The Altiplano ( in Quechua and Aymara: Qullaw ) is an endorheic plateau in south-eastern Peru and western Bolivia between the high mountain ranges of the Western Andes ( Cordillera Occidental) and the Eastern Andes ( Cordillera Oriental ).
The Altiplano lies at an average altitude of 3600 meters and covers an area of about 170,000 km ². In the north of the Altiplano lies Lake Titicaca, the largest high Earth, covers approximately 1000 km to the south from which the Altiplano.
The Altiplano developed, since this region with the beginning of the Cenozoic Era ( 65 million years ago ) to the Western and Eastern Cordillera strong absenkte, so that formed kilometer- thick sediment deposits.
Since the Miocene (20 million years) prevails in the Western Cordillera active volcanic activity have formed by the Strato volcanoes of today up to 6000 m altitude. Even today, hot steam and sulfur springs at the edge of the Altiplano of this young volcanism.
Since the beginning of the Pleistocene 2 million years ago, a raising of the intermontane basin has begun. The center of the Altiplano and smaller sub-basins in the south were in the past 30,000 years of large lakes ( Lake Ballivián ) dominates. The freshwater lakes of this period had a mean depth of 20 to 70 meters, indicating a significantly higher rainfall activity than today. The end of the Ice Age and the beginning of the Holocene, about 10,000 years ago initiated a significant change in climate - although it was warmer, but the amounts of precipitation fell.
The climate of the Altiplano is cold and semiarid to arid. The annual average temperature varies between 2 degrees higher in waterless areas and about 10 degrees at Lake Titicaca. The night temperatures are often below the freezing point, especially during the dry season (May to August), the average daily temperature maxima, however, reach, depending on location and 15 ° C. The annual rainfall vary depending on the topography and latitude of the place. Against the Tropic of Capricorn towards them are less than 200 mm, while they can achieve in the north to the shores of Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real to go over 800 mm. Snowfall is rare, and is most likely to between April and September.
Most of the Altiplano has characteristics of the Puna, a high mountain vegetation formation with alternating humid climate. Omnipresent here is the brittle Ichugras which assumes a golden yellow color in the dry season. Some border areas of the northern Altiplano have a vegetation which resembles the Páramo, a landscape type with relatively high humidity with low annual temperature fluctuations.
The southwestern portion of the Altiplano is desert-like.
Important waters adjacent to the Lake Titicaca in the north are the Poopó Lake and the salt lake Salar de Coipasa in the central Altiplano and the Salar de Uyuni in the south. Lake Titicaca and Poopósee are connected by the Río Desaguadero.
The Altiplano is since its first settlement about 10,000 years ago, a central settlement area in which there are places of worship and irrigation terraces of old civilizations.
Today can be found on the eastern edge of the Altiplano, the Bolivian city of La Paz with the seat of government, the way up the steep slopes stretching up from a basin of 3100 m to 4000 m high plateau; the metropolis of El Alto directly adjacent to the plateau; and further to the southeast, the cities of Oruro and Potosí. The Altiplano is thus one of the highest populated areas of people of the earth. The Altiplano is predominantly inhabited by Aymara and Quechua population. The illiteracy of the rural regions of the Altiplano has declined sharply through educational programs, but not entirely eliminated, especially among older residents of the Altiplano.
Due to the climatic conditions in the high altitude agriculture is very limited in many areas of the Altiplano extensive livestock farming is operated. Are found mainly in the peripheral areas of the Altiplano rich mineral deposits that are sometimes mined by tunneling, even in the open pit. Many of the Erzbauminen, however, are so far exhausted since the second part of the 20th century that the degradation economically no longer makes sense. Since the beginning of the 21st century there have been efforts to reduce the lithium deposits of the Salar de Uyuni, so far there are only a government sponsored pilot plant. Manufacturing is only found sporadically in the metropolitan areas of the Altiplano and is based on the promotion of ores.
The Altiplano is one of the less-developed regions of South America and has an only slightly developed infrastructure. Paved highways are just great, such as the Ruta 1 highway between Desaguadero on Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Oruro and Potosí. Many villages have no connection to the telephone network, are not adequately supplied with drinking water and only on dirt roads to reach.