Los Caracoles Pass, Chile and Argentina

Los Caracoles

Chile and Argentina share more than 5,000 miles of border, and the most important step between the capital of Chile, Santiago, and the Mendoza region of Argentina is a series of hard switchbacks on an extremely steep incline: the famous Paseo de los Caracoles, a.k.a Paso Internacional Los Libertadores, also called Cristo Redentor. The Argentina side is a gentle ascent, up relaxed though rugged mountain scenery. The Chilean side, however, is another, more perilous story.

Los Caracoles Map

At 10,500 feet, Los Caracoles is considered one of the world’s most dangerous roads. It has many steep inclines and hairpins. There are no guardrails. The road is covered with snow for the most part of the year; still, traffic is intense; cargo trucks and even double-decker tourist buses travel the road on a daily basis year-round, forming long, slow convoys, hence the name (caracol means “snail.”) Extreme patience and skill are the key, and the adrenaline rush and thin air make for a thrilling, if occasionally slow, motorcycling experience.

PHOTO: Tui Travel PLC; MAP, NYTimes.com