Sally Watson

Scenic drive from Santiago to Mendoza

If you are looking to travel from Chile to Argentina, a scenic and unique experience are to go by road. From Santiago, Argentina’s wine region of Mendoza is a full day’s bus journey away. There is little chance you will get bored on this drive, with spectacular views around every twist and turn.

There are drives, and then there are drives. It is unlikely you will experience many like the one from Santiago to Mendoza.

There is nothing like being dwarfed by the massive Andes as your bus winds through mountainous cavernous valleys.

The beginning of the trip, coming out of Santiago isn’t anything extraordinarily special, which is usually the case whenever driving out of a big city. Once you’re out, the landscape becomes quite beautiful, firstly with vineyards and then with the commencement of green rolling hills.

Photo of the bus on the scenic drive from Santiago to Mendoza


When thinking about bus travel in South America, you might wonder about the standards on board, but I was surprised at how comfortable and well equipped the bus was.

Generally speaking bus travel in Peru, Chile and Argentina is an affordable and pleasant way to travel.

Seats are generally huge, as spacious as a business class seat on an aircraft, with lots of legroom. Often movies will be played on the journey - but who wants to watch television when you have the real show of the Andes, right outside the window!

After some time, the green hills give over to some seriously impressive mountains and some ludicrous hairpin turns, of which there are almost thirty. Under these massive giant sheets of rock, ski resorts look diminutive.

Photo of a mountain in the Andes

At the border, everyone must get off the bus and proceed through passport and customs checks, permanently leaving Chile and entering Argentina. The system is reasonably well organised, but just like any other border crossing, it can be time-consuming.

The duration spent here at the checkpoint will depend on whether it is a busy travel day and how many buses are waiting ahead of yours. At customs, all luggage is removed from the bus and X-rayed with carrying on luggage also being checked. It is a strange feeling crossing a border this remote.

Even though I knew I wasn’t transporting anything suspicious and all my travel documentation was in order, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable and oddly nervous about ‘getting through’. Turning back from here would not be ideal. Thankfully, our crossing was relatively straightforward, and we were only there for an hour or so. I have heard some stories of long waits so hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Once in Argentina, you might be able to see South America’s tallest mountain, Aconcagua, which lies in the distance. The landscape continues to fascinate with barren red mountains and dry desert-like plains.

Photo of South America's tallest mountain, Aconcagua, in the distance

This section of the trip is quite surreal, and there was a buzz on the bus as captivated travellers observed the passing scenery.

With the bus windows being huge, there was never an issue in not being able to easily soak in the natural beauty.

Photo from within the tour bus

After the barren countryside, another spectacular scene awaits you as you head towards Mendoza, some stunning aqua lakes. Blink, and you might miss them so keep your eyes open! It was a moment of my journey when I wanted to scream to the driver, “stop the bus!”

I arrived in Mendoza, a little mesmerised, feeling gratitude for having taken this route from Chile to Argentina through the Andes. Who would think a bus trip could be an experience in itself? For me, it was one bus ride which will carry lifelong memories.

Aqua lakes in Mendoza


  • Take food and some entertainment in case you encounter a long wait at the border. Many buses offer snacks as part of the fare. However, you may wish to take along your preferred nibbles.
  • When entering Argentina at the border, along with your passport, Australians need to show proof of payment of a reciprocity fee, which needs to be paid before entering the country. For more information, see
  • You’ll need some coin change to tip those loading and unload your luggage at either end.
  • Check weather conditions before booking and travel to ensure the road is open. During the winter months of June, July and August border control can sometimes be shut, and road closures can happen.

Sally Watson is an Australian Journalist and media exec who loves to travel, discover new places and share stories on her blog Wing Woman Adventures. Instagram: @wingwomanadventures; Twitter: @wingwomanADV

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.