The Altiplano is vast and colorful, beautified with lakes , swamps, wetlands, salt flats and geysers and crowned with 6000 meter volcanoes. Is a large region between two chains of mountains that runs through four countries : Bolivia , Chile, Peru and Argentina
In northern Chile, the Andes reach altitudes between 5,000 and 6,000 meters. Most of the highest peaks are volcanoes. The material expelled by these volcanoes filled the surface of the valley, forming the highland plains that we know to date.
Regarding the weather, the plateau receives rains and snow in the months of January and February which even though is summer is generates a climatic phenomenon known as the " Bolivian winter " . Due to the height the temperatures are low: in the night are several degrees below zero and during the day it does not exceed more than 18 ° or 20 °. However, the sun can be very strong and dangerous with UV ration exceeding the maximum ranges allowed.
In the mountain ranges that surround the plateau falls snow, which is deposited in these summits . When these snows melt water down to the plains forming salt flats , lagoons and swamps.
In the Altiplano, it is not the dryness but the height that determines life : only the strongest flora and fauna can survive above 3,500 meters. Despite of the extreme weather conditions and the height there is great biodiversity, which are mostly protected in national parks such as the Lauca.
In the lagoons and salt flats many birds nest and feed. Flamingos move through these gaps feeding on algae or shellfish that filter at the bottom and building their conical nests made of mud.
This area is also home to one of the largest birds of America that unfortunately has become an in danger specie , the suri, a bird that does not fly but runs at high speed; in the breeding season is the male who incubates the eggs of several females deposit them in a common nest.
Among this great biodiversity we find the South American Camelids: Vicuna, Guanaco, Llama and Alpaca. Their history in this highlands date back thousands of years. The Vicuna and the Guanaco live in a wild state, and they are both protected by the government. The Vicuna is known worldwide as the softest fiber in the world. The Llama and Alpaca play and important and sustainable role in the society of the Aymaras. Most of the people live of the commercialization of the llama and alpaca’s meat, fiber and the animal itself as livestock.
At present, the Chilean Altiplano is home to a traditional society of Aymara Indians, who wander among volcanoes and swampy wetlands with their domesticated llamas and alpacas. Regularly they congregate to celebrate ancestral ceremonies and rituals.
The flora and fauna of the Altiplano is greatly respected and preserved by the Aymara society.
Alpacas in Origin. Photo by Mariana A. De La Garza
Vicunas en bofedal Photo by Mariana A. De La Garza
Aymara Celebration Photo by Mariana A. De La Garza