A list of South America’s top 10 most awe-inspiring treks
For many people, especially those with an affinity for travel and adventure, South America instantly conjures up images of awe-inspiring hiking trails to snowy peaks, shimmering volcanoes and hidden ruins of ancient civilisations.
Thanks to the Andes, the longest continental mountain range in the world, South America is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. The countless number of dramatic treks makes it hard to decide which ones should be the top choices. No doubt, a list of the best hiking trails in South America must include and begin with the Inca trail. But don’t worry, there are plenty more treks to discover that will make you to start packing your backpack. Here is a diverse sample of the continent’s most delightful trails:
1. The Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is easily the most iconic South American trek, and you can never truly understand the reason behind its legendary status until you’ve taken it.
Keep in mind that the hiking season is from April until October. It’s not recommended to make the four-day trip during the rainy season. Furthermore, you need to book your hike quite far in advance due to high demand, so the Inca Trail isn’t something you can undertake on the spur of the moment.
2. La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
Spanish for “The Lost City”, this trek is a dream come true for the Indiana Jones lovers. Only accessible on foot, the hike to the archaeological site in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Santa Marta is one of Colombia’s most exciting and most challenging hikes. It’s the full package – lush rainforests, rivers, waterfalls, and breathtaking views. You can choose 3-, 4- or 5-day options to reach the ancient city’s remains, which still emanate a palpable air of mystical history.
3. Chapada Diamantina, Brazil
The Chapada Diamantina National Park stands out with its many natural wonders, including rushing rivers, waterfalls, massive rock formations and crystal-clear natural pools. There are many treks to choose from, such as the 5-day Grand Circuit which takes you through underground lakes and rivers and rewards you with views of the region’s distinctive mountain top plateaus.
4. The Salkantay, Peru
The Salkantay trek has been coined “the alternative Inca Trail,” because it offers another viable route to Machu Picchu costing less money and requiring less planning in advance.
The ancient and remote footpath might be the lesser known sibling of the star but that doesn’t mean it is any less spectacular. Mount Salkantay is a sight to behold with its glacier-capped peak and standing over 6,200 metres tall. The trek itself is more off the beaten path and authentic than the Inca Trail offering solitude and contemplation.
5. Santa Cruz, Peru
Renowned to be one of the most beautiful treks in the worlds, and the most famous hike in Peru, the Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular choices for nature lovers on our list. The hike takes you through the valleys of the Cordillera Blancas while passing hot springs, red quinoa trees and shimmering turquoise lakes all the way to its highest point, the Punta Union. This is a safe trek and you don’t require a guide, but it is still moderate to difficult depending on your fitness levels.
6. Huayna Potosí, Bolivia
Huayna Potosí is one of the most challenging treks on our list, but ironically, one of the world’s easiest mountains above 6,000 m to conquer. You will need to have some decent ice climbing skills in order to be rewarded with the spectacular 360-degree views from the top.
This trek is quite short – just two action-packed days.
7. Golondrinas Cloud Forest Trek, Ecuador
This is another relatively easy trek, starting at roughly 4,000 metres and descending to about 1,000 metres above sea level. During the laid-back journey, you’ll get to take in the region’s idyllic scenery and exotic wildlife.
On top of that, by trekking here, you will fund conservation projects, which only accentuates the sense that here you are one with nature.
8. Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina
Mount Fitz Roy features excellent hiking opportunities, including an epic, 10-day circular trek, which should only be attempted by experienced, technical climbers who must hire a guide. There are plenty of trails for regular trekkers to be found here too, for example around the base of the mountain in the Los Glacieres National Park. The park covers more than 7,200 square kilometres and is home to 47 giant glaciers. You can book mini trekking excursions onto the ice and the most popular day trip is to Glaciar Perito Moreno, one of the park’s most famous sights. Witnessing a massive iceberg calving off the glacier’s face and crashing into the so-called iceberg channel below is a spectacular sight.
9. Torres Del Paine, Chile
Trekking Torres Del Paine feels like embarking on an epic quest straight from a fantasy novel.
The jagged mountains throughout this otherworldly region rise like some mythological giants, watching over you as you follow the iconic W Trail which will take you through some of Chile’s most famous landscapes. Its diverse landscape ranges from granite mountains to azure lakes, emerald forests to sweeping rivers and a brilliant-blue glacier. As they give off their spectacular interplay of colours, you will feel like you are traversing a fictional landscape.
10. El Cocuy National Park, Colombia
This is one of the least famous treks on the list, which makes it perfect for those who want to explore the roads less travelled. The National Park in the Colombian Andes is still unaffected by tourism and offers 3 or 4 open trails at present. You must obtain a park pass and be accompanied by a guide to explore the trails but the glacial lakes and mountains, unique rock formations and impressive views will make any effort worthwhile.
With so many spectacular landscapes and panoramic trails, South America is a dream for hikers – both the less and the more experienced. It might be difficult to decide where to go but whatever you choose to do, you will be rewarded with surreal sights from lost cities to a huge volcano or a radiant blue glacier.