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10 Best Hikes in the Andes Mountains

Traveling to South America? Here are the ten best hikes in the Andes Mountains from Cotopaxi, Ecuador, all the way down to Argentinian Patagonia
Glacier in Patagonia with misty mountains in the background. Photo by Peru For LessGlacier in Patagonia with misty mountains in the background. Photo by Peru For Less
The Andes Mountains are the longest running mountain range in the world. It spans 4,300 miles, seven countries, and nearly the entire length of the South American continent! If you are a hiker, it may be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we decided to offer this guide. From north to south, here are our top ten favorite hikes in the Andes:
Table of Contents

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador.

Snow-capped Cotopaxi in Ecuador. Photo by Peru For Less

We begin our list with the great guardian of the Andes Mountains, Cotopaxi. At 19,347 feet, this volcano is the highest active volcano in the world! Use Quito as a basepoint for a tour of Cotopaxi National Park. There are many hikes you can do in this area, including Quilotoa Lagoon and the Cotopaxi Trek. Hiking to the top will require training and expertise beyond the scope of this article and is not recommended for most hikers.

Starting at the base of the towering volcano, you can trek to the forest of Chuquirahuas, or see the stunning turquoise water in the Quilotoa Lagoon. Apart from the stunning landscape, you may also see native animals such as the red brocket deer, Andean fox, and majestic guanaco. This is one of the most beautiful places in the incredible country of Ecuador, and you are sure to enjoy spending time in this area.

Cotopaxi National Park is located about 32 miles south of Quito, which means you will need to arrange transportation. If you get a tour, transportation will be included in the price. You could also get a ride and hike on your own, but given dangers of getting lost, this is not recommended. If you want some help putting together the details such as getting a guided tour of the park, our travel advisors can help you put together the perfect itinerary to match your speed and experience level.

Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu, Peru

Stepped terraces along the Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Stepped terraces along the Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu. Photo by Peru For Less

If you want to hike the Andes Mountains, this is the best way to get to Machu Picchu. It includes trekking through a diverse range of terrain such as calm valleys, mountain passes, and cloud forests. You will see white-capped peaks including Salkantay, which rises 20,574 feet above sea level. In Quechuan, Salkantay means ‘savage’ or ‘invincible.’ You will see why as you view the peak on day two, where you take on Salkantay Pass. The altitude here is 14,989 feet, so hikers must be in good physical condition.

The journey covers some of the most remarkable scenes in Peru, such as the Sacred Valley, traveling 43 miles over the course of five days. Many trekkers like to add a stone to the ‘apachetas,’ or stone towers, in the Salkantay Pass, which is a sign of respect to the mountain. Of course, the highlight of the experience is entering Machu Picchu at the end of your trek.

Because of the altitude, it is also advised to stay a day in Cusco before attempting this trek to give yourself time to adjust. The package we offer has all meals included by an on-trek chef. We also arrange all transfers and hotel stays so you can focus on enjoying the incredible adventure.

Interested in learning more about this trek? click here. And if you want to discuss different options for this trek, including ‘lodge to lodge,’ where you stay each night in a warm, comfortable bed, please fill out this form and a travel advisor will reach out to you.

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Rainbow Mountain with a partially cloudy sky in Peru.

The lookout point at Rainbow Mountain. Photo by Peru For Less

Only recently discovered, Rainbow Mountain, or “Vinicunca,” as the locals call it, has recently become a tourist phenomenon. It is considered a holy site in the Peruvian Andes and rewards travelers with one of the most remarkable views in all of Peru. Located just south of Cusco, it is the second most popular place to visit in the country. Because of its proximity to Cusco, it is usually combined with another famous trek, the Inca Trail. (Which didn’t make the list, but is a great way to see Machu Picchu if you don’t want to take the Salkantay Trek. See our Rainbow Mountain and 2-day Inca Trail package!)

One thing you will need to prepare for is the altitude. While Machu Picchu is below Cusco in elevation, Rainbow Mountain is above Cusco. At an altitude of 16,000 feet, this is even higher than day two on the Salkantay trek. You will start your journey in Cusco and travel the 62 miles south to the mountain. The hike starts off relatively easy and gets steeper as you climb. There are also bikes and horses available if you desire an alternative adventure. The payoff is an iconic photo of Peru you will cherish for years to come.


If you want a complete hiking guide, read more about Rainbow Mountain here. And as with all hikes on this list, please don’t hesitate to ask our travel advisors about adding this to your custom itinerary! They will be able to give you travel updates, help you with itinerary changes, and reach out with advice for your trip. They will also help you find unique experiences according to your travel tastes.

Colca Canyon, Peru

Yellow flowers near where the condors fly in Colca Canyon, Peru.

Cruz del Condor viewpoint in Colca Canyon. Photo by Peru For Less

Speaking of unique experiences, how would you like to see Andean condors soaring high above the second deepest canyon in the world?! This is one of the many wonders you will experience while hiking in Colca Canyon. The hillsides are famous for their agricultural terraces, which make the drive scenic as well. The Cruz del Condor is a great way to start you adventure, where you can see majestic condors soaring high above the Colca River.

As far as hiking, you have several options, but most people choose the two-day trek to Sangalle Oasis. The journey starts with a two-hour hike into the canyon. At this point, you will find the oasis and get some rest before starting the three-hour hike out of the canyon. Pack a swimsuit so you can swim in the pool! There are palm trees and green grass waiting for you at the oasis.

When you need a break, there are two towns in the canyon. The first is located near the base, a charming town called Cabanaconde. Here you will find food, beverages, and lodging. Alternatively, at the top of the canyon, you can relax in the small town of Chivay. Both towns will give you a glimpse into Peruvian life in the Andes.

If you’re looking for more adventure, you can add excursions such as ziplining or soaking in hot springs. Hiking Colca is sure to be a highlight of your next trip! And you want a full hiking guide on this canyon, read more here.

Valle de las Ànimas, Bolivia

A hiker wanders through the Valle de las Ánimas in Bolivia.

A hiker wanders through the Valle de las Ánimas in Bolivia. Photo by Peru For Less

Located just outside of La Paz is an incredible place to explore called Valle de las Ànimas, or the Valley of the Souls. Located at 13,000 feet, this is one of the lower elevation hikes in the Andes Mountains. That being said, it is still recommended to acclimate before doing any physical activity. This location is one of the most stunning in Bolivia, and if much less traveled than other hikes on this list. We recommend this for hikers who like to go off the beaten path and explore something truly breathtaking.

For those who dare, hike through towering spires that are reminiscent of spirits watching over you. The locals claim these spires produce mournful sounds as the wind passes through. If that doesn’t freak you out, it can be quite peaceful. The path can be a little tricky, as it winds about and there are places where it gets steep. A walking stick is recommended to help you make your way through the canyon. The reward for taking on the challenge is enjoying the calm majesty of a little-known trek in the Andes. The photos certainly speak for themselves.

To get there, you can choose a public or private transfer, but because of the remoteness of the area, we recommend a trusted private service. You may want to take a day in La Paz and ride the cable cars to give you time to adjust to the altitude before you start your journey. La Paz is an exciting city, and one of the most underrated in the Andes Mountain range.

Chillan, Chile

A waterfall pours over granite rocks near Chillan, Chile.

A waterfall pours over granite rocks near Chillan, Chile. Photo by Peru For Less

Adventure abounds in Chillan, Chile. You can start with Laja falls, soak in the Termas de Chillan, or hike in the mountains around the city. They also offer skiing and snowboarding if you want to take a break from hiking.

Located about 250 miles south of Santiago, you will find the mountain town of Chillan. From there, you can get a private or group tour of Laja Falls, some 45 miles south. The falls are an impressive sight, with water plunging 250 feet into a rocky gorge. Make sure you bring shoes and clothing that dry quickly because you may want to wade into the pools.

Alternatively, you can head to the Termas de Chillan, a resort that provides thermal pools at the foot of the Andes. They offer a range of activities from trekking to horseback riding. Pack your bathing suit, because after a long day of hiking, the hot springs have a medicinal effect.

Add Laja falls or Termas de Chillan to your Andes trekking itinerary by speaking with our travel advisors today! They will help you brainstorm ideas, find hiking routes that are perfect for your speed and sense of adventure, and get you the right guides to make sure your trip is a success.

Nahuei Huapi National Park, Argentina

Lakes with snow-capped mountains in the background in Nahuei Huapi National Park, Argentina.

A view of Nahuei Huapi National Park, Argentina. Photo by Peru For Less

The oldest national park in Argentina, Nahuel Huapi is a hiker’s paradise. This area represents the temperate rainforests of the Southern Andes Mountains. Stunning mountain scenery and crystal-clear lakes make this place an Andean gem. You can stay in the nearby town of Bariloche to prepare for your adventure. This lakeside town has strong Swiss influences and is the chocolate capital of South America, so make sure to grab some chocolate before starting your journey!

The best time to visit is in the summer months of December through February, although if you go during the winter months, you can expect great skiing and snowboarding. You will want to plan for a few days of exploring, as there is so much to do. Our favorite recommendation is the guided tour of Victoria Island and Bosque de Arrayanes. This combines many activities into one day. Start with a boat ride to Victoria Island, where you will take a chairlift to the summit of Mount Bella Vista. From there, hike through an Arrayan tree forest before returning to the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

If you have time, take a scenic drive and stop at some of the viewpoints. We recommend the Road of the Seven Lakes (Camino de los Siete Lagos) on Route 234. We also recommend the Circuito Grande, which follows this route. Whether by car or on foot, the scenery is sure to impress!

Volcan Osorno, Chile

A yellow field of flowers with Volcan Osorno in the background, Chile.

The Chilean countryside with Volcan Osorno in the background. Photo by Peru For Less

Located in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, Osorno Volcano rises to 8,700 feet. This is a relatively low altitude for the Andes Mountains, but compared to the valley below at 180 feet, it is a striking contrast! The volcano is still active, which creates a unique trekking opportunity for those who want to tell the story of hiking an active volcano in the Chilean Andes.

The best time to visit is between December and March, as the weather warms up and is perfect for hiking, but you can schedule a day trip to Osorno year-round (in winter, expect to have skiing, or tubing on your itinerary). January is the hottest month, with temperatures reaching 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, while dipping to 48 at night. No matter when you go, make sure to pack layers and have a windbreaker because the weather can be somewhat unpredictable, especially as you get closer to the summit.

How do you get there? Take route 225 or get a private transfer from Puerto Varas. Once at the base of the volcano, you can take a chair lift part way up and enjoy panoramic views. There is an optional hike around the volcano for a 360° perspective, but beware, this hike is rigorous.


Another shorter hike we recommend is Petrohué falls. This 1.1-mile hike leads to a photogenic waterfall with Osorno in the background. It is an easy trail and can be completed in less than an hour. We recommend this trail for families and casual hikers.

Mount Fitz Roy, Argentina

Jagged mountain peaks in Patagonia near Chalten, Argentin

Mist rolls over Mount Fitz Roy, Argentina. Photo by Peru For Less

Mount Fitz Roy is one of the greatest hiking destinations–not just in the Andes–but in the world. It is one of the most memorable images in all of Patagonia. The nearby city of El Chalten is known as the Trekking Capital of Argentina because it is close to so many trails such as Laguna Torre, and Laguna de los Tres.

For a remote town with only a few thousand people, El Chalten is quite hospitable. You can find a place to stay, do laundry, and even drink the water! You will find restaurants with delicious food and a welcoming atmosphere before you start the day. There is only one ATM in the town, so make sure to bring some Argentine Pesos. To get there, you will need to fly into El Calafate, and then drive the four hours to El Chalten. The best time to visit is the warmer months between October – April. It can get cold, especially at night, so be sure to pack layers.

You can spend days hiking to various places in this area, but if you only have time for one, we recommend Laguna de los Tres, which will take you to the foot of Mount Fitz Roy, locally known as Cerro Chaltén, which means ‘Smoking Mountain.’ This is because there is often a mist blowing over the spires. The trail is 13.3 miles roundtrip and takes you to a beautiful lagoon. Total hiking time: about 8-10 hours. Laguna de los Tres is in Los Glaciers National Park, which is also where you will find our last entry.

Perito Moreno, Argentina

El Calafate in Argentina with blue skies and turquoise water.

Perito Moreno in Argentinian Patagonia. Photo by Peru For Less

Finally, we arrive at the last hike on our list, but it is certainly not least! Perito Moreno is one of the most stunning glaciers in the world, and certainly the most popular in the Patagonian Andes. The centerpiece of Los Glaciers National Park, it creeps forward 3-6 feet a day. The terminus of the glacier is 230 feet high and 3.1 miles long. This means if you are lucky, you can see icebergs the size of the Statue of Liberty calving. As they break off, you will hear a great boom or crack! Then the ice crashes downward and rolls in the water, creating huge waves. It’s quite a spectacle to view! This happens daily, but much more frequently in the afternoon, once the sun has come out and had a chance to work on the ice.

Well-kept walkways and stairs are available, but for those who want to get closer, you can also hike on the glacier! These tours are 2-3 hours, and you get to trek on the ice! Make sure you have some grip on your shoes. Also, even though it is cold, you will still need sunscreen. The sun is strong, and the glacier reflects UV rays, so be sure to apply your favorite product. Sunglasses, a warm hat, and a raincoat are also recommended.

To get there, we recommend taking a bus from El Calafate to Los Glaciers National Park. They have multiple buses that run each day, so it won’t be difficult to find one that matches with your schedule.

Get Help Planning Your Next Trip

Ready to experience the Andes Mountains for yourself? Let us book it for you on your next trip to Peru! If you need help planning, be sure to contact Peru For Less and get in touch with an expert travel advisor. They will arrange all the details for you so you can stick to the more important stuff–like hiking!

Happy travels!

 Kevin Green
Kevin Green
Kevin, is an author and lover of adventure originally from northern Utah. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from BYU and a Marketing MBA from SUU. Upon visiting Peru, he fell in love with the country and decided to make Lima his new home.
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