You’ve probably heard of Patagonia’s famed trails, and chances are you’ve heard enough about Machu Picchu to make your ears ring. But South America has more mountain trails for you to explore than you probably even know.
Here are five mountains in South America you need to know about…
1. El Misti, Peru
One of the most impressive features in the landscape of Arequipi is the volcanoes that line the ridge. El Misti is one of the most impressive, sitting at a supremely statuesque height of 5,825 meters above sea level. Nestled between Mount Chachani and Pichu Pichu Peak, this volcano’s name means “The Gentleman.”
This is a difficult climb that will take you about eight hours just to get to base camp. You’re best to begin the first leg of the hike early in the day, which will get you to the first stop before nightfall. You’ll make your way to the summit the following morning and complete the full trek back down the following day.
The best time to hike is during the winter months, when all three mountains in the range are visible.
2. Chimborazo, Ecuador
Chimborazo is the highest mountain on Earth when measured from the center of the Earth instead of sea level – this means that the summit of Chimborazo is the closest you will ever get to space whilst staying on earth! It’s best visited in June to July or January to February. You’ll need about two weeks to climb it so that you have time to acclimate to the altitude.
Hiking this peak is challenging, mostly because of the aforementioned altitude. With a summit that is topped with a deep crater and thick ice, you’ll need to watch your footing, too. However, it’s well worth it, because on the way you will hike through the verdant Chimborazo Forest Reserve and be privy to sightings of llamas and other wild animals. You’ll even pass through some gorgeous cloud forests!
3. Machu Picchu
Shrouded by mist and mystique, Machu Picchu is a classic South American hike. There are several routes up the mountain, but one of the most popular is the Inca Trail in the Sacred Valley. This trail will let you see the ancient ruins after two 4,000 meter passes and a passage through the Sun Gate. You must have a guide and a permit – this should be booked six months in advance. Most trips take no more than four days (and here’s a great list of what you’ll need to pack!).
4. Mount Fitz Roy, Patagonia
Most hikers will head directly to southern Patagonia in Chile for a hike, but northern Patagonia is where it’s at. There’s tons to see here, including glaciers, wild rivers, waterfalls, and fjords.
Mount Fitz Roy is a snowy hike with peaks that can be seen for miles around. There are several multi-day hikes where you can camp for free in the national park, which has no entrance fee, or stay in the local town, El Chalten.
One of the most technically challenging climbs you’ll find, Mount Fitz Roy has been conquered by few mountaineers. If you’re ready for the challenge, book your trip now.
5. Mount Roraima, Venezuela
Last on our list is Mount Roraima, which is a jungle hike to a table-top mountain called a tepui. The word “tepui” translates to “house of the gods” in the local indigenous language of the Pemon people. The Mount Roraima tepui has an environment that is completely isolated, making it an ecological island with a different climate, flora, and fauna than that on the ground below.
A non-technical hike up Mount Roraima begins from the village of Paraitepui – you must have a guide to hike and it will take you about six days to complete.
From Venezuela to Argentina, this continent is packed with adventures for you to explore. Stamp your passport and lace up your hiking boots – these five mountains in South America are the ones you’ve got to climb before you die.
Bertie Cowen is a writer and avid outdoorsman. He’s on a mission to make it easier for folk to spend more time outside. You can check out his blog (EffortlessOutdoors.com) or find him on Twitter @BertieOutdoors.