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Drive Over the Andes Mountains to Mendoza Argentina

Andes Mountains to Mendoza ArgentinaWorking in a country like Chile is an entirely enjoyable experience. When you work in a country, you have the evenings and weekends to visit many places. You would never see most of these places  if you were only there for a two week vacation. It is a great way to  also get to know the culture and really get to know the people. We spent 8 months working in Chile. We went on many trips around the country including one that took us over the mountains to Argentina via the Andes mountains. This post is about driving over the Andes Mountains to Mendoza Argentina. Our last post was about visiting the Hyatt hotel in Mendoza, Argentina. This post is about how we got there.

Andes Mountains to Mendoza Argentina

I should say at the outset that I like to take driving trips. This particular trip was one of the most interesting that I have taken in a long time. Imagine a two lane paved road with no guard rails along the road in a desert setting. You can see for miles and miles. You can look up the mountain and follow the road as it twists and turns up the side of the mountain. It rises  to its 11,000 foot pass that takes you from Chile to Argentina. Later we learn that there are 49 switchbacks and a tunnel to go through at the top of the mountain pass. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Fantastic Views

The scenery is breath taking with the mountains and the valleys and the fact that as you get higher, you can see the glaciers at the top of the mountains and the Pacific ocean in the distance. Chile is only 100 miles wide in some parts so when you get high enough on a clear day, there is no problem viewing these vistas.  Cars, vans and tractor trailers all use this 2 lane road.

It is a well maintained paved road. But it is only 2 lanes wide and that means a lot of risky passing on the uphill stretches.  Tractor trailers are literally crawling along as they climb the mountain and as a result faster vehicles are forced to pass on the straight stretches between the quarter mile switchbacks. It is a bit scary at times, but it is either that or you spend many hours just getting to the border at the top of the mountain.

Customs At the Top of the Andes

Once you reach customs at the top of the Andes and prepare to go through the tunnel leading to Argentina, you first must register with Chilean customs. All passengers must get out of the car and head into a building to register your car, to make sure you are allowed to take it out of the country, to pay the toll and to have your passport stamped. There are three lines and you have to stand in each one in turn before you can even approach the border.

Once you have all of this done, you get back into the car and drive to the actual border point were guards carrying machine guns inspect your papers before passing you through the border.  This is just to get out of the country. Next you drive through a mile long tunnel and come to the Argentine customs  agents and virtually repeat the same process. Time consuming and a bit frustrating especially if your Spanish is not great, but really you have not choice but to go through it.

Heading Down Into Argentina – Soldier in the Middle of the Road

Andes Mountains to Mendoza ArgentinaAs with all mountains, the eastern side seems to get more rain and so Argentina gets more rain and has more trees and grasses. There are also more streams as shown in the picture on the left. This mountain stream followed us all the way down the mountain road into Mendoza.   The last little story we want to mention is about a soldier in the middle of the road. After traveling for an hour down the eastern side of the Andes mountains we came around a curve in the road to find a soldier in the middle of the road with is machine gun pointed at us urging us to come to a stop.

His job was to collect a paper given to us by customs indicating the number of people that we had in the car when we came through customs. His job is to make sure that we did not get rid of anyone somewhere up in the mountains. We had trouble finding this paper and he got a little agitated, which is not something you want to do to a guy holding a gun. We eventually found it and were on our way, but not before a nervous few minutes passed.

Read our previous post about the Hyatt in Mendoza.  We will be adding more stories about our travels in Chile and Argentina in the future so stay posted to this blog.  This trip over the Andes Mountains to Mendoza Argentina was really a once in a lifetime trip. If you have been there and want to leave a comment please do so. We will approve all well written comments with links  as well. Help us add to this wonderful travel medium called the internet.

For more posts about Argentina, click here.


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3 Responses to “Drive Over the Andes Mountains to Mendoza Argentina”

  1. What a fantastic trip over the Andes mountains from chile to Mendoza Argentina

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  3. What a fabulous experience to drive over the Andes mountains! We would love to be able to also do this

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