There are few places on earth with as many breathtaking and diverse trekking routes as South America. The sheer kilometers of land in the region make for a huge variety of landscapes and climate conditions. Plus, as home to some of the tallest mountains in the world, the terrain is both dramatic and striking while offering lots of interesting areas to trek.
The countries in the region are varied and diverse too. Your experience will be made even richer as you visit these countries, learning about the different histories and cultures.
As always it’s important to plan your trip well so that you can make the most of the time you have. From Ecuador down to Patagonia, we’ve selected some of the best treks in the region and pulled together the most important information you need before setting off on your experience of a lifetime.
1. Experience a quintessential Patagonian trek in Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine treks are iconic Patagonian routes and thousands of people travel annually to hike these trails. These are challenging treks but with a good level of fitness, they are pretty accessible. The great thing is that along the way, you get to enjoy some of Patagonia’s most spectacular scenery.
There are actually two routes you can follow in Torres del Paine. With 80 km, the W trail is the shorter route and can be done in 3 to 4 days. The O circuit is a longer 110 km loop that will take you around 7 to 8 days. Both routes offer spectacular sights and there are places to camp along the way.
Where: Patagonia, Chile
Best starting point: Refugio Paine Grande for the W trail or the Torres del Paine Welcome Center for the O trail
Duration: 3 to 4 days for the W trail or 7 to 8 days for the O trail
Best time to visit: October through to March
2.Embark on a once in a lifetime journey to Machu Picchu
Trekking to Machu Picchu is the ultimate bucket list activity. It sits 80 km from Cusco at 2,430 meters and was built around the year 1450. This site has some serious history and geographical importance attached to it.
There are actually two different trekking routes to get there. Both routes are great but for different reasons.
The Inca trail is perhaps the most classic and along the way you get to pass important sites like Llactapata, Sayaqmarka, Phuyupatamarca and the Sun Gate. However, there are around 500 people per day trekking the Inca trail so it can get crowded, it also gets booked up quite far in advance.
Conversely, the Salkantay trail sees around only 50 trekkers per day. So, while you may not be passing exactly the same sights as the Inca trail, you will do it with some solitude. You will cover terrain that is equally beautiful though and this trek is constantly gaining in popularity. It's also thought to be a bit more challenging than the Inca Trail.
Where: Machu Pichu, Peru
Best starting point: The Inca Trail starts in Chillca and the Salkantay Trail starts in Challacancha.
Duration: The Inca Trail takes 4-5 days. The Salkantay Trail takes 4-5 days.
Best time to visit: April through October.
Don't delay, book your once-in-a-lifetime Machu Picchu trek today, either via the classic inca trail or the salkantay alternative path.
3. Explore the Cotopaxi National Park and the volcanos of the Ecuadorian Andes
This spectacular national park is full of striking scenery that has been formed over time by volcanic activity. It's home to many mountains including the imposing Cotopaxi Volcano, which at 5,897 meters is the second highest peak in Equador. It's also one of the most active volcanos in the world.
The trek to the Cotopaxi Volcano can be done in 7-8 hours from the parking area to the summit. We'd recommend doing it gradually across around three days or more and trekking through more of the surrounding areas. Not only do you get to see more of the tremendous landscapes, but you also get to acclimatize. You can even climb a smaller nearby volcano like Rumiñahui which sits at 4,700m to help you get used to the altitude.
This is one of the most beautiful hikes in Ecuador. Keep reading to find out other amazing hikes in this country!
Where: Quito, Equador
Best starting point: Quito
Duration: 3 days
Best time to visit: November through March
4. Discover the natural beauty of Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre, in Patagonia
With its distinctive shaggy appearance, Fitz Roy is a classic Patagonian mountain and a must-see trekking destination. Nestled in the heart of the Argentine Patagonia, trekking here gives you panoramic views of the beautiful landscapes of the region.
By combining two treks, the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre hike, you get to see these two iconic peaks from the best vantage points. Plus you'll see even more great scenery, like the impressive lake Laguna Torre and the Glacier Grande. It’ll take you two days and you’ll camp out in the mountains overnight, a pretty awesome experience in itself.
Where: Patagonia, Argentina
Best starting point: El Chaltén
Duration: 2 days
Best time to visit: October through April
5. Experience the mysticism of Ausangate mountain
Ausangate is a magical peak located near Cuzco. It’s a sacred mountain for the people of Peru, steeped in mythology and local cultural significance.
Standing tall at 5020 meters, climbing this mountain is not an easy feat. However, with a good level of fitness and an experienced guide, you won't have a problem. Along the way, you'll be able to enjoy awesome views of the Peruvian Andes and the local flora and fauna like interesting cacti and Andean Condors.
Once you're done you'll be able to enjoy natural hot springs. Nearby Rainbow Mountain is also a must see, due to the interesting colors of its rock.
Where: Cuzco area, Peru.
Best starting point: the Andean village of Tinki
Duration: 6 hours.
Best time to visit: May through November
6. Head to the wilderness on a trek of the Condoriri massif
The Cordillera Real mountain range in Bolivia is a hidden gem when it comes to trekking and nature in South America. Home to some impressive Andean peaks, including the Condoriri massif, the best way to explore the area is to trek around these impressively tall mountains.
Tuni is a good town to begin your hike, from there you can trek to Laguna Jurikhota and take in amazing sights of the Condoriri Massif. You’ll also get to enjoy exceptional views of Imilla Apachita, Maria Lluko, and Huayna Potosi mountains while you're at it. There are so many different hiking trails and things to see in the area, that we recommend a multi-day trek.
Where: Cordillera Real, Bolivia
Best starting point: Tuni
Duration: It's customizable, we recommend a 5-day trek
Best time to visit: April through October
Trekking is one of the best ways to explore South America, and you cannot go wrong with any of these epic treks. So, now that you have the information you need, it's time to start booking!