Best Hikes in South America
Searching for your new adventure? If so, you searched “best hikes in South America” and that is why you are here.
Sweet! Because you have landed in good hands. Within this article, WWB Writer and resident expert on South American travel, Ana, will teach you will learn about the best hikes in South America.
After all, choosing the best treks in South America can be a daunting trail itself!
You can find a sea of information on the Internet about duration, difficulty, length, travel style, guided tours, types of landscapes, history interest, and the list goes on!
But, relax amigo! To help you with this overwhelming decision I have collected for you a top list of popular and off the beaten path in the best places to hike in South America.
You wont leave without knowing where your next adventure is going to be!
Psst! Want a quick glance? These are the best places to hike in South America:
Hiking in Peru
- Sun Gate Intipunku
- Perolniyoc Ruins Day Hike
- Pisac Ruins
- Cordillera Huayhuash
Hiking in Chile
- Laguna Azul
- Grey Glacier Day Hike
- Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo
Hiking in Argentina
- Perito Moreno Glacier
- Refugio Frey Day Hike
- Laguna de Los Tres
Hiking in Colombia
- Lost City Trek
- The Cocora Valley
- Fin del Mundo Trek
Hiking in Ecuador
- Quilotoa Loop
- Cotopaxi Volcano
Hiking in Bolivia
- Huayna Potosi
- Bolivia Salt Flats Tour
- Chataquila Inca Trail
Hiking in Brazil
- Pedra do Telégrafo
- The Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes
- Morro do Pai Inácio
Why hike in South America?
Explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites
South America has 72 world heritage sites. Meaning you can get to discover beautiful cultural and natural wonders that are a heritage to human history.
Los Glaciares National Park is one of those human treasures (on this list btw!)
A site to instantly connect with ice-cold glaciers, blue lakes, jagged granite peaks, and exotic wildlife; this place holds some of the best great Patagonian trails in the Southwest area. It is practically a playground for thrill-seekers.
Hike trails for any travel style
Whatever you choose, the best hiking trails in South America have a wide hiking menu for all tastes. Travel styles; explore glaciers, volcanoes, deserts or waterfalls in the same country. Biodiversity; discover rare orchids, pine forests, and gigantic cactuses out of this world. Travel Activities; visiting archaeological sites, bird sightseeing, horseback riding, and much more, you won’t have time to get bored.
Foodie Travel in South America
When you travel to a new country, tasting the local food is like tasting the soul’s country. A chance to connect with their culture and traditions.
In South America, there are reeeeally tasty traditions, some fun tasty facts:
● For Wine Lovers: Argentina and Chile are two of the top 10 best wine producers in the world (a cup of wine, please!)
● For Grilled-meat Lovers: Do you like BBQ? If so, you must taste the Asados (grilled meat) in Argentina, mouth-watering meat you will want to have each Sunday.
● Seafood and Veggie Lovers: Peru will not disappoint with its top-quality cooking; the ceviche (a fish carpaccio marinated in lime juice) is one of the top 17 most popular worldwide dishes.
But, let’s stop beating around the bush!
With the list I collected for you, the question won’t be why hike in South America, but when?
Related Posts on Travelling to South America
Hiking in Peru
The home of the renowned Machu Picchu, Peru offers some of the best places to hike in South America. But Peru is not Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu, and this country has a grand diversity of trails to discover.
Let’s go hiking in Peru!
Best Places to Hike in Peru
Sun Gate Intipunku
If you’re interested in Machu Picchu, but seek alternative hikes to the standard 4-day Inca trail, Sun Gate Intipunku day trail is your hiking match. It truly is one of the best hikes in South America.
What makes Intipunku a unique experience?
Photo by @kusman in Pixabay
On the standard 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you will end your journey on Intipunku.
However, this site was the entrance to the Sacred City, protected by imperial guards of the Inca Empire.
This hike is a steep journey with constant inclination but surrounded by the splendid views of the Andes Mountains and the low valleys. At the summit, an impressive perspective of the Cerro Huayna Picchu, the majestic Machu Picchu, and the Inca architecture unfolds.
Tip: Use light-hiking boots for this trail. The steep walk and sometimes-muddy paths on the trail can make your steps heavier than they should be. Make your walk about the beautiful sights and less painful toes.
How to get there: The trailhead starts near the Caretaker’s Hut (Cabaña Del Guardián). To get there, go to the Inca agricultural terraces and follow a well-marked path with clear “Intipunku” wood-grabbing signs.
● Time: 3-4 hours
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 2,720m
● Distance: 1.5 km
● Best time to visit: May to August
● Fee: General Machu Picchu solo ticket ($65)
Perolniyoc Ruins Day Hike
You might want an eco-cultural day hike in the Sacred Valley, but without the crowds.
If that is your case, the Perolniyoc Ruins is your hiking match.
What makes Pelroyniyoc a unique experience?
This off-the-beat hike holds two secret gems: the Perolniyoc Waterfall and the Raqaypata ruins. In this elder forest, you can have a picnic, appreciate the 100 m fall, and eat the fresh edible elderberries near the refreshing waterfall.
After a good picnic time, the Inca Raqaypata ruins are the next hiking spot!
Here you will have a historic shot of Raqaypata village, an Inca migration point between Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo town.
Ending your hike with a great panoramic view of the waterfall you saw minutes ago.
1) Go in the morning (7:00 am) to avoid the hot weather in the afternoon.
2) The public transportation in Socma Village is not constant so settle an agreement with your private driver to wait for you.
How to get there: The Inca Trail starts in the village of Socma. To get there, you can hire a private driver from Cusco to Socma village (30min.-$21).
● Time: 4 hours
● Difficulty: Easy
● Max. Altitude: 3193 m
● Distance: 9.km
● Best time to visit: May to October
● Fee: Free!
Do you want more from the Inca culture, but less tourist-packed?
If this sounds interesting, Pisac Ruins is your hiking match.It is one of the best hikes in South America, that isn’t full of gawking tourists.
What makes Pisac Ruins a unique experience?
Pisac village lies surrounded by Peruvian mountains, ancient agricultural terraces, and a beautiful blue glistering river.
With an uphill start, the trek can be a mix of up and down paths until you reach the welcoming ruins.
There, you will see panoramic views of the countryside and one of the intact Inca ruins; walk through ceremonial temples, multiple chambers, towers, tunnels, still useful sweeping agricultural terraces, and the largest Inca Empire cemetery.
Tip: Pisca highlights are endless; they have a botanical garden for you to relax in, a cinematic pre-Hispanic museum to learn history in a fun way, and even a Choco-museum to make your chocolates on a bean to bar workshop experience!
How to get there: Then the hike starts at Pisac town at the top of Calle Pardo. To get there, you can hire a driver from Cusco to Pisac or take a minibus (colectivos) in Puputi Street, located in the Historic Center of Cusco ($1.42).
● Time: 4-5 hours
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 3,347m
● Distance: 3.5km
● Best time to visit: April-October
● Fee: entrance permit ($20)
Hiking in Chile
Chile is home to world-class wine and extreme adventures on the breathtaking Patagonia glaciers.
Yes, the great Patagonian trail. Have you heard of it?
It’s a succession of amazing nature trails through Chile and Argentina for mainly long-distance hiking adventurers, holding, without a doubt, some of the best treks in South America.
Let’s go hiking in Chile!
Best Places to Hike in Chile
If you want an easy-going, family approved with few tourists in the Torres Del Paine national park, Laguna Azul is your hiking match.
What makes Laguna Azul a unique experience?
A quiet broad landscape, filled with flower pastures, and a deep blue lagoon with granite Patagonian towers on the horizon while sightseeing wonderful wildlife like fluffy guanacos, condors, ducks, wild horses, and even pumas if you’re on the first light of day.
It is one of the best hikes in South America that has all the best wildlife!
How to get there: The trail starts at Porteria Laguna Azul. If you rent a car, you have to go through route Y-150 to route Y-160 and get to the parking slot.
Tip: This hike is perfect to combine with a visit to the nearest lagoon (Laguna Cebolla) where you can have a picnic time. This will add 12 km and 2 hours to your day hike.
- Time: 2-3 hours
- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Maximum Altitude: 223m
- Distance: 8 km
- Best time to visit: September and October (to avoid crowds) or November and December (for the best weather).
- Fee: General Torres Del Paine Park entrance ($28)
Grey Glacier Day Hike
If you want to see the enormous iconic glacier beauty of the Chilean Patagonia on a day hike of moderate difficulty, the Grey Glacier is your hiking match.
What makes Grey Glacier a unique experience?
As an elemental component of the great Patagonian trail lies Grey Glacier, one of the most representative sights of Torre Del Paine in Southern Patagonia.
This hike is part of the W trek. But, you can personalize your journey preferences and do it in just one day!
This day hike is to delight your eyes through the Patagonia Glacier magnificence. Creating a spectacular landscape; a mix of colors contrasting between green lenga trees, ice-blue glaciers floating around, and the greyish majestic lake.
How to get there: The trail starts at Paine Grande Refuge. If you’re going by bus, you need to stop at Pudeto terminal and take the ferry that sails into Pehoé River ($103.91). This ferry will leave you at a location very near the trailhead.
- You need to be there before 11 am to take the ferry and leave before 5 pm strikes.
- If you want to take your time and don’t run like a crazy tourist to the last ferry, then stay at Refugio Paine Grande or Refugio Grey; which are the nearest accommodations, and calmly go back the next day.
● Time: 8-9 hours
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 1,200m
● Distance: 24km
● Best time to hike: September and October.
● Fee: General Torres del Paine Park entrance ($28)
Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo
Do you want more of the great Patagonian trail-shocking sights?
I have good news for you! Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo: An outstanding Patagonia trail, is your hiking match.
What makes Laguna Cerro Castillo a unique experience?
You would usually do this multi-day hike named W-Trail in 4 days or more, but you can do it in one day.
The hike is steep, with dusty sections, but as you go forward, lakes to refresh your walk and panoramic views of the valley appear. Finally, at the peak of your walk, a deep turquoise lake surrounded by gray rock mountains and glacier snow topping will seize your day!
- If you like camping you can stay the night here and have a beautiful morning with a shimmering lake view
- Hike to the nearest trail: the blue Laguna Duff and the art-like landscapes of the National Park Cerro Castillo.
How to get there: This trailhead starts at Camping Estero El Bosque, near Cerro Castillo Village. At the Coyhaique terminal, you can get a bus from 8:00-9:30 ($8). The trail opens at 7:30 and receives people until 1:30 pm.
● Time: 6-8 hours
● Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
● Max. Altitude: 2.675m
● Distance walked: 15k
● Best time to visit: November to April
● Fee: entrance persimmon ($23.2)
Hiking in Argentina
Argentina is the land of passionate tango dances and meaty meals. This beautiful country shares the great Patagonian trail with Chile. An out of this world hiking experience; the Glacier hikes are one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see on the planet. If the previous hikes did not convince you, Patagonia in Argentina will persuade you to go to the ice side.
Let’s go hiking in Argentina!
Best Places to Hike in Argentina
Perito Moreno Glacier
If you want a casual walk while wandering around the largest ice field on earth, then the Perito Moreno Glacier is your hiking match.
What makes this experience unique?
The Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia is the top destination in the national park.
On this hike, the walk is calm; with a 4 km boardwalk system for you to have a leisure stroll whilst admiring the colossal glacier. On the other hand, you can see when it’s parts break and fall on the lake; reminding us of the climate change reality, but also of the inherent course of nature. A gobsmacking experience, impossible to describe with words.
Tip: To heavily enhance your sacred encounter with this glacier beauty; get in line before the park officially opens at 8:00 am, this way you can have the landscape exclusively for you (or almost!).
How to get there: The trail starts in the Calafate town. You must stay at one of its accommodations the night before and then depart for Perito Moreno. There is no public transportation to get there; so you must rent a car or book a shuttle bus to El Calafate ($32.5 round-up trip) when you arrive to book a shuttle bus to Perito Moreno for the next day. (The normal departure schedule is 7:30 am or 8:15 am and the return is around 4:00 pm).
- Time: 2-5 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
- Max. Altitude: 2.675m
- Distance: 15k
- Best time to visit: November-March
- Fee: Los Glaciares National Park fee of $10.62 and an additional entrance persimmon of $6.64 in cash only.
Refugio Frey Day Hike
If you wish to do a long day hike on the less-visited (but not inferior) northern Patagonia zone, you must visit the Nahuel Huapi National Park. The site is charged with hidden waterfalls, glacial lakes, red intense flowers, and a diverse mix of scenery passing from barren stone to lush green flora.
Located in Nahuel Huapi National Park, Refugio Frey is your hiking match.
What makes Refugio Frey unique?
Hikers who have done the Refugio Frey trail mention it has a magical resemblance to the legendary movie Lord of the Rings.
On this hike, you will explore magnificent views of Lake Gutierrez; see waterfalls, hike a calming path, and swim on a grand lake, surrounded by high rocky peaks and the quiet natural refuge.
How to get there: You need to get on bus number 55 (7:00 am and 8:00 pm), located in the Cerro Catedral ski resort car park in Catedral Village. Then, you will find the head trail around a wooden sign with ‘GREY’ written on it.
- To hike in the Nahuel Huapi National Park you need to register on the official website: https://www.nahuelhuapi.gov.ar/intro_registro.html
- If you wish to have a lifetime experience in Refugio Frey and see a night full of stars, remember to check out the official website to book your camping spot (there are no camping fees but it’s necessary to reserve a spot because of the number restrictions) http://www.refugiofreybariloche.com/
- Plan this hike at least 48 hours before going to ensure your entrance spot.
● Time: 8 hours
● Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 1700m
● Distance: 24km round trip
● Best time to visit: October to April
● Fee: Free!
Laguna de Los Tres
If you’re up for an easy-moderate hike and experience views of lakes, rivers, and glaciers in Argentina’s Patagonia in just one day, Laguna de Los Tres is your hiking match.
What makes Laguna de Los Tres a unique experience?
This is a fairly uneven, constant uphill route with stunning panoramic views of rivers, forests crisp green pastures, and a cool breeze whilst seeing Mount Fitz Roy’s grand presence finalizing with the main highlight of this hike; the turquoise lake Laguna de Los Tres
- You can explore the nearest emerald ice lagoon, Laguna Sucia, a highly-rated spot for adventurer hikers but often overlooked because it doesn’t have a well-cleared path.
- If you go on the Laguna Sucia hike, ask beforehand for permission in the APN Center near El Chaltén Town, they will give you advice on the route and if you get lost, they’ll be aware you went there.
How to get there: Laguna de Los Tres hike starts at the northern end of the Chaltén village at the end of Avenida San Martín. You can stay at The Hosteleria El Pilar as the trailhead starts pretty near there on route 41. But if you’re staying in Chaltén village, you can hire taxis or shuttle buses to take you.
- Time: 7-8 hours round trip
- Difficulty: Hard
- Max. Altitude: 1,196m
- Distance: 25k
- Best time to visit: November and April.
- Fee: Free but you have to ask for an entrance permit from the National Park Administrative Office (APN Center) on the South of El Chaltén town, crossing the bridge over the FitzRoy River.
Hiking in Colombia
Colombia is a country where you cannot get bored. This land has one of the most biodiversity landscapes on earth fit for any travel activity you could imagine; rock climbing, waterskiing, horse riding, trekking through ancient cities, just name it.
Let’s go hiking in Colombia!
Best Places to Hike in Colombia
Lost City Trek
If you like ancient monuments, history, and impressive landscapes, The Lost City is your hiking match.
What makes The Lost City Trek a unique experience?
Rated as one of the best treks in South America, be ready to book your next adventure to The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida).
A trek to submerge in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On this trek between lush jungles and farmlands, you can take a dip in the refreshing Buritaca River, and learn about indigenous Kougi culture. The trek will continue, into a climb of 1,200 stone steep stairs built by the Tayronas (Lost City citizens) to reach the sacred terraces of The Lost City, what an adventure!
Tip: In theory, this trail can be self-guided but for security reasons, you need to contact a legal tourism agency to get permission and enter Teyuna Archaeological Park (where The Lost City is).
How to get there: The trailhead starts at Machete Pelao, to get there your tourist agency will plan your road trip from Santa Marta.
● Time: 4-7 days
● Difficulty: Hard
● Max. Altitude: 1,200 m
● Distance: 46km
● Best time to visit: January to July
● Fee: Free!
The Cocora Valley
What is the tallest palm tree you have ever seen?
The tallest palm trees on earth can have a height of 60 meters and are located in a green exuberant valley in Colombia. If this piques your interest, The Cocora Valley, is your hiking match.
What makes The Cocora Valley a unique experience?
Get to walk on wooden suspension bridges, explore hummingbirds sanctuaries where you can have some drinks to charge your energy back and go uphill to Finca La Montaña, the biggest view of this trail; a valley loaded with the tallest tree palms on earth. Go! Walk your way through the gigantic palm trees.
How to get there: There isn’t direct public transportation to Salento city, you must get a bus to Armenia or Pereira city. To Armenia, the options are from Ibagué (3h-$7.29), Bogota (7h-$14.85), Cali (4 h-$9.18); and to Pereira from Medellín (5h-$12.69). Then, you can get on a bus from $1.21-2.02 to Salento and hire a private jeep to get to Cocoa Valley from $1 to $8.37.
Tip: If you want the short version hike that just involves seeing the palm trees, do as follows: when the jeep leaves you, go straight, do not enter the blue doors or the right path (that’s the long hike version), after 1km you’ll reach your destination; a sight full of massive palm trees. (This trail can last 1-2 h and you would hike 2.5km).
● Time: 5-6-hour loop
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 3000 m (9842ft)
● Distance: 15 km (9.3 miles)
● Best time to visit: December to February or June to September
● Fee: $2.16 (plus $1.35 for the hummingbird sanctuary)
Fin del Mundo Trek
How about a jungle hike combo with a vigorous waterfall and a fun plunge in natural pools?
If this sounds interesting, Fin del Mundo Trek is your hiking match.
What Makes Fin del Mundo a unique experience?
Coming back to the jungles of Colombia. The Fin del MundoTrek (End of the World) is located in Mocoa town. This is a natural wild paradise for jungle adventures; dip into waterfalls, walk among rainforests, sightsee wildlife, and do extreme sports.
With a mainly uphill start of stone and wood stairs, pure fresh air will surround your lungs as you walk into Colombia’s Amazon jungle, swim in numerous natural pools with pure clear water, and get under the waterfall’s stream.
But the trek doesn’t end here, you’ll keep walking to reach the end of the world; a calm secluded edge with a panoramic view of Colombia’s Amazon jungle, fresh air, and the top view of a grand 80 m waterfall fall.
How to get there: There is public transportation to Mocoa city from the following capitals Pitalito (3h-$6.75), Bogota (12h-$21.54), Cali (11 h-$14.81), and Medellín (19h-$29.62). The trail starts at Posada Turistica Dantayaco. After crossing a suspension bridge over the Mocoa River to start your trek adventure!
Tip: This trek can be combined on the same day with a visit to the nearby waterfall Ojo de Dios (God’s eye), which brings a visual spectacle when the light hits the top of a rock’s cave, giving a perceptual illusion; hence, the god’s eye name.
● Time: 5 hours round trip
● Difficulty: Easy
● Max. Altitude: 604m (1,982ft)
● Distance: 7.7 km
● Best time to visit: January to September or November to December
● Entrance Fee: $6.73
Hiking in Ecuador
Ecuador is a less visited but colorful country filled with indigenous history. In this country, you’ll find incredible places like the Galapagos Islands and the City of Quito, both stated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But, Ecuador has some of the best hikes in South America; don’t miss the incredible hiking volcano experiences Ecuador can give you.
Let’s go hiking in Ecuador!
Best Places to Hike in Ecuador
If you like multi-day hikes, craters, and peaceful emerald lakes, the Quilotoa loop is your hiking match.
What makes Quilotoa loop a unique experience?
Quilotoa is a crater lake located in the Cotopaxi district. On this multi-day trail (that’s called loop, but it’s not) you’ll walk through green mountain valleys and local towns. Going up and down, it’s a very strenuous time for your knees, but with a mesmerizing crater lake that’ll make the strenuous hike worth doing it.
How to get there: The trek usually starts in the town of Sigchos. To get there, hikers stay at Latacunga city as their base and get a bus to Sigchos. Bus costs are around $2.5, but you can also hire private trucks starting at $5.
- Bring cash as ATM’s are non-existing in the towns
- Two highly recommended gears for this trek are: trekking poles to protect your knees and scaring away dogs that can get violent towards strangers, and the travel app maps.me, because travelers get lost pretty often on this hike.
- If you get lost, don’t panic as this trek is located near a series of towns, which has helped the hikers to ask for directions.
- You can plan travel activities to explore different markets in each town you stay the night until reaching Quilotoa. Those towns are Sigchos, Isinlivi, and Chugchilán.
● Time: 3 days
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 3,914m
● Distance: 37.6km
● Best time to hike: June-September
● Entrance Fee: none
If you want a less strenuous, less mainstream, and grassier crater lake hike, Cuicocha is your hiking match.
What makes Cuicocha loop a unique experience?
Located in Cotacachi, this deep blue crater lake can be overlooked compared to the previous Quilotoa, but it doesn’t fall short. On this hike, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the nearby Cayambe Volcano, vibrant colorful orchids, mini islands, and exuberant vegetation around the valley.
Also, there is the possibility to do various activities like boat tours through the lake, eating in the onsite cafe or restaurant whilst enjoying the lake view in front of you.
How to get there: If you go by bus from Otavalo, take the bus to Cotacacchi (30m-$0.35). Then, hire a taxi ($5) to drive you to the visitor natural reserve center where Cuicocah is. Remember to plan with your taxi driver at what time he will pick you up.
Tip: If you go to Cuicocha it is advisable to stay in Otavalo town, a vibrant place that has an outstanding market called Plaza de Los ponchos.
● Time: 4-5 h
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 3,246
● Distance: 14 km
● Best time to hike: January-December
● Fee: Free!
Hey, if you’re a volcano lover or just curious about what hiking a volcano feels like; Cotopaxi Volcano is your hiking match.
What makes Cotopaxi Volcano a unique experience?
Photo by @Marisa04 at Pixabay
Near Quito lies Cotopaxi; an active, conical shaped, and topped by a glacier volcano (what a sight!).
Located in Cotopaxi National Park, this day trip starts at the parking lot (4500m) near the Refuge Jose Ribas at 4,800m, from there you’ll start a challenging climbing experience filled with unpredictable weather changes and winds, mixed with overwhelming close views from the bottom of the volcano and its mesmerizing black ash color, with a snow blanket on top.
While this hike is not technically difficult, you must be aware of the elevation gain, the experience of thin air, and the unpredictable weather that can make hiking more difficult as you climb.
How to get there: For a day trip, it’s recommended to stay the night in Latacunga. To get there it’s advisable to hire a drive ($40-$50 one go).
- Because of the high elevation, it is difficult for cars to reach the place and it’s common they stay within 1 km more or less. If this happens, relax and start your hike from there.
- This is a popular trek visit for the locals so, to enhance your experience and gladly enjoy the views, be in the park as early as possible! (The park opens at 8:00 am).
- Time: 10 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Max. Altitude: 5897m
- Distance: 7.2 km
- Best time to visit: January to May. But, if you want to enjoy a good view without the crowds the period from June to November is good, being June the best month.
- Fee: Free!
Hiking in Bolivia
Bolivia is a budget-friendly travel destination. Popular for offering good travel experiences at low cost, Bolivia has high elevation mountains and extreme adventures; exploring humid jungles, arid mountains, template valleys or just cycling the world’s deadliest road.
Let’s go hike in Bolivia!
Best Places to Hike in Bolivia
If you’re looking for a hiking adventure mixed with ice climbing, accessible even to beginners, Bolivia presents you with an unforgettable experience; Huayna Potosi is your hiking match.
What makes Huayna Potosi a unique experience?
Climbing Huayna Potosi, it’s one of the top adventures worth doing in La Paz, Bolivia. Known as a perfect destination for amateur climbers, the 6088 m peak climb it’s no child’s game.
This hike brings a magnificent experience walking on high elevation snow paths and, for those who complete the summit, a panoramic view of the entire Cordillera Real mountain range, the large Lake Titicaca, and La Paz city; a view that makes you just want to sit and look for hours.
How to get there: On this trek, it is necessary to hire a mountaineer guide company; they will pick you up at La Paz city and take you to the designated trailhead.
- Remember that the weather can be quite unpredictable, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t make it to the top.
- If you don’t know how to climb the majority of tours can offer climbing education days.
● Time: 2-3 days
● Level: Hard
● Max. Altitude: 6,088 m
● Distance: highly variable but 10.8km minimum.
● Best time to go: December to March
● Fee: There is no entrance fee, but the necessary tour guide could cost you around $130- $300
Bolivia Salt Flats Tour
Want to walk in the world’s largest mirror and lose yourself in light white heaven?
If the answer is yes, Bolivia’s Salt Flats Tour is your hiking match.
What makes Bolivia Salt Flats a unique experience?
The Bolivian salt flats are an amazing view that makes you wonder if you should book a tour out of the earth!
This multi-day hike brings an impressive shot to your eyes. In here you’ll found contrast color landscapes; red lagoons filled with flamingos, forests of 10m giant cactus, weird shaped stones, and the biggest mirror on earth; giving birth to a mesmerizing, intriguing scene resembling heaven or quite the opposite, a night full of stars where you feel like an astronaut in space.
How to get there: This multi-day hike starts at Uyuni town. There are different transportation possibilities by plane, train, car, and bus.
- Prices and duration on the road can vary from where you’ll stay but you can check the prices of bus and trains on this Bolivian website: tickets Bolivia and ferroviaria-andina.
- Although you can attempt to hike all these destinations on your own, it’s recommended to book a tour to get the best experience for this hike.
- If you’re short on time and money you can do just a one day hike. The options are Laguna Colorado, Laguna Verde, Isla Incahuasi, Dali Desert, or Salar de Uyuni.
- The tour prices for 3 days vary between $150-$300. If you are charged $500 or more, search for alternatives; there are tons!
● Time: 3-4 days
● Difficulty: Moderate
● Max. Altitude: 4,800m (15,700ft)
● Distance: Highly variable
● Best season to visit: December to March.
● Fee: Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve of Andean Fauna entrance of $21.72 and $5 for Isla Incahuasi.
Chataquila Inca Trail
Did you know there is an Inca Trail in Bolivia?
If you love the Inca trails and want to explore other paths of this ancient empire in Bolivia’s lands, the Chataquilla Inca Trail is your hiking match.
What makes this Chataquila Inca Trail a unique experience?
On this mostly downhill trail, you’ll walk over Inca stone paths, getting through the pre-Hispanic route. In this grand valley, you’ll see beautiful flowers and be amazed by the king-sized marvelous mountain with a color palette of green and wine red shades mixed with dark and light rock colors. A valley worth every step!
How to get there: The trail starts at Chataquila village 40 km from Sucre. You can hire a taxi from Sucre city.
Tip: This trail ends in the village of Chanauca, but you can plan a multi-day hike to the grand beauty of Maragua Crater and the ancient cave paintings at Incamachay, which are 2500 years old.
● Time: 2-3 h
● Difficulty: Easy
● Maxim Altitude: 3650m
● Distance: 5.5km
● Best time to visit: October to April
● Fee: Free!
Hiking in Brazil
Bazil, the soul of the world’s party! This country is famous for its love of soccer, sunny beaches, and the Brazilian Carnival. But, Brazil has more than beautiful beaches, the natural terrain of this country brings you epic scenic mountain trails to discover and get plenty of wow’s!
Let’s go hiking in Brazil!
Best Places to Hike in Brazil
Pedra do Telégrafo
Who is this for?
If you love a good Instagram shot and want to hike Río de Janeiro; Pedra do Telégrafo is your hike match.
What makes Pedra do Telégrafo a unique experience?
Maybe you have seen it on Instagram or Facebook?
This is one of the things to do in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a famous spot where perspective tricks you. Although it has become a very popular place, it is a pleasant short hike where you’ll experience beautiful far-reaching views of the Tijuca forest and the Restinga de Marambaia beach.
Oh! Don’t forget your Instagram selfie hanging off a cliff photo! (Even though you’re just 1m from the ground. ..ups)
- Due to its popularity, it’s preferable to go on the week.
- Although this is a doable self-guided hike, it is advisable to hire a guide since the start of the trail can be very confusing.
- It gets super-hot, so bring at least 1.5 L of water!
How to get there: It is recommended to rent a car for this as it’s far from Rio de Janeiro. But if you can’t take a bus going to Guaratiba, follow the path designated for Estrada da Barra da Guaratiba until reaching the beach where the trailhead is.
Time: 1 hour
Max. Altitude: 354m
Distance: 5 km
Best time to visit: off-season months like April to June or September to October
The Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes
How about a desert hike adventure in Brazil and while you’re on it, why not also swim?
If you want to go on such a bizarre hike, Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes is your hiking match.
What makes Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes a unique experience?
Around June, after the rainy season in Brazil, the dunes at Lençóis Maranhenses National Park store up the water and then, like a magic gift from nature; emerald lagoons are born.
Located in Maranhao, this is a necessarily guided hike. It usually takes between 5 and 8 days, but trips of 2-3 days are also possible.
Overall, on this heavenly trip, you’ll visit beautiful local towns, walk into soft white dunes, experience an obscure sky full of stars whilst leading to the Oasis Queimada dos Britos; where you can spend your time refreshing in big blue lagoons, horseback riding, surfing or sleeping calmly in comfy hammocks.
How to get there: Your trek can start in Atins village (2-3-day trek) or at São Luís (5-8-day trek), the latter being the capital of Maranhao where your guide will pick you up. To get to Atins you have to take a 4-5 h drive from São Luís terminal to the town of Barreirinhas and take a 4×4 transportation to Atins village (90 min approx)
- If you have the time and are interested in colonial cultural spots, visit the Historical Center in São Luís city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and accurately represent the historic colonial Portuguese architecture.
- These multi-day treks can be quite expensive, around $500-$2000 per person. Since you need a guide to enter, one of the most affordable options is to book accommodation in Atins or Barreirinhas town and arrange short day treks instead of the full multi-treks.
Time: 5-7 days
Max. Altitude: 40 m
Distance: varies, but around 62km (for a 6-day trek)
Best time to visit: May to August
Morro do Pai Inácio
How about an easy hike with a spectacular sunset on one of South America’s best hikes?
If you like beautiful afternoon views, Morro do Pai Inácio, a tableau-shaped mountain located in Chapada Diamantina National Park, is your hiking match.
What makes Morro do Pai Inácio a unique experience?
Chapada Diamantina National Park offers impressive waterfalls, caves with deep blue water pools to dive in, long valleys, and numerous mountain high altitude hikes.
On this steep hill climb, you’ll see a lot of rocks and large stones at first, but when you reach the top high you’ll be welcomed by a plateau mountain with plenty of space to walk and feel bewildered with the 360° view of the highlands, mountains, and the Chapada Diamantina valley.
It is one of the best hikes in South America nestled in the mountains.
How to get there: The trail starts along the north edge of the road BR-242, between Palmeiras and Lençóis town. The only way to get there is by hiring a driver or renting a car.
- If you want to stay in Chapada Diamantina Park, the most popular towns are Lençois and Vale do Capão. Both of them offer good lodging and natural beauty, but it’s recommended Lencois town as it has more services, including car rental, and better room prices than Vale do Capão.
- The best way to enjoy this hike is by planning a picnic and begin your ascent near 4 pm so you get the spectacular sunset of Morro do Pai Inácio when its rocks turn orange by the artistic sunlight.
● Time: 30m
● Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
● Maxi. Altitude: 1.120m
● Distance: 0.4km
● Best time to visit: Mayo y Octubre
● Fee: entrance fee at $16.2
Hey! What about a bonus trek?
If you’re eager to explore South America, this is a trek you can’t miss!
You’re a fervid adventurer ready to hike one of the best hikes in South America. The challenge is high but so is the reward; the magnificent Cordillera Huayhuash is your hiking match.
What makes Cordillera Huayhuash a unique experience?
Cordillera Huayhuash is an emblematic challenging multi-day hike highlighted as one of the most beautiful treks in the whole world.
The classic Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit lasts 12 days. But, you can choose to hike shorter ones; between 7 days or 4 days, and still amaze your view with one of the highest mountains in Peru; Yerupajá (6635m); snow towering peaks like Jirishanca (6094m), and the legendary Siula Grande mountain (6334m), popular from the film “Touching Void”.
If mesmerizing legendary snow peaks are not enough for you, this mountain range also has glacial and emerald blue lakes; thermal waters, diverse fauna, rivers, and impressive viewpoints of the Peruvian mountains, tinted in orange colors by the afternoon light.
Tip: Acclimatization is highly important in most Peru hikes. For this hike, you’ll mostly stay above 4000m so it is pretty important to spend at least two days above 3000m before starting your hike.
How to get there: The trail starts at the Cuartelwain campsite. To get there you’ll have to first take a bus from Lima to Chiquián, which can be taken in Cavassa station, a few meters from Plaza Grau. Beware self-guided experienced travelers recommend going first to the city of Huaraz, where you can acclimate better and organize your equipment before starting the hike.
- Time: 12 days or less
- Difficulty: It could go from moderate to high difficulty (depending on which route and how many days you choose to do it)
- Max. Altitude: 3300-5000m
- Distance: 120.km
- Best time to visit: End of April and the beginning of October
- Fee: It’ll vary between the areas you hike, you can check the entrance permit prices on this website: Huayhuash
Things to watch out for when hiking in South America
When you hike to South America, the most common questions that pop into travelers’ minds are:
● Is South America safe to travel?
● What is the safest country in South America to visit?
● What countries in South America are safe to visit?
The answers to those questions aren’t simple.
Even though the safest country in South America is Chile, the reality is more complex. South America is not a place where you’ll be instantly murdered or robbed, but dangerous situations can happen, even in Chile.
So, lose the fear. I’m going to show you some basic tips to make your trip to South America an unforgettable experience!
South America Travel Tips
If you want to embark on a journey on all the best hikes in South America- you need to be healthy and safe to enjoy it!
On this list are some basic safety tips to help you have a wonderful travel adventure.
- Be aware of your surroundings: In South America, you always need to be aware of where you are and who is next to you. It may sound paranoiac but it’s the way it is. If you’re too goofy, bad intentional people can spot that and try to rob you when you’re off guard.
- Your belongings, almost glued to you: Never leave your belongings on a tablet or out of sight. If you do that, your stuff is on another travel trip, without you.
- Hire Ubers or Trusted Taxi Companies: Since you’re a foreigner the taxi scams are very possible; to avoid these, always hire drivers from trusted companies or official local transportation sites.
- Don’t show off your money or valuables: In South America, there are social and economic problems that lead to extreme poverty or alimentation problems, which lead to high robbery issues. So, you should keep your valuables out of sight and if you need to pay, never show all the wallet money but have pre-planned cash to deliver.
- Police officers can be bribed: Police officers are a hot topic in 2020. But, I don’t want to get into polemics. What you should know is that in South America corruption is very common and police officers sometimes don’t want to protect you, but get money out of you, especially if you give the vibe of a foreigner. So, if a police officer stops you; do not hand them your passport and go to any place alone.
- Where are the red zones? Wherever you stay, ask which zones are dangerous, generally called zonas rojas (red zones), those are places that you should highly avoid. For example: Cusco is a very safe city to visit, but you should avoid the Santiago district, where the majority of zones are red; another example is in Rio de Janeiro, the beach called Arpoador is a beautiful site to swim, but it’s also a red zone, where tourists are a favored target. Plus, it’s useful to check travel communities like the South America forum in lonelyplanet or specific facebook groups like South America Backpacker; these communities can give you priceless safety advice born from experience!
- Bring cash: The most convenient way to travel in South America is with cash; entrance park tickets, transportation, and other necessities can only be paid in cash so it’s best to plan your budget and have a certain amount of your budget in cash.
- Essentials Vaccines: To protect your life and health it’s very important to have the necessary vaccinations against the most common illness you can catch in South America. The basic vaccines are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies, and Meningitis. (But! Remember to ask your doctor for any further advice and a profound investigation of the needed vaccinations in the sites you’re going)
Disclaimer: I’m not saying South America is safer than it looks, there are places you should avoid; like Venezuela, which has become a very hostile place. But, if you follow these basic rules (even though I can’t guarantee anything bad will happen), the probability of having a bad time drops considerably.
What to Pack for a South America Hiking Adventure
If you want the best hiking experience in South America you should pack:
- Water purifiers
- Bug repellents
- Hand sanitizer
- Stomach pill enzymes
- Basic first-aid kit
- Altitude sick medicine
- Trekking poles
- Waterproof or windproof jacket
- Waterproof boots
- Waterproof gloves
- Waterproof or windproof beanie
- Multifunctional buff
- Microfibre lightweight towel
- Waterproof socks
- Thermal underwear
- Sports leggings
- Shorts or knee pants
- Waterproof backpack
- Travel money belts
When you visit a new country, you also visit new bacterias. It’s not a sexy fact, but it’s true.
This is why drinking local tap water, especially in South America, where the water system it’s still in development, can make you sick and potentially ruin your trip.
You came to have a good time, not worry about water, right? I’ll give you some tips to ensure you have a great time away from the hospital because of intoxication or dehydration.
Basic tips about drinking water in South America:
- Don’t even use local water to brush your teeth.
- Always buy sufficient bottled water to avoid dehydration during your hikes.
- Double-check if the ice cubes on your beverages are made with local tap water or bottled water.
- Boil the water you use before consumption.
Of course, always buying bottled water can be harmful to your savings and you may not always find a place to buy it.
And boiling water is not a 100% accurate system to kill bacteria and viruses, it’s time-consuming and very uncomfortable to do it everywhere you go.
At first, it may not seem as necessary but a good way to protect yourself from suffering any intoxication is by investing in purification and filtered water systems.
What method or system to choose may be difficult because of the grand variety of choices in the water purifying/filter market. But to make your life easier you should look primarily at two categories: purifiers or filters.
All these products divide themselves by those two categories, which is a critical difference sometimes overlooked when purchasing!
The main difference between a purifier and a filter it’s that purifiers give secure protection against viruses, whilst filters help remove bacteria, pesticides, and industrial chemicals but not viruses.
Since we’re talking about South America the best choice would be a purifier water system or a mixed system, but a purifier is a must in the equation, don’t forget it!
Water purification systems
Chemical water purification
This straightforward method involves using handy and easy chemical treatments directly in your water bottle, waiting approx. 30min to 4 hours. Good options are:
A heavier and consuming method for purifying water. This option is best if you are in a couple or group trip, the purification system could take less than the chemical option.
A good option is:
These purifiers are small and very easy to use. You just need to turn them on and it can purify the water in 1 minute (the flash superhero of the purifiers!). But fastness comes at a price. You need to have batteries around and combine them with filters to process highly contaminated or large quantities of water. Good options are:
● Katadyn Steripen Classic 3 UV (this one has a prefilter included)
Gravity and squeeze purifiers
This is the best choice for group trips and to purify a large quantity of water using the force of gravity. However, it’s a slower process so it’s best when you’re camping or when you’re not in a hurry. A good option is:
This is one of the most convenient ways to purify water. Ideal for individual use, and those with constant water sources to grab from. The downside is that it only serves for smaller amounts of water and the majority of bottlers in the market are only filters.
Good options are:
If you’re going to the top hikes in South America you’ll find some bugs in the Pisac Ruins in Peru, The Pedra do Telégrafo in Brazil, or The Lost City in Colombia.
Quick Tip: To prevent you from attracting mosquitoes use light color clothes instead of dark ones as they are more attracted to dark colors.
Alternatively, you can also use bug repellent for better protection from any unwanted bite.
Good options are:
● Sawyer Repellent: This repellent is to be used on your clothes. It can last 6 washes and doesn’t leave any odor behind. It also serves as an effective repellent against yellow fever mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus.
● Sawyer Jungle Juice: This is the perfect DEET-based spray to offer better protection on exposed skin areas for diverse bugs like chiggers, fleas, mosquitoes, etc.
● Sawyer Picaridin: This repellent serves the same function as the previous one with the only difference is made for people who are DEET allergic.
Always bring at least 1oz of hand sanitizer with you. It is crucially important to maintain hand hygiene wherever you’re going, as you could catch unwanted bacteria or viruses.
You can find a grand variety on the market, good options are:
Stomach pill enzymes
There is a high possibility the food in South America could make you go to the toilet until the point the bathrooms seem to be on your travel itinerary! (Noooo)
Diarrhea and indigestion problems are very common problems for tourists that visit the Caribbean countries for the first time.
To diminish your travel itinerary to the toilet, stomach enzyme pills and anti-diarrhea capsules are an appreciated utility. Good options to help diminish your toilette expeditions are:
Basic first-aid kit
We don’t know if an accident may happen, especially when you’re traveling to a new country or doing outdoor activities like hiking.
Good first aid kits you could have to resolve an emergency are:
Altitude sick medicine
Many of the best places to hike in South America are at high altitudes.
Though you’re bound to feel altitude sickness to some degree, if you don’t take the necessary precautions this can lead to serious health problems! Please take the following advice seriously before doing any of the high altitude hikes in South America.
- Acclimate first: This is the most important piece of advice! DO NOT hike if you haven’t acclimated first. A practical example would be Huayna Potosi with a max. altitude of 6,088m, for that kind of climb a good acclimatization period, would be 2-3 days.
- Travel insurance: Check that your travel insurance policies have coverage for hiking activities above 2,500m 3-500m minimum.
- Medicines: Overall you should visit your doctor, as they will determine which medicines would be the best ones for you. But, the most used medicines are acetazolamide (Diamox), promethazine, and paracetamol or ibuprofen to prevent headaches. In Peru, they will offer you coca leaves, which are helpful to relieve altitude sickness. DON’T bring home these leaves as they’re part of the cocaine plant, illegal in most countries.
What to pack for a hike in South America?
If you’re ready to embark on a hiking journey to South America you may have realized that a lot of the best hikes in South America require you to have more than just a pair of shoes.
Here is a list of the essential hiking gears you’ll need:
This hiking gear will highly depend on how much hiking activity you decide to do and how steep the trail is.
Recommended trekking poles:
What to pack for Patagonia?
Here are the basic gears you should have to be safe on your trip to Patagonia, whether it is in Chile or Argentina. The main difference with other hiking gear is that these protect you from wind and rainy environments, helping your body stay warm, which is a top priority in Patagonia.
Note: these clothes and gears can also be used in other types of hiking environments.
Waterproof or windproof jacket:
● For women Columbia Arcadia II
● For men Columbia Ascender
Waterproof hiking pants:
● For women Merrell Moab 2
● For men Timberland Boot
● For women Cevapro
● For men Carhartt
● Unisex Sealskinz
Waterproof or windproof beanie:
● For women Outdoor Research Wind Warrior
● For men Sealskinz Beanie
● Unisex Samrtwool Merino
● unisex Buff
Microfibre lightweight towel:
● unisex Rainleaf
● unisex SEALSKINZ Unisex
● For Women: Duofold Women’s Thermal Shirt
● For men: Under Armour
Shorts or knee pants:
Travel money belts
A new trend to secure your cash while traveling is by investing in safe money wallets. Great options to consider are:
● Hidden Bra Pockets: Pacsafe Coversafe
Maps.me is a navigation app that lets you save offline maps to later see when you’re hiking or traveling to a new place. It is highly recommendable to avoid getting lost and reach safely to tourist destinations.
Rome2rio is a travel planning website/app where you can get insightful transportation and accommodation options from more than 160 countries! I looked for the Pisac hike displayed on this list and it gave good results; check it out! https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Cusco/Pisac
I’ll be honest with you. Doing this list was hard.
South America has so MUCH to offer that it’s overwhelming choosing the best hiking trails.
But, the hikes in this list are top-notch places with vibrant cultures, magnificent natural landscapes, and historic architecture that’ll make you learn, be thankful, laugh, respect mother nature, in the end; feel alive!
So, now that you have a hotlist of the best hikes in South America, the only thing left is to decide which one is your hike match, and start planning your hike trip!
Tell me where will you go?
Let’s go hiking in South America!
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