How I fell in love with hiking in South America

I’ve never really been into hiking. Or trekking. Or outdoorsy things. I’ve pushed myself into become fitter and fitter, I ran a half-marathon, I go to the gym 3 times a week, I discovered muscle power where I didn’t really know I have muscles, I do a decent downward dog. But hiking? Meh, you know, it just never really felt right for me. Also, it rains and it’s windy and you need special gear – go away, hiking, go away.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself going on long day hikes by myself, signing up for volcano hikes or paying for expensive 4 day jungle treks without anybody pressuring me into it but because I genuinely loved it.

So why did I end up loving hiking?

Maybe it was the beautiful autumn colors in northern Patagonia or maybe the windy hikes in Chile. Maybe it was the double rainbows or the dozens of dogs I’ve befriended on the way. Or the challenge. The absolute challenge to keep going up on steeper trails while still trying to breathe. The remoteness of some summits, the unexpected weather changes or the forever awesome feeling of “I did it” – it could’ve been any of these reasons. Or maybe all of them.

Within a month I was completely hooked up and couldn’t stop thinking about the next hill or mountain I could go up on. And trust me, there were plenty of times when I wasn’t really sure my muscles would keep up with my dreams. And so many mornings when I would need help getting out of bed because I couldn’t control my legs.

bariloche-argentina-hike
An easy-enough hike in Bariloche, Argentina

I remember going down the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru and knowing that the moment I will take off my hiking boots, my feet will punish me for the challenge I’ve put them through. What I didn’t anticipate was that they would also not fit anymore within the same boots next morning. Good old times.

It somehow always seemed normal to me that hiking is really just for the hardcore outdoors people. You know, the mountain people, the kind of people who don’t have a beer on Saturday night because they’re doing a triathlon for fun on Sunday morning. I went on this trip completely unprepared for all the challenges I ended up doing. But man, was it completely worth it. I’ve found that hiking is not only good for the body (build that booty eh) but for the mind as well. Whenever I would be culturally overwhelmed or simply done with people, I’d find a path to go on for a few hours and things would be easier again.

Fascinating what a walk can do, right?

ciudad perdida hike
One of the best things I’ve done in my entire life – the Ciudad Perdida hike in Colombia
3 reasons you should go hiking more
  1. Happy hormones pump up
  2. Detox from people
  3. Stay fit, get fit and eat all the new yummy things you find on the road while traveling
My favorite hikes in South America
  • Cerro Piltri in El Bolson, Argentina

This can be a day trek but if you make it to the summit, you can decide to spend the night back at the mountain shelter. I really enjoyed this path up the mountain, I got to do on one of those glorious days when sunshine, rain, double rainbows and a full-on snow storm all showed up to play.

They give you an ice pick to hike with! If this doesn’t convince you, then you don’t know what badassery is and we can’t be friends. You’d have to hike it in the late autumn/early winter season to need the ice pick though. It’s 6-7 hours hiking up the active volcano, I promise you’ll feel like such the conqueror of the world once you’re up. And you get to slide down on your very own “sleigh” on the way down. And if you roll over and completely loose your direction on this sleighing trip (which I totally did), you get to use said ice pick to stop yourself from dangerously crashing into the ice blocks on the mountain. Fun! Read about this awesome experience here.

  • Isla del Sol in Bolivia

This is a lovely and inspirational baby hike. You go slowly up and take in the views as you pass the terraces the locals use for crops. You have the Isla de la Luna on your right and you pass ancient tombs. The views are truly breathtaking!

  • Machu Pichu Jungle trek in Cusco, Peru

    machu picchu
    A cheeky classic

There’s a few ways to get to Machu Pichu. You can take the train, you can go by car, you can hop on a mix of collectivos (minibuses) and then walk along the train tracks. The more adventurous can also walk along the train tracks all the way from¬†Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, a good 28 km challenge. You can trek the official Inca trail or choose an alternative route. I did the Jungle trek, a 3 day trek which combines mountain biking, ziplining, white river rafting and a bit of a train track hike as well. I loved every single moment of it!

  • The Lost City Trek in Santa Marta, Colombia

This is my absolute favorite hike. Ever! It takes you through 4 days of jungle awesomeness, you get to cross rivers, take a dip in waterfalls and climb the 1200 steps up to the Lost City. It’s chilled, it’s not busy yet and mostly you get to do it at your own rhythm. This was my last big hike in South America and I remember sitting down at the end of it, it’s around 46 km all in all, enjoying a beer and feeling damn proud about it.

Yes, yes, hiking is awesome, go find a hill or a mountain already, hehe.

Any other favorite non-technical hikes you’d recommend?

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