26
Apr

Highway border crossings between Chile and Argentina

I've spent a fair bit of time, on several occasions, travelling in South America, including in Chile and Argentina. I've crossed the land border between these two countries several times, in several different places. It's an extremely long border, measuring 5,308km in total.

Recently, I was looking for a list of all the official crossings between the two countries. Finding such a list, in clear and authoritative form, proved more difficult than I expected. Hence, one thing led to another; and before I knew it, I'd embarked upon a serious research mission to develop such a list myself. So, here it is — a list of all highway border crossings between Chile and Argentina, that are open to the general public.

Note: there's a legend at the end of the article.

Northern crossings

The northern part of the Chile-Argentina frontier is generally hot, dry, and slightly flatter at the top. I found the frontier's northern crossings to be the best-documented, and hence the easiest to research. They're also generally the easiest crossings to make, as they pose the least risk of being impassable due to snowstorms.

Of the northern crossings, the only one I've travelled on is Paso Jama; although I didn't go through the pass itself, I crossed into Chile from Laguna Verde in Bolivia, and cut into the Chilean part of the highway from there (as part of a 4WD tour of the Salar de Uyuni).

Chilean regions: II (Antofagasta), III (Atacama).

Argentine provinces: Jujuy, Salta, Catamarca, La Rioja.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: northern.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: northern.

Name Route Type Notes
Paso Jama S.P. de Atacama - S.S. de Jujuy Main highway
Of the northern Chile-Argentina border crossings, Paso Jama is the only main highway, although there are several other secondary highways.
Paso Sico Antofagasta - Salta Secondary highway
Paso Socompa Antofagasta - Salta Minor highway
The Tren a las Nubes railway line also runs to Paso Socompa from Salta (but the train no longer continues into Chile, there is no longer any train service from Socompa to Antofagasta).
Paso San Francisco Copiacó - S.F.V. de Catamarca Secondary highway
Paso Pircas Negras Copiacó - La Rioja Minor highway
Although Pircas Negras is seldom used today, it was historically the main crossing in the Atacama area (rather than Paso San Francisco).

Central crossings

The Central part of the frontier is the most frequently crossed, as it's where you'll find the most direct route from Santiago to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, Paso Los Libertadores is the only high-quality road in this entire section of the frontier — the mountains are particularly high, and construction of passes is particularly challenging, around here. After all, Aconcagua (the highest mountain in all the Americas) can be clearly seen right next to the main road.

As such, Los Libertadores is an extremely busy pass year-round; this is exacerbated by snowstorms forcing the pass to close during the height of winter, and also occasionally even in summer (despite there being a tunnel under the highest point of the route). I've travelled Los Libertadores twice (once in each direction), and it's a route with beautiful scenery; the zig-zags down the precipitous Chilean side of the pass are also quite hair-raising.

Chilean regions: IV (Coquimbo), V (Valparaíso).

Argentine provinces: San Juan, Mendoza.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: central.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: central.

Name Route Type Notes
Paso Agua Negra La Serena - San Juan Minor highway
There has recently been talk of constructing a tunnel under the mountains in this area, thus rendering Paso Agua Negra a historical route. This would help alleviate the very high traffic at Paso Los Libertadores. No concrete plans as yet.
Paso Los Libertadores Santiago - Mendoza Main highway
The Transandino railway can still be seen running generally adjecent to the highway from Santiago to Mendoza, but there have been no trains at all running since 1984.

Lake district crossings

The lake districts of both Chile and Argentina are famed for their "Swiss Alps of the South" picturesque beauty, and the border crossings in this area are among the most spectacular of all vistas that the region has to offer. There are numerous border crossings in this area, most of which are quite good roads, and two of which are highway-grade.

Paso Cardenal Antonio Samoré is the only one down here that I've crossed. The roads here are all liable to close due to snow conditions; although I was lucky enough to cross in September with no problems.

I should also note that I've explicitly excluded the famous and beautiful Paso Pérez Rosales (Puerto Montt - S.C. de Bariloche) from the list here: this is because, although it's a paved highway-grade road the whole way, the highway is interrupted by a (long) lake crossing. I'm only including on this list crossings that can be made in one complete, uninterrupted land vehicle journey.

Chilean regions: VIII (Biobío), IX (Araucanía), XIV (Los Ríos).

Argentine provinces: Neuquén.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: lake district.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: lake district.

Name Route Type Notes
Paso Pichachén Los Angeles - Zapala Minor highway
Paso Copahue Los Angeles - Zapala Minor highway
Paso Pino Hachado Temuco - Neuquén Main highway
Paso Icalma Temuco - Neuquén Minor highway
Paso Mamuil Malal Pucón - Junín de L.A. Secondary highway
Paso Carirriñe Coñaripe - Junin de L.A. Minor highway
Paso Huahum Panguipulli - S.M. de Los Andes Secondary highway
Paso Cardenal Antonio Samoré Osorno - S.C. de Bariloche Main highway
This pass is actually in Region X (Los Lagos), just over the border from Region XIV (Los Ríos).

Southern crossings

These are the passes of the barren, empty pampas of Southern Patagonia. There are no main roads around here, and in some cases there are barely any towns for the roads to connect to, either. I haven't personally travelled any of these crossings, nor have I visited this part of Chile or Argentina at all.

Some of these highways go through rivers, with satellite imagery showing no bridges connecting the two sides; I can only assume that the rivers are passable in 4WD, assuming the water levels are low, or assuming the rivers are partly frozen. This was also by far the most difficult region to research: information about these passes is scarce and undetailed.

Chilean regions: X (Los Lagos), XI (Aisén).

Argentine provinces: Chubut, Santa Cruz.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: southern.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: southern.

Name Route Type
Paso Futaleufu Futaleufu - Esquel Secondary highway
Paso Río Encuentro Palena - Esquel Minor highway
Paso Las Pampas Cisnes - Esquel Minor highway
Paso Río Frias Cisnes - Comodoro Rivadavia Minor highway
Paso Pampa Alta Coyhaique - Comodoro Rivadavia Minor highway
Paso Coyhaique Coyhaique - Comodoro Rivadavia Minor highway
Paso Triana Coyhaique - Comodoro Rivadavia Minor highway
Paso Huemules Coyhaique - Comodoro Rivadavia Secondary highway
Paso Ingeniero Ibáñez-Pallavicini Puerto Ibáñez - Perito Moreno Minor highway
Paso Río Jeinemeni Puerto Guadal - Perito Moreno Minor highway
Paso Roballos Cochrane - Bajo Caracoles Minor highway
Paso Rio Mayer Ribera Norte O'Higgins - Las Horquetas Minor highway
Paso Rio Mosco O'Higgins - Las Horquetas Minor highway

Extreme south crossings

The passes of the extreme south are easily crossed when weather conditions are good, as the mountains are much lower down here (or are basically plateaus). In winter, however, land transport is seldom an option. There is one main road in the extreme south, connecting Punta Arenas and Rio Gallegos.

The only crossing I've made in the extreme south is through Paso Rio Don Guillermo, which is unsealed and is little more than a cattle track (although it's pretty straight and flat). The buses from Puerto Natales to El Calafate use this pass: the entrance to the road has a chain across it on both ends, which is unlocked by border police to let the buses through.

Chilean regions: XII (Magallanes).

Argentine provinces: Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: extreme south.

Chile-Argentina border crossings: extreme south.

Name Route Type Notes
Paso Rio Don Guillermo Puerto Natales - El Calafate Minor highway
Paso Dorotea Puerto Natales - Rio Gallegos Secondary highway
Paso Laurita - Casas Vieja Puerto Natales - Rio Gallegos Secondary highway
Paso Integración Austral Punta Arenas - Río Gallegos Main highway
Paso San Sebastián Porvenir - Rio Grande Secondary highway
This pass is on the island of Tierra del Fuego; it's the only pass listed here that is not on the South American mainland.

Legend

Note: here's a link to the Google Map of Chile - Argentina border crossings that is referenced throughout this article.

Main highway

  • Red markers on map
  • Fully paved
  • Public bus services
  • Open almost year-round
  • Customs and immigration integrated into the crossing
  • Constant traffic

Secondary highway

  • Green markers on map
  • Partially paved
  • Little or no public bus services
  • Possibly closed some or most of the year
  • Customs and immigration possibly integrated into the crossing
  • Lesser or seasonal traffic

Minor highway

  • Blue markers on map
  • Unpaved
  • No public bus services, and/or only open for authorised vehicles
  • Not open year-round
  • Customs and immigration must be done before and/or after the crossing
  • Little or no traffic

Additional references

Comments are closed

Comments

02
Jan
2012
Fred Schreiner
Hello Jeremy,

Thank you much for the work you have done documenting the Chile-Argentina border crossings - I have benefited greatly from this information in pursuit of routes on my planned tour - www.Schreiner.ca/CP.htm

Fred Schreiner

Edmonton AB Canada

02
Feb
2012
Charles Patchett

Jeremy,

We are planning a driving trip in October, which will involve 5 crossings of the Chile/Argentina border. With a limited no.of pages left in my passport, can you advise whether the authorities need to stamp a clean page for each crossing?

Thanks in anticipation.

Charles Patchett

12
Mar
2012

Thanks for the work. Probably saved me a lot of frustration at the Paso Agua Negra crossing. I do Jama instead even though it puts me in Chile longer I get to hit their desert.

lost in transportation,

Brad

01
Apr
2012

Great article, it's saved me a lot a time researching. Thanks for sharing.

31
Jan
2013
Hola,
Just want to confirm that you will be updating this site to include the new border crossing from Talca, San Clemente over the Andes to Argentina? We drove it almost to the Argentine border yesterday and it's a magnificent new road (highway?).

The only problem is evidence of many rocks tumbling down onto the road.

08
Jul
2013
EJ Bonham

Hello, Thanks for putting together this information. It will be an huge help in planning trips between Chile and Argentina. I hope to relocate soon to Valdivia, Concepcion or Puerto Montt and one of the primary considerations is being able to travel with relative ease to the lee slope of the Andes in Argentina for the purpose of viewing the scenery in such places as San Martin de los Andes, Esquel and Tierra de Fuego. My joy is secluded hiking in the mountains and amongst nature.

In your opinion, if you had to choose two of the most scenic routes between the two countries which would they be?