Abra del Acay is said to be the highest road pass in America

Abra del Acay is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.956m (16,259ft) above the sea level, located in La Poma Departament, in Salta Province, in Argentina. It’s said to be the highest road pass on a national highway in the whole of America.

Abra del Acay

The road to Abra del Acay

The ascent to Abra del Acay is facilitated by the infamous Argentina's National Route 40. Not just an ordinary road, Route 40 is Argentina's longest, spanning a whopping 5,000 km (3,107 mi), making it one of the most extensive in the world. While the section leading to Abra del Acay is unpaved and challenging, this route offers unparalleled experiences. At the pass itself, a road sign indicates an altitude of 4,895 meters, but don't be surprised if your GPS readings offer slightly higher values. Such discrepancies further underline the sheer altitude and grandeur of this path, often considered the highest in the Americas—especially if one remains skeptical about Peruvian heights.

Driving conditions and precautions

The ascent on this narrow gravel path is intense, demanding unwavering concentration from drivers. The bends tighten as one ascends, with perilous drops dominating the landscape. Additionally, drivers need to be wary of the strong winds, which can easily unsettle heavy vehicles. With no cell-phone coverage outside towns, it's imperative for travelers to be self-equipped. Ensure you have essential repair equipment, ample food, water, and always fill up your vehicle with fuel at every opportunity due to the scarcity of gas stations. It’s one of the highest roads of Argentina.

How long is Abra del Acay?

Stretching for 133km (83 miles) from Payogasta to San Antonio de los Cobres, drivers should allocate approximately three hours to complete the drive without any stops. It's essential to note that sections of the road may be blocked by ice and snow during winter. Despite the challenges, this road, inaugurated on 8 July 1960 after three laborious years of construction, promises an adventure like no other.

Is it worth the challenge?

The road is pretty challenging due its conditions. Expect poorly maintained surfaces and challenging weather conditions most of the route. But the drive is worth it, offering stunning views for the most intrepid travelers.
Pic: Francisco Chiarella