There’s a special bond that develops between a trekker and their boots. It starts the moment you take them out of the box and continues long after you lace them up for that final day on the track. Whether you’re following the well-worn paths of the Inca Trail or discovering new twists and turns along Colombia’s Cocora Valley, each step imprints another memory on your sole. By the time you’ve finished the trek your boots will have more stories to tell than a porter on the Inca Trail. The frayed laces and worn-out soles serve as a reminder of your time on the track. If it wasn’t so weird you’d put them in a glass display box in the living room.

Inca Trail & Quarry trek Peru

Inca Trail

More than 100 years have passed, but the Inca Trail still offers plenty of surprises. You’ll spend three days and nights together, sharing plenty of ups and downs along the way. Reach heights of 4224 metres above sea level and get to know one another over 43 kilometres of mountain scenery, Inca ruins, jungle views and cloud forests. Unwind with a nourishing meal at the campsite after a challenging day on the trail.

Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 kilometres long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Quarry Trail, Peru

Less famous than its sister, the Inca Trail, you’ll find the Quarry Trail offers some spectacular hidden gems. Over three days together you’ll discover a quieter (less trekkers), shorter (26 kilometres) and higher (4450 metres above sea level) trail that offers the chance to visit several local communities along the way.

Notes: The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people.  Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

When to go

First, you should know the both Inca Trail is closed in February for repairs so the Quarry trek is the only option. The Inca will reopen in March, but this is the tail end of rainy season. May to September is your best bet, because conditions are generally dry and sunny (although the nights are still freezing). Tourists flock to the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi) at the end of June. The start of November is usually quiet, and you can still get some good trekking in before the rainy season start.

Trip Name Days From NZD
Inca Trail Express

7

$1,232

Essential Peru

21

$2,972

Galapagos & Inca Trail Adventure

17

$5,389

Cocora Valley, Colombia

If you’re looking for a laidback option then a one-day trek through Colombia’s Valle de Cocora is the choice for you. Expect a few uphill battles and some muddy patches, but it’s mostly smooth sailing for the duration of your 7 hours together. The well-marked trail takes you past lush cloud forest and a river before arriving at a clearing filled with hundreds of soaring wax palms.

When to go

Being so close to the equator with high altitudes means you’ll get fairly warm, even temperatures all year round. However, you are in a cloud forest so prepare to get wet (and muddy). Colombia’s dry season is December to March, with wet seasons throughout April to June and again in October and November.

Trip Name Days From NZD
Cafe Colombia

9

$2,060

Complete Colombia

15

$4,915

Quito to Cartagena

19

$2,239

Cartagena to Quito

19

$2,430

W Trek, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Don’t be fooled by the stunning pictures, this trek is more than just a pretty face. Over 4 days you’ll be put through your paces in order to reach highlights such as Grey Glacier, French Valley and Mirador de las Torres. Along the way you’ll be awed by scenery including alpine lakes, waterfalls, glaciers and mountains. Share humble dinners of chicken and pasta before falling asleep in a tent under the stars.

When to go

The weather in Patagonia is fairly unpredictable and it’s not uncommon to get wind, sun, rain and snow all in one day. As a rough guide, you’ll get plenty of warm sunny days from November to March (end of spring until end of summer). However, prepare for winds of up to 100 km/h. March to June is autumn and winter runs from June to August. In theory, you could trek here at any time of the year. Winter is less windy than summer, and autumn brings with it plenty of colour.

Trip Name Days From NZD
Patagonia Trekking

10

$5,140

Patagonia Wilderness

15

$6,580

Santiago to Ushuaia

23

$3,306

Santiago to Ushuaia

23

$2,669

El Chalten, Glacier National Park, Patagonia

Day treks from El Chalten are perfect for those not wanting a long-term commitment. They’re short and sweet, without crossing any tricky terrain and you don’t need to worry about overnight stay at the end. Over a couple of days you can hike to both Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Las Torres, heading back to El Chalten each night for a beer from the town’s microbrewery.

When to go

Expect a fairly similar climate to the Torres del Paine, but a lot colder. From late December to early February you’ll get the southern summer, with long daylight hours and plenty of sun. The winds can be intense though, reaching up to 100 km/h. The southern winter (June to September) has very short days and the temperature can get down to around -4 degrees celsius.

Trip Name Days From NZD
Patagonia Trekking

10

$5,140

Patagonia Wilderness

15

$6,580

Santiago to Ushuaia

23

$3,306

Santiago to Ushuaia

23

$2,669

Santiago to Buenos Aires via Ushuaia

34

$5,064

Training guide

Gear

Invest in a good-quality set of hiking boots, preferably water resistant ones with plenty of support and ventilation. Wear them in the months leading up to the trek to wear them in and avoid blisters. Next, buy some dedicated hiking socks (usually a nylon/wool blend) that will keep out the moisture. Wear two pairs while walking to further reduce the chance of blisters. Other essentials include a daypack, sunscreen and sunglasses, water bottle and a head torch.

Altitude

It doesn’t matter how young, old, fit or flexible you are, hiking in altitude can affect everyone. Hiking as often as possible before your trek (at higher altitudes if possible) will help train your heart and lungs for altitude. On the trail, keep hydrated and avoid alcohol as dehydration can make altitude sickness worse. Even if you’re not hungry, try to keep eating as you burn more calories when you’re up high (even while resting).

For more detail on side affects and management of altitude sickness, see: Read more on altitude sickness

Fitness

The best way to prepare for a long walk is… by going on long walks. Simple, huh? Start small and build up to the actual length of your trek. Focus on some leg-based cardio like cycling, weighted squats and lunging to build muscle. You should be able to walk comfortable for at least 4-6 hours before you leave. Load up your backpack and try to mimic the conditions of your trek by walking on different terrain.

Find our more with our trekking training guide

What our travellers think

Inca Trail Express, November 2016

Michael Chisholm

Inca Trail Express, November 2016

Ken Myers

Inca Trail Express, November 2016

Stephanie Munari