Altiplano (Spanish for "high plain"), Collao (Quechua and Aymara:
Qullaw, meaning "place of the Qulla"), Andean Plateau or Bolivian
Plateau, in west-central South America, is the area where the Andes
are the widest. It is the most extensive area of high plateau on Earth
outside Tibet. The bulk of the
Altiplano lies in Bolivia, but its
northern parts lie in Peru, and its southern parts lie in
The plateau hosts several cities of these three nations, including El
Alto, La Paz, Oruro, and Puno. The northeastern
Altiplano is more
humid than the southwestern area. The latter area has several salares,
or salt flats, due to its aridity. At the Bolivia–
Peru border lies
Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. South of that in
Bolivia was Lake Poopó, which was declared dried up and defunct as of
December 2015. It is unclear if this second-largest lake in Bolivia
can be revitalized.
Altiplano was the site of several pre-Columbian cultures,
including the Chiripa,
Tiawanaku and the Inca Empire. Spain conquered
the region in the 16th century.
Major economic activities in the
Altiplano include mining, llama and
vicuña herding, and services in the cities. There is some
3 Climatic zones
7 See also
9 External links
A map of the endorheic river basins that characterize the altiplano.
In the north is
Lake Titicaca and the Desaguadero River system; in the
south is the
Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni salt flat. The non-endorheic altiplano
extends southward into
Argentina and Chile.
Altiplano is an area of inland drainage (endorheism) lying in the
central Andes, occupying parts of northern
Chile and Argentina,
Bolivia and southern Peru. Its height averages about 3,750
meters (12,300 feet), slightly less than that of the Tibetan
Plateau. Unlike conditions in Tibet, the
Altiplano is dominated by
massive active volcanoes of the
Central Volcanic Zone
Central Volcanic Zone to the west,
Ampato (6288 m),
Tutupaca (5,816 m), Parinacota (6348 m),
Guallatiri (6071 m),
Paruma (5,728 m),
Uturunku (6,008 m) and
Licancabur (5,916 m), and the Cordillera Real in the north east with
Illampu (6,368 m),
Huayna Potosí (6,088 m),
Janq'u Uma (6,427 m) and
Illimani (6,438 m). The Atacama Desert, one of the driest areas on
the planet, lies to the southwest of the Altiplano; to the east lies
the humid Amazon rainforest.
Altiplano is noted for hypoxic air caused by very high elevation.
At various times during the
Pleistocene epoch, both the southern and
Altiplano were covered by vast pluvial lakes. Remnants are
Lake Titicaca, straddling the Peru–
Bolivia border, and Poopó, a
salt lake that extends south of Oruro, Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni,
locally known as Salar de Tunupa, and Salar de Coipasa are two large
dry salt flats formed after the
Altiplano paleolakes dried out.
Altiplano at about 4,250 m (14,000 feet). The
snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real rise in the background.
Altiplano is sometimes used to identify the altitude zone and
the type of climate that prevails within it: it is colder than that of
the tierra fría but not as cold as that of the tierra helada.
Scientists classify the latter as commencing at an elevation of
approximately 4,500 meters (or about 15,000 feet). Alternate names
used in place of altiplano in this context include puna and páramos.
In extentum, the climate is cool and humid to semi-arid and even arid,
with mean annual temperatures that vary from 3 °C (37.4 °F)
near the western mountain range to 12 °C (53.6 °F) near Lake
Titicaca; and total annual rainfall that ranges between less than
200 mm to the south west to more than 800 mm near and over
Lake Titicaca. The diurnal cycle of temperature is very wide, with
maximum temperatures in the order of 12 to 24 °C (53.6 to 75.2
°F) and the minimum in the order of -20 to 10 °C (-4 to 50
The coldest temperatures occur in the southwestern portion of the
Altiplano during the months of June and July, which correspond to the
austral winter. The seasonal cycle of rainfall is marked, with the
rainy season concentrated between December and March. The rest of the
year tends to be very dry, cool, windy and sunny. Snowfall may happen
between April and September, especially to the north, but it is not
very common (between one and five times a year).
Panorama of Peruvian Altiplano.
A rock sculpted by wind erosion (or Aeolian processes) in the Bolivian
Altiplano Basin, Geology of Bolivia, and Altiplano–Puna
Several mechanisms have been put forth for the formation of the
Altiplano plateau; hypotheses try to explain why the topography in the
Andes incorporates this large area of low relief at high altitude
(high plateau) within the orogen:
Existence of weaknesses in the
Earth's crust prior to tectonic
shortening. Such weaknesses would cause the partition of tectonic
deformation and uplift into the eastern and western cordillera,
leaving the necessary space for the formation of the altiplano basin.
Magmatic processes rooted in the asthenosphere might have contributed
to uplift of the plateau
Climate has controlled the spatial distribution of erosion and
sediment deposition, controlling the lubrication along the subducting
Nazca Plate and hence influencing the transmission of tectonic forces
into South America.
Climate also determined the formation of internal drainage
(endorheism) and sediment trapping within the Andes, potentially
blocking tectonic deformation in the central area between the two
cordilleras, and expelling deformation towards the flanks of the
Convective removal of the dense lower lithosphere beneath the
Altiplano caused that region to isostatically 'float' higher
Puna de Atacama
^ Mercado, David. "Lake Poopo Dries Up". Reuters. Archived from the
original on 19 December 2015.
^ Paskevics, Emily (19 December 2015). "Lake Poopó, Second Largest In
Bolivia, Dries Up Completely". Headlines & Global News (HNGN).
Archived from the original on 9 February 2016.
^ The Use of Solar Energy for Improving the Living Conditions in
^ Garcia-Castellanos, D., 2007. The role of climate during high
plateau formation. Insights from numerical experiments. Earth Planet.
Sci. Lett. 257, 372-390, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.02.039.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Altiplano.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Altiplano.
Photo Gallery: Argentinian Puna
Water resources of Chilean Altiplano
Steinmetz, George (July 2008). "
Altiplano - Where
Bolivia meets the
sky". National Geographic Magazine.
Coordinates: 16°00′13″S 69°39′12″W / 16.00358°S
69.65332°W / -1