If you think great trekking begins and ends in Nepal then think again. On the other side of the world is Chile, a remarkable country that is criss-crossed by ancient native trails, rainforest tracks, wind-thrashed rock hikes and off-trail rambles.
The trail infrastructure is well-managed, with 2000 kilometres of recognised paths served by ledgible signs, handy access points, campsites and footbridges.
The government is busy enhancing Chile's reputation for great trekking still further by building the Sendero de Chile which, when completed, will span a staggering 9700 kilometres. It will lie like a vein through the centre of South America and be the longest uninterrupted walking trail in the world.
When to Go
If you're heading north, March to May and October to November are the most rewarding seasons. Outside these months a Bolivian winter can bring snow and sub-zero temperatures - not really the conditions you want.
In Central Chile, September to June offers temperate climates and relatively predictable weather. If you're much above 2000 feet and it can cool down to a reasonable 14 degrees.
Further south, the December to February summer is best, though in some trekking destinations you can hike between September and June.
How to Stay Safe
Aside from the obvious terrain risks, Chile requires of its visitors a degree of common sense about crime, wildlife and disease.
While you're only likely to meet peasants in the bush, if you drop into cities keep your eyes on your bags and your wallet, especially in transportation terminals.
The only real bestial threat is the auburn-coloured arana de rincon spider which is venomous and is known to hide in small embrasures. Black widows lurk in green areas and mice can carry the potentially fatal (if not treated fast) Hanta disease.
As always, though, most of these creatures will be way more afraid than you and will do everything they can to escape before a confrontation ensues.
One aspect of safety that isn't discussed enough is encumbrance. If you're trekking in Chile, you'll need to bring a lot of kit (tent, extra layers, cooking utensils etc.) If you're hauling 30 kilograms or more on any trip lasting more than 4 days, you might do yourself an injury.
You might therefore consider renting a pack animal it can carry quadruple the amount of gear you can.
Where to Hike
Legend has it that before the great travel author Bruce Chatwin travelled to South America, he quit his job at the Sunday Times Magazine by leaving a note that simply read 'Gone to Patagonia'. Many have followed in his wake, enjoying the comfortable 11 degree average temperature in the cooler months.
The Torres del Paine National Park's USP is its cuernos (granite behemoths coloured in distinctive blue and white). The cuernos are the main reason why there are no trekking holidays anywhere else in the world quite like Torres del Paine.
The W-trail here is best completed shelter-to-shelter and ascends in increments of 1500-3000 feet.
Fancy exploring a 4000-metre wind-swept desert where flamingos dance and salt lakes glisten? You're not the only one.
The Chilean Altiplano is strenuous going to say the least, so pick a backpack with ventilation-inducing shoulder gaps and air circulation hip belt lest you get unbearably hot.
Only the Lake District's verdant meadows and heavy rainfall bear any relation to its UK namesake. Fortunately, the more popular paths are partly boardwalked to prevent catastrophic slip-ups.
Numerous routes through the Lake District's Region de Los Lagos expose you to volcanic backcountry that can feel as if it's enveloping you like a big dark blanket.
Horseflies can be a nuisance in the lower altitude peaks.
The hike to the 1880-metre summit of Mount La Campana on the Coastal Cordillera offers ample opportunity to spot some of the prettiest birds in South America, from loicas to patridges to various species of hawk.
The explosions of Chilean palms on the mountainside can be deceptively beautiful as they sometimes conceal bluffs; be careful where you reach for handholds.
A Sprinkling of the Rest
Here are the final 6 top Chilean trails in quick succession.
Lying 670 kilometres off the shore of Chile is the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, where Alexander Selkirk the model for Robinson Crusoe washed up in 1704. A short day hike along the coast will reveal lush, shaded canopies and subtropical flowers of almost blinding brilliance.
Returning to Central Chile, the Vilches circuit leads across a 1000 metre deep gorge inside which UFOs are believed to make regular landings - Chile's otherwise excellent trekking infrastructure doesn't stretch as far as Vilches, so take all food and gear with you.
The 6-day trek up San Jose is half-trekking, half rock-climbing. Given its similarity to Aconcagua Mountain in altitude gain, it's also a perfect training ground for this much taller peak.
The run to the base camp at Plomo near the capital city Santiago is a 2 day max hike. If you want to go any higher than 5000 metres you'll need a climbing iron.
Haphazard puncheons cross the glaciers at El Morado National park, so stay controlled on this trail.
Often likened to the wilds of New Zealand, Condor Circuit ranges across gnarled forests and picture postcard mountains before culminating at a tranquil campsite beside some health-giving hot springs.
If you switch west at the Rio Volcan River stage of the trek you can taste the majestic Andes and investigate one of its finest lakes, Laguna Mondaca.
Your Trusty Steed
A thrilling variation on hiking Chile is trekking it on horseback. This will allow you to imagine yourself as a Spanish conquistador traversing this sublime new world for the very first time.
The Chile Trail runs 6000 kilometres north to south through the heart of the country from Talca to Chupallar, zigzagging across elevations to windy mountain cols and delivering you splashing, Wild West movie-style, across shallow rivers.
Unless you're an expert equestrian, you'll need to hire a traditionally-dressed arriero (horseriding guide), as it'll be too dangerous to try and avoid the alpine drops on your own.