San Antonio de los Cobres to San Pedro de Atacama via Paso Sico

San Antonio de los Cobres – Olacapato – Catua – Paso Sico – San Pedro de Atacama

This fantastic route through the Puna de Atacama in northern Argentina and Chile is a great way to cross the Andes. The scenery is outstanding throughout as the road passes through wild landscapes of volcanoes, salares and lakes. This is a remote part of the Andes with few settlements so it’s best to take about a week’s supply of food from San Antonio (or San Pedro/Socaire if cycling in the opposite direction). Water can only be found at intervals along the road, so in places a day or two of water needs to be carried – we’ve noted in the description where it can usually be found.

There are a couple of options to choose from on this route. From Olacapato to Argentine aduanas (customs and immigration) we chose to go via Catua as we had heard from other cyclists that the route via Salar del Rincon is very sandy. Though the surface near Catua wasn’t great it was always rideable. On the Chilean side we planned on detouring from the main road to go to Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques, however the turn off when coming from the east is small and not sign posted, so we missed it. Thus the route described here doesn’t go to these beautiful lakes, and we don’t know the condition of the track to them, however we have since found (and included in the route description) GPS coordinates for the turn-offs.

We thought the isolation and other-wordly landscapes on this route made it a more interesting way to cross from Argentina to San Pedro de Atacama than the Paso Jama to the north, but as the road is unpaved and there are few people around (and little traffic on the middle section of the route) it is a lot more challenging. At all times of year be prepared for strong winds and low nighttime temperatures.

Our camera was broken for the duration of this route, so we don’t have any of our own photos of the wonderful landscapes, so thanks to Steve Fabes for allowing us to use some of his shots.

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Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km San Antonio de los Cobres (3,770m – GPS01). Town with accommodation options, shops, restaurants, ATM.
28km Climb to Alto Chorrillos, initially following a stream.
28km Alto Chorrillos (4,555m – GPS02).
34km Descend, then flat to Olacapato.
62km Olacapato (4,010m). Small railway village just off the main road. Very basic supplies and water available.
10km Continue through Olacapato on a flat road.
72km Cauchari (3,940m) – a few abandoned buildings and a double junction (signposted). No water. Initially – straight/L to Salar del Hombre Muerto, R to Salar del Rincon and Catua (we went R). Then at next junction – L to Salar del Rincon, R/straight to Catua. We took the Catua road.
12km On Salar de Cauchari (3,940m). Flat.
84km Start of climb.
11km Climb up a valley to the pass.
95km Abra de Arizaro (4,330m – GPS03).
14km Descend towards Catua.
109km Junction – R to Catua, 1 km away (3,980m – GPS04, basic accommodation, basic supplies and water), straight to Aduanas Argentinas.
17km (Going straight.) Short climb for 1km then descent to Aduanas Argentinas.
126km Aduanas Argentinas (3,830m – GPS05). Water.
12km Gentle climb.
138km Paso Sico – the Argentina/Chile border. Some big road signs but nothing else here.
11km Mostly gentle climb though it gets steep towards the end. Great scenery.
149km Abra Sico (4,458m – GPS06).
6km Descend.
155km Low point (4,250m) between Abra Sico and Abra El Laco.
4km Climb.
159km SAG post. (4,340m – GPS07). Water. Pity the guys at this hardship posting (though not if they confiscate your fruit/meat or other banned food imports). Great views though.
4km Steep climb.
163km Abra El Laco (4,578m – GPS08). The highest point on this route.
3km Descend.
166km Mina El Laco (GPS09). Staffed year round by a couple of (bored in off-season) guys. Stock up on water, and they also have internet if you need to make emergency contact with the outside world.
34km Descend to Lago Tuyaito (4,050m) then continue to Salar de Aguas Calientes.
200km Leave Salar de Aguas Calientes from its north-west shore. Beautiful scenery.
17km Climb 200m in 5km, then ups and downs until high point at just over 4,100m. Surface fine. About 14kms after leaving the shores of the Salar de Aguas Calientes is the turn off (GPS10) to Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques.
217km High point at just over 4,100m.
43km More up and down before a 600m descent to Socaire.The second turn off to Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques (GPS11 – which is well signposted and is where you’d rejoin the main road if you’d turned off at the first turn off at GPS10) is about 26kms from the first turn off (GPS10), and about 20kms before Socaire.
260km Socaire (3,270m). Civilization at last! Village with shops. Paving begins.
50km Rapid descent to about 2,600m, then quite flat to Toconao.
310km Toconao (2,500m). Town with tourist facilities.
38km Flat to San Pedro. After 22kms is the turn-off to the new observatory. We asked if we could cycle up it we were told it wasn’t opening to the public until 2012. There’s a barrier across the road so it’s not possible to get past, and I doubt they’ll let you cycle even in 2012 – but if anyone succeeds please let us know. (The 43km on our map is wrong – it’s 38km to immigration.)
348km San Pedro de Atacama immigration (2,440m). Welcome to gringo central, which is 1km or so further on.
Time taken – 6 days and amount climbed 3,340m 6 hours: SAdlC – Olacapato (headwind, 850m climb).
5 hours: Olacapato to Catua (450m climb).
7 hours: Catua to SAG (headwind, 790m climb).
1 hour: SAG to El Laco Mine (260m climb).
13 hours: El Laco Mine to San Pedro (headwind, 990m climb).
Traffic Plenty of trucks from SAdlC to Cauchari, but they all turn off to Salar del Hombre Muerto. A few vehicles from Cauchari to Catua. Two vehicles in three days from Catua to Socaire. Plenty from Socaire to San Pedro.
When we cycled Mid June 2010.
Difficulty 4
How much we had to push on this route Only when there were storm force headwinds.

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 San Antonio de los Cobres 24.2233 S, 66.3194 W, 3,770m.
GPS02 Alto Chorrillos 24.2093 S, 66.4758 W, 4,555m.
GPS03 Abra de Arizaro 23.9820 S, 66.9431 W, 4,330m.
GPS04 Catua 23.8707 S, 67.0054 W, 3,980m.
GPS05 Aduanas Argentinas 23.8740 S, 67.1570 W, 3,830m.
GPS06 Abra Sico 23.8090 S, 67.3549 W, 4,458m.
GPS07 SAG post 23.8254 S, 67.4419 W, 4,340m.
GPS08 Abra El Laco 23.8414 S, 67.4674 W, 4,578m.
GPS09 Mina El Laco 23.8614 S, 67.4914 W, 4,430m.
GPS10 1st Turn-off to Lagunas 23.8951 S, 67.8129 W, 4,040m.
GPS11 Lagunas road rejoins 23.7033 S, 67.8282 W, 3,880m.

Nearby routes:      Cafayate to San Antonio             Susques to Salar de Pocitos             Paso Jama              Sur Lipez Lagunas

22 Responses to “San Antonio de los Cobres to San Pedro de Atacama via Paso Sico”

  1. Elmar & Ellen van Drunen 25/05/2014 at 21:00 # Reply

    We just cycled this route from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta (May 2014) and have some updates:

    1. pavement after Socaire is extended for about 30 kilometers.
    2. you are not allowed to camp with the park of Laguna Miscanti and Miniques (we got kicked out) and they don’t want you to continue cycling through the park after Laguna Miniques. Coming from the direction of Socaire they will see you, I guess if you come from the other direction nobody will know you are there. In that case there is a great campspot near Laguna Miniques within some wind breaking walls.
    3. at the north-east shore of Salinas de Aguas Calientes a small dirt track leads down to the Salinas. Here you will find a sheltered place to pitch your tent out of the wind.
    4. the road surface along Lago Tuyaito has deteriorated. Very sandy. We didn’t have to push, but it slowed us down a lot.
    5. After passing the SAG post/police post (you MUST have an exit stamp, obtained in San Pedro de Atacama, otherwise you can go back the way you came.. they won’t let you through) and before the next pass (Abra Sico) there is a great spot to camp next to some rocks and walls to keep you out of the wind.
    6. the road surface between Catua and Abra de Arizaro is very bad now, especially the first ten kilometers. Very sandy and a lot of mud. We had to push our bikes many times.

    Hope this will help!
    Elmar & Ellen van Drunen

    • paul g 29/01/2015 at 14:47 # Reply

      mid jan west to east

      The only thing I have to add is that if you’re heading towards salar de pocitos on the arg side, take the main road from arg immigration {the grey one on the sketch map} and after 39km, shortly after the road veers away from the salar and climbs, there’s a right turn which is a great shortcut to the road to Pocitos. The shortcut itself is 7km, then it’s another 24km to Pocitos along the ‘main’ road. This shaves off a significant distance…

      Overall a cool route, but I’d recommend socompa instead for hardcore dirt riders…


  2. Cass 11/07/2014 at 12:02 # Reply

    Mid July 2014.

    Heading in the direction of San Pedro definitely adds to the challenge of this beautiful ride. Expect strong headwinds on the climbs, and on the descents! They seem to build from around midday onwards.

    Some bad corrugation on the descent from Alto Chorrillos. This, with the wind, and a low pass en route, makes progress slow going.

    A little soft under tyre on the climb to Abra Arizaro.

    The descent to Catua felt fine to me. Road becomes a river in places, but there are drier (though sandier) parallel tracks. The road is now good between Catua and the Argentinian border post.

    Argentinian border has open access wifi. The pass was officially closed from the Chilean side, but not the Argentinian side. We were able to sweet talk our way past the Argentinian border, by saying we’d return if the Chileans decided not to let us through. We had to sign a waiver ‘in case anything happened’ in between. Took an hour of discussion and some paperwork. Coffee was provided while we waited (-:

    The climb up to the SAG and Abra el Laco felt tough! Much wind.

    Since Elmar and Ellen’s updates, the Lago Tuyaito section has been improved. Work is ongoing, still many trucks. Good surface at the moment.

    Forgot to write down the GPS co-ordinate of the Lagunas turnoff (and didn’t have a cycle computer) so missed the track, even though I was looking out for it. Real shame, as the road is now paved a little beyond the 217km (4100m) high point – this detour would thus avoid needless blacktop (-; It looked like a great trail – you can see it when you look back on the climb to the high point, cutting straight across the valley floor. If I’d known how soon the pavement started, I’d have gone back for it.

    Temps are extremely cold at this time of year. The folk at El Laco mine claimed -32c! We found abandoned buildings to sleep in each night, and a walled enclosure to camp in at the bottom of Socaire (though it was much warmer and less windy by then).


  3. Lee Vilinsky 08/12/2014 at 21:10 # Reply

    I cycled this route from San Pedro (Chile) to San Antonio (Argentina) with Alberto and Lucy of in late November 2014.

    For pictures and other impressions, here is my take on the route:

    This was a very scenic ride that, in comparison to other routes on this website, was relatively easy. This was due to a few things in general:

    1. Wind. Every day saw a very strong tailwind, pushing us forcefully in the direction we were headed. This was usually in the afternoon, though some mornings had this wind as well. In fact, I was pushed up to Abra Sico, climbing the 5% grade at 20 kph! It sounds pleasant on paper, but the wind was so strong that it was blowing sand up the back of my shirt. Looking at the comments above, it seems there is a Westerly wind at all times of the year.

    2. Shelter. It’s theoretically possible to stay in or around some kind of manned shelter every night of this journey.

    3. Food & Water. I never carried more than four liters at a time. I chose to stock up on food in Socaire rather than San Pedro. Some food can be bought in Olacopata, essentially a day’s ride before San Antonio.

    4. Road Condition. The Chilean side was mostly fantastic. The pavement is now extended until 2km just before the first high point. There are many sections after that that have been recently regraded and were practically like riding on pavement. There was construction crew from the Chilean SAG post up to the border currently regrading that section. Argentina’s side is more of a hodgepodge, but no section was ever overly sandy or corrugated. Some parts on the Argentinian side seem to have been regraded as well.

    5. Climate. At this time of year, the temperature during the day ranged from comfortable to moderately hot. Every day was bright and sunny and the sun was its strongest around 3pm. The evenings were cool, though never freezing. I didn’t have a thermometer, but I bet the night temps were between 2-6 C.

    Some random points, roughly in order from San Pedro to San Antonio.

    -Suggested by Elmar and Ellen in the comment above, the sheltered camp spot at the Northeast end of Salar de Aguas Calientes was brilliant. Though I missed it at first. After the descent to the salar, take the road for another 5km or so and then take the track to the right, just before the brow of the last little hill.
    -Friendly folks at the Aduanas Argentinas. Free wifi and a place indoors to spend the night.
    -We took the “main” road (gray on the sketch map) from Aduanas Argentinas straight to Cauchari (i.e., NOT via Catua). The condition of this road was good and you avoid about 300m of climbing, according to Alberto’s GPS. The distance is practically the same as taking the road via Catua. Taking this road is obvious coming from the West. Coming from the East, during the junction madness at Cauchari, first go R then go L (to Salar del Rincon). It is well sign-posted.
    -Much of the road from Olacapata to San Antonio is in very good condition, EXCEPT for the last 20km getting into San Antonio. This last stretch was not short of washboard by any means.
    -There is free municipal camping in San Antonio, right behind the church on the plaza.

    BONUS: Getting to Salta

    Going from San Antonio to Salta (164km) in one long day is possible, thanks to a massive 3,000m descent all on pavement. My original intention was to go straight to Cafayate via Abra del Acay, but I needed my bottom bracket replaced and my camera repaired. I got on the wrong road out of San Antonio so this ruined my chances of getting to Salta in one day, but a few notes if attempting this:

    -Wind is the most important factor. There is always a strong headwind after the pass that starts in the afternoon. Best to do the first 30km over Abra Blanca (4080m) as early as possible. Getting caught on the road after 3 or 4pm will massively hinder your progress.
    -From San Antonio, it is 22km of ripio (though very good condition for most of it) up until the start of the brand new pavement. Another 8km to Abra Blanca (4080m).
    -A few villages on the initial descent, Las Cuevas (46km), Santa Rosa de Tastil (60km), and Alfarcito (71km) (all distances from San Antonio). All villages have water and basic shops. Santa Rosa de Tastil has some very nice pre-Incan ruins, a 100m climb up a dirt road just before the town.
    -After Alfarcito, there is essentially nothing save for a few kioskos until Campo Quijano (130km).
    -There was some ripio for the 15km before Campo Quijano, though it looks like this section is ready for pavement very soon.
    -After Campo Quijano, the traffic starts to thicken with every kilometer. It’s straight all the way to a gigantic traffic circle that puts you onto highway 68 (North) heading towards the city center. Though the traffic is horrible, this section of highway 68 has a massive shoulder.
    -Follow signs for “El Centro” and then calm your nerves with a Grido ice cream on the main square before heading to the ridiculously well-valued Hostal Salta Por Siempre 7 blocks South of the Plaza on Tucuman and Buenos Aires.

    There used to be a Casa del Ciclista in Salta, but Ramon, the owner/bike mechanic, no longer has space. His bike shop is #87 Calle Coronel Moldes, on Plaza Alvarado and he will certainly hook you up with a great price if you need anything done on your bike. They have good quality parts. Also, there is a cobbler just around the corner who did great work for my frame bag – his shop is called “El Tigre”.

    Thanks for making another amazing route so accessible!


    • Antonie 09/12/2015 at 21:33 # Reply

      Had a go at the ‘Getting to Salta’ part of this post.

      Left San Antonio at 8 in the morning. Was at Abra Blanca at 10 am. Wind picked up at 11 am and had me crawling from Alfarcito onwards. Rolled into Campo Quijano at 17:30 and called it a day when I saw the municipal campground had a swimming pool. Campo Quijano is a small touristy town for Saltenos who have a day off. After CQ, another 2 hours to Salta centro. Unfortunately, Salta por Siempre isn’t so ridiculously well-valued anymore.
      There’s now a bike path between the aeropuerto and the roundabout to Ruta 68. Local cyclists use the shoulder as well, so I think that’s the ‘best’ way into the city.Looks like the section between San Antonio and Abra Blanca will be all paved very soon, the section before CQ will probably have to wait some more time.

      Despite the wind, a really beautiful road.

  4. Julia & Laurent 09/08/2015 at 15:53 # Reply

    Hi AndesbyBike and thanks a lot for this fantastic website.

    We rode some of your routes since South of Perou and always loved to have such a specific and very precise informations. We gonna try to do some updates or comments. In our personal webpage, we are uploading the gpx tracks in a map, you can find that in the « Où sommes-nous ? » page. If somebody want gpx tracks or more information about distances and elevation profile, contact us.

    Paved road from SP de Atacama to the turn-off to the lagunas (and even more) as said before.

    Climb up to Casa de la Reserva Nacional de los Flamencos Lagunas Miscanti y Miñiques is 7km long, very sandy and corrugated and steep gradient the last 5km, but always rideable (we had to push only few meters). Up there, you can’t camp, neither find water, so stock up in Socaire when heading west. Entrance fee is 3000$ chilean. Nevertheless, they can let you camp in « emergency case » and find you some water from Socaire for the next morning.

    Callejon de Varela (small track to join GPS 10) is closed but we took it as we woke up early. It’s 17kms long (so shorter than go back to main road) and mostly smooth downhill but rocky and then very sandy in the Pampa de Varela, we had to push a lot (approx 2km in total) also because we had a lot of weight (food for 4 days and water for 2 days).

    The section between GPS point 10 and Salar de Aguas Calientes and even until high point over Laguna Tuyaito (so 14km + 12km) isn’t as good as we thought with Lee’s update but always rideable (lots of corrugated sections – low speed). Then the road improves a lot until Paso Sico and the big signposted-marks at the official border line. Wind can clearly help a lot heading west. Don’t trust the kilometered signposted-marks on chilean side, about 10km always missing…and tour guides or carabineros don’t know either ! Always trust AbB kilometering informations !

    Argentinian side is much worse to ride. We took the main road (RN 51) from Aduanas-Migracion post where they let us stay 1 night. From here to high point over the Salar del Rincon (about 38km), a lot of corrugated and sandy patches, then 16km of downhill with good road until Cauchari. From Cauchari to Olacapato Grande, 10km with much more traffic (from the Mina del Salar de Pocitos), big trucks and very bad road conditions (very corrugated and sandy).

    In Olacapato Grande, we stayed at the police office, nice people and good internet.

    Then from Olacapato, 12 first km are bad, then the road improves until Chorrillos Pass (just some corrugated patches) and then is in very good conditions until SA de los Cobres. But take care, the road conditions are always changing as corrugations appear very quickly after roadword if there are big trucks and traffic. We‘ve just met a roadwork machine which was destroying the « calamina » on our way down to SA.

    Very nice route, chilean part with incredible landscapes. Quite no traffic excepted at the end from Cauchari and SA de los Cobres (more minecamp and trucks !)

    Thanks again AndesbyBike !

    Buen pedal, buena ruta y buen viento a tod@s !

    • Julia & Laurent 09/08/2015 at 16:03 # Reply

      We rode that route in early august 2015. Cold weather, strong westerlies wind.

  5. Axel BikeTrippers 18/09/2015 at 21:34 # Reply

    We just cycled this route early September from San Pedro to San Antonio. It is easily doable in 4-5 days.
    A few updates:

    After Olacapato
    – there is a great camping spot 300m after the village. You have to push the bike in the sand but the spot is in a small canyon which protects you from strong wind.
    – Make sure to bring some pesos argentinos, should you need to buy some food in Olacapato. Argentinian don’t like chilean pesos.

    In San Antonio
    – there is a free wifi spot next to San Antonio’s church just by the camping spot
    – if you go 500m from the church down San Antonio (next to the bank) you will find Maximiliano and Valeria bakery where you can be hosted in a warm room instead of freezing by the church

    For the detailed uphill/downhill, you can check our data here:

    San Pedro to Socaire:
    Socaire to pass before salar de Aguas Calientes:
    Pass to Argentinan border:
    Argentinan border to Olacapato:
    Olacapato to San Antonio:

    Axel and Leticia

  6. Antonie 09/12/2015 at 21:18 # Reply

    Cycled early december west to east.

    An important administrative novelty along this route is that Chilean customs (Migracion, Aduanas, SAG) have now moved to the Aduanas Argentinas, which in turn is now officially called ‘Control Integrado’. This means you no longer have to go to San Pedro for an exit or entry stamp. The old Chilean SAGpost has now been converted into an ‘Estacion de Carabineros’.

    The route description as given by Julia and Laurent was still correct in December 2015, as is the description given by Ellen and Elmar about the Catua route.

    Accommodation: Socaire has an unmarked hospedaje next to the almacen on the plaza (7000 CLP, WiFi, hot shower). In Catua, the family that manages the hospedaje on behalf of the community invited me to their hous for a warm shower, tea and dinner. (50AR$, recommend highly!). Hospedaje is (unmarked) opposite the church, ask around for the senora with the llave. From Catua, you can make it to San Antonio in one long day (10 hours). Camped the other 2 nights. Despite being early December, water left outside would be frozen solid in the morning…

  7. Micka & Pauline 07/04/2016 at 12:50 # Reply

    Cycled from San Antonio to San Pedro in March 2016.

    We confirm the important information of Antonie about Chilean customs.

    -from Alto Chorillo to Abra Arizaro the road state is poor (corrugated and sandy) but ridable and there are still some correct sections.

    -from Abra Arizaro to Catua (about 15km descent), the surface is really bad. We had to push the bike several times and it took us 2 hours riding to reach Catua (ie about 8km/h in descent). From Catua to Abra Arizaro it might be tough with lots of pushing.
    The question is: take this road or the other one? If we would have to do it again we would have taken this road again because of Catua welcoming. We spent a full day and a second night there because we feel so comfortable. It’s a good place to go if you are interested in Puna inhabitant’s life. We learnt a lot from them. About the landscapes from Cauchari to Catua we found some good views and environment but punctually, the rest of the way is not ugly but not fantastic too. We don’t know the other road so we can’t compare.

    If you want to sleep in a bed in Catua go to the church and ask for Vilma which is in charge of the communal hospedaje (same information Antonie gave). Price is still 50 pesos witout hot shower. No internet. But Vilma welcomed us with bred and tea and offer us a hot shower at her home.

    -from Catua to Argentinian/Chilean customs (good internet, water, possibility to sleep): correct ripio but not fantastic

    -from Argentinian/Chilean customs to Argentinian/Chilean border (signs): quite okay

    -from Argentinian/Chilean border (signs) to laguna Tuyaito the road is PERFECT. It’s a ripio like-asphalt

    -from laguna Tuyaito to the tarmack the road is quite bad (corrugated mostly), but always ridable. It’s still better than around Catua.

    -In Socaire the information of Antonie (Socaire has an unmarked hospedaje next to the almacen on the plaza (7000 CLP, WiFi, hot shower) seems to be obsolete now. We spent lots of time to find it and the owner only propose to us to let us pitch our tent for free. At the northern point of the village there is an official hospedaje (10 000 CLP per person).

    -In Toconao there is a nice spot to camp under the bridge, just 300m before the carabineros -one the way Sico –> San Pedro-). There is an easy large path just after the bridge on your left which goes down to the river. Exact position of the spot is S23°11.246′ , W68°00.213′ . You will camp inside the beautiful Quebrada Jeré. You can easily walk inside for 1km to the upper part of the river (ie to the East) where you will reach the point from where tourists will be able to see from a view point over you (you can reach it from the village but you have to pay 1500 CLP).


    We DIDN’T took this route as we decided to take the classic route because it was the first time we cross this pass. We found the classic route wonderful especially on the Chilean side. But if we come back we will try this other route. We did some research before our trip and this alternative itinerary seems to be feasible although it is probably tough and adventurous due too probably bad surface and very remote places without any traffic. This route is on the East side of the volcanoes chain (around 5600m) you will see on your right (when you go from Paso Sico to San Pedro) on the classic itinerary from the beginning of the tarmack until Toconao. It means you will absolutely see different landscapes than the classic route (you will miss the laguna Tuyaito, the salar de Aguas Calientes which is our favorite place on this route, the laguna Miscanti and Miñiques).

    Here are the informations we have. If someone has done it before or will do it in the future, please let us know !!! Be responsible, take more water and food than expected as we have still no feedback of cyclist having done it. This itinerary is probably tough and we have absolutely no information of the state of the road and possibly water points. Progress may be very slow if the road looks like more a mountain bike track or a beach. This route is certainly much more easier from the way South to North (4320m –> 2450m) than the other way (almost only ascent).

    Coming from Argentina, the starting point is at the old SAG Chilean post (4320m), which is today a normal Chilean carabineros check point (km 159 on Andes by Bike description). Take water there. GPS is S 23°49.528’ , W 67°26.476’ (4320m)
    The exit point is on the surfaced road going to San Pedro d’Atacama, around 12km before Toconao. GPS is S 23°16.441’ , W 68°00.130’ (2450m).

    Length of this route is about 140km. Be careful because we calculated the distances from a map with an approximative scale. Therefore the lack of accuracy is going up from km0 to km138. However we would say than between two points the accuracy would be around +/- 2km. And total length is between 135 and 155km. However the altitude mentioned should by quite reliable at +/- 15m.

    Strategic GPS points:

    km0: S 23°49.528’ , W 67°26.476’ (4320m)

    ~km15: pass (4750m) S 23°44.637’ , W 67°28.421’

    ~km30: S 23°39.603’ , W 67°27.517’ (4390m) go straight. There is a track going back on your right which goes to the paso Huaitiquina (4300m) which is the border with Argentina. Crossing this border here will probably lead you to troubles and we didn’t find any evidence of a track on the Argentinian side anyway.

    ~km55: Salar (4200m) on your right

    ~km72: Pass (4500m) S 23°30.661 , W 67°39.444’

    ~km76: laguna Lejía (4340m)

    ~km82: S 23°29.263’ , W 67°44.466’ (4310m) go straight to continue. Go left to go to Socaire (3270m) which is at about 30km if you absolutely need water, or if you are fed up with this shitty idea we gave !

    ~km112: S 23°19.442’ , W 67°47.666’ (3860m) go left. There is a path which on the right. The end of this path seems to be 8km further at 4200m at the bottom of a summit which is at 5180m. At this GPS coordinate, I have the name of Tumbre on a map but I don’t have the proof if it is the name of a place inhabited or not.

    ~km124: S 23°18.923’ , W 67°53.421’ Talabre village (3250m). Probably tarmack from this point (we saw from the road going to San Pedro this road asphalted with a sign indicating Talabre)

    ~138km: S 23°16.441’ , W 68°00.130’ (2450m) exit point. Junction with the road going to San Pedro (at about 50km).

    If people are interested, we will be able to create a GPX file of this entire track (not before July 2016). You can write us at

    Good ride and always explore !

  8. Jeremy et Madeleine 19/06/2017 at 16:39 # Reply


    Thanks a lot for informations about this incredible road. Scenery are amazing, specially on the Chilean side.
    We ride this road from SA to San Pedro in mid may 2017, and we took 7 days to reach SP.
    All GPS points describe before are right, very usefull for water !!

    A little update, the chilean clean the road until the geographical border. Coming from Argentina, the road is very very good 10km after the border.
    We find again ripio 5km after the old mine, but lot of trucks and people are working there, so we can imagine that the road will be better in the futur. But no work on the Argentinian side.

    In mid May, we got very cold temperature, negative temperature all the day long when crossing the Paso Sico, with a strong head wind. Be prepare for that !

    We ask the police to sleep in a sheltered place for the night, and they nicely drive us until the old mine, where we had a very cumfortable night, and water.

    Here some photos and an article for crossing this border, unfortunately it is written in french;

    Thanks and enjoy !

    • Les toucans 13/12/2017 at 02:26 # Reply

      All paved from San Pedro to the signpost of Paso Sico for february 2018 and nearly finish in novembre when we ride it. In the argentinian’s side, the national road 51 is good, they made it better last year, just a little bit bumpy. More informations in french on our website les toucans lèvent le camp.

    • Laura&François 05/05/2018 at 20:08 # Reply

      We ride this road from San Antonio de los Cobres to San Pedro de Atacama in mid april 2018. It took us 5 days to go to Socaire and then 1 more day to join SP. Here are some informations :
      -the road from Cauchari to Aduanas via Catua is still sandy in some parts (especially after the abra de arizaro).
      -in Catua, we asked for an hospedaje in front of the church (it is the municipalty building). They have several rooms, a bathroom with hot water and a kitchen (a sink), all cleaned. They provide you blankets, even though there is no heater, we did not feel cold during the night. You can store your bikes inside but the building is not locked. It is 150 pesos/person. Other people may live here because we heard some noise during the night.
      -The road is newly paved from the paso sico (since february 2018, the road between Paso Sico to San Pedro is paved).
      -The sheltered place located before the SAG is now « protected » by yellow strips (authority might fear that some stones will fall from the ruins ? or is it to prevent people from camping there ?) ; we found some place to camp next to the ruins, there are several big stones…But I guess you can still camp in the ruins.
      -Chili is changing its policy in terms of park access in Salinas : there are guards (also at the lago tuyato) in several places and it is now forbiden to walk or to camp next to the lagunas. Guards told us that the access to these locations will be charged in the future (maybe next year) so as the Minique park is. At Salinas de Aguas Caliente, they allowed us to camp on the other side of the road (on your right coming from the SAG) where there are rocks, just before the ascension, at the end of the salinas (before the road turns right) ; or you can also camp above the road, in the turning point…Another cyclist we met was allowed to camp at the mirador.
      -You can still sleep in the Aduanas and the Mina El Laco for free. Only two people work in Mina El laco at this time of the year (maintenance ; miners work there from september…).
      -We did not get front wind as we expected except from the SAG to the Salinas (Tuyato and Aguas Caliente ; before that, we had back wind.
      -In Ollacapato and Catua, there are Kioscos selling basic food suplies.

  9. Yoshi and Marcos 25/03/2018 at 13:56 # Reply

    Thank you andesbybike, for a lot of useful information.
    We did Socaire-San antonio in Feb 2018.

    *Socaire is a small village but you can buy some basic things like pan. There is a nice restaurant too. They gave us drinking water.
    *At present, the road is all paved to the border and after that all gravel to San antonio.
    *The really important thing is that now chile and argentina have a complexed immigration office in the argentina side. You do not have to go to San pedro for a stamp on your passport. The immigration has wifi, hot shower, kitchen, dormitory, all of them are free. The tap water there was a bit salty but I think is okay after treatment.
    *Olacapato is a small town with a police office, some basic shops. The policeman was very nice and let us stay in his office for free. He had wifi too.
    *Puna is extremely dry and has strong UV so bring something to protect your skin and lip! My lip burned and hurt so much that I had problem with eating.

    For details, please visit our website.

  10. Floriane & François 06/04/2018 at 14:59 # Reply


    We did Paso de Sico in February 2018 from Argentina to Chile. Things have changed a bit:

    – The route in Chile is completely on tar from the border to San Pedro de Atacama, no more dirt road. It was brand new when we went there.
    – In Argentina, the route is on tar from Salta to San Antonio de los Cobres
    – Both Chilean and Argentina border control (Gendarmeria Argentina, Aduanas Argentina, Migraciones Argentina, SAG Chile, PDI Chile) are now in the same building in Argentina where only the Argentinean border control was before. It’s a big complex with a building dedicated to travelers. You can ask to sleep there and you will be given access to a dorm, a kitchen, a bathroom with hot shower. However the water there is not potable.
    – In Chile, there is only Carabineros where SAG was. They gave us water but they didn’t allow us to use their bathrooms.

    If you want more information (GPS tracks, elevations, photos, day by day resume) got to our website:

  11. Alee 07/06/2018 at 10:53 # Reply

    I rode Sico Pass in early-May 2018. The biggest update to the route is that the sealed road in Chile now extends all the way to the Argentinean border!

    The wind from San Antonio to the Chilean border was insane. Not sure if I was unlucky with my choice of days, but it was very slow moving for me. There’s an abandoned building at approx. 39km if you suffer the same fate as me.

    Overnight temperatures are as cold as -10 degrees Celsius in May, so bring your winter gear and sleep with your batteries/water tucked inside your bag.

    Staying at the border crossing is a must. You’ll get access to a warm bed, a hot shower and the kitchen for free. Make sure you’ve consumed all your fruit and veg before going into Chile; they were very thorough when checking my bags.

    The Chilean section of this route is incredible! These have been some of my favourite vistas in South America so far. The wind picked up at about 2-3pm in Chile, so if heading west, plan to finish a little bit early to avoid the headwinds. The mornings were completely still and perfect for riding.

    A friend of mine stayed at El Laco Mine. They offered him a bed, shower and meals when he asked to sleep inside.

    I rode up to Lagunas Miniques and Miscanti from the south on the dirt track. The park rangers weren’t very happy with me when I arrived, as you’re not allowed to walk/ride near the shore of Miniques. You’d need to be pretty sneaky to go the opposite direction down the dirt track.

    10/10 would recommend this route. Here’s a video of my experience:

  12. envourchonsnosvelos 07/07/2019 at 16:45 # Reply

    Hi Harriet and Neil and thank you for the details of this route !

    We are a French family with 3 kids (5, 7 and 9 years old) and we have been travelling from Lima (Peru) to Patagonia for 1 year. We had 2 tandems (adult-kid) and a kid bike.
    We did this route in October 2018 from San Pedro de Atacama (SPA) in Chile to San Antonio de Los Cobres in Argentina. This ride is absolutely amazing, our best part of all our trip ! We cycled from SPA to Catua (Argentina), we took 12 days with breaks for 250 km. 10 km after Catua, we had a accident, a bus crashed our tandem so we got up into the bus bewteen Catua to San Antonio.

    For us, the 2 main difficulties were the water and the food because we were not able to do lot of kilometer a day. In this post, we describe how we did which can be of help for families.

    Our route : SPA – Toconao – Socaire – Catua and San Antonio de Los Cobres. From San Pedro to the border line (210 km), the road is asphalted. There after, it is a dirt road (sand or washboard).

    So, some tips about this route :
    – From SPA to Toconao, 39 km, 1 day (2 480 m) : little traffic. In Toconao, we slept close to “swimming pools” close to the river with lots of vegetation (gps point : S 23.188438 S, 68.007683 W). Very nice, quiet, shadow. Toconao : food and water.
    – From Toconao to Socaire, 52 km, 2 days (3 270m) : little traffic. We camped close to the stadium (there is water close to restrooms (closed)). Socaire : food and water. In Socaire, we asked to the community (the guardians of the Laguna Aguas Calientes, and their office is at the right hand in entering to Socaire) to carry some food and water from Socaire to the laguna Aguas Calientes, by car, because there is no water between Socaire to “Campamento El Laco” (iron mine, 92 km) and no food between Socaire to Catua (Argentina, 132 km). So we had to have water for 92 km (3 days for us) and food for 132 km (4 days for us).
    – From Socaire to Laguna Aguas Calientes, 61 km, 2 days (3 975 m) : very little traffic. We slept in guard’s hut. We found our water and our food here. The guards are so friendly !
    – From Laguna Aguas Calientes to “Campamento El Laco” (iron mine, 4 400 m), 31 km, 1 day : no traffic. We asked to sleep in the building of “Campemento El Laco”. We slept inside on some mattresses, it was really nice. There is water an we used their kitchen.
    – From « Campamento El Laco » to Las Barrancas (immigration office, 3 810 m), 40 km, 1 day : no traffic. We slept inside, in a dormidory (hot showers, wifi, kitchen… for free !), it was really perfect. Of course, there is water.
    – From Las Barrancas to Catua (3 950 m), 17 km, 0.5 day : no traffic. In Catua, we asked to the community to sleep in the guest house (hot showers, free-wifi outside…). Shops to buy some food. We took our your time and asked to Judith a young girl (about 17 years old in 2018) to visit arounds, it was very interesting. We spent 3 or 4 days here, it was really nice.
    – From Catua to San Antonio de Los Cobres (2 or 3 hours by bus). After Catua, it was sandy, it was hard. We had a accident, a bus crashed our tandem so you took a bus bewteen Catua to San Antonio. After, we think it would be better, but we really don’t know. It is the desert. In San Antonio : shops including bicycle’s shop (we found another rim).

    If you want to read about it and see photos, you can go on (it is French, but you can translate it using the google translate button on the right at the top) :
    – From San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to Las Barrancas (immigration office – Argentina) :
    – From Las Barrancas to San Antonio de Los Cobres (to La Poma) :

    If you want to see and download our itinerary, you can go on :
    – From San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to Las Barrancas (immigration office – Argentina) :
    – From Las Barrancas to San Antonio de Los Cobres (to La Poma) :

    Enjoy !
    Cheers. Pascal and Gwenaël

  13. Timothy Tower 29/10/2019 at 16:47 # Reply

    I cycled the Paso Sico Route in Oct 2019. I was alone. I had just finished a 2 month backcountry tour of Bolivia, ending in San Pedro deAtacama, Chile. From there I cycled the Pikes’ Paso Sico route (going E instead of W). I have included detailed daily logs and gpx tracks in my CrazyGuy blog See Days 204 to 213.

    Many thanks, Neil and Harriet, for all the trouble you have taken to create this website. It has helped me both in Peru and Bolivia, and from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta.

    Timothy Tower


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