My daughter is doing a project on South American countries this term, so when I met up with Kevin Davies, from petloverguy.com, to talk about the best hiking trails, I was in the fortunate position of being able to appear to know an awful lot more than I really do. Having said that, I am never shy of admiting my own shortcomings – after all that’s what travel is all about – understanding what you don’t know and then finding a way of putting that right!
It should come as little surprise to hear that Kevin loves hiking almost as much as he love his dogs, so let me hand you over to him to talk about some serious “walkies”!
South America’s 5 Best Hiking Trails
Many come to South America looking for adventure and the experience of a lifetime, and there are few better ways to achieve this than by embarking on a hiking trip. Fortunately, when it comes to walking holidays the continent has everything for the beginner and seasoned hiker alike. We’ve selected five different locations from across the whole of South America that you may want to try!
Parque Nacional Naturel El Cucuy (Colombia)
OK, so we’ll start with one for the more experienced hikers among you. Colombia’s Parque Nacional Naturel El Cucuy is home to some of the most breath-taking scenery the country has to offer. While many tour operators offer single day hikes around the park’s highlights, we’d recommend taking the time out to embark on a multi-day adventure on the El Cucuy circuit. This trip will usually take you through the stunning “Valle de los Cojones” – and no, before those of you with a basic grasp of Spanish slang say anything, it’s not called this because it takes “cojones” to hike it! Here, the name means “Valley of the Pillows”, and the glaciers, lagoons and lava landscapes here are nigh-on unsurpassable.
Inca Trail (Peru)
Yes, we’re talking about Machu Picchu. Now, while it’s true that any trip to Machu Picchu is a lot more crowded than it ever looks in the brochures and documentaries, it’s still well worthwhile setting off on a four day hike from the Sacred Valley to the mysterious Inca city in the mountains. For lovers of flora and fauna or sites of historical interest, it’s pretty much the experience of a lifetime, but don’t be fooled by this trek’s current popularity. It’s still a challenge, even to those with previous hiking experience.
Torres del Paine (Chile)
Few locations are as otherworldly as the Torres del Paine. These stunning pink granite rock formations are the jewel in the national park’s crown, and have to be seen to be believed. Along the way you’ll pass spectacular glaciers, strikingly windswept Magellanic forests and have the opportunity to spot some of the region’s fascinating wildlife, including condors, guanacos and the local breed of giant, flightless bird, the nandu.
Fitz Roy (Argentina)
If you’re tackling the Torres del Paine and travelling from some distance away, you may want to consider adding Fitz Roy to your itinerary. It’s a less challenging trek than the Torres Circuit, situated at a much lower altitude, but still offers spectacular views of the Torres themselves, as well as the spectacular glacial landscape of southern Argentina. If you’re not heading over the border and into Chile, you may prefer a multi-day hike up onto the ice fields of Patagonia, though we should add that this is only recommended to those with previous hiking and climbing experience.
La Travesia (Venezuela)
Starting from the small town of Mérida, a hiking trip into the Travesia region of the Venezuelan Andes is guaranteed to impress. La Travesia has been the region’s number one hiking destination for many years, so the services on offer here are second to none, with expert assistance and superb equipment hire facilities for everyone from beginners to veterans. It’s worth noting, however, that on some of the higher climbs altitude sickness is a common problem, and that the weather can be very changeable, with wind, rain and even snow a common factor, so come prepared!
Thanks Kevin! There are hundreds of organisations out there willing to help with your hiking plans. Here in the UK, if you are interested in any of the above destinations, I can recommend using LATA.Org who are there to provide expert advice and inspiration for anyone researching a holiday to Latin America.