Imagine waking up from a cozy night’s rest, eating a delicious breakfast, then walking out the front door to go hiking for miles. If you pick the right place to stay, you can do that in multiple places in South America. You’ll get a great workout during the day and get pampered at night.
Many of these lodges are all-inclusive too, meaning you know up front what you’re paying and your trekking excursions (or other adventures) are part of the package. Your hikes will be guided so you don’t get lost and somebody else will be taking care of lunch and supplying you with snacks to munch on along the way.
Here are 10 of our picks for great lodges for hiking in South America.
Explora El Chalten – Argentina
We’re starting with this one because we stayed there in the past year, eating extremely well and then working it all off through Patagonia treks through protected forest areas. You get all the dreamy views you would expect in this region in the far south of South America: jagged peaks, snowy mountains, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers and more. Take a video tour with us here:
I was really impressed with the lodge itself, from the way it was built to have minimal impact on its surroundings to the Patagonian wine to the incredible food we had throughout. I honestly wasn’t expecting to eat so well considering the remote location hours from even a small city, but they have some talented chefs in the kitchen and at the barbecue grill. It’s also a no-plastic lodge where they hand you a refillable bottle with your name on it.
Estancia Cristina – Argentina
Not far as the crow flies to El Chalten but closer to Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier is Estancia Cristina. This place is so close to nature that you can only get there by a 30-mile boat trip, crossing a Lake Argentina to reach the 20-person lodge. This is the only lodge that’s actually located inside Los Glaciares National Park. It has been here in some form since before the park was established, set up as a sheep farm on 50,000 acres.
Head here if you really want to get away from it all and have a lake and mountains right on your doorstep. Excursions are included in the rates and although our reviewer wasn’t always thrilled with the lodge meals, the packed lunches got high marks. She recommended putting one hike in particular on the list:
If you do just one guided full-day excursion at Estancia Cristina make it the amazingly diverse Fossil Canyon and Valley Walk which includes a dramatic vista point over the Upsala Glacier, wildlife spotting, and (as the name of this hike implies) fossils.
Unlike at Explora, alcohol is not in the all-inclusive plan here but most other items are, including the boat transfers. See our full review of Estancia Cristina.
Arakur Ushuaia – Argentina
While Los Cauquenes offers plenty of excursions around the Ushuaia region by van and boat, Arakur Ushuaia is a better bet for hikers. The hotel commands a high hilltop that you can see from all over town and you can go on a guided hike in the mountains overlooking the Beagle Channel or just strike out on your own and go exploring.
Most visitors aren’t in town very long since the bulk of them are here before or after a cruise to Antarctica. It’s worth sticking around if you’re staying here though, especially since you can soak your tired muscles in a hot tub with a view after a long hike and take in the view here at “the end of the Earth.”
Since most guests aren’t staying here for long periods, this is not an all-inclusive option. Book your excursions when reserving a room or play it by ear upon arrival. See more pics and our full review of Arakur Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina.
Explora Patagonia – Chile
The Explora group is going to pop up a lot in this article about hiking in South America because they really pioneered the whole concept of all-inclusive adventure travel in South America for high-end travelers. In most respects, they’re still the gold standard, with the best sustainability record and the place where top guides want to work. You really need to get on a bike or into a vehicle to go on good hikes from their Atacama location, but otherwise their lodges are situated in mountain areas where adventure is a five-minute walk away.
The Explora Patagonia lodge, once called Salto Chico, has a location so stunning that it looks like something conjured up for a movie, using lots of special effects. The view really is as spectacular as the photo our correspondent took that we’ve posted here, however, and as you can see you’re not very far from Torres del Paine National Park.
This adventure resort also has its own stables if you want to go horseback riding in Patagonia but of course they have a long list of fantastic trekking routes you can try out in the mountains nearby. Then when the day is done, drink some great Chilean wine, order your favorite cocktail, or get some good Patagonian craft beer. It’s all on the all-inclusive plan. See our full review of Explora Patagonia in Chile.
Patagonia Camp – Chile
If the idea of just a yurt wall separating you from nature’s splendor sounds appealing, then Patagonia Camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park will be your dream come true. If your spouse hates the idea of camping, however, no worries: you will certainly not be roughing it when you turn in for the night. Some units even have a Jacuzzi on a terrace outside.
Patagonia Camp is a low-impact resort nestled in nature that provides incredible hiking opportunities all around it. Perched on a hillside overlooking a lake, mountains, and forests, the camp has built more than a small buffer around it: the reserve comprises 87,000 acres of land. Not a single tree was cut during the construction and you move from “building” to building one elevated wood plank paths.
While some excursions require a van ride to reach, this lodge has more to explore than most without burning any fossil fuel. “Unlike most other luxury adventure lodges in the area, Patagonia Camp can also offer a wide range of exclusive outdoor activities within its private Patagonia Camp reserve including kayaking, hiking, and fishing.” This includes plenty of nearby hikes you can start from where you slept.
See more photos and our review of Patagonia Camp.
Mari Mari – Chile
This remote lodge sits on a 9,000-acre nature reserve on the coast of Chile, in a spot where you can sometimes see whales swimming by. If you really want to get away from crowds, it doesn’t get much more isolated than this if you also want a good dinner and really comfortable bed to retire to. When you’re ready to explore, there are trails from the lodge leading to natural forest areas where guides can explain what you’re seeing.
Mari Mari was featured in a TV episode from the late Anthony Bourdain when the hotel had a different name. It closed and changed hands after and it is like a place of legend since it would take you a couple of days to get there probably from your home in the USA, Canada, or Europe.
Our review is about to get updated from a recent visit, so for now I’m going to link to an online booking site so there’s current info.
Explora Valle Sagrado – Peru
We’ve written a few times about the great Peru excursions you can participate in if you’re a guest of Explora Valle Sagrado, but some of those don’t require getting into a van if you want to stay close to the lodge.
Steep mountains rise up behind this adventure lodge in the Sacred Valley and there are plenty of hiking trails all over this region. Many of them are transportation routes, paths used for centuries by locals going from village to village.
After a day of climbing, you can get some pampering at this 44-room lodge’s spa if you’d like.
A short trail that runs alongside dueling corn fields delivers guests to Casa de Baños Pumacahua, or the Pumacahua Bath House. A colonial house originally built in the 17th century, it’s been restored and remodeled, finding new life as a spa. Along with an outdoor pool and two hot tubs, guests can take advantage of steam rooms and saunas. Massage services are available for an additional fee.
See photos and our review of Explora Valle Sagrado in Peru.
Mountain Lodges of Peru
This entry is a bit different because Mountain Lodges of Peru is a tour company that owns lodges rather than a lodge company that does tours. The company does lodge-to-lodge treks to Machu Pichu along the Salkantay Trail and they also do Lares Trek adventures that stay in various lodges along the way. Start with them if your plans for hiking in South America involve Peru.
These are serious hikes for serious trekkers who are in shape. So if a casual stroll in Peru is not your thing, but you want to sleep in a real bed at night and get a shower, Mountain Lodges of Peru is the answer. Some of my best memories from my many visits to Peru are the days when I was out in the mountains with this company, on serious hikes that ended with days around a dinner table in a gorgeous lodge.
This is a company you’ll be glad to give your money to as well when you see what they believe in and how they really support local communities instead of just giving lip service to the idea. They don’t just employ locals: they set up training programs and profit-sharing equity programs to ensure that the community does well if the lodges do well.
Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica – Peru
You will be walking through the jungle instead of climbing mountains at this Inkaterra property because it’s located in the Amazon jungle region of Peru. You will definitely be getting away from it all here as you reach the reserve by small boat and the guests stay in a protected area comprising 42,000 acres.
Leave the outside world behind here and let nature be your entertainment instead.
Team up with explorer guides to hike the reserve trail system and learn about medicinal plants, animal behavior and jungle life. Climb high above the rainforest on the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway (a network of treetop towers, bridges and platforms) to spot monkeys, toucans, macaws, and sloths.
Inkaterra has several properties in Peru and is one of the most respected sustainable lodging companies on the planet. So you know you’ll be in good hands there, but they’re also known for great service and their attention to detail in the lodging aspects. See our full Amazonica review here.
Mashpi Reserve Lodge – Ecuador
The mainland area of Ecuador is filled with mountains and trails, but most of the lodges in the mountains are mid-range or downright basic. The big exception is Mashpi Reserve Lodge, located on a huge reserve in the cloudforest, in a unique ecosystem, but only a few hours away from Quito.
It’s a magical world at Mashpi, in a place where the sun is scarce but the wildlife is not. It’s often foggy here in the cloudforest, so you don rubber boots to go out for a hike because otherwise your shoes would get trashed. Along the way you’ll see hummingbirds, parrots, foraging creatures, and all kinds of butterflies and moths. At the end of one walk you can get into a skybike and ride along the canopy.
This is one of the most memorable hotels I’ve stayed at in all of South America and there’s no place else quite like it. See our review of Mashpi here.
We hope you found your next vacation spot in this rundown of the best lodges for hiking in South America. If you’ve stayed at another high-end option in your travels, share your experience in the comments!