Temperatures may be dropping by the day in the Northern Hemisphere, but here in Chile, spring is only just beginning. With hiking routes all the way from the Atacama Desert in the North to Patagonia in the far South, there’s never been a better time to dust off your hiking boots and start planning your trek in Chile. This list brings together the routes you wont want to miss.
1. Paine Circuit
Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most spectacular sights in the Southern Hemisphere thanks to its winning combination of ancient forests, glaciers, lakes, rivers and fjords. The full Paine Circuit will take you a good 9 days and includes Dickson Lake, Los Perros river and the John Gardner Pass as well as the sights covered in the W Trek. Considered by many to be the ultimate trekking challenge, this route regularly appears not only on lists of the best treks in Chile, but also of those anywhere in the world.
2. The W Trek
For those without the time, budget or inclination to tackle the hardcore challenge of the full circuit, the 5 or 7-day classic W Trek is the perfect alternative. This trek focuses on the main attractions of Los Cuernos, the Paine Massif, Glacier Grey and, of course, the famous Towers themselves. This shorter route is perfect for those looking for a less strenuous hike and a few more comforts. In fact, you can even spend most nights of your stay in a hotel. There are lots of options to choose from, but the best bet for trekkers looking to get ahead of the crowds is EcoCamp Patagonia, which is situated right in the heart of the National Park itself.
3. The Atacama Desert
Trekking in the Atacama Desert a must for those seeking something a little different to snowy mountaintops. According to NASA, the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is the driest place on Earth, where the annual rainfall ranges from an average 1 millimeter per year in some places to none at all in others. Occupying some 40,600 square miles, the landscape that results from this extraordinary climate contains a mixture of salt lakes, sand and lava flows. As an added bonus, the area surrounding the desert features natural hot springs, ideal for a long soak after a hard day’s hiking.
4. The Chilean Lake District
As the name suggests, the Chilean lake district is characterized by an abundance of lakes, rivers and waterfalls and is an area of outstanding beauty. However, as a volcanic region, the area is also home to towering volcanoes, which make for a varied hiking environment suited to all abilities and fitness levels. The region benefits from a temperate climate and can therefore be enjoyed all year round, but the spring and summer months are drier. For a scenic adventure, you won’t find better than a hiking trip in the Chilean lakes.
5. El Morado Glacier Trek
This route makes the list for being the best place to admire glaciers up close, whilst also being located close enough to Santiago to enjoy as a hiking day trip. It has the advantage of being one of the lesser known routes in Chile and is therefore less congested. The climb upwards through the Andes takes 3.5 to 4 hours depending on fitness levels, and ends with a great view of the glacier and its lagoon full of floating ice. It is also worth making the trip to enjoy the impressive variety of wildlife including bird species such as mockingbirds and giant hummingbirds.
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