The Top 5 Destinations for Hiking in Central & South America

October 11, 2012
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Central and South America, or Latin America, has long been considered one of the top destinations in the world for hiking. And not just those seemingly impossible hikes that only the fittest would undertake, such as Mt. Everest, but awe-inspiring hikes for everyone from the family of novice hikers to the experienced climber. To help you plan for your next big trip, we've put together this list of the top hiking destinations in Central and South America.

  1. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This is a no-brainer. Machu Picchu is known worldwide as being one of the best treks. Located in the Cusco region of Peru, Machu Picchu is unique because it not only features incredible views, but has such historical and cultural significance. Machu Picchu was formerly a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site that was relatively unknown for several hundred years until the early 1900s. Travelers can now explore the Inca ruins as they are greeted with scenic views at the top of Machu Picchu. There are numerous ways to experience the trail, from just a one-day trek for the novice hiker to a multi-day hike along the Inca Trail to the top.
  2. Patagonia. Located in the southern portion of South America in the Southern Andes, Patagonia helps make up some of the most striking landscape in Latin America. It features a wide-range of different landscapes, from jagged mountains to sweeping plains to freshwater lakes. Patagonia stretches for miles, shared by both Chile and Argentina. Since it's such a large hiking destination, it provides opportunities for all types of hikers. There are several different hiking regions, with Torres del Paine National Park in Chile being one of the most popular hikes.
  3. Northern Andes. While South America has Patagonia and the Southern Andes to the south, the Northern Andes at the top of the continent is also a worthy hiking destination. Many of the best hikes in the Northern Andes are in a much more undiscovered part of the Andes in Colombia. One of the highest recommended hiking destinations in this region is El Cocuy National Park. The remote region has numerous peaks, some of which that are as tall as 17,000 feet. The higher peaks are for the more experienced hiker and climber due to the altitude, yet there are also hikes for the less experienced hiker. One of the most interesting parts of the national park are the glacier fields that are some of the largest in South America.
  4. Arenal Volcano National Park. The name “Arenal” is familiar to many travelers because Arenal Volcano was one of the most active volcanoes in the world until it recently entered a resting state. While there aren't hikes that go to the top of Arenal, there are many different trails for hikers of all experience levels that provide views of the famous Costa Rica volcano and the surrounding area. However, there are many other hikes in the area, including hikes that include views of waterfalls, such as La Fortuna Waterfall. Some hikes even combine with ziplining canopy tours.
  5. Illampu Circuit. Accessing Bolivia can often be a little more difficult than accessing hikes in other South American countries, yet travelers are rewarded with treks like the Illampu Circuit, which haven't been explored to the same extent as other Latin America hikes. Since many of the hikes require multiple days over difficult terrain, Illampu is recommended for the experienced hiker. However, there is nearby Laguna Glacial, which is still demanding, but not as much as Illampu. Laguina Glacial is unique as it's home to one of the highest lakes in the world.

Any particular Latin American hikes you've experienced? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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