Bus from Mendoza to Santiago and Bus from Santiago to Mendoza
Nothing beats the trip from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile! The journey takes you from the heart of each country’s wine country and over the soaring Andes Mountains at the Paso Internacional Los Libertadores. (This pass is also called Cristo Redentor, for the Christ statue perched on the border.)
The highway on the Argentine side leaves the vineyards and climbs into the snowy heights off the Andes. As you descend towards Santiago, you’ll enter a series of switchbacks, passing by ski resorts and through vineyards.
The Los Libertadores border crossing is one of the most-used and easiest between Argentina and Chile, as it is the closest to major population centers. All immigration and customs procedures are carried out in a huge, cavernous galpón (shed) with the services of both countries in the same space – to protect you from the elements (whether rain, sleet – and even snow!). Chile has super-strict agricultural customs laws, so be sure not to have any produce (even honey) in your baggage. Also note that heavy snowfall can temporarily close this border crossing.
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What are the buses between Mendoza and Santiago like?
Buses in Chile and Argentina are among South America’s best – and on the Mendoza-Santiago-Mendoza international route, you can expect premier service and comfort.
You’ll have a choice between semi-cama (semi-bed, or reclining to 140º) and cama (reclining to 160º), depending on how much you want to spend. The seats are super-comfy, with footrests. The buses have other amenities, like on-board bathroom, music, movies and wait staff. And depending on the level of service you choose, meals (a variety of special menus may be offered) and drinks (including wine!) will be served.
A bit of odd trivia: In Argentina, a bus is called a micro. (Seems a bit strange a diminutive name for something so large!)
How long is the bus ride?
The bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago (or vice versa) takes approximately seven to eight hours. This includes the time necessary for going through border procedures (immigration and customs), which is carried out in the same shed for both countries. Please remember that Chile has strict agricultural customs laws.
The length of this trip is quite comfortable and convenient for most travelers’ itineraries. If you leave on a morning bus, you’ll be arriving at about nightfall. A night bus will get you into town at dawn or so, leaving you plenty of time to begin exploring the day of your arrival.
But keep in mind that various factors can affect the length of the journey, including traffic out of and into these two cities (or even going across the border at holiday times), weather conditions (including snow between autumn and spring, which is March to September in the Southern Hemisphere) and any delays when going through border bureaucracy.
What is the cost of traveling by bus from Mendoza to Santiago? (And vice versa)
The fare for taking the bus from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile (or from Santiago to Mendoza) ranges from $29 to $40 USD (approximately 1,900-2,600 ARS / 25,000-34,000 CLP). (An advantage of making your reservation online with AndesTransit is that you won’t have to worry about the conversion rate!)
The semi-cama class of buses, or course, will be less expensive. But from my own experience, I can assure you that it is worth the full splurge for riding in a bus providing cama service. To be able to kick back with a good meal and a goblet of wine while watching the stunningly beautiful landscape slip by is not to be missed!
But be forewarned: Because the cama class of buses is so much more popular, tickets can sell out quickly!
What are the bus schedules from Mendoza to Santiago?
You have a variety of departures to choose from when leaving Mendoza (or Santiago). You may choose one of the morning (6:30-9 a.m.) services, or one leaving at night (10-11 p.m.). There are also departures in early afternoon. Check AndesTransit for complete information on schedules, and choose the one that fits your needs best.
Taking a morning bus will allow you to enjoy the incredible scenery, and will get you into town before nightfall. However, if you’re looking to save on a hostel room and are okay sleeping on a bus, then an overnighter may be better for you.
Please be aware that between fall and spring (April-November), buses may not run every day. Also, snows may close the Paso Internacional Los Libertadores at this time of the year. Additionally, Argentina is one hour ahead of Chile.
Where can I book bus tickets from Mendoza to Santiago?
You have two choices in obtaining a ticket for your Mendoza-Santiago journey. One option is to buy it in person. The other way to get your passage is to use AndesTransit’s online reservation system.
Buying your ticket in person can be quite an operation. This entails going down to the bus terminal – all your baggage in tow – and going from ticket window to window, checking on schedules and prices. Hopefully, there will still be seats available on a bus that will be leaving sometime soon (and with how popular a route the Mendoza-Santiago-Mendoza run is, may be quite a trick!).
A more relaxing and time-saving alternative for getting your ticket is to purchase it online through AndesTransit. In the comfort of your home or lodging, you can check out the schedules, choose the day and time you want to travel, and then pay for it through our secure payment platform. You won’t have to worry about any of the in-person bus terminal “adventures” – nor about currency conversion rates or your limited Spanish.
What is the best bus from Mendoza to Santiago?
Several companies provide bus service between Mendoza and Santiago. The best of them, though, is AndesMar. This provider has both semi-cama and cama classes.
In semi-cama, you can expect a more basic service: seats that recline 140º and that have footrests, and an onboard restroom. Music and movies will break up the monotony of the journey (though the landscape is quite entertaining, too!). The onboard staff will also serve you refreshments.
However, if you really want to travel in style and comfort, AndesMar’s cama service is the way to go. Not only will you be kicking back in super-comfy reclining seats, but you’ll have entertainment on flat-screen TVs and personalized service by azafatas (stewards).
What makes cama class stand apart is the quality of meals served. Lunch and dinner are usually hot meals, served with wine, beer or other beverages. Special menus for those with dietary restrictions are available.
One thing to note is that in Chile, violent action movies are not shown on public transportation. This is another way that bus service in these Southern Cone countries is much different than in other places.
What to see in Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza (746 meters) lies at the foot of the eastern side of the Andes. Those mighty mountains provide a snowy backdrop to the city, nearby vineyards and other delightful destinations.
Mendoza has so much to offer visitors. Within the city are beautiful museums, like the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno de Mendoza and Museo Área Fundacional, and the Jesuit mission ruins of San Francisco. Out in the countryside, fine wines and olives await your taste buds. And for outdoor sports enthusiasts, there’s mountain climbing (world-renowned Aconcagua is just a condor-flight away), fly fishing, horseback riding, rafting, and hiking – all in some pretty awesome landscapes.
A big festival not to miss in Mendoza is the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (National Grape Harvest Fiesta) in late February and early March.
This museum preserves the site at which Mendoza was founded in 1561. Exhibits trace the history of the city through the centuries, including artifacts from the San Francisco Jesuit ruins. A subterranean chamber reveals archaeological excavations.
#2 - Hitting the Wineries
Mendoza is Argentina’s most famous wine region, and you’ll have the chance to be “entre San Juan y Mendoza” as the old song says: between San Juan and Mendoza, or tie a good drunk on. Over 1,200 bodegas operate in the Mendoza region, in Luján de Cuyo, Valle de Uco and Maipú. These wineries produce Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other fine red wines, as well as Chardonnay and Torrontes white wines.
Wineries open to the public include La Rural (which also has a large wine museum), Alta Vista and Clos de Chacras. You can visit the wineries by public transportation or bike, or on tour. Some vineyards even have lodging! Some of these are Cavas Wine Lodge and Club Tapiz. The best time to visit bodegas is October-April; harvest season is in March.
#3 - Parque Provincial Aconcagua
Aconcagua (6,962 meters) is known around the world as a great mountaineering challenge, and this 71,000-hectare provincial park offers much more than vistas of the Western Hemisphere’s tallest mountain. You can hike to the enigmatic Puente del Inca, along the Qhapak Ñan Inca road, and into virgin nature. Aconcagua Provincial Park is located 185 kilometers west-northwest of Mendoza and is accessible by public bus (4 hours).
#4 - Winter Escape
Mendoza isn’t just a summertime destination! Many come here during the winter months to ski at Los Penitentes. Equipment rental and ski lessons are offered. Los Penitentes also has a hostería (lodging) and a restaurant. In summer, the slopes are open for hiking and trekking. Located 174 kilometers west of Mendoza on the road to Provincial Park Aconcagua, Los Penitentes is accessible by public bus, or on tour.
#5 - Termas de Cacheuta
After partaking of all the beauty and wine Mendoza has to offer, it’ll be time to do an ultimate chill – in some fine hot springs. Termas de Cachueta (Ruta Provincial 82, about 40 kilometers north of Mendoza) has natural and man-made pools filled with 25-50ºC mineral waters. There are also mud baths. Several spas operate in this valley, including Termas Cachueta. After relaxing in these hot waters, you can enjoy a nice meal in the spa’s restaurant and microbrewery.
What to see in Santiago, Chile
Santiago (570 meters) sits on the western side of the Andes – and like its sister city Mendoza, that cordillera provides an impressive backdrop to the city.
Chile’s capital has a plethora of sights to keep you busy for a good while. There are markets and public parks, museums and concert halls. Small beach resorts outside the city also beckon you, like Valparaiso with its colorful houses and tramways plying the steep cliffs. There’s also Viña del Mar, famous for its summer music festival.
Other day trips you can make are to vineyards and ski resorts. Or perhaps just hop the train and make an excursion to some town on the southern horizon.
#1 - Museo de Arte Precolombino
The Precolombian Art Museum (Calle Bandera 361) will take you on an odyssey of the creative expressions of not only the indigenous nations of Chile, but also those of other Andean areas, the Amazon, Caribbean, and Mesoamerica. Audioguides in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish are available. The museum also has a gift shop.
#2 - Visiting the Homes of Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda is without a doubt one of Chile’s most famous poets. The verses of this Nobel laureate are often shared between lovers (and even inscribed on walls near his homes!). Within and near Santiago are his three eclectically decorated houses. In Santiago itself is La Chascona (Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia). In Valparaiso, about 2.5 hours northwest of the capital, is La Sebastiana (Ferrari 692). About two hours due west of Santiago is the small village of Isla Negra, where Neruda’s third home is and where he and his wife Matilde are buried (Poeta Neruda s/n). Tours at each of the houses are offered in five languages (English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish).
#3 - Partaking of the Fruits of the Vine
Like its Argentine cousin, Chile is renowned for its wines – especially red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Pinot Noir. Near Santiago is the Maipo Valley, one of the main wine-producing areas in the country. Here you’ll find Chile’s major vineyards, including Concha y Toro (which offers wine tours and sommelier classes) and Undurraga (wine tours and tasting). This is a great way to spend a day learning about fine wines and (more deliciously) trying these fruits of the vine! You can do so on tour or independently
#4 - Snowbunny Retreats
Santiago may be a major South American city – but it has something that no other capital has: world-class ski resorts where you can let your inner snowbunny free. Only 1.5 hours away are Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva, where you can not only ski but also snowboard. Resorts include Portillo and Farellones. During the summer, many resorts are open for biking, hiking and horseback riding in the mountains.
#5 - Termas del Plomo
A number of hot springs near Santiago beckon you to soak away the aches brought on by hours and days of hoofing city pavement, strolling beaches and hiking in the mountains. Most of them are luxurious resorts. But Termas del Plomo stands apart: These rustic pools, located at San José in the Cajón del Maipo (about 100 kilometers from the capital), are set in an alpine landscape surrounded by snow-streaked mountains. And the cherry to top it off – you can even camp here!
The trip between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile is not only beautiful, but it also highlights the best these countries have to offer to travelers. You’ll be able to visit vineyards to taste their world-class wines and cuisine.
Hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, skiing, and many other sports beckon you to the outdoors – as do Santiago’s beach resorts. At the end of all these adventures, you can soak in delicious thermal springs. And all of this is set in beautiful Andes mountain landscapes. It would be remiss to add these destinations to your South American itinerary.