From the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia and Chipada Diamontina in Brazil to the Andes Mountains which span an entire continent, there are so many scenic places to hike in South America. Several of them, including the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru and the O Circuit in Torres del Paine in Chile, have become world-renowned for their challenging mountain passes, history, and incomparable beauty. And while these hikes are certainly worth their salt, there are many more hikes across South America that are equally spectacular yet far less commercialized. 

In this article, we introduce you to eight of the very best hikes in South America in 2024. Some you’ll have heard of and others you’ll be surprised you hadn’t. Each of them offer something uniquely enticing. Whilst Peru’s Colca Canyon trail challenges you to climb the world’s second-deepest canyon, Colombia’s Lost City trail encourages you to connect with indigenous jungle tribes. Which will capture your attention most? Read on to discover the best hikes in South America 2023/2024.

Colca Canyon, Peru

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 19 miles (30 km)

Time to complete: 1-3 days

Difficulty level: Challenging

Highlight: It’s one of the world’s deepest canyons

As the world’s second deepest canyon (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) the Colca Canyon hike is by no means an easy hike. Although it can be done in 1-3 days, most complete the 19-mile (30 km) loop in two days. On the first day, expect a four-hour steep descent into the tropical oasis of the canyon’s floor before hiking uphill for an hour or so to reach the refugio. After a comfortable night’s sleep, you’ll rise before the sun to begin the tough ascent 1400 meters back up the canyonside which takes around four hours. Although it’s considered challenging, anyone with a fair level of fitness can conquer it, enjoying the breathtaking views of canyon-scapes around you and condors flying above. 

Sierra Negra, Galapagos

Distance: 13 miles (21 km)

Time to complete: 1 day

Difficulty level: Moderate

Highlight: Stand at the caldera of an active volcano

The Galapagos Islands were formed by volcanoes and volcanic eruption millions of years ago and today, there are only a few that remain active including Sierra Negra on Isla Isabela. Despite the fact it erupted as recently as 2018, it’s possible to hike to the top of this volcano and stand on the crater’s rim overlooking the smoky abyss inside and the sea views beyond. As one of the world’s largest calderas, it’s sure to make any human overlooking it feel truly humbled. The trail leading to the top navigates through surreal black rocky lava fields sprinkled with equally surreal endemic fauna. Along the way, you’ll spot some of the Galapagos’ famed endemic species too including the lava hawk and Galapagos land iguana. 

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 5 miles (8 km)

Time to complete: Half a day

Difficulty level: Moderate

Highlight: See the world’s most colorful mountain

Since it was discovered just over 10 years ago, Rainbow Mountain has become one of the most coveted hikes in South America — and not just for the unusually colorful mountainscape. The 5-mile hike itself is fairly short and flat, and therefore considered very accessible to most ability levels. The challenge lies in managing the altitude of 17,000 ft (5,200 meters) above sea level, which places it among some of the highest hikes in South America too. Those who embark on this hike will usually spend a few days in Cusco (the starting point) at 11,000 ft (3,400 meters) to acclimate — and dig into its renowned culinary scene. Along the Rainbow Mountain trail, expect to enjoy vast views of the arid high Andes beside the local llamas before being rewarded with rainbows at the end.

Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) Hike, Colombia

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 28 miles (46 km)

Time to complete: 4-6 days

Difficulty level: Challenging

Highlight: Get access to Colombia’s indigenous land and Inca ruins

The Lost City Hike trails 28 miles through the indigenous tribal-owned lands of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia to reach the ancient Inca city after which it’s named. It navigates hot and humid weather, steep climbs, dense jungle flora and fauna, and often basic sleeping arrangements. Therefore, it’s by no means an easy-breezy hike. However, the rewards far outway the challenges that the route to the Lost City brings. As you hike, you’ll be ever-entranced by the sheer variety of tropical plants and animals you spot including cotton-top tamarin, capybara, and ocelot. Between stretches of hiking, you’ll stop to meet the local tribes, hear their stories, and learn how they live as part of an ecosystem, not the dictator of it. After climbing a final 1,200 steps, you’ll find the mysterious Lost City built by the intelligent Incas over 1,200 years ago.

Avenue of Volcanoes Hike, Ecuador

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 26 miles (42 km)

Time to complete: 5-8 days

Difficulty level: Easy-Moderate

Highlight: See all of Ecuador’s best sights in one adventurous trip

From Cotopaxi to Chimborazo, this hike leads you around Ecuador’s biggest and most beautiful volcanoes whilst stopping at many culture, nature, and adventure-rich spots in between. Although hikers will face some high altitudes, the hike’s pace is generally slow and easy-going which makes it accessible to anyone in good health. It’s particularly attractive to senior hikers since it’s one of the few multi-day hikes in South America that provides a private guide, comfortable hotel accommodation, and the option to extend the trip with a few non-hiking-related excursions between hiking days. Some of these include visiting Inca ruins, a Cuenca city tour, and a once-in-a-lifetime ride on the Devil’s Nose, the world’s steepest train route. Throughout your journey, you’ll also get to see Ecuador’s vast and varied landscapes from the snowy mountains to the thick valley forests.

The Pati Valley Chipada Diamontina Trek, Brazil

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 21 miles (34 km)

Time to complete: 3 days

Difficulty level: Moderate

Highlight: Stand at the most breathtaking viewpoint in Brazil

While many travelers look to Bahia, Brazil, for their luxurious beach breaks, more and more are wising up to the incredible landscapes and hiking opportunities of its national park, Chipada Diamontina. This untouched park is characterized by a corridor of tabletop mountains and a lush cloud forest in the valley below. There are several hiking routes through Chipada up to eight days long, with the three-day Pati Valley trail being one of the easiest yet most rewarding. Expect it to lead you through highland orchids, to refreshing waterfall pools, to the top of a mountain, and to the edge of a canyon. At night, you’ll stop at local homestays where you can hear about life in Chipada from local families. Between nature and culture, this hike through northern Brazil will be one to remember.

Laguna de los Tres, Argentina

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 14 miles (23 km)

Time to complete: 1-2 days

Difficulty level: Moderate with a difficult final ascent

Highlight: Stand witness to one of the most pictured mountain peaks in the world

Laguna de Los Tres in Los Glaciares National Park is possibly the most well-known and well-hiked trail on this list but for a good reason. Its name refers to the turquoise glacier lagoon that sits at the base of Mount Fitz Roy’s peak which happens to be one of the most pictured peaks in the world. The 14-mile hike leads you gently up to the peak for the most part but in order to reap the rewards at the top, the final ascent requires you to climb a mile up steep scree. A feat that you’ll soon forget you conquered once you’re greeted by the views of Mount Fitz Roy and its glacier lagoon at the top. For a less intense hike, you can opt to stay on the trail overnight at Campamento Poincenot before beginning the final ascent at sunrise on day two.

Otto Meiling Trail, Bariloche, Argentina

Best Hikes in South America

Distance: 18 miles (30 km)

Time to complete: 2-3 days

Difficulty level: Moderate 

Highlight: Get to experience Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia

Spanning two countries with thick coniferous forests, the bluest lakes, and giant mountain peaks in between, the Otto Meiling Trail is the one to beat in northern Patagonia. It begins in Nahuel Huapi National Park in Argentina’s Lake District and passes Mount Tronador (translating to Thunder Mountain) into Chile. After a day’s hike featuring some relatively steep ascents and descents heading into Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, you’ll find traditional cuisine and respite in Refugio Otto, a comfortable dormitory and restaurant. Often described as the Alps of South America, expect to encounter beautiful alpine forests amongst the mountains that give you that warm outdoorsy feeling along the way. Those with stamina to spare can even continue along the Paso de Las Nubes for incredible views above the clouds.

To read more about the Best Classic Hikes in South America like the Inca Trail and W Trek click here.

If our list of the best hikes in South America 2024 has inspired you to dust off your hiking boots and embark on an active and adventurous vacation, get in touch with us today. Our South America experts can craft a bespoke itinerary that includes all of your favorite hikes as well as some luxurious hotels and cultural excursions to boot. Call us toll free on +1 855 217 9045 or send us a message.