Positioned on one side of the famed Pacific Rim of Fire, Latin America certainly isn’t short of a dramatic volcanic peak or two. The Andes runs like an artery down the continent and is home to some of the highest and most spectacular snow-capped mountains and active volcanos in the world.
For those with a taste for adventure, you can scale the slopes and look down on the crater itself as well as out to some breath-taking panoramas.
Perhaps my favourite place for scaling volcanic peaks, particularly as you can bag 3-4 peaks in one hiking expedition, is in the aptly named Avenue of the Volcanoes in Ecuador. Chimborazo is its highest peak at 6,270 metres and is the most challenging but it isn’t a technical climb so accessible to all who are active and fit as long as you take the time to acclimatise.
Test your mettle on lower peaks from Pasochoa to Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui first, as you explore on foot the dramatic scenery of this region. You can combine several peaks in around a week or so, staying in surprisingly good remote local-style haciendas, lodges and comfortable mountain refuges with your private guide.
You need to keep your strength up for the ascents, so what better way than to do so in style with a gourmet tasting menu at one of these remote lodges, carefully designed by a fantastic local chef who learned his craft at the famed El Celler de Can Roca in Spain. Who says the food has to be hearty but unimaginative on remote treks?
An equally fantastic and challenging climb is to the summit of Villarica Volcano in the dazzling Lakes District region of Chile in northern Patagonia. Snow-capped year round, you can stand on the edge of the crater and look down at the smoking fumes below in a full day hike followed by an exhilarating sledge ride back downhill afterwards! It’s certainly a lot quicker on the way down.
The views over the surrounding lakes and forests of Pucon and Lake Villarica below are just stunning and your gorgeous luxurious hacienda awaits below. Soak your tired limbs in a private hot tub and then spend your days on a series of other dramatic hikes, bike rides or even a spot of sailing or fly-fishing in superb surroundings. You can even visit a local Mapuche community to learn about this ancient (but still surviving) indigenous culture.
Heading further north and west brings you to the celebrated Galapagos Islands, themselves formed by a vast series of volcanoes, some of which remain active to this day. As you hike among hordes of brightly coloured marine iguanas and shuffling colonies of sea lions lined up on the beaches, you can’t help but notice the lava formations and tunnels created by past volcanic eruptions.
Visitors to Isabela Island on the Western side of the archipelago have the chance to hike up to the top of Sierra Negra volcano, a stunning landscape that opens out to the most enormous crater measuring some 10km in diameter, looking out enroute for some of the native flora and fauna that makes the islands so famous.
Then descend via a series of smaller craters that erupted as recently as the 1970s to see fumaroles and dramatic volcanic landscapes. This is a gentle hike that most will be able to do easily making it really accessible to all including children.
Another fabulous hike that is less challenging than the climbs needed to scale volcanoes in Ecuador and Chile is to head to beautiful Guatemala. From a delightful colonial mansion in the heart of pretty as a picture Antigua Guatemala or a lakeside lodge along the incredibly scenic shores of Lake Atitlan, you are surrounded by volcanic peaks and beautiful hiking possibilities.
Perfect for a family adventure, Guatemala has an incredible diversity of activities from community projects to colourful local markets, bright and lively festivals and a chance to hike up Pacaya Volcano. This is an active volcano and there have been eruptions in recent years so of course it is subject to weather and geological conditions, as with all hikes in and around zones of volcanic activity.
Rest assured of course that our experts on the ground monitor the zones constantly and make decisions each day based on this data for your absolute safety and security.
Whether you choose to climb one of Latin America’s breath-taking volcanic peaks or simply admire then from a distance, you are sure to appreciate the simply spectacular landscapes they have formed in the mountains and highlands of the continent. Let us know which peaks and mountains you wish to visit and we can make it happen with our hand-picked specialist guides.