Paso de Jama in the Andes

Paso de Jama

Paso de Jama is a mountain pass through the Andes between Chile and Argentina, with an altitude of about 4,300 m at the border. It is the northernmost road border crossing between the two countries. The pass connects Route 27 in Chile and National Route 52 in Argentina.  Route 27 reaches an altitude of 4,810 m 100 km west of the border.

We traveled on this route during the night of August 22nd to 23rd, 2013 and passed the border early in the morning, using the regular Andesmar bus.  Three companies operate this line from Salta in Argentina to Calama in Chile and vice versa, one of the most spectacular bus rides in the world. Most of the photographs in this post were shot after sunrise, from the bus, before and after the border.

Bus Andesmar riding towards Paso de Jama

Impressive infrastructure

Paso de Jama links the city of Jujuy in Argentina with San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The road opened on 6 December 1991, and is paved throughout since the year of 2005. It is opened throughout the year, although occasionally closed by snow. With a total length of 400 km it is part of a major South American infrastructure called Capricorn Axis. It is used by truck traffic between northern Argentina and Paraguay and the ports of northern Chile with a large ratio of auto carriers. The Argentine border station is just below the pass in the small settlement of Jama. The Chilean border station is at San Pedro de Atacama, 160 km from the pass.

 Show Map

A fantastic journey

While driving on these routes, one will admire some of the most incredible landscapes on earth. Going west, after the small village of Purmamarca Route 52 goes up 2,000 m through the Cuesta del Lipán and then down to Salinas Grandes, the largest salt flat in Argentina. After Susques the road towards the border is winding around colorful lagunas with many volcanoes in the background, just fantastic! We circle the Salar de Jama and hit the border station at 4,300m.

The border is only a few kilometers after the station. The road continues to climb for another 100 km, up to 4,800 m, passing the Salar de Aguas Calientes and several lagunas. Finally Route 27 starts its long descent towards the Salar de Atacama, another 160 km to go. You cannot miss Licancabur volcano, one of the most impressive in the region with an elevation of 5,920 m.