make summiting Aconcagua a tough feat.

For more technical climbers, the Polish Glacier Traverse and Direct route are exciting options, albeit with lower summit success rates.

Alpamayo

Alpamayo

Alpamayo is an iconic peak in the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes. Standing at 5,947 m (19,511 ft), Alpamayo was once voted the "Most Beautiful Mountain In The World" by Alpinismus, a German mountaineering magazine.

Cotapaxi

Cotopaxi

Cotapaxi is an active stratovolcano situated in Ecuador. Standing at 5,897 m (19,347 ft) it is the second highest mountain in Ecuador and one of the highest volcanoes in the World.

Fitz Roy

fitz roy

Monte Fitz Roy is one of the World's most photographed peaks. Sticking out of the landscape like jagged shark' teeth, Fitz Roy is an iconic feature in Chile-Argentina's famed Patagonia region. 

Highest Mountains in South America

The highest mountains in South America are all found in the Andes.

There are over 850 peaks that have an elevation between 5000m-6000m, and another 100 peaks over 6000m in altitude. The highest peak is Aconcagua (6,962m / 22,837 ft). 

Below is a list of the 10 highest peaks in South America.

Mountain / Range

Height

Country / State

Aconcagua (Andes)

6,962m / 22,837 ft

Argentina

Ojos del Salado (Andes)

6,893 m / 22,615 ft

Argentina / Chile

Monte Pissis (Andes)

6,793 m  / 22,287 ft

Argentina

Huascarán (Andes, Cordillera Blanca)

6,768 m / 22,205 ft

Peru

Bonete (Andes)

6,759 m / 22,175 ft

Argentina

Tres Cruces (Andes)

‎6,748 m / 22,139 ft

Argentina / Chile

Llullaillaco (Andes, Puna de Atacama)

6,723 / 22,057 ft)

Argentina / Chile

Mercedario (Andes)

‎6,720 m / 22,050 ft

Argentina

Cazadero (Andes)

6,658m / 21,843 ft

Argentina

Incahuasi (Andes)

6,621m / 21,722 ft

Argentina / Chile

Notable Hikes in South America

With one of the longest mountain ranges in the World, South America is home to 100s of awesome hiking trails. 

Some of the most notable are those that take bucket-list adventurers on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or through the jagged mountains and turquoise lakes of Patagonia.

Discover our top picks of hikes in South America.

Index of South America Hikes by Country

Patagonia

Patagonia has some of the most breath-taking hiking trails in the World. We've written a complete guide to trekking in Patagonia, here.

Machu Picchu

Trekking to Machu Picchu is a right of passage for intrepid travellers. We've written a complete guide to trekking to Machu Picchu, see here.

References: Brittanica

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