INFO: Border Crossing – Jama, Argentina to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


Route Susques, Argentina – San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (RN27)
Distance 254Km
Travel Time 7.5 hours
Road Conditions Great Tarmac
Weather Clear, Freezing
Terrain Altiplano, Curvy
Food and Petrol Susques & Jama, Argentina, San Pedro, Chile
Accommodation Hostal El Rincon San Pedrino, San Pedro

We head off early, fill up at a no-name petrol pump outside Susques (the only one around for 150km before Jama on the one side and Tilcara on the other) and embark on a chilling trip through the breathtaking Andean Altiplano, over the Paso de Jama.


The immigration and customs point for the Argentinian side is at the village of Jama, the last village on the Argentinian side. This is about a three hour drive from Susques. There’s a petrol station with a cafe here and a few buildings, one of them near the station which is for the entry/exit formalities, but I don’t recall whether there’s any accommodation, I don’t think so.



From here on it continues on a good asphalt road, well sign-posted, all the way to San Pedro. It’s high, it’s desolate, it’s cold and it’s absolutely gorgeous! No trees. Only rocks, sand, patches of ice or snow, small shrubs and little lagoons or mountain streams.


Plenty of finger-thawing stops along the way…

Occasionally a little bird swoops by to say hello and we feel delight at the encounter of another living being up here. The most rewarding encounters though, are with the graceful wild Llamas grazing on the shrubs among the rocks and lagoons. They are beautiful creatures! They look so proud and groomed as they stare over at you curiously. Ebru tries to initiate conversation with them on a few occasions but I can’t understand what they’re talking about.


We’re surrounded by volcanoes exceeding 5000 and 6000 metres in altitude. They rise up majestically around us, purple, black, brown and green, white snow on the top. It’s unreal.


We weave our way between them and eventually are on a descent into a huge basin, the Salar de Atacama, a massive volcanic cone to our right hand side. The long road down into the valley is straight runs aside a massive craig, kilometres long, extending from the base of the volcano all the way down into the valley, in places so deep you can’t see the bottom. Something to do with lava flows by the looks of it. Looking back from San Pedro, the slopes around here are totally serrated with these cracks. They look thin and fine from a distance, but close up they’re massive.


The Chilean immigration and customs is at the entry of San Pedro. The Chilean entry is quick and easy for us, and thankfully the Aduana lady makes our lives easy by just running our baggage through the X-ray machine and not asking us to unpack anything, which would have been a pain.


Something to keep in mind though: I don’t know whether this was because of unpredictable weather conditions at the time, but the Argentinian border guards told us that the San Pedro border office closes at 16:00, which means you should get moving early in the morning to ensure you get there on time. In our experience, the border was still operating after 16:00 when we were there, but I’m not certain if this is always the case.

Somewhat before you reach San Pedro, up on the pass, you find a gravel track leading off to the right, which is the road to Bolivia. It takes you past some of the most popular touristical sites on the way to the Salar de Uyuni. It looks like a lonely road indeed and I wouldn’t attempt it without solid navigational information.


PS: Although we’re really short on time we do manage to do our drop-off for the crazy walking Austrians we met in Susques. That story you can read by clicking here.