Being home to dramatic landscapes and fascinating ancient sites, South America is a fantastic destination for walking. If you are interested in going hiking here, read our guide to the top routes to follow.
The Inca Trail
A trek that really needs no introduction, the Inca Trail is arguably the most famous of all South America’s walks. Following an ancient route to the lost city of Machu Picchu, this incredible path will see you walk through stunning mountain landscapes dotted with a number of other amazing ancient sites, such as the Phuyupatamarka ruins.
This world-famous track can be covered in just four days and is not too strenuous – with the exception of certain particularly high sections, such as Dead Woman’s Pass – for seasoned walkers. Beginning at an altitude of approximately 2,800 m at the Urubamba river near the Inca site of Ollantaytambo, the trail will see you ascend to 4,200 m at the Warmiwanusca Pass (the official name for the aforementioned Dead Woman’s Pass), before descending once more to reach Machu Picchu.
This awe-inspiring Inca city is the real highlight of an Inca Trail trek. Comprising temples, palaces, dwellings and stairways, it is even more impressive due to its harmonious design with the local landscape. In fact, it looks almost as if it has sprung naturally from the mountainside. Your first glimpse of the city will be from Inti Punku, which is also known as the Gate of the Sun, so make sure you have your camera at the ready here.
Torres Del Paine Circuit
If you are more interested in discovering staggering natural landscapes than ancient ruins, the Torres Del Paine Circuit in Patagonia is the perfect choice. This hike will take you to some of the most exciting sights in Torres Del Paine National Park over the course of eight days, including the famous three gigantic monoliths of the Torres Del Paine themselves.
This route is packed full of incredible experiences, but among the best are:
• Reaching Lago Paine, as this will give you a stunning view of the Paine Massif’s north side
• Walking along the Los Perros river, when you will also have the chance to wander through age-old virgin beech forests
• Reaching John Gardner Pass, as at 1,241 m this is the highest point of the circuit
• Seeing the south Patagonia ice cap and Glacier Greg. The latter is an absolutely huge blanket of ice covering a vast chunk of the valley – and it really does have to be seen to be believed
The final top walking trail in South America is the Roraima Hike in Venezuela. This six-day trek will see you walk to Mount Roraima, one of the planet’s oldest geological structures, before ascending to its summit. Interestingly, this is believed to be the site that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.
A rather strenuous route, it is best for experienced walkers who are prepared to carry luggage – including clothing and sleeping bags – while making their ascent. You will trek for two days to a base camp at the bottom of the mountain, before hiking to the top to explore the eerie summit, which is punctuated with large rocks balanced in precarious-looking positions, black moss-covered pillars and quartz crystals. In fact, the landscape here is so strange that local folklore has it that this is the home of the gods.
These are just some of the wonderful walks to tackle in South America. Many companies offer a wealth of itineraries in the region, alongside the above.