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 11 best hikes in South America.
Iconic Hikes In South America
- Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Peru)
- W Trek in Torres Del Paine (Patagonia)
- Fitz Roy Hike (Chile)
- Montes Martial Circuit (Argentina)
- Mt Campanario (Argentina)
- Mirador Las Torres (Argentina, Patagonia)
- Santa Cruz (Peru)
- Colca Canyon (Peru)
- Chipada Diamantia (Brazil)
- Valley of the Volcanoes (Ecuador)
- Salkantay Trek (Peru)
1. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Peru)
It wouldn’t be right to start with any other hike in South America. 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, the Inca trail 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 trail walked by Incas all those years ago, you must get a permit in advance.
Here are some other cool hikes to Machu Picchu.
2. W Trek in Torres Del Paine (Patagonia)
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, the W trek in Torres del Paine is great for exploring a diversity of what Patagonia 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 W Trek is definitely worth it.
3. Fitz Roy Hike (Argentina)
This hike is definitely one of the most famous treks in Argentina and also one of the hardest. Although the day hike version is pretty easy.
We’d recommend the Fitz Roy trek to anyone visiting the town of El Chalten. Those who relish the backdrop of rocks and ice will love this hike too.
4. Montes Martial Circuit (Argentina)
If off-the-beaten track is your thing, look no further than the Montes Martial Ciruit trek in 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.
For the more adventurous or experienced mountaineers, you’ll also have the chance to summit Mount Tonelli and can return home with an experience few others have ever had.
5. Mt Campanario and Llao Llao Peninsula (Argentina)
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 an 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.
6. Mirador Las Torres (Chile)
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 are amazing and if you have the weather on side, the vista around you is priceless.
There is also a campsite on the nearby Campamento Torres if you wish to stay the night before returning on the trail.
7. Santa Cruz (Peru)
Back to Peru again and the Santa Cruz trek this time.
The Santa Cruz hike begins in 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 tough ascent over the Punta Unión Mountain pass of 4,750 meters, the hike is of moderate difficult. You will hike past strikingly blue glacial lakes and through a sandy desert.
For those who love the quirky, the Santa Cruz trek is definitely up your street!
8. Colca Canyon Hike (Peru)
Peru’s Colca Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world. Trekking it takes around two days (depending on the route you take) 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 having.
Once completed, you are able to dip your toe into the hot springs on your way back.
9. Chapada Diamantina (Brazil)
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.
10. Avenue of the Volcanoes (Ecuador)
The Avenue of the Volcanoes consists of eight of Ecuador's biggest volcanoes, like Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. There are various hikes one can do, some are relatively easy, but many are quite tough. If you plan to do a multi-day hike that summits one of the volcanoes, then I recommended that you prepare in advance for it and even have some prior trekking (and preferably altitude) experience.
While on the Avenue of the Volcanoes trek, you have the opportunity of hiking to 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.
11. Salkantay Trek (Peru)
Navado de Salkantay lies northwest of Cusco and is the cordillera's tallest peak, standing at 6,271 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.
Trekkers 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.
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