Ruta A-23 is one of the most challenging roads in the world. Located in the far northern corner of Chile, this spectacular, unpaved trail varies from smooth surfaces to stretches of washboard. It’s a 2wd road, weather permitting.
The road is 114km long, but expect more than 6 hours driving. The surface is gravel and sand but this track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The road starts starts in Carretera Internacional CH 11, an asphalted road near Putre, the capital of the Parinacota Province in the Arica-Parinacota Region at an altitude of 3,500 m. The climb is simply terrible, with a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. This extreme high mountain road hugs the Tapaca Volcano, at an elevation of 5,242 meters above the sea level. With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. Ruta A-23 ends in Visviri, the capital of the General Lagos commune in Parinacota Province, Arica and Parinacota Region, near the border of Bolivia. The drive is so sparsely inhabited that when turning north from Putre on Rute 11, you will encounter more vicuñas and alpacas than people. Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging.