There is something about leaving the cities behind and striking out on foot into remote and undisturbed regions where the roads peter out into steep tracks and forest trails. Taking to the path at your own pace also means you have plenty of time to absorb the stunning landscapes around you or sit down for a cup of tea with local people from remote communities. And you don’t even have to camp or carry your own luggage or tent if you don’t want to – you can arrange your perfect bespoke walking holiday your way.
I am an experienced hiker myself, and love to strap on my boots and backpack and head into the wilderness on foot. Equally, I enjoy my comforts including delicious dinners, a cosy fire and, most importantly, a very comfortable bed after a long day outdoors! It is possible to hike some challenging as well as awe-inspiring terrain without completely relinquishing your comforts or at least having a very luxurious welcome at a lodge or spa at the end! Whether it’s for the jaw-dropping scenery, for the chance to meet local communities, or to celebrate colourful festivals, you can arrange any private tailor made trekking holidays that you wish.
Here are some of my very favourite places in Latin America for taking to the trails:
Peru Highlands – Trekking in the Andes of Peru is quite simply breath-taking, whether you are taking one of the trails towards the spectacular Machu Picchu or whether you are looking to discover lesser known sites such as Choquequirao, or even Kuelap in the north. Wonderful lodge to lodge treks along the Salkantay or Lares Trails (considerably less traffic than on the classic Inca Trail) takes you through traditional regions whose communities have no road access and therefore little interaction with the outside world. Evenings are spent in beautiful cosy lodges with a proper bed, gourmet food, and even a jacuzzi.
Southern Patagonia – From the famous circuit of the W in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile whose highlight is a walk to the base of the towers of granite rock that dominate the landscape, to stunning hikes alongside glaciers in and around the Los Glaciares National Park in El Chalten, Argentina, this region is quite simply heaven for hiking fans. Crystal clear and vividly coloured glacial lakes, forest, and open steppe where huemul, guanaco, armadillo, foxes, and even puma roam while condors fly overhead. Choose from delightful luxury tented camps & lodges with perhaps a night or two spent in simple rustic mountain refuges in between.
Ecuadorian Highlands – Not to be outdone by its southern neighbour for hiking trails, Ecuador has always had some breath-taking scenery in its highlands region, especially around Cotopaxi National Park within the famed ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’. Add to that a sprinkling of traditional farms, haciendas, and local lodges and you have a delightful region in which to take to the hills. My latest mountain hiking itineraries have explored four different volcanoes and have featured the chance to try some ice-climbing, staying in working haciendas and cosy mountain lodges.
Northwest Argentina – This desert region of Argentina, bordered on the other side of the Andes by the Atacama Desert and by the Salt Flats of Bolivia to the north, is one of Argentina’s best kept secrets. The landscapes are just stunning as well as quite extraordinary, from multicoloured rock slopes to valleys of salt flats and mineral lakes, forests of giant cacti, and populated sparsely by small adobe villages and towns of traditional communities. Why not take a walk on the wild side and try an alternative and almost unknown Inca Trail in Argentina’s northern Puna region, accompanied by some excellent guides and great hospitality.
Copper Canyon, Mexico – The Copper Canyon remains one of the least visited destinations in Mexico, despite its famously scenic rail route from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. The train journey from El Fuerte to Creel is breath-taking to be sure, but the very best way to experience the real scale and drama of the canyon is to step off the train and head down into the valleys below on foot. This is also the best way to meet some of the notoriously shy and reclusive native Rarahumari people who inhabit the Canyons. Especially fascinating is the Semana Santa (Easter Week) celebrations here among the Tarahumara villages with some unique rituals, dances, and music marking this important festival.