*fully updated October 24, 2018!
Two countries, endless possibilities. Look at a map of South America and it’s impossible not to notice that the bottom half of the continent is dominated by two very long countries. Sure, one is significantly wider than the other but both are equally packed with some of the world’s most impressive natural splendors. And we know what you’re thinking: you’re going to travel all that way so you want to cross both countries off your bucket list. Now you just need to figure out how (hint: trekking across the Patagonia glacier field is probably not the most convenient option). Here’s your cheat sheet on how to best combine your Argentina and Chile itineraries!
1. OUR PATAGONIA FAVORITE: TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK, CHILE TO EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA
ITINERARY INSPIRATION: PATAGONIA ESSENTIALS
Perhaps our most common method (and certainly our favorite), the road from Chile’s border town of Cerro Castillo to Argentina’s Ruta 40 is the most convenient way to combine Southern Patagonia. Transfers via tourist bus run frequently between Puerto Natales, the city nearest to Torres del Paine, and El Calafate. We normally budget 4-5 hours from door to door, including stops for Immigration and Customs on both sides of the border.
2. GO NORTH! SANTIAGO & WINE REGION TO MENDOZA
ITINERARY INSPIRATION: NORTHERN ARGENTINA + ATACAMA DESERT DREAM
No need to visit planet Mars when you’ve got the Atacama Desert in Chile and areas like Purmamarca, Salta and Cafayate in the north of Argentina. Atacama Desert has emerged as one of the world’s hottest destinations in the past few years and Northern Argentina is finally catching up. Just this week, the Wall Street Journal ranked Salta as the number one most intriguing place to visit in 2019. So what better idea than to combine the two neighboring regions with a border crossing that many people consider to be the most beautiful one in all of South America?
3. CALLING WINE LOVERS: SANTIAGO & CHILE WINE REGION TO MENDOZA, ARGENTINA
ITINERARY INSPIRATION: RELAIS & CHATEAUX ARGENTINA & CHILE WINE ROUTE
If you love driving around Napa and Sonoma or renting a car to explore the best wineries of Tuscany, look no further: a scenic drive between Chile and Argentina’s wine country was meant for you. A straight drive from Santiago to Mendoza would be an easy 5-6 hours but why rush when you can make delicious stops along the way? Leave Santiago and check out any of the surrounding valleys like Maipo, Casablanca and Anconcagua and sip on a tart glass of Carmenere. Once you’re on the Argentinean side, stop by Lujan de Cuyo, just south of Mendoza, for some Malbec or a scenic hike. By far the tastiest of the crossings, we recommend having a designated driver tag along who can safely transport you from country to country!
4. LAKE CROSSING: PUERTO VARAS, CHILE TO BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA
ITINERARY INSPIRATION: LAKES & VOLCANOES OF CHILE
Cruce Andino’s Lake Crossing between Argentina’s Bariloche and Chile’s Puerto Varas is one of the most preferred ways in which to travel between the two countries and there is no surprise why: this day cruise sails you through lakes and mountain passes that make up some of the region’s most iconic scenery. Though the crossing involves nearly a full day of travel, you’ll walk away feeling like you spent your day exploring rather than in transit. There are driving routes in the Lake District that allow for crossing the border via car or bus, but the lake crossing is definitely the most beautiful and convenient way to do it.
5. CRUISING THE FJORDS: PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE TO USHUAIA, ARGENTINA
ITINERARY INSPIRATION: AUSTRALIS PATAGONIAN FJORDS CRUISE
Kill two birds with one stone and cover both countries while passing through international waters. The Australis cruise offers 4-night departures between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia, all the way at the southern end of Chile and Argentina, respectively. Along the way you’ll encounter glaciers, fjords, penguins, seals all while knowing that you’re quite literally at the end of the world.