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Most of us have heard about the Inca Trail (Peru), or the W Trek in Torres del Paine (Chile). These must be the two most famous treks in South America. The Inca Trail is particularly attractive, finding itself on many traveler’s bucket lists. This 4-day hike is often booked to capacity, for months in advance, with energetic hikers and backpackers. However, there are a lot of alternatives which are less famous but just as beautiful. So if your walking boots are patiently waiting for your next hiking adventure, check out these equally breathtaking and lesser-known trails! 

Read below for the 5 Best Hikes to Consider in South America

#1. Lares & Salkantay Trek – Peru 

Salkantay Trek - Best Hikes in South America

If you are looking for something different and less packed, the Salkantay Trek (5-day trek including Machu Picchu) and the Lares Trek (4-day trek including Machu Picchu) are two fantastic options. The Lares Trek remains the more mysterious trail of the two, taking guests on an alternative route through small villages surrounded by amazing landscapes, and ending in Ollantaytambo on the 3rd day. From Ollantaytambo, travelers can take the train to Aguas Calientes to visit the ruins of Machu Picchu. I highly recommend spending at least 2 days in Cuzco at the beginning of this trip to acclimate to the high altitude. 

Travel Tip: This is a fantastic trekking option if the Inca Trail is crowded. Camp throughout the trek and then spend the final night in a charming hotel in Aguas Calientes.

Find out more >> Lares Valley Trek

#2. Santa Cruz Trek – Peru

Santa Cruz Trek - Best Hikes in South America

In just 4 days the Santa Cruz trek covers 50km (30 miles). Walk through the wild, fertile valleys of the Cordillera Blancas while passing by pristine lakes and snow-capped mountains – an excellent route for nature lovers. Then, hike the trails of Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru, and then cross the Punta Union path, at 4760 meters (15617 ft) of altitude. The Punta Union path is the highest point on the trek and offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding area. The Santa Cruz trek will leave any traveler craving more for what this area has to offer. 

Travel Tip: This trek is ideal for travelers who have plenty of time to explore. Spend your nights camping under the stars!

Find out more >> Peru Tours

#3. Ciudad Perdida Trek – Colombia

Lost City Colombia - Best Hikes in South America

If you like adventure and discovering magnificent wildlife, this 5-day hike from the Santa Marta region to La Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City) should be on your list. The Lost City Trek takes hikers through lush jungles, hills and river valleys in northern Colombia. Throughout your journey, meet with local communities and discover the unique biodiversity of the forest, before finally reaching the most impressive archeological site of the country: The Lost City. While here, admire its bridges, paths and aqueducts that date back to the 8th and 9th century. 

Travel Tip: If you enjoy a bit of adventure, nature, and culture, this is the hike for you. Rest in cozy hammocks at night! 

#4.Chapada Diamantina National Park – Brazil

Chapada Diamantina - Best Hikes in South America

If you love to venture off the beaten path to find beautiful scenery, then Chapada Diamantina, located 6-7 hours by bus from Salvador de Bahia, is the best fit for you! You don’t necessarily need to hike to visit this beautiful region, but if you want: many hikes are available for all levels, ranging from 1 day to 8 days in length. One of the most popular hikes is the 5-day hike through the Pati Valley. Walk through amazing landscapes, featuring waterfalls and natural pools like Poço Azul, which might be one of the most beautiful hikes in Brazil.

Travel Tip: For a bit of “off the beaten path” scenery, Chapada Diamantina is the spot for you. Find basic accommodation in bed and breakfasts while you explore the vibrant terrain.  

Find out more >> Travel Guide to Chapada Diamantina National Park


#5. Quilotoa Loop – Ecuador

Quilotoa Loop - Best Hikes in South America

If you are visiting Ecuador and would like to visit villages where you can see how the locals live, then Quilotoa Loop is a fantastic option for you! Quilotoa is an old volcano that today hosts a beautiful turquoise lake in its crater, that changes color depending on the sun. The loop consists of 200km (125 miles) of Andean Trails. There are different trek options, ranging from 2 to 6 days, that take you through small Andean villages and markets.

Travel Tip: If you plan a visit to Ecuador and would like to meet the locals of charming villages, this is the place for you! Find basic accommodation in bed and breakfasts throughout your journey. 

Best Hikes in South America

Charlotte Lebouvier

Charlotte is originally from Normandy, France. She first traveled to South America in 2009 after receiving her degree in Audiovisual Communication. Charlotte fell in love with the continent and started working in tourism in Chile: first in Valdivia then in Santiago. She has traveled throughout South America and is particularly interested in the native cultures and ancestral medicine of this beautiful continent. Charlotte is now living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and hopes to work from our Rio office one day, to experience the Carioca way of life. Some of her favorite places include: the lake region in Chile, northern Peru and the hidden treasures such as Chavin, Chan Chan and/or Kuelap, hiking in La Cordillera Blanca in Huaraz and seeing the sunrise in the middle of the valley surrounded by mountains. Colombia has wonderful food and the happiness of its people. Brazil for its mix of culture and its music, forro, bossa nova and samba.
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