Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trekking Expedition Across the Andes

Traverse up and over the Andes from Argentina to Chile, camping under the stars on the remote and high altitude Piuquenes Pass

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Trip Ref #10534

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trekking Expedition Across the Andes

Traverse up and over the Andes from Argentina to Chile, camping under the stars on the remote and high altitude Piuquenes Pass

DURATION

7 nights

LOCATION

Argentina & Chile

ANNUAL LEAVE

5 days off work

SEASON

Oct-Apr

GROUP SIZE

Up to 12 people

MEETING POINT

Mendoza Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Wild camping · Cabin

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

You'll be hiking for up to eight hours (16km) each day at high altitudes, so a good level of fitness is required.

Trek into the wilderness through deep valleys, remote gorges and ancient glaciers, eyes open for condors and guanacos

Burst through the cloud line and tackle the Portillo Argentino high pass, topping out at an altitude of 4380m

Melt away those achy limbs in the Termas del Plomo natural hot spring and celebrate with a vino tinto in Chile's wine region

This trip is brand new

We’re still waiting to collect any reviews from other travellers on this trip. However, all our hosts go through an extensive vetting process to ensure that your adventure is awesome.

Included

Guides

Expert, local, English-speaking guides

Accommodation

5 nights wild camping, 1 night in a hotel and 1 in a cabin

Meals

7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

Porterage

Up to 10kg of personal luggage will be carried during the trek by working mules

Equipment

Tents, cooking and safety equipment

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Tips for your guides

Some meals as described

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Mendoza Airport, Argentina

Anytime on Day 1

Ends

Santiago de Chile Airport (or central city location), Chile.

Late morning on Day 8

Transfers

Your host will meet you on arrival at Mendoza Airport and transfer you to your hotel accommodation for the night. There are no planned activities on this first day, however, you'll be able to meet your guide at the accommodation around 3pm.

On Day 8, there is a road transfer from Cajon del Maipo onwards to Santiago de Chile (approx 2 hours). You can choose whether to be dropped off at SCL airport or at a central point/hotel in the city.

If you choose to arrive early your host can book extra pre-trip nights for you in a hotel in Mendoza should you wish - See Optional Extras for prices.

Travel options

The trip starts in Argentina and ends in Chile.

There are international flights to Mendoza from various major hubs in Europe, with connections in either Santiago de Chile (SCL), Sao Paulo (GRU) or Buenos Aires (EZE). Some airlines offer multi-destination round trips.

There are regular flights (from SCL) and international bus services connecting Santiago de Chile with Mendoza should you wish to return to Argentina at the end of the trip.

Once in Santiago de Chile you are in the ideal spot to connect to either southern Chile (Pucón and Puerto Varas are the outdoor adventure hub towns in the south), Patagonia (Puerto Natales is the basecamp for heading to Torres del Paine National Park) or up to San Pedro de Atacama in the far north of the country.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 6

Wild camping · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Cabin · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Throughout the adventure, you'll be fuelled by healthy and typically Argentine food using locally sourced ingredients. For the first few days of the trek you’ll carry fresh products such as fruit, meat and veg. Lunch usually consists of empanadas or sandwiches with cereal snacks. Dinner is always a warm and filling meal after a big day of hiking, with the team typically cooking up either a BBQ, stew or pasta dish.

Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please make sure that this request is made as early as possible on your passenger info form. Options for vegans will be limited. Gluten-free food can be carried and prepared, however, this does incur an additional cost (approx. USD20 per day whilst on trek).

What is the accommodation like?

Mendoza

For the first night of the tour you'll stay in a comfortable hotel in the city, such as Hotel Agua del Corral, or similar. Rooms are twin-share and with en suite bathrooms.

Camping

You'll spend 5 nights camping during the trek, using good-quality twin-share expedition tents. Tents are provided and transported for you (outside your personal luggage allowance), although you will need to bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping mat. The support team will also carry an additional dining tent for common use.

Cabins

On the last night of the tour, after arrival in Chile, you'll spend one night in a wooden cabin (twin-share rooms) at a rural hotel in the Cajon del Maipo region.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

Day 1

Welcome to Argentina

Pick up from Mendoza Airport and transfer to your hotel in the city. Your guide will meet you in the lobby at 3pm to check that everyone is ready to go and answer any last-minute burning questions. Probably a good idea to resist the Malbec tonight, your expedition begins in the morning.

Day 2

Trek to Cajón de Arenales

Hiking

6 hrs · 14km · 955m up

After breakfast your guide will meet you and your crew at the hotel, ready for the short drive to Manzano Histórico. Your acclimatisation trek starts here! You’ll head up into the foothills of the Andes and on to Refugio Portinari where there’ll be some customs faffery before you hit the Argentine border. From here you'll continue to your first camping spot at Cajón de Arenales. Tents are provided but you may decide to deck out under the stars.

Day 3

Trek to Scaravelli

Hiking

5 hrs · 8km · 595m up

Today you'll continue to gain elevation, following the Arenales River and trekking through the cloud line. The mountain pass between Mendoza province and Santiago de Chile is the same route that the liberation 'Army of the Andes' took in 1817, led by Generals San Martin and O'Higgins. The mountain battle eventually led to Chile winning its independence from Spanish rule. You'll spend the night at Scaravelli Refuge, an incredible spot to refuel the batteries.

Day 4

Climb the Portillo Argentino Pass

Hiking

9 hrs · 16km · 1120m up · 1510m down

A tough day today as you venture further into the heart of the Andes range and climb the 'Portillo Argentino' high pass, rising to a peak altitude of 4380m before a long walk down to the Real de la Cruz refuge. Charles Darwin used the Piuquenes Pass (in reverse from Chile to Argentina) as part of his travels in 1835, which he wrote about in his book 'The Voyage of the Beagle'.

Day 5

Acclimatisation day

Today is a designated rest and acclimatisation day to recuperate from yesterday and prepare for the next long hike tomorrow. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the view, tomorrow is a toughy. There is also the option for a short walk (no elevation gains/losses) to the nearby Laguna de los Patos.

Day 6

Trek to El Caletón

Hiking

6 hrs · 13km · 157m up

Today you'll move westwards again and cross the Tunuyán River, enjoying views of the nearby Mount Tupungato (6800m). The trail then follows the Palomares River upstream until the last campsite in Argentinean territory, El Caletón.

Day 7

Cross the Chilean border

Hiking

8 hrs · 15km · 1003m up · 1030m down

Today is another big day, and the last push before arriving on the other side of the Andes. You'll reach the 'Paso Piuquenes' boundary mark indicating the border between Argentina and Chile. After lunch the support muleteers and mules will change shifts and hand over their duties to a Chilean crew for the remainder of the trek. The final leg of the expedition involves a long descent ending at Termas del Plomo, a natural hot spring perfect for a well-earned dip. After crossing El Plomo River, a van will be waiting to drive you to Cajón del Maipo. You'll stop in the small town of San Gabriel for some more customs bits and end up in your accommodation for the night, a rural hotel and a slap up farewell dinner.

Day 8

Transfer to Santiago de Chile

All good things must come to an end, as you bid farewell to the Andean mountain range which you've called home for the last week. This morning you'll transfer by road from Cajón del Maipo to Chile's capital city, Santiago de Chile (approx 2 hours drive). Drop offs can be made either at the airport or at a centrally located hotel if you are staying on for a bit.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • Tents (The North Face) with solar panels and lights
  • Chairs and tables
  • Communal tent
  • Satellite communication
  • Food and cooking equipment
  • First aid kit
  • 24-hour emergency contact with the host’s HQ in Mendoza

What's available to hire?

  • It's not possible to hire any equipment from the host. However, they do recommend a local shop in Mendoza with kit available for hire (sleeping bags and mats), called El Refugio. If intending to rent kit make sure you double check availability before you arrive and factor in sufficient time to visit upon arrival. Note: if you do not intend on returning to Mendoza at the end of the trip (as the trip ends in Chile) then you can still rent items and the guide will return them on your behalf.

What do I need to bring?

BAGS

  • Soft bag (e.g. backpack or kitbag) which mules will carry
  • Comfortable daypack for trekking with
  • Waterproof liner / drybags

CLOTHES

Essential

  • Down jacket with hood x1
  • Waterproof & windproof Gore-Tex jacket with hood x1
  • Fleece jacket x1
  • Long sleeve undershirt x1
  • Thermal base layers x1
  • Warm gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Sunhat
  • Trekking trousers x1
  • Hiking boots (worn in, Gore-Tex recommended)
  • Assorted thickness socks
  • Underwear
  • 100% UV protection sunglasses (glacier glasses with side shields)
  • Crocs or similar footwear for river crossings
  • Sleeping clothes

Optional

  • Breathable wicking layers as needed
  • Buff or neckscarf
  • Swimming costume for hot springs

SLEEPING

  • Sleeping bag (to -15 degrees Celcius, 4 Season)
  • Sleeping mat (Thermarest or similar)

OTHER

Essential

  • Head torch (with spare batteries)
  • Suncream and lip protection (high SPF)
  • Skin moisturiser
  • Reusable water bottles (2x 1-litre)
  • Spare plastic bottle
  • Passport
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, medicines, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Insect repellant
  • Spending money

Optional

  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Energy bars and snacks - read our article on Best Hiking Snacks
  • Water purification tablets/treatment system
  • Eye drops if sensitive or allergic to dust
  • Camera

Extra 10kg Luggage Porterage

Payable Before Departure

Extra 10kg Luggage Porterage

Per Person

Single/Double/Twin Room in Mendoza

Payable Before Departure

Single/Double/Twin Room in Mendoza

Per Night

Private Room and Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Private Room and Tent Upgrade

Per Person

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 215kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

This is a challenging trek that takes place in a remote area of the Andes and involves physical exertion at high altitude (see the altitude FAQ for more info). A good level of fitness and previous trekking experience is required (although no technical mountaineering experience is needed). You'll be trekking for approx 6-9 hours per day covering distances of up to 16km, and elevations of up to +/- 1000m. Day 4 in particular involves a large ascent over a high pass, followed by a large descent.

Your host in Argentina recommends that all participants conduct an ECG (Electro Cardiogram) scan and blood pressure check within the three months prior to the trip, to check for any hidden heart irregularities. Presenting these to the host is not mandatory however we recommend taking these precautions in advance of any high-altitude trek to be certain of your fitness levels. In the weeks leading up to departure, and especially in the preceding days, it is recommended that you do some aerobic exercise, eat healthily, rest and avoid alcohol or smoking in order to approach the trek in good shape.

The distances and stats mentioned in the day-to-day itinerary are given as an approximate guide only. The guide will take into account the local conditions and the strength/speed of the group when determining the exact distance and route each day.

There are 2 high passes during the trek that exceed 4000m, on Day 4 and Day 7.

You will camp at an altitude of over 3000m on Day 3 and Day 6.

  • Day 1: Highest point and sleeping altitude of 750m
  • Day 2: Highest point and sleeping altitude of 2665m
  • Day 3: Highest point and sleeping altitude of 3260m
  • Day 4: Highest point of 4380m and sleeping altitude of 2870m
  • Day 5: Highest point and sleeping altitude of 2870m
  • Day 6: Highest point and sleeping altitude of 3027m
  • Day 7: Highest point of 4030m and sleeping altitude of 1260m

Tips for the guiding team are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however we suggest the below as a guideline per person:

5 - 10 USD per day per guide (or equivalent in Argentine Pesos). Approx 3-5 USD per day for 'muleteer' porters.

Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

During the trek, safe drinking water can be sourced directly from mountain streams and rivers. The guiding team will have water purification options should you wish to use them.

If bringing your own filter bottle then check out our guide here https://www.muchbetteradventures.com/magazine/7-of-the-best-water-filters-for-adventurers-a-guide/

Departures are scheduled throughout the summer season only (Oct-Apr). Typical summer weather conditions in this part of the central Andes of Argentina are dry, clear and warm during the daytime, with the temperature dropping significantly at night. During the trek, whilst at high altitudes, you can typically expect daytime temperatures to reach approx. 25 ºC but at night it can be as low as -2 ºC. There are two high passes during the crossing (Portillo Pass and Piuquenes Pass) where wind conditions are a factor. Your guides monitor the conditions via specialist websites in order to stay prepared and share information.

As this is a linear trek, you won't be returning to Mendoza as part of the trip, so should factor this into your packing. We recommend packing lightly without too many unnecessary items. If you plan to return independently to Mendoza after the trip then you can use the option of leaving excess luggage with the host for collection later on. For this service, they charge USD20 per person, payable locally in cash.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

This is a multi-day linear hike, and all luggage needs to be carried during your trek. You'll have porterage of one bag weighing up to 10kg included (the support staff includes working mules to carry some luggage and equipment for camping and cooking).

You'll need a backpack to carry personal items during each day of hiking, and large enough to accommodate any weight over the 10kg being portered for you.

Yes. Our host works only with well-respected local mule handlers known as 'arrieros' who care for the mules throughout the journey. The welfare of the animals is paramount and taken very seriously by the handlers who make a living working with expedition groups. Pack mules are traditionally used in this part of the world for transporting goods slowly over mountainous terrain, using their robust strength and balance. A weight limit of 60kg per mule is strictly observed, which is well below the weight that mules are typically comfortable carrying.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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