Hiking in South America
When it comes to hiking in South America, you are spoilt for choice. From absolute novices to experienced hikers, those wanting to trek their way through the best hiking trails that South America has to offer, or those wanting to simply discover a taste of the South American hiking experience… there is something for everyone.
This is really a small sample of the hiking options available to you. We can design an itinerary for you that includes as much or as little hiking, to whatever degree of difficulty you feel comfortable with.
Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Isla del Sol is said to be the birthplace of the Incas… with white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, snow-capped mountain views and ancient ruins, it is certainly a destination worth exploring.
The 4.5-hour hike from Challapampa to Yumani takes a short detour to the Chincana ruins and is the best way to experience the beauty of the island.
Valley of the Volcanoes Trek, Ecuador
Cotopaxi is one of the largest volcanoes in South America and just a short journey from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. On the Valley of the Volcanoes trek you will explore some of the volcanic terrains surround Cotopaxi.
The trek includes some high altitude walking as you climb up to the glacier on the slopes of the volcano. The views from the eroded volcanic crater are so worth the trek!
The Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador
A short day trip from Quito, Laguna Quilotoa is a trekker’s delight in the Quilotoa Loop. There are two weeks’ worth of trails… but the most common route is a four-day hike that takes you through agricultural communities, streams and towns that you would normally miss.
The options for accommodation on the trek vary from camping to quaint bed and breakfasts peppered along the route. Trust us when we say that brilliant shades of blue and green that greet you as you come over the crater rim will take your breath away.
Chapada Diamantina, Brazil
You never know your luck if you choose to take the five-day trek of Chapada Diamantina – the park is named after the 19th Century ‘diamond rush’ in the area – if only the sights on the trek weren’t so majestic.
Expect dramatic table-top mountain plateaus that drop down to lush plains, walk by gushing waterfalls, subterranean rivers and crystal clear lakes hiding inside caves. You’ll catch a glimpse of Brazil’s highest waterfall, Cachoeira da Fumaça and camp overnight in caves.
Aysen, Northern Patagonia
For a truly off the beaten track experience, Aysen in Northern Patagonia is the real deal. The roads are uncovered and the crowds nowhere to be seen. In fact, Chilean Patagonia is a paradise for hiking lovers.
In Aysen, you will find an abundance of day hikes and longer treks. There are both simple, and luxury accommodation options are available.
Our top picks in the region are Cerro Castillo and Parque Patagonia.
Cerro Castillo is a moderate, unguided hike with a well-marked trail, signs and designated camping spots.
Parque Patagonia is the jewel in the crown of Patagonia with a luxurious lodge, gentle hikes and empty paths.
W Trek, Torres del Paine, Patagonia,
The W Trek is undoubtedly the most famous walk in Patagonia. During your four-day, 76km journey, you will see the most important landmarks in Torres del Paine… the Torres Lookout, the Cuernos Lodge and its visiting condors, the constant murmurs of the Francés Glacier, and the much-anticipated finale at the Grey Glacier.
The daylight hours in Patagonia are long and the weather can be challenging, but the scenery is spectacular. The O takes an extra three days to hike… but it is a much less crowded option.
El Chalten, Glacier National Park, Patagonia
Glacier National Park El Chalten is a walker’s paradise and a trekker’s absolute delight. It is a small frontier town serving as the base for Fitz Roy, part of Glaciares National Park.
Day treks from El Chalten are perfect for those wanting variety and comfort, so you can return to El Chalten each night for a beer from the town’s microbrewery.
For the more adventurous, there are multi-day hike and camping options available.
The Lost City Trek, Colombia
The name of this trek alone is enough to pique your interest. The Lost City is often considered the Colombian equivalent of Machu Picchu.
The trek takes four to five days as you hike through northern Colombia to the Ciudad Perdida archaeological site, thought to date back to 800 AD. The city was ‘lost’ in the Colombian rainforest when the Teyuna people apparently abandoned the city after the Spanish invasion. It was re-discovered in 1972.
This is a challenging 45km trek that can only be taken with a guide.
Valle de Cocora, Colombia
If the Lost City trek is too challenging, a laid-back option is the one-day trek through Colombia’s Valle de Cocora.
The trek takes roughly seven hours along a well-marked trail. Expect a few uphill battles and some muddy patches… but it’s mostly smooth sailing as you trek past lush cloud forest and a flowing river before arriving at a clearing filled with hundreds of soaring wax palms.
Undoubtedly the most well known and well visited walking destination in South America is Peru. We suggest that every visitor to Peru spends at least one day hiking… if you have the time and inclination, we recommend a few more days.
The Inca Trail is the most famous walk in Peru, but the Cordillera Blanca in the north is Peru’s premier hiking, trekking and climbing destination with majestic remote mountains and transparent turquoise lakes.
Salkantay Trek, Peru
The Salkantay is an Inca trail alternative with all the beauty… and not the crowds.
Over four days, you’ll wander through small Peruvian villages and the 4,600 metre high Abra Salkantay pass.
At the end of your trek, Machu Picchu is just a train and bus trip away.
Rainbow Mountain, Peru
Imagine a mountain with all the colours of the rainbow stacked on top of each other… that is the dream-like landscape of Rainbow Mountain… and no picture could ever do it justice.
The Rainbow Mountain trek can be done as a long day trip from Cusco… but we recommend the overnight option to give you more time to explore further into the valley.
The peak of this hike can be reached after a four-hour walk from the base camp. Expect to encounter families of sheep, horses, llamas and alpacas on the hike.
Colca Canyon, Peru
Colca Canyon is not for the fainthearted. The canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon with single days of hiking seeing massive elevation gains, even as high as 1000m.
The main Colca Canyon trek is a two to three-day hike in southern Peru. A one-day tour option is also available if a shorter hike is more appealing. Either way, the hike is full of amazing views as you pass through indigenous villages and natural hot springs.
Santa Cruz & Laguna 69, Peru
The Santa Cruz trek is considered one of the best treks in the world.
The view of the mountain peaks through the open valleys as you trek through comes second to only the jewel coloured lagoons you will pass.
Located in the Cordillera Blanca range near the city of Huaraz in northern Peru, the Santa Cruz trek also takes in the famous Laguna 69.
The trek is a 10-hour trip from the capital of Lima… but the trek isn’t considered one of the best in the world for nothing… the stunning scenery and native wildlife are well worth the detour.