The Scenic Bus Ride from Mendoza to Santiago

Breathtaking scenery on the ride from Mendoza to Argentina-Chile border
Breathtaking scenery on the ride from Mendoza to Argentina-Chile border

I may have entered Argentina by plane, but my departure via the scenic bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago (Chile) was worth the extra transit time.

In Mendoza, I bought my bus ticket on Andesmar a few days in advance for just $35.90.

By comparison, flights cost several hundred dollars, and you miss some of the most beautiful landscapes outside of Patagonia.

The ride lated about 7 hours, including the time it takes to pass through Argentina and Chilean Immigration.

The highway passes by Puenta del Inca, but this natural geologic bridge can’t be viewed from the bus. My photo below was taken a few days earlier on a separate tour.

Another point of interest you can see from the bus, if only for a few seconds, is Aconcagua (6,960 m), South America’s tallest mountain.

I lucked out in that it was a beautiful, clear day. Thanks to the GPS on my iPhone, I was able to snap a photo of the cloud-shrouded peak as we passed it by.

A small complex of blue-roofed buildings offers space for corporate retreats far from the nearest city
A small complex of blue-roofed buildings offers space for corporate retreats far from the nearest city
At times, the landscape looks more like Mars than Earth
At times, the landscape looks more like Mars than Earth. An old railway line can be seen running alongside the road.
A ski resort nestled in a valley awaits the winter snows
A ski resort nestled in a valley awaits the winter snows
The Puenta del Inca
The Puenta del Inca is a natural geologic bridge once used by Incas to cross the river. In modern times, a spa was built under it to take advantage of the natural hot springs.
At 6,960 meters (22,837 feet), Aconcagua is South America's tallest mountain, as well as the tallest peak in both the Western and Southern hemispheres.
At 6,960 meters (22,837 feet), Aconcagua is South America’s tallest mountain, as well as the tallest peak in both the Western and Southern hemispheres.
An avalanche warning sign on the road through the Argentina-Chile border
An avalanche warning sign on the road through the Argentina-Chile border
Looking backwards at the mountain road, some sections of which are covered by a cement roof to protect against avalanches.
Looking backwards at the mountain road, some sections of which are covered by a cement roof to protect against avalanches.
Our bus parked outside the Chilean immigration office, which has the distinct look of a ski chalet
Our bus parked outside the Chilean immigration office, which has the distinct apperance of a ski chalet
One of many hairpin turns on the steep descent from the border crossing
One of many hairpin turns on the steep descent from the border crossing
A long series of hairpin turns lead down the mountain
A long series of hairpin turns lead down the mountain
A closer look at those turns!
A closer look at those turns!
The remainder of the bus ride to Santiago isn't nearly as exciting. As the highway leads you to lower altitudes, the landscapes are mostly dry and scrubby
The remainder of the bus ride to Santiago isn’t nearly as exciting. As the highway leads you to lower altitudes, the landscapes are mostly dry and scrubby. In this photo, you can see a red train making its way across the lower section of the mountain.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow! Just looking at these pictures makes me feel dizzy! I guess in winter the landscape must look completely different. Out of this world!

  2. Virgil says

    Those pictures are sooo cool especially the one with all the turns. Glad you were in a modern looking bus!

  3. mady rimbaud says

    Hello,
    your pictures are incredible. I wonder if there is a problem on this road when you have altitude sickness ?
    do you feel it in the bus ?

    • says

      Thanks Mady. No, I didn’t feel the altitude in the bus. Normally, a higher altitude is something you run into when when you’re exerting yourself physically, like walking or climbing up steps. Then you might feel a little out of breath. But sitting on the bus, you won’t feel any different.

  4. guillermo says

    Solidarity net

    two bike riders has lost one pendrive with pics of his journey in Chile.The Facebook link to track the device and recover it: “Guanaco Verde Limon ” webpage. Good Luck !

    I have the pic of the couple

    • says

      The bus wasn’t full, so I was able to take photos out of both sides. Puenta del Inca cannot be seen from the highway (if I recall). I had gone there separately on a day trip before the bus ride.

  5. Beth says

    Hey Dave,
    Great photos! Those hairpin turns look a little daunting. When did you take the bus from Mendoza to Santiago, April 2013? What was the immigration check point process like? Getting of the bus, luggage check, document check, etc? Did you have to pay the Chile’s reciprocity fee or is that only at the airport? Any information you have would be great! Thanks

    • says

      Hi Beth, thanks for reading. I took the bus May 20, 2012 and don’t recall having to pay anything upon entering Chile. The border process was quick and easy. Disembark, all luggage has to pass through a security check, get stamped out of Argentina, and stamped into Chile.

      I left Chile a few weeks later via a tour through the Bolivian salt flats, and didn’t have to pay anything on exit that I recall. It may only be you need to pay if you fly in/out versus crossing by land.

  6. Matthew says

    Great article. Biplane on doing this route soon. What are the buses like? Facilities? Stops etc?

  7. Norbert says

    Hi Dave

    just check your info regarding the bus rip from Santiago to Mendoza.

    Does the bus stop at any other point than at the border?

    I want to catch the impressions not only by riding on the bus and would appriciate if you can breath the air up in the mountains

    Thanks in advance for feedback

    Norbert

    • says

      Hi Norbert,

      No, the bus I took on this route did not stop aside from the border. It’s for transport, not tourism.

      For this reason, I took a day tour beforehand from Mendoza which drove the same highway until the border. You need to do this if you want to see the Inca Bridge (which I recommend) as it’s not directly along the highway. On the tour, we also stopped along the highway to get a glimpse of Aconcagua.

  8. Pauline says

    Can you please tell me what this pass is called and if we would have altitude sickness problems?
    We are traveling from Brazil so would we stop a night in Mandoza or travel from Buenos Aries?

    • says

      I’m not sure what the pass is called, but it’s unlikely you’ll experience altitude sickness because you’ll be traveling by bus and won’t be at the higher altitudes for very long.

      • Pauline says

        Thanks for your reply. Is there any other advice you can pass on re this bus trip. Would you fly from Buenos Aries into Mendosa? We are traveling from near Sao Paulo Brazil and heading to Santiago Chilie. We didn’t want to fly all the way so were looking for a different route. Thanks

        • says

          I traveled via bus from Buenos Aires > Rosario > Cordoba > Mendoza > Santiago and enjoyed it.

          Well, there wasn’t much to see in Rosario so I could’ve skipped that city, but I liked spending a few days in Cordoba and and Mendoza on my way to Santiago.

          The scenery between Buenos Aires and Mendoza was nothing special.

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