Bus Valparaiso Chile to Mendoza Argentina
Through the Andes via Paso de Los Libertadores
By Bus To Mendoza from Valparaiso takes about 8 hours via Los Andes through Paso de Los Libertadores at the Argentina border then on to Mendoza. The El Rapido double decker bus left the bus terminal in Valparaiso at 8 a.m., stopped at Vina del Mar bus station a short time after that to pick up passengers, then we were on our way!
FARE: The fare was about $14,000 CLP (Chilean pesos; about $28 USD/CAD) for a one-way coach seat, an absolute bargain to travel through some of the world's best scenery, AND that included lunch and snacks.. There is also bus service to Mendoza from Santiago.
FOOD: Four bus company staff attended to passengers:: Two drivers (one spare, one driving), and two crew who passed out coffee, juice, pastries, sandwiches, and cookies during the trip, three services in all. At the terminals, additional baggage handlers tagged and loaded luggage.
SEATS: With only one bus departing daily, I bought my ticket the afternoon before, just in case they sold out. On longer-haul buses in Chile, you also choose your seat: I chose an upper level aisle seat in the second row from the front window (a family of three had taken the 4 front row seats.) With no stops between Los Andes to the Border, where there are the most dramatic views, I knew I'd be taking pictures through the windows. Washroom near the center of the bus, at the lower deck main door.
On an earlier trip, in mid-November (spring), I'd wanted to go by bus through the Andes from Chile to Argentina, but heavy snows that year made the route impassible for some weeks. This trip I traveled in mid-December (summer), and, as the pictures show, there was barely any snow. Check for current conditions at the time you travel.
Route 60 from Valparaiso passes Trabajo en Piedra (Stonework) company
From Vina Del Mar, the bus followed Rte 60 -- See map below.
The bus followed this divided 4-lane highway past Rte 5 cutoff at Llay Llay.
Stone work is a good business around this area, as much stone is used in building highway overpasses (snow sheds) and bridges.
And it's found material.
About an hour west of Valparaiso, there are fields of market gardens, covered growing areas and what looked to be rice growing, ringed with irrigation ditches, vineyards and rows of hops.
Llay llay has its own website (http://www.munillay.cl/periodico/) for more information.
Near Los Andes Chile Bus Station: School Field Trip
At 10 a.m. about 45 minutes (44 km) east of Los Andes near the Rte 5 cut-off, the bus stopped to pick up about 20 high school students, apparently on a school trip to Mendoza.
Parents waved them off while my heart sunk: A bus load of noisy teenagers. Great.
But these students were quiet, and good as gold. Would that students in Canada were as well-mannered.
At this point, the highway had narrowed to two lane opposing traffic as it wound ever higher to the mountains.
Great Highway Construction Chilean Andes !
Try as I might, I could not accurately show in pictures the amazing highway on the Chile side of the Andes!
At one point, as the bus slowed, I counted 7 narrow switchbacks crisscrossing the mountainside.
In this photo, the highway is paved, with painted lines; higher up, construction was ongoing.
Most of the traffic was bus and truck, with up to 14 trucks in a row inching their ways down the mountain.
A few private cars and SUVs passed by when the road allowed.
Snow and Rock Avalanche Tunnels Protect Road Traffic
This photo shows two tunnels -- more like sheds, really, as no tunnelling was involved.
Similar snow sheds are used on the Rogers Pass in Western Canada, between B.C. and Alberta.
I am accustomed to mountain highways in the Canadian Rockies, but this Chilean highway blows them away!
The grade is steeper, the mountains higher, the area more remote. Guard rails were few and far between.
On the map below,follow the yellow line to see how the highway doubles back on itself.
Snow Capped Peak in Andes
This area is not far from Aconcagua, at 6962 meters (22,841 feet), the highest peak in the Americas.
I may have seen it to the north on this very clear day, but I cannot be sure.
That the Andes are an old mountain range is evident in the shale and gravel flowing down the mountainsides.
Shifting soils and rocks only add to the challenge of highway building. I would not want to drive this route in bad weather, or at night.
And if coming from Mendoza to Chile, it's a steep downhill grade from the border. I'd be 'helping' the driver brake the entire trip!
Overall, this is one of the best road trips I've ever taken, and I would do it again. If you have a few days in Santiago or Vina del Mar, Chile, or Mendoza, Argentina, it's worth considering taking this trip.
View Vina Del Mar/Valparaiso Chile to Mendoza, Argentina in a larger map
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