The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, about 200 to 700 km (120 to 430 mi) wide (widest between 18° south and 20° south latitude), and of an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated by intermediate depressions. The Andes is the location of several high plateaux – some of which host major cities, such as Quito, Bogotá, Arequipa, Medellín, Sucre, Mérida and La Paz. The Altiplano plateau is the world’s second-highest after the Tibetan plateau. These ranges are in turn grouped into three major divisions based on climate: the Tropical Andes, the Dry Andes, and the Wet Andes.
The Andes is the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia. The highest mountain outside Asia, Mount Aconcagua, rises to an elevation of about 6,961 m (22,838 ft) above sea level. The peak of Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is farther from the Earth’s center than any other location on the Earth’s surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from the Earth’s rotation. The world’s highest volcanoes are in the Andes, including Ojos del Salado on the Chile-Argentina border which rises to 6,893 m (22,615 ft).
Santiago, also Santiago de Chile, is the capital and largest city of Chile. It is also the center of its largest conurbation. Santiago is located in the country’s central valley, at an elevation of 520 m (1,706 ft) above mean sea level.
Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic, and other styles. Santiago’s cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal. Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards, and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Santiago’s steady economic growth over the past few decades has transformed it into a modern metropolis. The city is now home to a growing theater and restaurant scene, extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping centers, and a rising skyline, including the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago. It includes several major universities, and has developed a modern transportation infrastructure, including a free flow toll-based, partly underground urban freeway system and the Metro de Santiago, South America’s most extensive subway system. Santiago is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile and is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational corporations. The Chilean executive and judicial powers are located in Santiago, but Congress meets in nearby Valparaíso.
Santiago is named after the biblical figure St. James.