10 Best Hiking Trails In South America


South America is not just a land of strong traditions and vivid colors – the continent has some of the most stunning landscapes. From the idyllic Caribbean beaches to the densest Amazonian jungle, South America features plenty of options for all types of visitors.

For adventure lovers, donning hiking boots and hiking pants and exploring the hiking trails in South America is usually a dream. If you intend to go hiking in South America, this article should help you discover the best trails you can explore.

Where to Go Hiking in South America

1. Santa Cruz Trail – Peru

Nestled in the white-peaked Cordillera Blanca range, the classic four-day Santa Cruz hiking trip features some of the best views and experiences. While most hikers flock to the trails close to Machu Picchu, this highly overlooked hiking trail gets just a fraction of the adventurers, offering relative solitude for such a stunning place.

The trail for hiking in the Andes starts at the mountain city of Huaraz, winds its way down the Cordillera Blanca valleys, on its way to the highest point, Punta Union (4,750 meters). On the way, you will pass stunning turquoise lakes and walk through a sandy desert that feels more like a mountain beach. The hiking trail will offer a front seat row to the most prominent mountains in the region, including the Alpamayo (5,947 meters) and Taulliraju (5,830 meters).

The best time to explore this trail for hiking in the Andes is between May and October. During this period of time, you are likely to experience mild temperatures and more clear days.

Distance: 34 miles (51 Kilometers)

Number of days: 3 to 4

2. Salcantay Trail – Peru

The Salcantay trail (also called the Salkantay trek), is the most famous alternative hike to Machu Picchu. The trail for hiking in the Andes swaps the Classic Inca trail ruins for jaw-droppingly diverse views.

Starting at Mollepta, the hiking trail sojourns through incredible landscapes where the lowland jungle gives way to numerous highland alpine settings and several glaciated mountains, the most impressive mountain being Nevada Salkantay (6,271 meters).

While the trail is a little bit more physically challenging than the Inca trail (training for the hike is important), it pays off with fewer crowds, allowing you to connect with nature in solitude. Also, unlike the Inca Trail, you won’t need to reserve a spot in advance or get a permit to explore the Salcantay trail.

The best time to grab your hiking backpack and visit the Salcantay trail is between April and October (the dry season). If you prefer to use your trekking poles in a trail featuring a minimum number of hikers, you may want to avoid the trail between July and August, which is the peak tourist season.

Distance: 46 miles (74 kilometers)

Number of days: 5

3. La Ciudad Perdida, Lost City Trail – Colombia

Hidden in the deliciously green jungles of Columbia, lies the Lost City (also known as Ciudad Perdida), swallowed by the forest for more than 1,200 years, speckled with jewels, gold, and human sacrifice sites. To reach the epic ruins, you will have to embark on a 4-day hike via the La Ciudad Perdida hiking trail.

Starting at Santa Marta, the La Ciudad Perdida trail is quite challenging. You will need general fitness to climb steep hills, ultimately reaching an elevation of 3,600 feet (1,100 meters). Before leaving the house, be sure to wear your hiking water shoes since you will need them to close the rivers.

Columbia features warm weather throughout the year. Hence, you can explore the La Ciudad Perdida trail at any time of the year. However, the dry period, which runs between December and March, features slightly lower temperatures and lower river levels, making the hike much easier. On the flip side, you will most likely find a lot of hikers on the trail.

Distance: 44 kilometers

Number of days: 4 to 6

4. Potosi Trail – Bolivia

Being the only trail in South America that allows you to reach the peak of an Andean mountain, the Huayna Potosi trail is considered one of the best trails for hiking in the Andes for people who have a good head for heights exceeding 6,000 meters.

Starting at La Paz, the climb starts with a moderate ascent, becoming steeper as you near the peak. Reaching the summit on the first day is usually not possible for most people. On your first night of hiking, you can camp at an altitude of 5,200 meters before trying to access the peak the next day.

Although the climb can be quite grueling, rewards are in terms of 360-degree views. Once you reach the summit, you should be able to enjoy great views of Lake Titicaca, Cordillera Real, and La Paz.

Distance: 6.87 kilometers

Number of days: 2

5. The Colca Canyon – Peru


On top of being one of the most stunning nature experiences in Peru, the Colca Canyon is the second deepest Canyon in the whole world, featuring 4,160 meters of depth. Its lush green valleys and the fact that you may be able to see the majestic Andean Condor (the largest bird species in the world) makes the Colca Canyon one of the best trails for hiking in South America.

Starting at Chivay, hiking down the Canyon is relatively easy for most hikers. However, since people often react differently to low oxygen and thin air, you will need to be aware of altitude sickness when hiking the Colca Canyon.

Climbing out of the canyon can be a little bit strenuous. You may have to use yoga poses for hikers to soothe your stiff muscles. If the yoga poses fail to help, a bath in one of the numerous natural hot springs, surrounding the Canyon, can come in handy.

A lot of shade does not exist during the hiking trip – the sun is usually rough. On top of donning a hiking hat and clothes capable of covering most of your body, you should apply sunscreen correctly to reduce the chances of sunburn.

Distance: 20 kilometers

Number of days: 2

6. Torres del Paine Trails – Chile

The Torres del Paine National Park is one of the few highlights located in Patagonia. If you are not a seasoned hiker and you would rather stay in a hotel room rather than sleep in a tent, the day hikes allow you to combine adventure and comfort – you can stay in a nice hotel and explore the park via day hikes.

Torres del Paine boasts 2 multi-day hiking trails – the W trail and the O Circuit. Both trails take you through a landscape filled with turquoise lagoons, pristine glaciers, white powder snow, and breathtaking granite spikes.

The O Circuit trail starts and finishes at Hotel Las Torres, taking you through 120 kilometers. The W trail starts at Refugio Paine Grande and ends at Hotel Las Torres, taking you through 100 kilometers of breathtaking wilderness. Several parts of both trails can be easily walked as day hikes from varying parts of the national park.

Distance: The O Circuit is 74 miles long while the W Trail is 62 miles long

Number of days: The W Trail will take 4 to 5 days while the O Circuit takes 6 to 8 days

7. Huayhuash Circuit – Perú

From the extreme altitudes to the breathtaking views, hiking the complete Huayhuash circuit has been noted as one of the most emotionally and physically challenging trails you will find in South America. The trail, however, is also one of the most rewarding trails for hiking in the Andes. Whether you opt for the full 81 miles (130 kilometers) Huayhuash route or one of the numerous partial hikes, you surely will be dizzy with elation once you complete the adventure.

The hiking trail is basically a treasure trove of thermal springs and turquoise lakes barricaded by an army of numerous jagged mountains doused in pristine snow. On the way, you will get to view Yerupajá, the second highest peak in Peru, which summits at an altitude of 21,768 feet (6,635 meters). Like the condors which hover nearby, you will be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the alpine meadows and grassy fields dotted with alpaca, sheep, and other camelid family members.

Altitude sickness is quite prevalent on the undulating hiking trail which nears 5,000 meters at the highest point and never goes below 4,000 meters. If you feel an uneasiness in the stomach and some tight feeling in the lungs, take this as a reminder to slow down and enjoy every moment.

Distance: 130 kilometers

Number of days: 10 to 12

8. Quilotoa Loop – Ecuador

Quilotoa Loop, a ring-shaped hiking trail, connects remote villages lying high up in the Andes, in the Cotopaxi region of Ecuador. The trail for hiking in South America walks across deep valleys, around rolling green hills, along dusty paths, through small traditional settlements, and ends at an azure-colored crater lake (Quilotoa Lake) high up the mountains – the lake was created approximately 600 years ago by a massive explosion.

When exploring the Quilotoa loop, you won’t have to worry about accommodation. If you do not want to sleep in your backpacking tent, you can always stay in mountain lodges.

When it comes to food, you won’t need to carry a lot of hiking snacks. You will be able to enjoy eating local food along the way.

Distance: 40 kilometers

Number of days: 4 to 5

9. Chapada Diamantina – Brazil

A national park located in the Bahia region of Brazil, the Chapada Diamantina is a far cry from the turquoise waters and sandy beaches that Brazil is most famous for. Although quite further off the usual beach hopping paths, the rugged waterfalls and jaw-dropping plateaus make the national park worth exploring.

The 100-kilometer Chapada Diamantina hiking trail will take you through the stone ruin of Igatu, pass through the ghostly village of Ruinha, give you great views of the subterranean rivers, and give you access to amazingly clear lagoons hidden in the caves. If you do know how to take landscape photographs, you should be able to photograph the highest waterfall in Brazil, the Cachoeira da Fumaça.

Distance: 100 kilometers

Number of days: 3 to 5

10. Cotopaxi Volcano – Ecuador

Towering at approximately 5,897 meters above sea level, the Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the whole world. Its overall appearance is striking, featuring sharp and colorful angles that make a perfect cone. The imposing peak is stunningly shaped, with a white cap draped over a barren red layer, which in turn sits on top of a bright green foundation. Deepwater channels, dug by glacial melt and millennia of rain, snake their way along the sides.

Although the “Valley of the Volcanoes” is one of the most popular tours from Quito, very few hikers reach the Cotopaxi Volcano peak after donning their hiking shoes. This could be due to the fear of altitude sickness.

Despite the height of the volcano, day hiking to the summit is possible for almost anyone. This is because of the conveniently placed road reaching a point on the side of the volcano. After packing your backpack, you can decide to start your hike from the parking lot and head to Refugio. If heights are not a problem for you, you can decide to move to the glacier.

Distance: 3.8 kilometers

Number of days: 1 to 2

Globo Surf Overview

The second-largest mountain range in the whole world, the Andes, is a constant presence as you explore South America – affecting cultures, climates, and the lives of the people who live in its mighty shadows. For this reason, starting your adventure in South America by hiking in the Andes may be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Once you are done with exploring the trails present on the Andes, you can move to the other trails for hiking in South America.

Before starting your hiking trip, ensure that you have all the necessary hiking gear. Good boots should keep your feet safe, the right clothing layers should keep you comfortable and warm, while sunscreen should offer protection against the sun.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. The Best Hikes in South America – My Top 8, Destinationlesstravel.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!