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The 20 Best Hikes In Latin America

There are so many amazing hikes you can do through the Americas ranging from light days hikes to serious mountaineering climbs to summits. We’ll start with the Inca Trail, the most famous of the lot, but by no means the best. Please note that although some of the treks below are possible by yourself, most require a guide.

Flickr: Lisa Weichel

Flickr: Lisa Weichel

Inca Trail – Peru

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is perhaps the most iconic on this list of treks in Latin America. Most Inca Trail trips last four days. After heading out of the Inca capital of Cuzco you will hike through the lush Sacred Valley, walking in the footsteps of the ancient Incas. Along the way pass remnants of Incas including Ollantaytambo before finally arriving at Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is such a popular trek the government limit the number of trekkers to 500 per day which requires a permit that sell out months in advance. Guides will accompany you to help you make the most of the hike and porters will carry your things as well as setting up camp and cooking your meals to make the trek as comfortable as possible.

When to go: All year round expect February when the trail is closed.
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 4 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

The three day trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan is also extremely popular. Along the way pass the verdant interior of Guatemala passing through cloud forests, small indigenous communities, volcanoes and of course, Lake Atitlan, once described by Aldous Huxley as the most beautiful lake in the world. Day one begins with a three hour hike to a view point overlooking the many surrounding volcanoes including Atitlan, Acatenango, Santa Maria and more. Day two descend down into the verdant valleys of pine trees and farms. Day three arrival at Lake Atitlan and hike around the edge.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Try our Dynamic Guatemala tour

Flickr: Frank Vassen

Flickr: Frank Vassen

The Quetzal Trail – Panama

Although this is a relatively easy hike, it is considered by many one of the most scenic. Located in the Western highlands of Panama within the Volcan Baru National Park, most people hike the trail for the chance to spot the resplendent quetzal, the bird that gives the trail its name, and one of the most colourful in Latin America. The treks departs from Boquete, the town where most tourists stay when visiting the region and takes around five hours to complete.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Canals, Clouds & Coconuts tour

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Lost City Trek – Colombia

Surprisingly relatively few people hike the trail that ends at the Lost City in Colombia, an ancient citadel likened to Machu Picchu , so if you are looking for undiscovered gems, this is the best you are going to get. The Lost City was only discovered in 1976 by archaeologists from the Colombian Institute of Anthropology. Research since suggests it was founded around 600 A.D. and abandoned around one thousand years later. The four day trek departs from Santa Marta and passes lush jungle to arrive at the citadel.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 4 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Torres del Paine

The W Trek – Chile

The W Trek traverses the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonian region of Southern Chile. This five day trek will take you past some of the most stark and dramatic scenery on the continent. Towering snow-capped peaks, mighty glaciers, clear tortoise lakes are a daily occurrence on this relatively challenging hike. You may think this barren landscape lacks wildlife, but flamingos, hares and guanacos and more inhabit the area as well as the Andean condors that gracefully glide above. The trek can either be done camping or staying in the basic but comfortable refugees along the way. If five days is too much shorter day hikes can be arranged.

When to go: October to April
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 5 days
Tour: Try our W Trek Tour

Arenal

Arenal National Park – Costa Rica

The dominant Arenal Volcano that towers above the National Park is simply spectacular. There are a number of different guided trails to hike, each of them relatively gentle making it a good option for kids. Each passes the lower foothills of the volcano passing rainforest and lava fields and enjoying views of the volcano above. Los Helicanias trails leads to a particularly good lookout point over Lake Arenal. Afterwards head to one of the local hot springs for a well-earned soak. Tabacon Grand Spa a highly recommended.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Jungles, Volcanoes & Beaches tour

Flickr: McKay Savage

Flickr: McKay Savage

Paso del las Nubes – Argentina
An excellent two day hike in Argentina’s Lake District. After getting picked up from Bariloche, begin from the foot of Mount Tronador, also known as Pampa Linda. Hike through verdant forests and streams to a pass that offers excellent views over glaciers, waterfalls and Pampa Linda. Ascend to “Paso de las Nubes” (literally pass of the clouds) and camp for the night. The following day trek along the edge of Frias River to Puerto Frias and catch the last ferry returning back to the city. The trek can be extended into Chile if you wish for something longer or more challenging. There is much wildlife to see along the way including

When to go:
September to April
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 2 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour


Copper Canyon – Mexico

Copper Canyon in Mexico’s north is most famous for its railway, but the scenery and trails also make for some fantastic trekking. Surprisingly to most it is deeper, wider and longer than the Grand Canyon. Although the length of tours range, most guided tours are around ten days. Along the way you will pass small Tarahumara villages and enjoy plenty of wildlife.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 8+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour


Corcovado National Park – Costa Rica

The Corcovado National Park in Costa’s Rica’s Southern Osa Peninsula is, as National Geographic called it, one of the most biologically intense places on earth. There are plenty of trails here passing rainforests and beaches, many of which can be done by yourself. The really attraction of hikes here is the abundance of wildlife. Howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, crocodiles, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, tamanduas, toucans, macaws, eagles and many species of reptile to name just a few. If snorkeling is your thing, stop along the way and find a huge array of marine life such as tropical fish, turtles and dolphins. There are plenty of luxury lodges so a trip here can be done in serious comfort should you wish.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Try our Romance in Costa Rica tour 

Huchuy Qosqo Trek – Peru

This is an excellent option for those that don’t want to hike the ever popular Inca Trail. It isn’t challenging, but takes you through some sublime Andean countryside to the little known (or visited) Huchuy Qosqo Inca site. This archaeological site north of Cuzco lies at 3,600 metres above sea level and is called ‘Little Cuzco’. Although it can be seen in one day, it is best combined with a visit to Machu Picchu in a three day adventure. Begin in Tambomachay and ahike through valleys, lakes and passes to the village of Qenko where you will spend the first night. Along the way birds including lapwings and Andean geese can be seen. The following day you will follow the route to Huchuy Qosqo and have plenty of time to explore. Trek down into the Sacred Valley and take the bus to Ollantaytambo and the train to Aguas Calientes. One the last day you will visit Machu Picchu before returning back to Cuenca.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length:1-3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Ausangate Circuit – Peru

Another excellent alternative to the Inca Trail offering some of the best views of any Cuzco treks. South of the city in the Vilcanota mountain range, this is a challenging hike for those who have some experience with fairly high altitude walking. Along the way you will cross three passes over 5,500 metres. This wild trek is named after the Apu Ausandate that towers at almost 6,500 metres. Culturally it is also interesting: you will visit traditional villages and local Quechua farmers. It can easily be combined with a visit to Machu Picchu.

When to go: May to October
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 5 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Colca

Colca Canyon – Peru

Although most visit Colca Canyon viewpoint in Peru’s Arequipa district to see the majestic Andean Condor’s flying overhead, there are some excellent and little hiked trails to explore. You will require a guide here as none of the trails are marked (although they have been used for hundreds of years). An execellent three day option begins in Cabanaconde and passes San Juan de Chuccho, Coshnirhua, Malata and ends at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 1-3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Huayna Potosi – Bolivia

This is the toughest trek on our list and the only one to reach a summit. Having said that, this is possible for inexperience climbers who have had plenty of time to acclimatize and a little determination. The three day climb that includes a day of acclimatization takes you over 6,000 metres with up to eight hours hiking a day. This is one of the easiest 6,000 mountain climbs, but that is not to say it is easy. Although it can be done in two days, it is not recommended. Departed in the early hours on the day of the ascent you will climb ice walls, cross crevasses and enjoy views down over La Paz and the surrounding mountains.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 5/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Fitzroy

Fitzroy Trek – Argentina

The Fitzroy Trek in Argentin’a Los Glaciers National Park is the countries equivalent to Torres del Paine in Chile. There are a huge number of hiking options here varying from day walks to longer give day trails. The advantage of Fitzroy over Torres del Paine is being able to visit some of the best viewpoints on the shorter treks. Arguably the best views in the park are at where the three peaks – Cerro Fitzroy, Cerro Poincenot and Cerro Torre meet over Laguna de los Tres.

When to go: October to April
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 1-5 days
Tour: Try our Patagonia Ice Trail tour 

Chapada Diamantina – Brazil

Most visit the northern Bahia region of Brazil for the beaches and city of Salvador. Whilst those are certainly worth a visit, the interior has some of the finest trekking in Brazil. To reach Chapada Diamnatina National Park you must first take a short flight or bus ride to the old mining town of Lençóis. The trails pass some remote and dramatic scenery of mountains, forests, valleys, canyons, waterfalls, caves and rivers with very few other visitors to distract you. Although much wildlife including giant anteaters and armadillos were wiped out by hunting, there is plenty to see including lizards, capybaras, monkeys and if you are really lucky, pumas and jaguars. Depending on your budget you can either camp or stay in some of the local guesthouses.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Terespolis Crossing – Brazil

This fantastic thirty five kilometre hiking route in Rio de Janeiro state from Petropolis to Teresopolis is a must for another hiking enthusiast. Walking at altitudes of around 2,000 metres through the Serra dos Orgaos National Park passing by Antas Valley and the sumnit of Orgaos. There is no lodging along the way so you will be camping. If the sky is clear you can see all the way down to Rio de Janeiro city and Guanabara Bay from some viewpoints.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Monteverde – Costa Rica

The Monteverde cloud forest reserve is truly beautiful and can best experienced on guided day walks. The trails are clearly marked and easy to walk so they are ideal for kids or those with limited mobility. The reserve covers over 4,500 hectares of cloud forest where you will find tumbling waterfalls, lakes and plenty of wildlife. There are over a hundred species of mammal, four hundred species of birds and thousands of amphibians. Some of the highlights including ocelots, jaguars, umbrellabirds and the colourful resplendent quetzal. There is no need to camp as there is excellent and comfortable accommodation near by.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1+ days
Tour: Try our Jungles, Volcanoes & Beaches tour

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

Salcantay Trek – Peru

The Salcantay Trek (Salkantay means Savage Mountain in Quechuan) is another alternative to the Inca Trail. Named as one of the best treks in the world by National Geographic, this is certainly not one to miss. As fewer people do the Inca Trail, there is no permit scheme for the Salkantay Trek making it perfect for a last minute booking. North of Cuzco lies the Cordillera Vilcabamba. Here you will trek the ancient trail past glaciers and snowcapped mountains. If you want to skip the crowds, this is the trek for you. It can also be combined with Machu Picchu so you don’t miss out on this Seventh Wonder of the World.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

El Misti Trek – Peru

Located near the Southern city of Arequipa, El Misti Volcano rises up to almost 6,000 metres above sea level and is the second largest in the country. The volcano has erupted several times, the most notable was in the 15th century which affected many local Inca people. The latest was in the late 19th century. The climb can be done in as little as two days as long as you have given yourself plenty of time to acclimatize beforehand. For such a high trek it is relatively easy and no prior experience is necessary. One night is spent at the Eagles Nest base camp located at 4,200 metres.

When to go: April to October
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 2 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Quilotoa

Quilotoa Traverse – Ecuador

The volcanic crater lake Quilotoa located north of Quito near to the famous Andean market town of Otavalo is usually visiting on a day trip with some time for a short walk. Spend a little more time in this magical place as you can hike the whole rim in around five hours. A deeply satisfying and relatively easy walk. You will also have the opportunity to descend down from the viewing point to the lake which takes another hour or so. From the rim, not only can you see the lake below but you can also see Cotopaxi and mountain ranges in the distance.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Cotopaxi & Devil’s Nose tour 

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

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