Stop on the Andes Crossing
Uphill
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
Gaucho lineup!
Inside local shop
At the border - Chile to Argentina

“...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 trail 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 a horseback 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 novices who are up for a challenge can complete the crossing.

View the captioned pictures of this ride across The High Andes by the late David L O Smith (who described 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 daily 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 MV of OBERWIL BEI ZUG on 26/02/2024

Ride Summary
Embrace the challenge, and surrender to the exceptional.
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
I know Eduardo (and Delfin) from the Inca Trail expedition in Salta and they were the reason I choose this ride. Not everyone is able to make you really cross the Andes, but Eduardo is. Most of the crossing of the Andes rides are not real crossing, just a tour in the mountains.
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Those horses and mules - you need to try a mule! - are amongst the most sure-footed animals in the world. Paired with excellent character, they were a dream to ride. Some saddles were more comfy than others but the tack was overall in excellent condition and well-fitting our equine partners.
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Thanks to the zoom calls and whatsapp group we could ask all necessary questions.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
This is an expedition crossing one of the highest mountain range in the world, they take it very seriously and so should you. All our group was very aware of the risks and dangers.
What could we do to improve this ride?
Clearly mark it as non-suitable for beginners, age limit should be 14 (under the approbation of the local organization).
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
8
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
You need to be very fit and have a good riding experience. Many passages or trails are steep, full of stones. The balance of the rider influence the horse and you don't want your horse to hesitate in those passages. Sleeping in tent, bathing in rivers, the experience is complete and it will put your physical condition to the test.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1 - Arrive Santiago de Chile
Riders will be transferred to Los Andes town at around noon and check into the hotel. Relax after the journey and spend the rest of the day at leisure. At the welcome dinner the guides will discuss the upcoming ride with the group.

Day 2
The group will be transferred from Los Andes to Los Patos. This is the same route taken by San Martin's army on his his way to Santiago, through the Aconcagua Valley and the Putaendo Valley. Riders will pass 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 the group's arrival. Migrations at local authorities allow the group to cross this unattended border after which the trail heads upstream along the Rocin river to Las Tejas, the first campsite.

Day 3
Today, the trail follows the Pacific Ocean watersheds as the group move up the Rocin river canyon. Overnight at El Cienego camp.

Day 4
Today is an early start to reach the international border at 3500 metres (11,550 ft). Changing horses is mandatory, so after saying farewell to the Chilean horses the group continue the ride with the Argentine team who will be waiting. Here riders get a clear view of the Aconcagua Mountain (6962 metres / 22975 ft), the highest peak in America and Western Hemisphere. Overnight at Valle Hermoso, the "beautiful valley". 

Day 5
Spend a second day at this heavenly spot to rest and take an easy day-ride along the valley to get a closer view of Mount Aconcagua. Alternatively. anglers may want to try their hand at trout fishing, or if preffered, just relax at the camp. Dinner and overnight at the campsite.

Day 6
The route heads along the Los Patos Valley, which gives its name to this pass, and is an old sea bottom full or marine fossils and the Volcan river. Camp at 3500 metres (11,550 ft) in Rancho de Lata to get ready for the next challenge.

Day 7
Today reaches the highest point of the journey as it crosses the Espinacito Slope at 4,500 metres (14,700 ft). This terrain helps one appreciate the huge obstacles that the Army in the Andes had to overcome. Overnight at Penon Colorado.

Day 8
After breakfast the route heads to Hornillas. This challenging journey is almost over and by now riders have a renewed admiration for the pioneers who first undertook this trip and cemented their names in history. Here riders say a fond farewell to the magnificent horses that have brought the group safely to this point. Riders will be taken to the town of Uspallata by minibus. Accommodation is in a local hotel. Revel in the week's adventure over a farewell dinner.

Day 9 - Uspallata
A day for a well-deserved rest in this mountain villa with several optional activities like rafting, biking, trekking, or just relaxing at the pool. Accommodation and overnight at the villa.

Day 10 - Mendoza wines and airport
Today is a gourmet day of wine making, wine tasting and a superb lunch! Leave Uspallata in the morning and travel to Luján de Cuyo,an area is known worldwide for producing several of Argentina’s best wines. No trip to Mendoza would be complete without a visit to the famous Club Tapiz boutique winery. During this private visit the group will have the chance to taste their premium wines directly from the oak casks. Lunch follows at the winery. Transfer to Mendoza city airport for departure. NOTE: It is best not to book any flights before 5pm out of Mendoza airport.  

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

NOTE: riders over 95kg by prior arrangement only and they will ride a mule specially arranged for them.

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: A trek toward the Cerro de la Cruz (6900 ft.) to 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 and mining tour: You will travel to the Seven Colours Hill where the guide will tell you about the geography, geology, flora and fauna of the area. There is a mini trek (15-20 min.) and then a ride along the Santa Helena creek to the viewpoint called “El Balcón” from where one can see the Uspallata Valley from an altitude of 6900 ft. This is the location of the talcum and fluorite mines which can be explored 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 (65% chance) or mule (35% chance).

The 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.
Please remember this amazing terrain is very challenging!
Age limit: 14 to 72 years old. Anyone with good general fitness and some riding experience can do this trip.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 242 lb/110 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. Riders are provided with saddle bags which are about 45cm x 45cm x 15cm each side. The group sets up camp and use sleeping bags for 6 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. Riders are welcome to bring their own.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Passport and Visa requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

Departure tax – Unless a departure tax was included in your airfare, you will have to pay it on leaving.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/chile

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Chile.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/chile

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

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

There are good health facilities in Santiago and other major cities, but private clinics and hospitals are expensive. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Chile and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health (ride specific)

Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

Electricity

In Chile the supply voltage is 220V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 220V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

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
• Hat (not a cap) and riding helmet (recommended but not compulsory)
• Neckerchief
• Gloves
• Trekking shoes or riding boots
• Half chaps
• Sneakers / flip-flops (the ones that can get wet - for washing in the river)
• Waterproof trousers
• 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
• Degradable Wet Wipes (optional)

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

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 program between December and February of 10 days / 9 nights. Special departures can be arranged for groups of 6 or more.

Departure Dates

2025: 8, 26 January; 12 February; 2 March
Additional dates are available on requests for groups of 6 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 £
202410d/9n7double pp3,075
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 4-5715
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 2-31,505
202410d/9n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent275
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
202410d/9n7double pp3,645
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 4-5845
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 2-31,779
202410d/9n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent325
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
202410d/9n7double pp4,055
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 4-5939
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 2-31,979
202410d/9n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent349
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
202410d/9n7double pp41,295
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 4-59,555
202410d/9n7supplement for group of 2-320,169
202410d/9n7single supplement for hotels and individual tent3,619
Recommended Reading

The Rough Guide to Argentina - 2nd Edition by Danny Aeberhard (Paperback - 25 Nov 2004) On a Hoof and a Prayer: Around Argentina at a Gallop by Polly Evans (Paperback - 1 Mar 2007 Argentina (Footprint Argentina Handbook) by Christabelle Dilks (Paperback - 1 Dec 2006)


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.

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 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 £780 and domestic flights approx £115. See below for flight info.
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