South America is always a top pick for backpackers and hiking enthusiasts for years. Exploring what the continent has to offer is best done through hiking, camping in the wild, just far from the maddening crowd and hemmed in by nature.
Trails in the continent range from beginner-level easy to difficult for the more experienced hiker. It takes effort to accomplish those trails, but the rewards are so good that you will be keen enough to do it all over again. We are talking about rewards like spectacular highland views, breathtakingly blue lagoons, majestic ruins and regal, imposing desert mountains.
Make sure you take all the essential hiking gear with you since the gear you can rent or buy locally might not be the most modern. So buy your backpack, boots, tent, sleeping bag and GPS receiver in the US!
This article will lend you a hand in planning for your next trekking destination. Here is a list of the 6 topnotch trails found in the South American continent.
6 Great South American Trails
Fitz Roy Loop in Argentina
This 35-kilometer track is located in the country’s Los Glaciares National Park and it takes 2 days to finish the entirety of the trail. It is also an easy track for beginners to get into. This area bears the terrain of Patagonia country so expect a splendid scenery of jutted valleys, icy glaciers and lonely savannahs.
For great views of the Fitz, hikers should trek El Chaltén to Laguna de los Tres, then cap off the night by camping in lakesides around the Laguna Torre area. Catch your breath at the Piedras Blancas glacier viewpoint then climb to Laguna de los Tres and set camp once more by Laguna Capri. Remember to wake up immediately for a pink sunrise then proceed to the Torre Valley for a view of a pristine ice berg-ridden lagoon.
Keep in mind that Mt. Torre is a steep climb though; it is considered as one of the world’s most difficult climbs.
Lost City Route in Colombia
This is 45-kilometer track can be finished in 5 days and is located in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. Humidity is high in this area but it is considered a moderate-level hike so hikers with a bit of experience can take this one up. It is not as popular as the Machu Picchu, but the views are something out of an adventure film and is enough to make all hiking enthusiasts excited.
The community was founded by the Tayrona people in AD 800 and was deserted when the Spanish conquistadores disembarked. The area was completely forgotten until it was discovered by treasure hunting folks in the 1970s. Tourists soon flocked the area but the government prevented entry to the track in 2003 because of a kidnapping but is now open to the public once more.
Stumble upon sites like Kogi villages, the Buritaca River and plantations bearing coffee florae. Discover over a thousand historic steps leading to masses of houses, courtyards, storefronts, canals and more steps, all alighted 1,200-m up in the highlands.
Roraima in Venezuela
This is 95-kilometer track takes around 5-6 days to accomplish and is located in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.
It is a fairly moderate and difficult trek because of several conditions which can dampen your mood, but if you are up for such a big challenge, then this track is a must-try.
Granted the Mt. Roraima hike is not that hard but certain conditions like high humidity, regular rain showers, slick rocks and clouds of biting sandflies called jejenes by the locals can be tough to handle.
However, these hassles are just some of odd yet appealing pulls of this trail because overcoming said hassles is often a rewarding feeling for those who have braved the hike.
Other than overcoming the challenge, the area’s summit is one to behold. The atmosphere is unnerving and almost supernatural; you will be satisfied with views of crystalline valleys, predatory plants, twisted rock formations and strange frog species. The track also provides hikers a view over Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela on a good day.
Colca Canyon in Peru
The hike starts out in Chivay town and it takes hikers to the hub of the canyon where big condors roam about and cactus plants thrive.
The hike is graced with steep cliffs, rugged terrain and amazing views.
Do drop by at the Cruz del Condor to witness the country’s condors in flight; these amazing birds of prey search for food in the mornings or late in the afternoon and to see them in action is an experience that one should never miss.
The area can be hiked any time of the year but keep in mind that it is safer once the rainy season is over. Also, active volcanos thrive in the area and landslides might occur because of the seismic activity.
The “W” Trail at Torres del Paines, Patagonia in Chile
This is an 80-kilometer track which can be accomplished in 4 days. It is a moderate hike which can be done best from April to September.
The track starts in Punta Arenas and the road to the area is quite a challenge but accomplishing the entire track is all worth it though. The scenery alone makes it all worth the hassles. You will be rewarded with blindingly blue lagoons, clear-cut unspoiled glaciers and star-white powdery snow—all are a joy to behold.
Pro-tip: Bring plenty of grub from Puerto Natales since the chow at the national park can put a dent on your budget.
Cotopaxi Volcano and Valley of the Volcanoes in Ecuador
This is a difficult hike best suited for experienced hikers and can be accomplished in 2 days’ time. The track starts in Quito and is located approximately an hour and a half from the capital. It is a popular track from the area and the Cotopaxi Volcano’s peak can be viewed on a cloudless day from the city.
The trek will take you to Cotopaxi National Park after finishing 4.500 meters and in the morning proceed to more hours of tramping until you reach the peak. From there, you can enjoy breathtaking views. Don’t forget to stop by and see the striking Quilotoa crater lake and more splendid views from the highly-esteemed Avenue of the Volcanoes.