The Ultimate Active Holiday: Hiking on Volcanos in South America

Sipping on cocktails while sitting a plastic chair, big old straw hat and all, is not everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday. Sure, you’ll have a few nice pics of your tanned legs to show for it, maybe throw a book in there for good measure, but it’s hardly a thrilling experience.

For the more physically active among you there are always great hiking trails around the world, but if you want to turn the adventure gauge up a notch, why not scale an actual volcano? Yep, ladies and gentlemen, there are still plenty of active volcanos that people climb all the time.

I find that the best combination of climate, local culture, and jaw-dropping views from atop a volcano are to be found in South America. Let’s go over some of the best volcano hiking destinations for the most fearless of travelers.

Ampato, Peru

Dividing Peru from the sea are the massive Andies mountains and among them an interesting little gem – the stratovolcano Ampato. Located some 40-ish miles away from Arequipa, this 20,000 ft behemoth offers a truly amazing view.

It’s here that the Inca would sacrifice people to the gods, as a well-preserved mummy of a young girl found a while back confirms. You can still find a lot of Inca ruins and artifacts along different paths, and the climb is not too difficult if you are in reasonable shape and get some basic training.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

The most popular hiking destination in Ecuador, this massive 19,000 ft volcano overlooks a gorgeous National park where you can find actual wild horses and an amazing variety of flora and fauna, including the famously fuzzy and cute Alpacas.

As with the previous volcano, there are plenty of Cotopaxi climbing tours to choose from, but you will need to acclimatize to the high altitude and get acquainted with some of the essential equipment. It’s all worth it though, as the snowy top will make you feel like you’ve climbed up to the heavens.

Parinacota, Chile/Bolivia

The immensely tall mountain range on the border of Chile and Bolivia is home to Parinacota and Pomerape, twin stratovolcanoes. The almost perfect conical shape and large snow cap that descends halfway down the volcano make Parinacota look like something out of a children’s cartoon.

Needless to say, it is a highly popular hiking location. Your safest bet is to climb it from June to September, as there’s a very low chance of bad and unstable weather conditions. While you may need crampons and an ice ax, it’s not really a technically demanding climb, as long as your body has had time to adjust to the altitude and the cold.

Tanupa, Bolivia

This dormant volcano towers over the surrounding green landscape like a massive reddish orange pyramid from another world.

Revered as a holy spot and the home of the local Thunder Deity and creator of the world, of the same name, the 17,000 ft natural wonder is truly a sight to behold. If you have decent strength and endurance, the climb to the first major viewpoint will take you about 3-4 hours.

Near the Tunupa volcano is the famous Uyuni Salt Flat, so you’ll get to marvel at yet another exciting natural landmark after your hike.

Arenal, Costa Rica

A mere 3-hour ride from some of the areas most prominent airports, the Arenal volcano is the centerpiece of a majestic rainforest filled with hot springs, untamed rivers, and waterfalls, as well as lush flora and intriguing fauna.

The main concerns are hydration, staying dry, and fending off mosquitos, but it is a fairly safe area overall and a fairly straightforward climb to the top. The last time Arenal erupted was in 1968, so you don’t have to worry too much, just be sure to bring plenty of water, some salty snacks and comfortable loose-fitting clothes on your hike.

If you are an adventurous soul and find traditional lazy vacations boring, then these five volcano hiking adventures are sure to get your heart rate up and put a smile on your face. Take some time to build up your endurance and acclimatize to the altitude if you are new to this, grab some basic equipment and you’ll have the time of your life.