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6 Must See Hiking Trails of South America



It is time to get out your backpack and experience the Hiking Trails of South America for yourself. Some are easy; others will demand a lot of effort from your part. Explore as you've never done before and you will have some amazing stories to tell when you get back home.

1. Inca Trail (Peru)

Inca Trail - Peru The Inca Trail takes you on an unforgettable journey through the Peruvian Andes. The trail was made by the Incas and starts not too far away from Cuzco.

It is a 3/4 day hiking tour, the level is moderate/difficult. The highest pass takes you to 4,200 meters (13,800 feet).

The scenery is awesome and to know that you are walking in the footsteps of the Incas is just so exciting.

During the hike you'll encounter some excellent ruins but the big reward is, of course, arriving at The Lost City of the Incas: Machu Picchu.





2. Cotopaxi National Park (Ecuador)

Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano of the world - Ecuador Cotopaxi National Park is a few hours away from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and is one of the most beautiful parks of South America. Its treasure is Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes of the world, with a height of 5,897 meters (19,347 feet).

I can highly recommend doing the 3 day hike from the entrance of the park to the refuge cabin at 4,800 meters (15,700 feet) at the foot of the volcano Cotopaxi. The level is moderate if you are in good shape. The scenery is amazing.

If you are really up for an adventure of a lifetime then you have to climb Cotopaxi. It takes about 7 hours to reach the crater from the refuge cabin.

Read more about Cotopaxi



3. Lost City (Colombia)

Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) - Santa Marta, Colombia The Lost City (La Ciudad Perdida) was my first adventurous hiking tour in South America and it was fantastic! You leave from the city of Santa Marta (Colombia) with a small group (up to 6 people) for a great adventure.

Although the Lost City can't match some of the other treasures found in South America the hike to the city is just awesome. The path takes you through coca plantations (and yes, people got kidnapped a few years ago so inform yourself before going) and through lowland jungle.

After hiking for 3 days you reach the 1,200 stairs (yes, you read that right) that take you into the city.

Read more about the Lost City





4. Santa Cruz Hiking Tour (Peru)

Santa Cruz Hike Tour - Huaraz, Peru From the city of Huaraz in Peru you can set out for the Santa Cruz Hiking Tour. It takes you on a great journey through the majestic Andes with some of the highest peaks of the country surrounding you.

Although the highest pass reaches 4,750 meters (15,583 feet) the level of the hiking tour is moderate if you are acclimatized to high altitudes. Before reaching the highest pass you'll have encountered wonderful valleys and lakes. It is a popular trek so you will meet some people on the hike.

At the end of the 3/4 day trek you'll be exhausted but completely fulfilled of a splendid journey through the clouds.



5. Torres del Paine (Chile)

Torres del Paine National Park - Chile Torres Del Paine is a wonder of nature. Declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978, the Torres del Paine National Park, (located in the Chilean Patagonia) is one of the most mesmerizing places on the planet.

The park is located in the South of Chile and can be visited from the nearby cities Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. For those of you seeking an unmatched travel adventure Torres del Paine will challenge your wildest dreams.

The major attraction of the park is the Paine Massif  composed mostly of granite and has been around for about 12 million years. The Torres del Paine are three sheer granite towers (see picture), that make a challenging and much wanted prize for experienced climbers.

Read more about Torres del Paine





6. Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia The big secret of South America is the breathtaking Salar de Uyuni in Southern Bolivia. It is the biggest salt flat lake in the world with a staggering 10,500 km2 (4,045 miles2).

Your senses will be provoked mercilessly. I can highly recommend the tours available in Uyuni when you travel in Bolivia.

A 3 day tour takes you on the salt flat lake and into the desert all the way to the border of Chile. On the trip you will see, besides the salt flat lake, the green and the red lake, geysers, Isla Pescada (Fish Island) and hot spring baths. A gorgeous never ceasing tranquility awaits you.

Read more about the Salar de Uyuni




Next: Mysteries of South America


© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire*

*Photograph "Torres del Paine" by Loic Bernard | Agency: iStockphoto.com