At the border - Chile to Argentina
At the Border
Chilean Border
Posing beside historical monument
Breakfast
Cooking dinner
Sunset light
Gallop in the valley
Dinner's ready
Up the hillside
My bay
View under the horse!
Getting the hroses and mules raedy for the days trek
Grazing after the days work
Fish for dinner?
On the trail
Another stupendous view
Another river crossing
Adventure of a lifetime!
Dinner at the table
Uphill
Gaucho lineup!
Inside local shop

“...what does not allow me to sleep well is, not the strength of our enemy army, but crossing these immense mountains” - Don José de San Martín to José María Guido, 14 June, 1816. On this historic trip riders cross the Andes on horseback, following the route taken by San Martín in 1817 to free the people of Chile. This legendary crossing is the trip of a lifetime. The wilderness is flanked by the highest mountains in America, Mount Aconcagua (20,900ft.) and Mount Mercedario (20,700 ft.) These are uninhabited places, accessible only on horseback, where huge herds of guanacos roam and the Andean condors nest. This is a classic trek and a "must do" ride for all serious adventure riders.

This ride across the High Andes originates in Los Andes, Chile and follows the original historic route to Uspallata in the Mendoza Province of Argentina; as the route is high altitude and very remote it is taken at a slower pace, on average. This means that even non-riders who are up for a challenge can complete the crossing.

View the captioned pictures of this ride across The High Andes by David L O Smith (who describes his experience as a 'trip of a lifetime'), or his longer illustrated write-up of the High Andes Crossing on horseback from Chile to Argentina in the form of a diary.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from KP of Monmouth on 05/03/2017

Ride Summary
Although the riding isn't fast paced, there are some steep sections and riding along narrow paths.
What was your overall impression of the holiday

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How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced? 7
Please explain why you scored it as you did Although the riding isn't fast paced, there are some steep sections and riding along narrow paths. This is also quite a physically demanding trip in terms of its outdoor nature and no luxuries.
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Please give more details to explain your response I've travelled with unicorn on four occasions and on each they have been excellent.
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Unicorn comments Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1 - Arrive Santiago de Chile
You will be transferred to Los Andes town at around noon. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure. There will be a welcome dinner with your guides and the rest of the group and overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 2
You will be transferred from Los Andes to Los Patos. This is the route taken by San Martin's army on his his way to Santiago, through the Aconcagua Valley and the Putaendo Valley. You will see the site where on the 12th February 1817, the Chacabuco battle took place. On the 14th February, San Martin and O'Higgins entered Santiago de Chile to declare independence. At Los Patos, the Chilean horses and gauchos will be waiting for you. Migrations at local authorities allow you to cross this unattended border. You will ride upstream along the Rocin river to Las Tejas, your first campsite.

Day 3
Today, you will ride the Pacific Ocean watersheds. You will move up the Rocin river canyon. Overnight at El Cienego camp.

Day 4
You will leave early in the morning to reach the international border at 3500 meters. Changing horses is mandatory so you will say farewell to your Chilean horse and continue your ride with an Argentine team who came all the way to fetch the group. You will have a very close view of the Aconcagua Mountain (6962 meters), the highest peak in America and Western Hemisphere. Overnight at Valle Hermoso, "beautiful valley". 

Day 5
You will spend a second day at this heavenly spot torest. Today, you will do a day ride along the valley to get a closer view of Mount Aconcagua. The ride will be easy going and at your own pace. If you prefer, you may just go trout fishing or stay at the camp and relax. Dinner and overnight at the campsite.  

Day 6
You will ride along the Los Patos Valley, which gives the name to this pass and is an old sea bottom full or marine fossils, and the Volcan river. You will camp at 3500 meters in Rancho de Lata to get ready for the next challenge.

Day 7
Today you will cross the Espinacito Slope at 4500 meters. This is the highest point of the journey. The landscape will make you feel the appreciate the great efforts that the Army of the Andes had to overcome. Overnight at Penon Colorado.

Day 8
After breakfast you will ride to Hornillas. The challenge is almost over and you will now fully grasp the true meaning of the crossing. You will say farewell to your horse and leave the adventure behind. You will be taken to Uspallata town by minibus and spend the night at a hotel. There will be a farewell dinner.

Day 9 - Mendoza wines and airport
Today will be very gourmet: wine making and tasting and a superb lunch. From Uspallata you will leave early to reach Lujan de Cuyo. This area is now known worldwide for producing several of Argentina's best wines. Your visit to Mendoza would not be complete without a visit to the famous Club Tapiz boutique winery. During this private visit, you will have the chance to taste their premium wines directly from the oak casks. Lunch will be at the winery. You will then be transferred to Mendoza city airport for your departure.

Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Across the Andes

Article in Horse Canada magazineRead the arictle on this Andes Crossing in Horse Canada magazine March 2009 and David's write-ups in captioned picturesof his ride across The High Andes!







In the unlikely event that fewer than 6 people have confirmed on this horse riding holiday by 30 days pre departure, the trip will still depart with a supplement of £509 payable per person for 4-5 passengers. This has not happened in the past 3 years and, in fact, most rides are fully booked months before departure.
Extra days in Mendoza can easily be added to this itinerary. Activities include:

Rafting on the River Mendoza, the region’s best. 5-7 miles on the rapids surrounded by awesome scenery. The level of difficulty of this river is OK for everyone (level 2.5-3), thus combining adventure with safety.

Climbing and Rappel: rappel a natural wall located in a deep gorge in the Andes. Before you start, the instructors will teach the basics that will help you to enjoy the experience of climbing this wall using ropes. This activity does not need any previous training and there is no age limit. This activity takes 4hs 30 min.

Trekking: towards the Cerro de la Cruz (6900 ft.) you will reach the base of the mountain. This a a trek of medium difficulty that can be done by everyone. Highly recommended for young people who are fond of nature and like scenic mountain landscapes. 4X4 wheel drive with mining tour: you will stop by the Seven Colours Hill. There, the guide will tell you about the geography, geology, flora and fauna of the area. You will do a mini trek (15-20 min.) and then start a ride along the Santa Helena creek. You will reach the viewpoint called “El Balcón” from where we can see the Uspallata Valley from an altitude of 6900 ft. Here, are the talcum and fluorite mines you will explore using safety helmets and lights. This activity takes 4 hrs.

Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to delve into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

Rough Guide to Argentina - 2nd Edition - Danny Aeberhard
On A Hoof And A Prayer: Around Argentina At A Gallop  - Polly Evans
Footprint Argentina Handbook - Christabelle Dilks

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

Fit and responsive Criollo horses all in good condition, from 15hh to 15.3hh. Horses are ridden in the traditional style, which is similar to Western riding with neck reining and long stirrups. Instruction is given on first day for those not familiar with this style, it is very easy to learn and quite addictive. Mules are also ridden over the crossing on the Argentine side. The saddles are South American Recado saddles. Riders will be given a horse to ride unless they request a mule. If your assigned horse/mule needs to be replaced due to lameness or any other issues it may be replaced with another horse (66% chance) or mule (33% chance). Terrain varies from mountainous to desert and the speed of the ride reflects the terrain and is mostly at a walk on the slopes of the Andes.

Rider requirements

Suitable for novice to experienced riders who are looking for a real riding expedition and have a sense of adventure! Travel light and keep camping gear to minimum. Some long days.
Age limit: 12 to 72 years old. Anyone with good general fitness can do this trip.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The first night is in luxury hotel accommodation, double or twin room with en suite bathroom. This a pack trip with all camping equipment carried with us or on pack horses/mules. You are provided with saddle bags which are about 45 x 45 x 15 centimetres each side. We set up camp and use sleeping bags for 5 nights. Tents are provided, but many prefer to sleep under the stars. At the camping sites there are no baths but water is available to wash oneself. Breakfast and tea at the camp: tea, coffee or mate tea, home made bread with jam, dulce de leche or cheese. Lunch on the trail: picnic style. Roast beef, ham, cheese sandwiches. Antipasti. Salami and cheese, etc. Fruits for dessert. Drinking water. Dinner at camp: local traditional meals like barbecue, stew or “empanadas”. Beef strogonoff, pasta, or pizza. Fruits for dessert. Wine and water. No spirits available. You are welcome to bring your own

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Climate Summary

Summer High 30°C (86ºF) - Low -5°C (25ºF). The program is subject to the natural weather contingencies involved in any environment like this

Climate Chart
Health

We strongly advise you to consult with your General Practitioner before travelling. The best medical advice regarding suitable immunisations and prophylaxis to enable you to travel safely requires knowledge of your medical history and therefore cannot be covered in this advice sheet. Recommendations are also subject to change and it is important to obtain the most up to date information available.

Electricity

Similar to USA. Electricity 110V 60HzHz. Electric Plug Details: Typically 2-pronged plug with flat metal pins.

Film and Camera Equipment

You will be able to stock up on camera or phone necessities in Santiago.

Packing List

The luggage weight limit (i.e. the weight of your bag that is carried by pack-mule) is 10 kg per person.

In addition, you will be given a saddlebag where you can pack all the clothing you need to carry with you whilst you ride, along with your sleeping bag and other essentials (you should not be carry more than 8kg in total with you on your horse). As you start the trip at one location and end it at another in different country, the rest of your luggage (10kg maximum) has to be carried on mules so please use a flexible bag for this and not a hard case.

Clothing and Luggage

• Sleeping bag should be comfortable at minus 10º C for the crossing of the High Andes
• A pillowcase is useful to contain spare clothes that make a good pillow
• Two changes of clothes: loose pants, long sleeve shirts which protect better from the sun than t-shirts. For the cold weather it is better to carry along a few thin warm clothes (t-shirts, undershirts, etc) than only one thick garment. Polar sweaters do well both in summer and winter
• Warm undershirt and underpants
• Waterproof jacket and/or poncho
• Hat (not a cap) and riding helmet
• Neckerchief
• Gloves (optional)
• Trekking shoes or riding boots
• Half chaps
• Sneakers (the ones that can get wet)
• Rain cape
• Sleeping mat / bedroll: By day in Argentina, you will ride on sheepskins and at night they make an excellent bed roll, but the sheepskins cannot be similarly removed from the saddles for the two nights in Chile so a sleeping mat, or bed roll, is recommended – even a cheap one will do - because they make sleeping more comfortable. If you prefer not to bring one from the UK, they may be bought in Chile for between $5 to $10 (and then disposed of); we can arrange for this if you ask. The bedroll would be taken with you on your Chilean horse.

Hygiene
• Personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush, tooth paste, etc, in small packaging
• Small towel
• Larger towel
• Wet wipes (optional)

Health
• Personal medicine
• Sunscreen
• Insect repellent (optional)
• Sunglasses
• Prescription glasses or contact lenses
• Water bottle

Accessories
• Binoculars (optional)
• Camera and/or video camera and spare batteries
• A head torch is ideal for camping

Documentation
• Medical and accident insurance details
• IDs or passport with corresponding visas. Photocopy of documents

Programmes

There are set departure dates for this programme between December and February of 9 days / 8 nights. Special departures can be arranged for groups of 6 or more.

Departure Dates

2017: 15 Jan; 20 Feb; 28 Dec
2018: 14 Jan; 18 Feb; 28 Dec
Additional dates are available on requests for groups of 10 or more from Dec - March.

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20169d/8n7double pp2,515
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 4-5639
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 2-31,515
20169d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent375
20179d/8n7double pp2,515
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 4-5639
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 2-31,515
20179d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent375
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20169d/8n7double pp3,145
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 4-5799
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 2-31,895
20169d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent465
20179d/8n7double pp3,145
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 4-5799
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 2-31,895
20179d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent465
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20169d/8n7double pp3,329
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 4-5845
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 2-32,009
20169d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent495
20179d/8n7double pp3,329
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 4-5845
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 2-32,009
20179d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent495
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20169d/8n7double pp30,145
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 4-57,655
20169d/8n7supplement for group of 2-318,185
20169d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent4,465
20179d/8n7double pp30,145
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 4-57,655
20179d/8n7supplement for group of 2-318,185
20179d/8n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent4,465
Wildlife

Condors are regularly seen on the trail as well as the typical wild and tame llama and alpacas. There are no dangerous wildlife in the area. Foxes and pumas live in the area but are more difficult to spot as they move around at night.

Other Activities

Rafting: rafting on the River Mendoza, the region’s best. 5-7 miles on the rapids surrounded by awesome scenery. The level of difficulty of this river is OK for everyone (level 2.5-3), thus combining adventure with safety.

Climbing and rappel: rappel a natural wall located in a deep gorge in the Andes. Before you start, the instructors will teach the basics that will help you to enjoy the experience of climbing this wall using ropes. This activity does not need any previous training and there is no age limit. 4hs and 30 min.

Trekking: towards the Cerro de la Cruz (6900 ft.) you will reach the base of the mountain. This a a trek of medium difficulty that can be done by everyone. Highly recommended for young people who are fond of nature and like scenic mountain landscapes.

4X4 Wheel drive with mining tour: you will stop by the 7 colours hill. There, the guide will tell you about the geography, geology, flora and fauna of the area. You will do a mini trek (15-20 min.) and then start a ride along the Santa Helena creek. You will reach the viewpoint called “ El Balcón” from where you can see the Uspallata valley from an altitude of 6900 ft. Here, are the talcum and fluorite mines you will explore using safety helmets and lights. This activity takes 4 hs.

Other Information

Argentina is the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil (almost all the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia could fit inside Argentina's land mass). The country is diverse and includes rain forest in the north, vast areas of fertile farming land in the centre, the Andean mountain range to the west and the desolate plains of Patagonia in the south, leading down to glaciers at the southern tip. Argentina has the world's southernmost city (Ushaia).

Despite Argentina's recent economic woes, its pleasures - stunning natural wonders, an elegant capital and a passionate culture - are still as tempting as ever. Argentina has a distinctly European feel, Argentinians are much
more European in temperament that their South American neighbours but their Latin spirit is still evident such as in their love of football and in the tempestuous dance of the Tango.

Argentina is three hours behind GMT. Remember in the summer the UK is one hour ahead of GMT and daylight savings is not in use in Argentina. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +54.

Chile's boundaries are geographically well-defined: to the west is the Pacific Ocean; to the east the Andes mountains; to the north is the Atacama Desert, the driest in the World; and to the south are the icefields and glaciers of Chilean Patagonia. There are wide variations of soil and climate between these features. Its 4,500 km coastline includes an amazing assortment of archipelagos and channels south of Puerto Montt. Although Chile is 4,329 km long at no point is it wider than 180 km. Chile's sovereign territory includes some Pacific islands, among them Easter Island, and it has a claim to a sector of Antarctica.

Chilean territory was among the last to be populated in Latin America. Prehispanic Chile was home to over a dozen different groups of indigenous people. The three main cultural groups were Incan, Mapuche and Patagonian. Northern Chile was an important center of culture in the medieval and early modern Inca empire. Afterwards, their culture was dominated by the Spanish during the Colonial and early Republican period. Other European influences, primarily English and French, began in the 19th century and have continued until today, as in other Western societies.

The national dance is the cueca. Another form of traditional Chilean song, though not a dance, is the tonada. In the mid-1960s native musical forms were revitalized with the Nueva Canción Chilena, which was associated with political activists and reformers.

Chileans call their country País de Poetas which means land of poets. Gabriela Mistral, was the first Chilean to win a Nobel Prize for literature. Chile's most famous poet, however, is Pablo Neruda, who also won the Nobel Prize and is world-renowned for his extensive library of works on romance, nature, and politics. His three highly individualistic homes, located in Isla Negra, Santiago and Valparaiso are popular tourist destinations.

Chile is four hours behind GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +56.

Other Country Information

Chile's boundaries are geographically well-defined: to the west is the Pacific Ocean; to the east the Andes mountains; to the north is the Atacama Desert, the driest in the World; and to the south are the icefields and glaciers of Chilean Patagonia. There are wide variations of soil and climate between these features. Its 4,500 km coastline includes an amazing assortment of archipelagos and channels south of Puerto Montt. Although Chile is 4,329 km long at no point is it wider than 180 km. Chile's sovereign territory includes some Pacific islands, among them Easter Island, and it has a claim to a sector of Antarctica.

Chilean territory was among the last to be populated in Latin America. Prehispanic Chile was home to over a dozen different groups of indigenous people. The three main cultural groups were Incan, Mapuche and Patagonian.

Northern Chile was an important centre of culture in the medieval and early modern Inca empire. Afterwards, their culture was dominated by the Spanish during the Colonial and early Republican period. Other European influences, primarily English and French, began in the 19th century and have continued until today, as in other Western societies.

The national dance is the cueca. Another form of traditional Chilean song, though not a dance, is the tonada. In the mid-1960s native musical forms were revitalized with the Nueva Canción Chilena, which was associated with political activists and reformers.

Chileans call their country País de Poetas which means land of poets. Gabriela Mistral, was the first Chilean to win a Nobel Prize for literature. Chile's most famous poet, however, is Pablo Neruda, who also won the Nobel Prize and is world-renowned for his extensive library of works on romance, nature, and politics. His three highly individualistic homes, located in Isla Negra, Santiago and Valparaiso are popular tourist destinations.

Chile is four hours behind GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +56.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Santiago, Chile at 2pm.
End point of ride - Mendoza, Argentina. It is possible to catch a bus back to Santiago at the end of the ride - this takes 6 hours and costs in the region of $40
Transfer:
Included from Santiago and back to Mendoza at end of ride. Transfer time is approx 2 hours.
Flight Guide:
International flights approx £750 and domestic flights approx £115. See below for flight info.
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