In December of 2023, our road trip focused on areas of Argentina and Chile that we had not already explored. We started the month on the Argentina side of the Andes in the Uco Valley near the city of Mendoza then crossed into Chile briefly before crossing back into Argentina over the highest road border crossing in the world. We spent the rest of the month exploring the Argentinean Andes in La Rioja Province and Catamarca Province. In total, we drove 2,484 miles (3,998 km) during our South American road trip in Argentina and Chile in December of 2023. Here are highlights from our December 2023 road trip in Chile and Argentina including a map, a drive-lapse video, and lots of high-altitude photos.

Chile side of the Agua Negra pass December 2023 road trip

Working our way up the Chile side of Paso Internacional Agua Negra, the highest road border crossing in the world, on our way back into Argentina.

December 2023 Road Trip in Argentina & Chile

We began the month of December in what has become our home away from over the past few years: the Uco Valley near the city of Mendoza. Early in the month, we crossed into Chile, via the Paso Los Libertadores border crossing which we’ve crossed eight times so far (which is about seven times too many). Once in Chile, we dipped a bit south of  Santiago to return to the Colchagua Valley and the Maipo Valley to visit a few hotels and wineries that we’d missed on previous visits including The Residence at Clos Apalta which was one of the most luxurious hotels we’ve been to in recent years. We then stopped in the town of Rancagua to visit the historic mining town of Sewell which is a UNESCO World Heritage site (see why in our Best Adventures of 2023 post). Then we made a beeline north, up the Pacific coast to the Elqui Valley.

Paso de Agua Negra

At 15,682 feet /4,780 meters, Paso Internacional Agua Negra is the highest road border crossing in the world.

A mere 16 days after entering Chile, we crossed back into Argentina over the Paso Internacional de Agua Negra. This marked our 93rd border crossing and it was made special by the fact that the Agua Negra border crossing is the highest road border crossing in the world at 15,682 feet (4,780 meters). We’ve been wanting to drive over this pass for some time. However, it never worked out because this pass closed during Covid-19 (and remained closed long after other restrictions were lifted). And even without a pandemic, severe weather at this high-altitude border crossing closes the pass for eight months a year leaving just a four-month window when it’s possible to cross.

Ruta 40 La Rioja Province Argentina December 2023 road trip

Scenes along Argentina’s iconic Ruta 40 in La Rioja Province.

After crossing back into Argentina via the Agua Negra border crossing, we explored an area of the Argentine Andes that was new to us. Starting from San José de Jachal in the north of San Juan Province, we traveled up Argentina’s legendary Ruta 40 across La Rioja Province and Catamarca Province. Our first stop was Andalgalá where we did a short but spectacular drive we’ll call the Capillitas Mine/Yungas Drive (more on that in a coming post). Then we drove down to Belén and on to Chilecito to explore the remains of the Mina La Mejicana Cable Car. Completed in 1904 to bring ore from the La Mejicana Mine down to the city of Chilecito, this 22-mile (36 km) cable car is the longest ever constructed. Out of Chilecito, we drove to the nearby Chañarmuyo region where we discovered that this desert area of La Rioja Province is producing some notable wines.

Balcon de Pissis Argentina

Views from the Balcon del Pissis Mirador at 15,604 feet/4,756 meters including snowy Mount Pissis, the third highest mountain in the Americas at 22,283 feet (6,792 meters).

From Chañarmuyo it was just a short hop up to the town of Tinogasta in Catamarca Province where we explored the area including an epic drive to the Balcon de Pissis Mirador. At 15,604 feet (4,756 meters), this spot offers a view of Mount Pissis (the third highest mountain in the Americas at 22,283 feet/6,792 meters), as well as several multi-colored altiplano lakes and a myriad of peaks over 19,685 feet (6,000 meters). This explains why this drive is part of a circuit called La Ruta Seismiles (The 6,000 Route) which includes more than 20 mountains over 6,000 meters in Argentina and Chile–the highest concentration of high-altitude peaks outside of the Himalayas.

Our complete December 2023 road trip driving route in Chile and Argentina can be seen in the map below:

See what we saw out there on the road in Chile and Argentina during our December 2023 road trip in our dashcam drive-lapse video, below. It was, as always, shot by our Brinno camera which is attached to our dashboard at all times.

Here’s more about travel in Argentina

Here’s more about travel in Chile

 

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