Beautiful South American Hikes (That Aren’t the Inca Trail)
Whether you call it trekking or hiking and whether you prefer day trips or multi-day expeditions, there’s no doubt that South America offers some of the most stunning trails in the world. And while Peru’s Inca Trail and the W Trek in Torres del Paine are some of the most renowned, they’re far from the only hikes worth doing during your visit to the continent.
If you’re in search of a luxurious place to lay low for a few days, these trails probably aren’t for you. But if you want to get off the beaten trail and experience all the beauty that South America has to offer, lace up your boots and check out these under-the-radar treks. You can relax in luxury afterwards.
Sierra Baguales, Chile
The moderate day hike from Tercera Barranca to Sierra Baguales takes you through a beautiful section of the mountains that’s home to condors, wild horses, and rheas (ostrich-like creatures). To explore this trail, you’ll need access to Tercera Barranca Private Reserve, granted only to guests of the beautiful Awasi Patagonia. It’s well worth it, as you’ll spend the day passing the Catedral and Ciutadella peaks and wandering among fossils from millions of years ago without the intrusion of other visitors.
Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador
While Cotopaxi is Ecuador’s most well known trek, it’s also a tough one. Given it’s beautiful landscapes, it’s no surprise that Ecuador has a vast array of incredible (and often hidden) hikes to explore. One of these is Quilotoa Lagoon, the highest point of which sits at an altitude of over 3,900 meters. It’s a peaceful area with stunning views, and it offers both single-day and multi-day hiking options. The trail around the crater takes about 5 hours, while the entire loop around the lagoon requires up to 4 days. If you’re really tight on time, there is a short, hour-long trail that takes you to the Quilotoa Shalalá Overlook. The lagoon area has free camping, but Quito is about 3 hours away and offers some excellent hotels.
Pico da Tijuca, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is known for its bustling city life and beautiful beaches, but there’s plenty of nature here, too. The Peak of Tijuca is the highest point in Rio and a moderately difficult 2.5-hour climb. The view is truly spectacular once you reach the top, offering 360-degree views of all of Rio, including Christ the Redeemer, Lagoa, Maracaña, and Niteroi. But the journey itself is also enjoyable. Along the way, you’ll likely spot a variety of butterflies, birds, monkeys, and lizards.
Ausangate Trek, Peru
A moderately challenging multi-day trek, this one starts about three hours from Cusco. While throngs of tourists are making the journey to Machu Picchu, the nearby Ausangate Trek is left generally quite quiet. Ausangate is considered one of the holiest mountains in the region, and the trails will take you through beautiful snow-capped peaks, deserts, and even hot springs, before you end at Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca to the locals. This trek is best done during the dry season and requires that you be acclimatized to the altitude, which makes it the perfect expedition to do after spending some time at one of the many luxurious hotels in Cusco.
Northern Patagonia, Chile
Most travelers head straight for the southern part of Patagonia, but the north offers plenty in the way of relatively undiscovered glaciers, fjords, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. The route from Aysén to Fitz Roy takes nine days and will take you through places like Patagonia National Park, which is one of the most biodiverse places in the region and boasts species like pumas, condors, and huemal deer. The final part of the trek takes you into southern Argentina on your way to Mount Fitz Roy, and the area offers some gorgeous hotels and spas where you can recuperate from the journey.