South America boasts diverse cultures and landscapes. Some of the most remote (and stunning!) reaches of this incredible continent are best accessed on foot, so it’s time to lace up the hiking boots and hit the trails! From the icy summits of the Andes to the lush jungles of Colombia, here are just some of the guided treks you can do on a tour of South America.
In the vast expanse of Patagonia, nature has a way of reminding you just how small you are and making you feel larger than life all at once. With shards piercing the sky, glaciers creaking as they force their way between rugged escarpments, and deep lakes mirroring their dramatic surrounds, your hiking boots will leave less of a trace on Patagonia than it will on you. Straddling Chile and Argentina, this southern frontier is a nirvana for hikers looking for striking scenery and goosebump inducing moments. It’s wild, moody, and beautiful.
Chilean Patagonia – Trekking Torres del Paine National Park
Nestled in Chilean Patagonia is Torres del Paine National Park, a dramatic landscape riddled with popular hiking trails. The iconic W Trek is a four day route covering 62km (38.5 miles) that showcases some of the regions’ most stunning wonders of nature. Hike to the base of Las Torres where a tranquil turquoise lagoon sits in the shadows of three towering rock columns, trek to Grey Lake and the lookout for Grey Glacier and take in the sweeping views from the French Valley lookout along this famous trail.
If you are up for a challenge, tackle the Full Circuit Trek, also known as the O Circuit. This trail takes in the highlights of the W Trek and circles around to the quieter reaches of the park. Here you can admire Perros Glacier and Lago Dickson on the edge of the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap with fewer people competing for the view, you may just have to share the trail with some guanacos (a native camelid) along the way! If you prefer, you can explore the Patagonia wilderness with day walks from your campsite base in Torres del Paine. Instead of moving from campsite to campsite, take some single day treks through the stunning landscape, including the most popular day hike to the base of Las Torres.
Argentinean Patagonia – Trekking El Chaltén
El Chaltén is the gateway to a collection of hiking trails through the Argentinean wilderness. Two of the most popular routes are Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre. Each trek can be completed in a day from El Chaltén and flaunts some of the best scenery you’ll see while hiking Patagonia. These trails wind through Los Glaciares National Park past frozen lakes and glaciers that dance as they catch the sun’s rays, and rocky terrain that enfolds eerily still lagoons.
The trails of Argentinean Patagonia can be combined with a tour of Chile to see the best of both Los Glaciares National Park and Torres del Paine National Park. Peregrine offer a compilation of day treks in both Argentina and Chile on their 11 Day Patagonia Hiking itinerary, and you’ll cover off some of the most popular hikes from El Chaltén and the W Trek in Torres del Paine as you hike Patagonia in depth with G Adventures.
Beyond the remote reaches of Patagonia, Argentina has more to discover. Further north lies Mendoza, a hub for adventure lovers and wine lovers alike. It is the home of Malbec wine, and the gateway to some great treks including the Valley of Tears and Aconcagua. Sample some of the regions produce as you wander the sprawling vineyards before strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trails.
The Valley of Tears Trek
Uncover the beauty and the ruthlessness of the Andes as you trek the Valley of Tears. Head off from Mendoza into the wilderness known as the resting place for Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. In 1972, 45 passengers plummeted into the remote Andes where they were stranded amidst the rock and ice for 72 days. At the end of the ordeal, 16 survivors were rescued. On this trek you’ll get the chance to pay your respects to the other 29 victims and discover the rugged yet beautiful terrain that they faced. Marvel at the sharp peaks, the icy Glacier of Tears, and the harsh deep valleys before celebrating your return to Mendoza with some of the regions’ finest produce – a well deserved glass (or three) of Malbec. Salud!
Trekking Aconcagua Base and Mt Bonete
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, towering above the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. Take an Argentinean expedition to the base camp of Aconcagua and crane your neck at the soaring mountains around you. You’ll get stunning views of the rocky facades of Aconcagua, and summit Mt Bonete at 5000m (16,400ft) above sea level. This week long trek sees you on the trail from 4 – 10 hours per day over rough terrain, so a very good level of fitness is required and an understanding of the potential affects of high altitude is important. However, for every time you wonder why you choose to tackle this trek, you’ll be answered with scenery that supersedes your weary legs!
Peru is the home of ancient ruins, varied landscapes, deep traditions and colourful communities. Vibrant rugs and scarves spill from roadside stalls and giggling children run barefoot through the remote Andean villages. Walk in the footsteps of the Incas as you climb and descend through the steep mountains en route to Machu Picchu or take on the rugged splendour of the Huayhuash Circuit. Peru will not disappoint.
Trekking to Machu Picchu
One of the highlights of touring Peru is seeing the iconic Machu Picchu and getting that little flutter in your stomach as the sun rises over the Incan citadel. This sight is made all the more special by making it to this apex under your own steam, hiking your way through the lush valleys and mountain passes en route to this iconic place. There are two main paths to Machu Picchu, and you can choose to do the classic Inca Trail or Lares Trek.
Both routes to Machu Picchu are multi day hikes that wind their way through stunning landscapes. The Inca Trail has a few more ascents, descents and stairs to conquer, but both are demanding trails that reward with slightly different experiences. The Inca Trail is peppered with more historic ruins and reminders of a time gone by, while the Lares Trek winds through Andean communities providing an insight into life in these remote villages.
One of the things that sets the Inca Trail apart is the arrival at Machu Picchu itself, reaching the Sun Gate as dawn creeps through the clouds and illuminates the ruins in that morning glow. The final day of hiking will see you climb to the Sun Gate nice and early, flooded with a sense of achievement, wonder, and maybe some lactic acid. If you’ve chosen to take the Lares Trek, you’ll instead be bussed to Machu Picchu after a night resting comfortably in a real bed. You’re showered, rested and ready to discover Machu Picchu.
Trekking the Huayhuash Circuit
When you think of hiking in Peru, you’d be forgiven for not looking past the iconic trails to Machu Picchu. However, Cordillera Huayhuash is a mountain climbers dream rivalling the Himalayas in snow-capped scenery and well worth considering during your exploration of Peru. Trek the Huayhuash Circuit to take in this remote alpine wilderness, traversing high mountain passes with sweeping views and descending through deep rustic valleys. The weathered landscape cups turquoise glacial lagoons, and the vast open skies wink overhead as you pitch your tent under the stars. A real rugged beauty!
Looking for something a bit different? Swap snow-capped peaks for seven days in the lush jungles of Colombia. Stay with an Indigenous Wiwa community as you discover the beauty of the places and the people en route to the Lost City of Teyuna. Following a previously undiscovered trail, you can now trek the Lost City through a hiking route exclusively open to G Adventures and Wiwa Tours travellers. The tour is led by an Indigenous Guide and immerses travellers in the customs of the places they visit, sharing a meal with the local people and sleeping in hammocks under the stars. A whole new way to discover the Lost City and the Wiwa Community that call the region home.