Chile and Argentina share more than 5,000 miles of border, most of them drawn on the imposing peaks of the Andes. With over 40 border crossings between the two countries spread over the mountains, the most spectacular and important is Paso de los Libertadores, also known as the Paso del Cristo Redentor. It's one of the most scenic drives in the world.
Due to the unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet (the pass reaches an elevation of 3,207m 10,521 ft) above the sea level, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. It is the most important step between the capital of Chile, Santiago, and the Mendoza region of Argentina. The Argentina side turns out to be a gentle ascent, up relaxed through rugged mountain scenery of the area until the hole in the tunnel entrance. Extreme patience and skill are the key, and the adrenaline rush and thin air make for a thrilling, if occasionally slow, driving experience. Wind can also slow things down, but conquer all that and you'll be rewarded by magnificent views of the switchbacks below and South America’s highest peak, Aconcagua.
The route demands 100% concentration, passing through some of the most remote areas in South America. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The Chilean side of the road is very difficult to navigate with one of the most winding routes in the world, giving the appearance of the coil of a fridge from the air. Drivers must remain cautious as the pass has been known to claim the lives of careless drivers. With intense traffic, especially full of slow moving heavy vehicles, accidents are rife. Not only that, for a vast proportion of the year the road is covered in snow requiring severe caution at all times. Take a tip from the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race. The border is actually a tunnel: the Cristo Redentor tunnel, located at 3,209 m altitude and with 3,080 meters long, of which 1,564 are in Chilean territory and 1,516 in the Argentine side. Opened in 1980, the tunnel is at an elevation of 3,175 m (10,417 ft), and the path can be closed during winter because of heavy snows blocking both ends and the threat of rockfall.
Its name comes from the 4 ton Christ the Redeemer of the Andes (Cristo Redentor de los Andes) statue placed in 1904 near the entrance of the Argentine side at an elevation of 4,000 m (13,123 ft). However, access by the Chilean side is another story. The landscape remains the same, but the road gets higher with much more quickly, forcing a winding route so perfectly delineated that, seen from the air, looks like the coil of a refrigerator. The traffic is intense, especially for heavy vehicles facing this part with calmness and resignation, forming long convoys that slow pace, amounting port. Viewed from a distance the trucks seem snails.
The most scenic part of the road is a short section known as Los Caracoles (the snails), on the Chilean side. It’s a terrible steep climb which includes more than 20 hairpin turns. The road is called Ruta 60. Los Caracoles is a series of hard switchbacks on an extremely steep incline. The snow together with nature of the road requires extreme patience and skill to negotiate.
The surface of the road is asphalted, and chains or snow tyres can be required troughout the year. However, this road is maintained pretty regularly and does not have a morbid accident record. Cargo trucks and even double-Decker tourist buses travel through the road on a daily basis, and it's quite an experience. Despite the fact that it's one of the most challenging roads in the world, the Los Caracoles Pass has a strong safety record.
Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the mountains spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. In many places the road is bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. The road can be closed anytime during winter because of heavy snows blocking both ends and the threat of rockfall. It has many steep inclines and hairpins. There are no guardrails. The road is covered with snow for the most part of the year; still, traffic is intense; cargo trucks and even double-decker tourist buses travel the road on a daily basis year-round, forming long, slow convoys, hence the name.