The Best Hikes in South America – My Top 8

I was no hiker when I started my 10 month long trip around South America, but the amazing hiking opportunities had me trekking up mountains, along beaches, or through forests in nearly every country! I couldn’t even begin to list all of the hikes I have done, but I can easily name my favorite 8 (and they include everything from the Andes mountain range at 5,100m to trekking through mud in a jungle lining the Caribbean sea. Here is my list of the best hikes in South America (with our favorite photos, all taken by us!)

1. Cerro Tronador

Location: 1.5 hours driving outside of Bariloche in Argentina

Duration: 2 days, 1 night

Distance: 36km

This hike is one of the best hikes in South America not only because it is fairly easy and includes stunning views, but the trails are virtually empty and tourist free. We saw a glacier hanging over the edge of a cliff melting and turning into a waterfall. At the top was an incredible view of the snow covered Andes mountain range and beside us two glaciers who’s deep crevices took you to the unknown. The sunset was something I will never forget, it’s red and orange array of color filled the voids between the mountains peaks.

This hike took a little while to organize simply because not many tourists try it, but was worth it! Not only does the Cerro Tronador make our “Best Hikes in South America List” but it would make our “Best things to do in South America” list.

 

The sunset was amazing!

READ  Cerro Tronador - Bariloche

2. Torres Del Paine “W” Trek

Location: Southern Chile

Duration: 5 days

Distance: 88km

This hike is famous because it is so beautiful. Amazing valleys, glaciers, and then the famous sunrise over the Torres to top it all off. It is typically done over five days as this is the most ideal way to see everything without having to walk too far on certain days. Distances each day varied from 14km to 25km. It was the first hike we did on our South America trip I would give credit to for our desire to do more hiking throughout the remainder of our travels. This hike although long is not overly difficult and with plenty of other hikers around this is perfect for those less experienced.

 

torres del paine hike is one of the best in south america by far

Sunrise over the Torres on the final day

READ  The Complete Guide to the Torres del Paine "W" Trek

3. Huayhuash Hike

Location: 6 hours outside the town of Huaraz, Peru

Duration: 8 Days

Distance: 135km 

This is the hardest hike on my list of best hikes in South America but also one of the most beautiful and rewarding. Located deep in the Andes mountain range, this hike averages 4,500m above sea level and offers very little flat ground. With overnight temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius this hike had me breaking sheets of ice off my tent every morning. Over the 8 days you conquer 9 mountain passes taking you to over 5,100m above sea level. This hike is not for beginners as the terrain is rough and difficulty is high. Sadly, other hikers have lost their lives on the trek. If you too are not the most experienced I recommend taking a guided tour. These local guides will carry some of your equipment and food, making the giant task more manageable. With that being said, the views are breathtaking and the personal reward for finishing will stay with you forever.

huayhuash trek in peru

One of the views along the hike

huayhuash circuit in peru

This is where we camped on the second night!

4. Salkantay Trek

Location: A couple hours drive from Cusco, Peru

Duration: 5 Days

Distance: 78km

It shouldn’t be surprising that one of the best hikes in South America involves the iconic Machu Picchu. Historically taken by the most spiritual Inca’s as a route ot Machu Picchu, the Salkantay trek takes you up to 4,600m through a mountain pass next to the picturesque Salkantay mountain. Of course seeing Machu Picchu at the end was a great finish, but the hike itself was a noteworthy journey. One day we were hiking in snow, and the next through a humid jungle. The entire trek took 4 days but tours are sold for 5 days to include the final day of seeing Machu Picchu.

Salkantay trek

One of the views along the trek. If you look really closely you can see Machu Picchu in the distance!

READ  Machu Picchu, Inca City - Part One: The Salkantay Hike

5. Dos Irmaos (Two brothers) Hike

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Duration: 3 hours

Distance: 4km

This is a short, only 1.5 hours up hike but super interesting! The hike starts in a favela in Rio and ends at a lookout over the entire city. We did this for sunrise with a guide and it was great. We trekked up the mountain in the dark (much cooler than in the summer sun) then enjoyed the sunrise over one of South America’s most iconic cities before exploring the hustle and bustle of the favela on the way down. Definitely possible to do this hike solo, but I wouldn’t recommend going for sunrise as navigating the favela in the dark could be tricky and dangerous.

two brothers hike at sunrise

The view of the city as the sun was coming up

 

two brothers hike favela

A view of a favela from about halfway up the hike

READ  Rio Round Two

6. Tayrona National Park

Location: 45 minutes driving outside of Santa Marta, Colombia

Duration: 1-2 days

Distance: Varies depending on final beach location. Cabo San Juan is only 2 hours walking from the entrance

This is an easy hike, no hills, no altitude, no snow – only palm trees and beaches. Basically Tayrona National Park is made up of a trail along the beach with various places to camp, sleep in a hammock, or rent a cabin and swim the beautiful water. This is the most relaxing out of my entire Best Hikes in South America list. It was only 2 hours to my favourite beach, Cabo San Juan, where there is ice cold beer for sale and crystal clear turquoise water. Also easily done without a guide and tons of other backpackers to meet along the way.

one of the best hikes in south america is tayrona national park

The view of my favorite beach in the park

One of the trails in Tayrona

READ  Tayrona National Park - A Detailed Guide

7. Rainbow Mountain

Location: 3 hours driving from Cusco

Duration: 6 hours

Distance: 13 km

This hike was only just discovered a year or two ago! Basically, it is exactly what it is called, a rainbow colored mountain. The hike is short but it is a high altitude hike taking you to 5,100m at the top. It sounded much more strenuous than it was. The altitude posed as a challenge for those who suffer from altitude sickness, but for me it was fine as it wasn’t much of an incline. There are also horses available for hire for those who cant make the climb. This hike is one of the best hikes in South America because it is so unique, I mean, who doesn’t want to see a rainbow mountain?!

one of the best hikes in south america is the newly discovered rainbow mountain

READ  A Backpacker Guide to Cusco

8. Mount Fitzroy

Location: El Calafate, Argentina

Duration: 8 hours more or less

Distance: 24 km

This free hike in Patagonia literally started form our hostels backyard – it doesn’t get much easier than that! It was a longer hike at 24km for the day (there is camping areas for those who want to split up the journey) but it was relatively flat for the first ¾. However, the last hour and half will literally have you rock climbing to the top. But once you crawl over the last peak it all becomes worth the trek, the bluest lagoon I have ever seen with mountains in the back drop made for a breathtaking place to have a picnic lunch.

READ  El Calafate & El Chalten - Our Experience

Hopefully this diverse collections of the best hikes in South America has you inspired to pack your hiking boots! I would like to hear about any other South American hikes that you think should be on the list!

-Bailey