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20 Amazing Places to Hike in South America

July 11, 2016

Hike through and on glaciers, mountains, deserts, lakes, and jungles in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. This list includes the favorites (Patagonia and the Incan Trail) and some lesser known jaunts.


1. Dois Pedros, Fernando de Naronha in Pernambuco, Brazil

Do you go down to the beach via ladder, or just sit on the cliff and get lulled into a trance with with rhythm of the waves? Or just come back again tomorrow? Ahhh choices…..


2. Fitz Roy in El Chaltén, Argentina

A great view of Mt. Fitz Roy can done as a day hike from the hiking town of El Chalten in Argentina. The trail starts in the woods, passes over streams, and gives ever more amazing vistas as you climb. For the full experience, you can camp at the spot shown in this picture, and then continue from here to other base camps to try to summit. Be warned though that this mountain is considered more technical than Everest, and often only a single person successfully summits in a year (versus maybe 100 on Everest).


3.  LLactapata in Urubamba, Peru

Trek through the Andes to the 15th-century Incan ruins of Machu Picchu on the lesser-traveled Salkantay Trail. Four luxurious lodges—three with outdoor hot tubs at the foot of craggy peaks, the last in a lush avocado orchard—will serve as your accommodations. At the first, Salkantay Lodge, men from the Quero area give offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth) to ensure your safe passage. Along the 39-mile guided hike, you pass icefalls and glacial lakes, climb up mountain passes circled by Andean condors, and walk through coffee plantations and orchid-filled forests. Then, from the Incan archaeological site of Llactapata, you’ll spot mystical Machu Picchu in the distance.


4. Reserva Ecológica Paraíso na Terra in Brasilia, Brazil

While hiking along a waterfall in the national nature reserve, we came across a naturally formed infinity pool where the waterfall gathered itself for a long plunge into a green canyon below.


5. Torres del Paine National Park in Chile (Patagonia)

Southern Patagonia is home to the legendary Torres del Paine National Park. The best way to observe the park’s wildlife, which includes guanacos, deer, and pumas, is to join Tierra Patagonia hotel’s new six-day wildlife photo safari, led by Chilean photographer Pía Vergara. Or explore aboard Nomads of the Seas, a 15-person yacht equipped with helipads, and zodiacs for whale watching.


6. El Calafate, Argentina

Years ago while living in Buenos Aires, I decided to take my first trip alone, to the edge of Argentina, down in Patagonia. Running along the Chile-Argentina border, Perito Moreno is one of three Patagonian glaciers that is not retreating. It covers almost 100 square miles! I still remember the moment, out of the bus window, that Perito Moreno first came into view. The enormity of it blew me away. The following day I had the chance to actually walk on the glacier. Clamping on my crampons, I recall the flurry of butterflies in my stomach, reaching up to my throat. I remember the crunch of the snow beneath my feet. As we walked over the first mound of ice, I felt like I was on top of the world, or perhaps, on top of the moon. The crevices of melting ice created a blue so striking I don’t think it can be matched; like a fairy tale image of nature’s perfections. I’ll never forget that afternoon of hiking, looking down on the shores of Patagonia beneath me and the overwhelming beauty of Perito Moreno in front of me.


7. Huaraz, Peru

Hiked the Lago 69 loop to the lake of the same name. It was a breathless hike with the high altitudes, but the views were worth it!


8. Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, Brazil

If you ever find yourself in Lencois, Brazil, make your way about 40 miles west for one spectacular view. Located in Chapada Diamantina National Park, Pai Inacio Hill is just off BR-242 and can easily be seen from the road. The striking white stone and the majestic appearance of this natural rock formation is compelling enough to make anyone want to stop and explore. It is a relatively easy 20 minute hike to the summit, and once you arrive you will see that it is worth every step. Standing atop Pai Inacio, with the sun and wind greeting your face, you will bear witness to the valley that unfolds below you. It appears to go on forever, and that is about how long you will want to stay and take in the awe-inspiring view.

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Want to explore South America with us? Join us on our Patagonia Yoga Retreat + Eco Adventure with Jason Bowman this Oct. 15–22, 2016. 

AFAR inspires and enables those who travel the world seeking to have deeper and more fulfilling travel experiences. AFAR's platforms include the award-winning AFAR Magazine;, recently named a Top 10 Site That Makes Travel Easier; the non-profit foundation Learning AFAR; and the immersive travel series AFAR Experiences.