South America can be an addictive place to travel in. The Andean peaks, the Incan ruins and the Amazonian rainforest make it a unique and charming place to be. For the adventure lover, hiking in South America is a dream. So, without further ado, here are our top 10 best hikes in South America.
It wouldn’t be right to start with any other peak. Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic archaeological sites in the world, thought to have been a residence for the Inca emperor in the 1400s.
For the hiker, Machu Picchu offers an amazing hike in the Peruvian Andes but it is important to ensure you’re heading off at the right time. It’s also important to note that if you’re following the iconic Inca Trail walked by Incas all those years ago, you must get a permit in advance.
Here at LTC, we offer our own tour of Machu Picchu which you can check out here.
In 1978, the Torres Del Paine National Park was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO – a testament to its beauty. All 181,000 hectares of the Chilean wonder.
Usually taking up just five days of your time, this trek is great for exploring a diversity of what South America has to offer. You travel through dense forests, on striking mountains and brooding glaciers.
The breadth of landscapes you cover leads us to wonder why this part of the world remains one of the least travelled to.
With stunning vistas and plenty of opportunities, the Torres Del Paine hike is definitely worth a try.
The Fitz Roy trek is located on the northern tip of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciers, one of the most stunning of its kind.
This hike is definitely one of Argentina’s most famous treks and also one of its hardest. Although not particularly high, the ascent is noted as being one of the hardest.
We’d recommend the Fitz Roy trek to experienced mountaineers. Those who relish the backdrop of rocks and ice will love this hike too.
If off-the-beaten track is your thing, look no further than the Montes Martial Ciruit trek, Patagonia.
It is the ideal hike for those wishing to explore some of South America’s most scenic and unexplored areas. While on trek, you are able to camp next to gorgeous lakes and lagoons. Moreover, the breath-taking forests of Tierra Del Fuego National Park are something you’ll never forget.
You’ll also have the chance to summit Mount Tonelli and can return home with an experience few others have ever had.
For hikers with less time on their hands or with less experience, this trek is for you.
The Peninsula Llao Llao Circuit trek takes roughly four hours. Despite the amount of time it takes, you are able to summit Mount Llao Llao and get some amazing views and memories for the trip home.
It is located in the ancient forest and incorporates a mix of stunning turquoise lakes and authentic woodland, ultimately offering a view of the beautiful park when you reach the end. We love it.
Rightfully one of the most iconic scenes in South America are the Mirador Las Torres in Chile, also known as ‘The Towers’.
It is one of the easiest treks in the region and takes only four to five hours to complete. Regardless of this, the view of the towers themselves and if you have the weather on side, the vista around you are priceless.
There is also a campsite on the nearby Campamento Torres if you wish to stay the night before descending.
Back to Peru again and the Santa Cruz trek this time.
The Santa Cruz hike begins at the mountain city of Huaraz (yes, that’s right – a mountain city) and takes you on a three-day journey. You hike through the Cordillera Blanca region of the Peruvian Andes, the highest tropical mountain range in the world.
Other than the Punta Unión mountain pass of 4,750 meters, you hike past strikingly blue glacial lakes and through a sandy desert. You may feel as though you’re on a beach…on top of a mountain.
For those who love the quirky, the Santa Cruz trek is definitely up your street!
Peru’s Colca Canyon is the second largest in the world. Trekking it takes two days and is a great experience for beginners.
Speaking of beginnings, the Colca Canyon trek starts off in the valley of Chivay. The lush green grass gradually fades out as you hike into the core of the canyon where you stand below swooping birds and in between cacti. It is definitely a South American experience worth taking.
Once completed, you are able to dip your toe into the hot springs on your way back. Who doesn’t love to pamper themselves, especially in such a natural way like hot springs? There is really no excuse not to.
Named after the diamond rush that took over Brazil in the 19th Century, the Chapada Diamantina trek showcases the best of this South American country.
The five-day hike takes you through a lost world, up and over mountains, along simply stunning grassland and by those gorgeously blue lagoons – only hidden in caves. These caves are also where you spend the night while on trek as you pass through small villages and the ruin of Igatu.
You are also able to spy the highest waterfall in Brazil, the Cachoeria da Fumça, adding to the sheer ‘wow’ factor of this hike.
We must start off by warning you that this two-day hike is not an easy task. It’s recommended that you prepare in advance for it and even have some prior trekking (and preferably altitude) experience.
However, all of the preparation is worth it if you summit the Cotopaxi Volcano, something not many people actually do. From the top of the iconic Ecuadorian peak, you can see the city below and a stunning vista of other volcanoes surrounding you.
While on trek, you can have the opportunity of visiting the Quilotoa crater lake with the emerald green water you’ve seen on so many dreamy travel photos. It lies in the crater of an extinct volcano and is surrounded by jagged cliff edges, adding to its surreal beauty.
If you’re heading to Ecuador, we recommend the Lonely Planet guide which you can buy on Amazon here.
Navado de Salkantay lies northwest of Cusco and is the cordillera’s tallest peak, standing at 6271 meters!
The snow-capped peak is exceptionally beautiful and looms above the heads of hikers for most of the trek. The name ‘Salkantay’ actually means ‘Savage Mountain’ and the trek is popular with people who want a more quiet and off the beaten path route to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
The Salkantay trek was recently voted as one of the top 25 treks in the world.
Its popularity mainly stems from the incredible diversity that the trek offers. You pass through varying ecosystems from sub-tropical jungle to high alpine zones. The trail cuts through the stunning Mollepata Valley before passing Salkantay at 15,000 feet.
Trekker then traverse the enormous mountain to reach the village of Aguas Calientes. The trek is only slightly more difficult than the standard Inca Trail and horses are used to carry all of your gear.
Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!