There’s scarce information online on how to get from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama. This 374 mile journey between Argentina and Chile can be a rather daunting to some but once on the road or air you’ll discover it offers incredible landscapes. We’ve created this guide to help you plan your trip into Chile.

 

Salta to San Pedro de Atacama

By Bus:

If you want to be hands off and enjoy the scenery slowly, taking a bus is your best option and the most economical. The bus ride from Salta to San Pedro typically takes 12 or 13 hours, although this depends on your time at the border. Make sure to pack a good book and some snacks for your journey!

From Salta you’ll first need to make your way to the bus station located at Av. Hipólito Irigoyen 339There are four bus companies that make the trip from Salta to San Pedro.

Geminis
While also providing a complementary snack along the way, this is one of the more popular companies. The current price for a one-way ticket to San Pedro is about $30 US Dollars. 

Schedule:
– Tuesday at 9am
– Friday at 9 am
– Sunday at 9am

Andesmar
Another popular option, Andesmar is the most expensive of the 4 lines. Prices range from $30-$46, but some tickets include food vouchers if you are not looking to pack your meals. You can book your tickets online via rome2rio—a popular website for finding and purchasing bus tickets.

Schedule:
– Wednesday at 8:30am
– Sunday at 8:30am

Pullman Bus
In short, Pullman offers bus tickets the same price as Gemini (but without the  offer of a snack). With $30 tickets, the only difference is the schedule.

Schedule:
– Wednesday at 9:30
– Friday at 9:30
– Sunday at 9:30

Frontera del Norte
The only bus that runs on Thursdays, Frontera del Norte has similar pricing as the options above (~ $30). They run buses Thursday at 7:30am (*you may find information on other websites that this bus departs at 9am but that has changed as of June 2018).

Note: Always check the bus’ website for exact departure times and schedules as they are subject to change.

Traveler Tip: Check the weather a couple days before you leave. In the winter (May – September), you can expect cold weather and snow in the mountainous regions between Argentina and Chile. As a result, the high border crossing on the route between Salta and the Atacama desert is subject to close due to weather.

By Plane:

For those looking to travel by air, there is also the option of travelling via plane. However, there are no direct flights between Salta and San Pedro de Atacama and often it will take longer than the bus to get there because of the multiple stopovers.

We recommend using despegar to book a flight between Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport in Salta, Argentina and El Loa Airport in Calama, Chile. Believe it or not, you can actually book round trip flights for less than $100; however, expect prices to be around $300-$400.

From the airport in Calama, there are several transport companies that will offer transfers from to your hostel/hotel in Atacama for around $18  (we recommend Licancabur). The transfer is about 2 hours long.

 

Self-Drive:

All paved, all breathtaking. Renting a car and driving the 620 KM journey yourself allows for you to take things slow and make stops on the way. The route is fairly simple; however, you must watch out for snow storms. Again, it is not uncommon for the border to close due to less than perfect weather.

If you decide to drive, make sure you rent well in advance.  In order to drive a rented car across the border, you must contact the car rental company in advance as they will need to apply for a permit (approximately $200 USD). Fuel will cost about $60-$95 depending on the vehicle you rented. There are a number of rental companies at the Salta airport and prices range from $40-$180 USD/day. We recommend renting a 4×4 vehicle if you are looking to explore the surroundings of San Pedro de Atacama (~$140 USD/day). Moreover, before you set out, double check that you have the following:

Note: As of now, no car rental companies offer one way rentals between Salta and the Antofagasta region (San Pedro de Atacama). You will need to return the car to Salta (or vice versa).

 

By Train:

Unfortunately, the Salta-Antofagasta service is no longer operating; therefore, traveling by train is not an option.

If you’re looking for a train experience, we recommend the Salta Train to the Clouds Experience, Tren a las Nubes. This train only operates a round-trip tour from Salta to Viaducto la Polvorilla in Argentina before returning back to Salta.

However, not all hope is lost. In 2012, the Railway Gazette reported on a freight agreement that would entail reparations on both train networks for service between Antofagasta and Salta. The progress of this agreement is unknown, but one day we may see a new option for travelling between Salta and Antofagasta by train. As of now, the only direct transportation between San Pedro de Atacama and Salta is by bus.

san pedro de atacama tours