How to get to Puerto Rio Tranquilo from Argentina ?
After my 5 days in El Chalten, I decided to go to Bariloche crossing by Chile and the famous Carretera Australe. Connecting El Chalten straight to Bariloche was more obvious but for 2 reasons I didn’t want to do this way : there is nothing between those 2 cities and it takes 24 hours on the road ! Unfortunately, informations were poor when you want to cross Argentina to Chile in this region of Patagonia. So here is my experience.
I wanted to start my way up the Carretera Australe from Puerto Rio Tranquilo, where are the beautiful marble caves and cathedrals ! It was the city the most accessible on the map from Argentina and served by a road ! To do so, I had to go from El Chalten to Los Antiguos first, which is the last city before the border. Then, crossing to Chile Chico, the first city in Chile after the border, and finally reach Puerto Rio Tranquilo.
Summary : El Chalten > Los Antiguos > Argentina-Chile Border > Chile Chico > Puerto Rio Tranquilo
On paper, it looks simple but it is more hard in reality. By the time of my trip, we are end of October ! High season in Patagonia (both Argentinian and Chilean) only starts from November 15th. Thereby, buses to Los Antiguos are not regular. There are only 2 companies : Chalten Travel and Marga. For Chalten Travel, there was only 1 day bus per week, on Tuesday, for AR$ 2800 (October 2019). For Marga, a night bus is available every day costing more than AR$ 4000 (October 2019) !!! Just know that it takes 12 hours to do El Chalten-Los Antiguos !
Then from Los Antiguos, you need to cross the border until the first city in Chile : Chile Chico.
2 ways :
– take a bus “shuttle” from Los Antiguos to Chile Chico for AR$ 250 (October 2019)
Obviously, I choose the second option but know that the first one can be easy too. For the price, I choose comfort ! In low season, there was only 1 bus per day at 1pm. But because it is Chile, sometimes it can change and for no obvious reason, you absolutely need to ask about it at the bus terminal !
The ride was not very long : 30 minutes top if everything is going fine ! The driver also guides you for borders’ formalities, only have to follow.
Once in Chile Chico, you need to go to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. And this is an other story … Who says low season says few people and so few even no buses ! And it is almost mission impossible to hitchhike at this season, very few cars, almost none, go there.
What happen in my case …
I arrived at Chile Chico at 1:30pm. I asked if there was a bus to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. By the way, it is located at 160 km but it takes 3:30 hours to go … Actually, there was no bus this day ! Then the lady quickly caught up by saying that it might have one at 3:30 pm IF other people wanted to go too. Bad luck for me, I was the only one at this time. I was not presenting well.
Then I saw a group of 4-French girls coming with the same goal and it was party in my head because I knew that a bus could set up for us ! Those 4 girls arrived at 11:30am and tried to hitchhike to get to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. And like they confirmed what I thought, after 2 hours trying, they only saw 2 cars.
They set up a minivan to drive us there with 2 other travelers. Mostly there were people there that wanted to get back to Chile Chico ! The price though was pretty rough : 15000 CLP (October 2019) ! But at least, I left around 3pm !
From Chile Chico, you can also get to the other side of the lake Buenos Aires, to Puerto Ibanez, with Naviera Austral ! It can be interesting if you want to go straight to Coyhaique without going around the lake !
And like that, we have been able to make our 3-hour road journey to Puerto Rio Tranquilo … and what road !! It is amazing, incredible landscapes, beautiful view over Buenos Aires lake (also called General Carrera) but it is a dirt road ! Therefore, we can only drive at 60 km/h ! That’s why it takes at least 3 hours to go !
Quick tip : sit on right side of the bus to enjoy the view 😉
Anyway, this little adventure has been rich in emotions and allowed me to find other alternative solutions. It is quite challenging for me being in this unknown outcome situation and if I would have achieved my goal to get to Puerto Rio Tranquilo … me who study everything in advance ! This time it was not possible !
I hope this little storytime will help you if you get into the same boat as me. Or if you plan to make the same itinerary, with little informations about that, I hope I will reassure you a bit ! Just one advice : stay polite and kind !!! I can be frustrating for you but it is how it works over there, be indulgent !