Truth be told, we didn’t spend all that much time on the road in 2023. Between extended stays in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and in the Uco Valley, and time visiting family back in the US, we only spent about five months driving around in 2023. During that time on the road, we focused on the handful of areas in Argentina and Chile that we hadn’t explored yet. This meant that we crossed a land border between Argentina and Chile seven times at five different border crossings in 2023. And even though we covered some epic roads (including Chile’s Carretera Austral in its entirety), we only drove 8,937 miles (14,383 km) in 2023. Last year also included the greatest amplitude in diesel prices of the Journey so far, from a low of $1.21 a gallon in Argentina vs. a high of $6.18 per gallon in Chile Welcome to our 2023 road trip recap!
2023 road trip recap in Argentina and Chile
We woke up on New Year’s Day 2023 in Hornopiren, Chile near the northern end of the Carretera Austral.In Hornopiren, we drove onto a ferry to reach a section of the Carretera Austral that’s not connected to Hornopiren by road. We spent the entire month of January exploring the Carretera Austral and its many national parks. The first stop was Pumalin National Park, then we explored Futaleufú, Puerto Raul Marin Balmaceda, Quelat National Park, Cerro Castillo National Park, the marble caves around Puerto Sanchez and Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Caleta Tortel, and Villa O’Higgins which is home to the southernmost point on the Carretera Austral. From the end of the road in Villa O’Higgins, we headed back north to Patagonia National Park where we ended the month of January. We began February 2023 in the Lago Jeinemeni sector of Patagonia National Park. We then left the park and crossed into Argentina at the nearby Paso Rio Jeinemeni border crossing, the 87th border crossing of our Journey (so far). We drove back north 400 miles (643 km) to revisit Futaleufú, Chile, and a few other spots we missed the previous month. Primarily, we returned to do Futaleufú’s famous white water rafting which we were unable to do in January because Karen hurt her shoulder. So, a few days after entering Argentina we crossed right back into Chile. Why did we bother to enter Argentina just to drive back to Chile? Simple. Because of the crazy economic situation in Argentina, fuel cost us $1.89 per gallon but along the Carretera Austral in Chile, we paid $6.18 per gallon. When we finally considered the Carretera Austral a wrap we crossed back into Argentina once again and drove up to San Martin de Los Andes to spend time at a few fishing lodges in this world-famous fly-fishing region. And that’s where we ended the month of February.
In early March 2023, we wrapped up our time around San Martin de Los Andes and crossed back into Chile to explore the Valdivia area, Temuco, and Conguillio National Park. Along the way, we took a road (or at least that’s what Google Maps called it) that we shouldn’t have and it very nearly led to disaster. See what that looked like in our video of our Google Traps drive to nowhere. We then drove north to explore Chile’s Colchagua Valley wine region where we ended the month of March. In April, we continued exploring the wine region and then drove to Viña del Mar on the coast before returning to Argentina and Mendoza’s Uco Valley.From May through November, we didn’t really do any driving because we were staying in the Uco Valley to look after our friends’ house and pets while they traveled, spent many weeks in our favorite South American city (Buenos Aires), and returned to the US to visit family.
However, in December we were on the road again to explore a section of the Andes range north of Santiago on the Chile side and north of Mendoza on the Argentina side. We left Mendoza, Argentina, crossed into Chile, and drove up the coast to the Elqui Valley. Our timing was finally right to make this crossing via Paso de Agua Negra which, at 15,682 feet (4,780 meters), is the highest road border crossing in the world. We then explored Argentina’s legendary Ruta 40 which travels the length of the country. We’ve driven large sections of Ruta 40 already and this time we stayed focused on new sections in La Rioja Province and Catamarca Province.After exploring Chilecito, Andalgalá, and Belén, we ended the month in Tinogasta with one last road trip adventure for the year: driving up to the Balcon del Pissis Mirador at 15,604 feet (4,756 meters) where we got a view of Mount Pissis, the third highest mountain in the Americas at 22,283 feet (6,792 meters), and views of colorful altiplano lakes and salt flats.
Check out our 2023 South American road trip driving route in our map, below.