Top 10 Hiking Trips to experience in South America
Volcanoes, rain forests, mountains, and even archaeological sites are common features on hiking trails throughout South America. This southern continent has no shortage of famed routes – Inca Trail, Fitz Roy, W Trek, and even the Lost City in Columbia. If adventure is what you seek, you will find it on these trails!
Lares Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru
If your bucket list includes Machu Picchu, take the path less traveled, the Lares Trek, to reach this famed Inca archaeological site. An alternative to the well-known Inca Trail, the Lares Trek venture is a moderate, (typically) three to four-day trek through Andean communities. Trek through the lush green mountains, and pass by remote communities and farms, where you often have an opportunity to meet the locals. There are four different route options are available.
The Lost City, Colombia If you have every wanted to travel somewhere that is not yet a tourist hot spot, the Lost City in Columbia is that place. Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and perched mountainside, the Lost City dates back 1000 years but was only discovered in the 1970s. The only way to reach the Lost City is on foot, accompanied by a licensed guide. Trek through lush jungles and across streams and explore the uncrowded ruins at leisure. With a newly undiscovered hot spot like this, it won't be long before it becomes a big tourist attraction. Imagine having the Lost City all to yourself and getting to say that you were one of the first ones to explore the area!
Cotopaxi, Ecuador Located 50 kilometers from Quito, Ecuador in the Andes, the Cotopaxi volcano soars 5,897 meters above sea level, one of the worlds highest mountains. Even though Cotopaxi is an active volcano, it is still possible to climb which takes about eight hours. It is suggested to start in the early morning hours to reach the summit in time for the sunrise. With over 50 eruptions, numerous valleys have formed around the volcano and make for a beautiful trek.
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
Located within the Amazon rainforest, Kaieteur Falls are the largest single-drop waterfall in the world; about 4 times as water flows over them than Niagara Falls. The Kaieteur Falls can be found in Kaieteur National Park, which is in the center of Guyana's rainforest. Accessing the falls requires arriving in a small plane with a two-hour trek to take in the view of these falls steeped in local legends. Although the trek is not long, it is an incredible journey with lush green landscapes and views not to be forgotten.
W Trek, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
The W Trek is Torres del Paine's most famous trekking route. The granite towers that form a "W" give the area its name. This trek is not difficult in terrain and does not require a lot of technical knowledge or experience, however, some training is suggested. A full 7-day itinerary is recommended for this journey as you trek to the iconic rugged Base of the Towers. The French Valley is a photo opportunity not to be missed with its hanging Glacier, the Lago Grey with its ice floes, and the turquoise lagoon below.
Fitz Roy Trek, Columbia Located in Patagonia’s Los Glaciers National Park, Mount Fitz Roy is the park’s highest peak at 3,375m. Treks here typically last four days as you trek through thick forests and rugged mountain peaks with 360-degree picturesque views along the way, however, a full 9-14 day itinerary with a local guide and tour company is recommended. Leave the accommodations, transportation, and navigation of the trails to the local experts and instead just enjoy your trek. En route, take in the gradual changes in terrain from tree-covered trails to exposed alpine landscapes.
Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru
Enjoy the region's archaeological and cultural treasures as you retrace the steps of the Incas. This popular trail takes hikers from Cusco directly to Machu Picchu on foot over four days. The 26-kilometer trail winds its way through the Peruvian countryside and Andean Mountains before descending into the Incan ruins. As one of the world's best-known hikes, it will reward you with a stunning view of the ruins and cloud forests.
Some cardio and hiking training is recommended as the trek is at high altitudes and can at times be physically demanding. Hiring local guides and porters is recommended. Sustainable, community tourism is important in Peru.
Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil The Chapada Diamantina National Park is a nature reserve in eastern Brazil. Hiking and trekking options at this national park are plentiful as the park spans 152,142 hectares. At the most northern part of the park, the panoramic views are incredible and not to be missed. The park boasts waterfalls and "waterslides", lush green vegetation, rolling hills, and sandstone and quartz caves. In addition to hiking, adventure seekers can also enjoy swimming, rock climbing, and zip-lining.
Valle de la Luna, Chile Meaning Moon Valley, arriving at the Valle de la Luna in Chile feels like arriving on another planet. Red rocks, traces of salt, and even sand dunes make up this valley that dates back 22 million years. It's known for its moon-like sand-dunes, rugged mountains, and distinctive rock formations, formed by decades upon decades of wind and flood erosion. It's a great place to not only hike but also to also mountain bike, sandboard, and enjoy beautiful landscape photography.
The Valle de la Luna is incredible at sunset as the sun dips below the horizon and a beautiful transformation occurs. The surreal lunar landscapes of the valley are suddenly infused with intense purples, pinks and golds.
Cocora Valley, Colombia The Cocora Valley is located in Los Nevados National Park in Columbia and is an ideal option for day hikes. "Cocora" was the name of a Quimbayan princess, daughter of the local chief Acaime, and means "star of water". The valley is appropriately named as it has a spectacular trail of cloud forest (also called a water forest), thick jungle, farmland, and the world's largest palm trees. There are many different routes available and they range from beginner to experienced trekker, making it an ideal option for half or full-day hikes. These hikes do not require a local tour guide or tour operator and can be enjoyed at your own pace. The Cocora Valley is not to be missed and is an essential part of any trip to Columbia.
As always, we recommend following local travel advisories and hiring a guide as recommended for navigating any new trails. For more information about this article and to start planning your next adventure getaway, please contact Krista Tovell.