Latin America is a hiker’s paradise. The spectacular landscapes, dominated by the spine of the Andes Mountains, makes for ideal hiking. There are snow-capped volcanoes and legendary Inca roads to follow. There are opportunities for gentle nature walks to high mountain climbing. Here are ten of our favourites.
The Inca Trail, Peru
Starting with the most iconic hike in Latin America where you walk in the footsteps of Incas. From near the Inca capital of Cuzco, ramblers take a spectacular four-day walk through the Sacred Valley. Walkers pass many Inca ruins before arriving in Machu Picchu, a World Heritage Site and one of the ‘new’ 7 Wonders of the World. This is such a popular trek that permits are mandatory and only 500 people per day can hike the route. Porters carry your things, set up camp and cook your meals ensuring a comfortable trek.
A lovely hike from Petropolis to Teresopolis in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state. The 35-kilometre hike takes two to three days and crosses the Serra dos Orgaos National Park. The walk passes Antas Valley and the summit of Orgaos at around 2,000 metres high. There are no hotels along the way, so camping is the only option.
Lost City Trek, Colombia
Less well-known than the Inca trail and much less touristy, this may be for you. This quite challenging hike through hills and forests of Colombia ends at the Lost City. An archaeological gem often likened to Machu Picchu and only discovered in 1976. Studies suggest it was an ancient civilisation and abandoned over a 1,000 years ago. The trek takes around four days. You begin at the coastal city of Santa Marta and a guide is advisable.
Ecuador has many highland Andean walks. There are volcanoes, glaciers and cloud forests to enjoy. One of the most satisfying is to hike the Quilotoa Traverse. This off-the-beaten-track walk, connects remote Andean indian villages and includes a volcanic crater lake. If time permits, take another half hour to hike down to the lake itself.
Huayna Potosi, Bolivia
This is tough climb needs plenty of time to acclimatize and hikers should be in good shape. It takes around three hard days of 8-hour treks to reach the 6,00-metre-high summit. Climbers cross ice walls and crevasses to reach the peak, but the views over Bolivia and La Paz below make it worthwhile.
The W Trek, Chile
It is hard to beat the scenery of the classic W Trek. This traverses Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s southern Patagonia. Hike past towering snow-capped granite peaks, huge glaciers and deep turquoise lakes. It’s a challenging hike, but one that offers many rewards including the sight of flamingos, roaming guanacos and gliding Andean condors. The trek is around five-days. You can stay in either refuges or lodges.
Fitzroy Trek, Argentina
Right down in the Argentina’s southern Patagonia region is the Los Glaciers National Park. Weaving through the park is the remarkable Fitzroy Trek, a series of trails. Take your pick of different hiking options starting from just one day. Some prefer Fitzroy over the ‘W’ Trek as the viewpoints are easier to reach. The best spot is where the three peaks of Cerros Fitzroy, Poincenot and Torre tower over Laguna de los Tres.
This fabulous and easy walking is in the western highlands of Panama in the Volcan Baru National Park. Using Boquete as a base, the trails in the cloud forest can all be hiked within a day, so no camping needed. Perfect for birders as it’s one of the best places to spot the colourful resplendent quetzal and many other species.