The road to Portezuelo Paranal in the Andes will take your breath away

Portezuelo Paranal is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.832m (15,853ft) above the sea level located in the Antofagasta Region of Chile, near the Argentinian border. It’s one of the highest roads of the country.

Portezuelo Paranal

Set high in the Andes mountain range on the northeastern corner of the country, the road to the summit is totally paved. It’s called Ruta 27 (CH-27). With such a high altitude, it is one of the highest asphalted roads in South-America. This road is a good possibility for 2WD-drivers to experience a road at very high altitude in a landscape without vegetation for many miles, looking like the Mars planet. In spite asphalt and two traffic lanes, drivers should be careful because of high altitude, extremely low population density, strong radiation by the sun, strong enduring wind, missing connection for cellphone and up to 160 km (100 mi) to the next settlement with a petrol station.

Tucked away in Los Flamencos National Reserve, and set on an arid high plateau in the Andes mountains, this pass is permanently enabled for all types of vehicles. It is open throughout the year, although occasionally closed by snow. The drive is pretty boring, as the road is straight and the scenery unchanging. The best views are on the descent from the pass. Remember that you will be crossing the Andes, travelling through a semi desert area with few people and will be travelling at an average height of 3.000 m.a.s.l. The road was opened on 6 December 1991, and is paved throughout since 2005. 

The road is 156.19 km (97.05 mi) long, running from San Pedro de Atacama to Paso de Jama, on the Argentinian border. Expect strong winds (dusty and dry), sunny conditions (dangerous without sunglasses), take plenty of water and bring at least two full-sized spare tires (they’ll be burning enough to bake a pizza). The road is remote, so extra care is required. It features steep sections, hitting a 12.6% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps.