South America is the perfect playground for active adventures. From the cobalt-blue glaciers of Patagonia and Peru’s towering Andean mountains to Chile’s arid Atacama Desert and Colombia’s lush tropical rainforests, this continent boasts an astonishing array of unique natural wonders to explore on foot and by bike. Luckily for you, our incredible trips are designed to take you on action-packed adventures right through the very heart of Peru, Chile, Argentina and Colombia. So read on as we cover five of our favourite adventurous hikes and cycles that will inspire you this summer. 

The Ultimate Thrill Seeker’s Guide to South America: Discover Our Top 5 Active Adventures 

Trek the iconic Inca Trail  

Undoubtedly one of the top active experiences you can have in South America is completing the iconic Inca Trail, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Our classic Inca Trail route was designed to give our groups more time to enjoy the trek itself and involves four days of point-to-point walking with an expert local guide and full porterage. If you’re looking for a challenge next summer, this epic journey takes you through the Andean highlands and across ancient pathways, tunnels and stone staircases which all showcase the incredible feat of Inca engineering, dating back to the 15th century. 

While many choose to take a train from Ollantaytambo railway station and the connecting bus which makes the winding drive up to Machu Picchu directly, you’d miss the beauty of travelling through this breathtaking region and the chance to tackle one of the world’s top treks. On our Inca Trail trip, you’ll follow in the footsteps of your expert local guide along the Urubamba River, visit the terraced ruins of Llactapata and make the challenging ascent through cloud forests to traverse the formidable Dead Woman’s Pass (4,215m). You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the ancient sites of Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca on day five.

This evening, you’ll have a chance to stay in a campsite on a ridge towering above the Inca site of Phuyupatamarca, where it feels like you’re sleeping in the clouds – which is a big highlight for many who do this trip! The following day, you’ll reach Wiñay Wayna and make your way through Inti Punku (the Sun Gate), where you’ll see Mach Picchu for the very first time. We’ve made the conscious decision to skip arriving in the morning because this draws in big crowds. Instead, our arrival in the afternoon means you’ll have better, unobstructed views of the famous citadel.

The next day, you’ll enjoy a full guided tour of Machu Picchu to hear about the fascinating legends and folklore surrounding this ancient site. This trip is bookended in the cosmopolitan city of Cusco, so you’ll have some downtime to visit Plaza De Armas, the San Pedro Market and the Qorikancha.  

The Ultimate Thrill Seeker’s Guide to South America: Discover Our Top 5 Active Adventures 

Hike to the base of the towering Torres del Paine 

Our Patagonia Highlights trip packs a punch – with optional boat trips around the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier, treks across Los Glaciares National Park and Tierra del Fuego National Park and optional tango shows in Buenos Aires. However, the main draw for many happens on days seven and eight, where you’ll meet your expert trekking Chilean guide to explore Torres del Paine National Park. Situated in the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region, approximately 112 km north of Puerto Natales city, this park spans over 700km boasting breathtaking mountain peaks and milky blue glacial lakes. But the centrepiece of it all is arguably the three distinctive granite peaks of Torre d’Agostini, Torre Central and Torre Monzino, known collectively as the “Torres del Paine”.  

On day seven, if there’s time, you may get to enjoy a short walk around Laguna Amarga or Laguna Azul, before tackling the full-day trek to the base of Torres del Paine the following day. This 8-9 hour journey takes you primarily through beech forests along the Ascencio River valley. As you and your group progress, the trail becomes steeper and rockier, demanding higher levels of physical fitness and endurance. The final stretch is a challenging scramble over rocky moraine, but the rewarding sight of the three towering granite peaks, rising dramatically from a glacial lake makes this trek worth the effort. If you’re looking for a less challenging more moderate trek to the base of Torres del Paine, we do offer an alternative route where you can enjoy a more leisurely pace.  

The Ultimate Thrill Seeker’s Guide to South America: Discover Our Top 5 Active Adventures 

Ride across sections of the Seven Lakes Road in Argentina 

Cycling the Seven Lakes Road (Camino de los Siete Lagos) in Argentina is one of the most exhilarating journeys you can take through Patagonia on two wheels. The ride is a visual feast and weaves through the stunning landscape of the Nahuel Huapi National Park, passing by crystal-clear lakes such as Traful and Lácar, which reflect the surrounding snow-capped mountains and dense forests. The undulating terrain involves a mix of challenging ascents and thrilling descents, which makes this ride a particularly dynamic and engaging one. En route, cyclists can expect to see vibrant wildflower meadows in the summertime and occasional sightings of local wildlife like red deer, austral parakeets and Andean condors. 

On day seven of our Cycling the Lake District of Chile and Argentina trip, you and your group will depart from Bariloche and make an hour transfer along the famous Patagonian Highway 40 which borders Nahuel Haupi Lake, before travelling up to Villa La Angostura. From here, you’ll begin cycling along the first part of the “Seven Lakes Route” (Camino de los Siete Lagos) which hugs the shores of Traful Lake and takes you towards the challenging Portezuelo Pass. On the second day of this route, you’ll wind northwards past lakes and forests that connect the alpine towns of Villa La Angostura and San Martin de los Andes. After a lunch stop en route, this epic 63km ride ends in San Martin de los Andes, close to the breathtaking shores of Lago Lacar. 

The Ultimate Thrill Seeker’s Guide to South America: Discover Our Top 5 Active Adventures 

Cycle through the otherworldly Valley of the Moon 

El Valle de la Luna, (Valley of the Moon) is situated in Northern Chile, 13km west of San Pedro de Atacama. When you’re cycling past this otherworldly landscape characterised by salt flats, rugged rock formations, towering dunes and sweeping valleys, it really does feel like you’re riding on the surface of the moon.  

On day two of our Cycle Chile & Argentina: Atacama to Salta, you’ll set off from the town of San Pedro in the morning to avoid the midday heat on an adventure through the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. Covering approximately 47km this day, you’ll have plenty of time to explore incredible sites like the Amphitheatre and the Great Dune, as well as caves and ancient salt deposits. However, this isn’t the only unique natural wonder you’ll experience on this trip. Over the next couple of days, your expert guide will take you to visit El Tatio’s bubbling geysers and pass over the border to Argentina to bask in the beauty of the Jama Salt Flats and the spectacular Hill of Seven Colours near Purmamarca.  

The Ultimate Thrill Seeker’s Guide to South America: Discover Our Top 5 Active Adventures 

Hike along the Caribbean coast in Tayrona National Natural Park 

Tayrona National Nature Park is perfectly nestled between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains and the Caribbean Sea, making it a key biodiversity hotspot in the region. Santa Marta white-fronted capuchins, red howler monkeys, frigatebirds and caimans may be seen on a trek through this dense tropical rainforest, while endangered species like the jaguar, puma and other exotic bird species that also reside in these forests are almost impossible to spot. Aside from the teeming with wildlife, a trek through this region’s scenic trails also leads to idyllic beaches, known for their crystal-clear waters and dramatic boulder formations. 

On day 12 of our action-packed Colombia: Culture, Coffee & Caribbean trip, you and your group will take a short drive, hugging the Caribbean Coast to El Zaino to the main entrance of the park, where you’ll begin a four-hour trek. You’ll start by trekking to Cañaveral Beach, where you’ll walk to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the ocean. Your journey continues through the heady tropical rainforest and past Arrecife Beach until your group reaches La Piscina, the epitome of a Caribbean beach with its expansive palm-fringed white sands, and calm inviting waters. After a welcomed break swimming in these waters and lunch at a small beach-front restaurant, you’ll head back to the forest, for an optional 2km climb to the secluded Cabo San Juan with its Seychelles-esque boulders. 

If these adventures have you dreaming about an active trip to South America, browse our collection of trips across the continent here.