Andes Cruise

by Ucman Scher
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Andes Cruise Solo Trip Guide

The Andes Cruise or Cruce Andino is a crossing between Argentina and Chile from Bariloche to Puerto Varas or Puerto Montt and consists of taking 3 lake crossings on ferries and 4 bus rides. It is the best international crossing in the world and while it is still quite expensive, if you go all the way to South America this is worth the price tag, trust me!

Read my country guide about Argentina to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.

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Important Information

Note 1: The cruise can be done from Chile to Argentina as well and there are other options to break it down into a 2-day cruise if you want a slower-paced tour.

Note 2: You cannot replicate this route, some parts of the cruise are specifically licensed to the company and you can’t even take your own car there as the road from Lake Frias to Peulla. This is the reason for the high price tag.

Note 3: The price doesn’t include the entrance fee of ARS90 to enter Nahuel Huapi Park on the Argentinean side and also doesn’t include the lunch in Peulla, which was around CLP 19,000.

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On the way

Price

I booked quite in advance and the cost was $295 but I have seen it online being sold for up to $350-400 but if you want to book it, do it directly with the official company here.

You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.

Pros

  • You can see a few spots without taking time out of Bariloche or Puerto Varas trips like Lake Frias, Puerto Blest, Peulla, All Saints Lake.
  • The bus ride to Osorno from Bariloche is a long 6 hours drive and this is a great way to break the monotony and have a fun-filled day.

Cons

  • Price is the biggest hurdle for most people when I asked them about it.
  • The cruise isn’t exclusive, as in you will be sharing ships with people who are on daily tours of Puerto Blest or Lago de Los Todos Santos.
  • For the price tag, the tour doesn’t include lunch with only 2 quite expensive places for lunch in Peulla.

The Cruise

Who wants to leave this behind?

Check-In

At the time of booking, I was asked for a copy of my passport and some other information for check-in. If this isn’t the case make sure you check-in at least 2 days prior with the agency. Their office is on Bartolome Mitre 150 with the name of Turisur.

Bus 1 – Bariloche to Puerto Pañuelo

At 8 am, I was ready with my luggage in front of the Turisur offices, I was given some tickets and passport check done, we started our journey on a bus from Bariloche downtown to Puerto Panuelo. The journey took 30 minutes and we arrived at the entrance of Nahuel Huapi National Park. It is the same route I took from city to get to Cerro Companario and Circuito Chico.

Drive to Porto Panuelo

I paid ARS 90 and got my ticket and boarded the catamaran.

Note: Make sure to bring cash for this trip, on the Argentinean side no one takes cards for anything including cafeterias and catamaran shops for tea/coffee.

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Ferry 1 – Nahuel Huapi Park

Sailing through Nahuel Huapi lake is an experience on its own. The clear blue waters, the birds following the catamaran for bread people were offering, crisp air, changing scenery it created a spell and I didn’t realise that an hour has passed already. We all got off at Puerto Blest.

Note: The views on the right-hand side are more beautiful, sit on this side.

Fun Fact: Nahuel Huapi national park is the oldest in Argentina and South America since 1902.

Puerto Blest

Puerto Blest is a small port which you can take a tour of. I did it as part of the Andes Cruise to Chile but we had people with us who were taking the daily cruise. We ought the entrance ticket for the national park and then boarded a catamaran which takes you to Puerto Blest in an hour. The hour-long cruise is breathtakingly beautiful.

Puerto Blest is blessed with clear green waters, tall, green mountains and a stillness which you can appreciate when the people around you leave. The water trickling down from the stream to the lake was the only audible sound with some birds. Life because perfect for a few minutes until I have had to leave.

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Bus 2 – Puerto Blest to Puerto Frias

The way from Puerto Blest to Lago Frias goes through some thick jungle. The 10 minutes bus ride brought us to a small dock at the shores of Lake Frias. Not much to see on the way apart from the jungle.

Ferry 2 – Lago Frías

The lake is an easy 15 minutes ride. This lake has greenish waters with beautiful scenery around. It is also the last point of Argentina.

Argentinian border crossing

I exited Argentina from Frias and the next bus was waiting. The immigration was easy, the stamp affixed and we were on the way to next bus. This was also the end of Nahuel Huapi National Park.

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Bus 3 – Border Crossing to Puella

The next bus ride was the best of the whole trip. After a few minutes, we saw the sign for the end of Nahuel Huapi and beginning of Vicente Perez Rosales National Park.

Welcome to Chile!

The road down the mountain was a bit crazy and despite being a passenger the turns were frighteningly sharp and we were in a big bus. The road was gravel and stones and not properly made. Some 30-40 minutes later we arrived at the foot of the hill and we arrived at the most gorgeous views of Mount Tronador with Peulla river flowing in front of it, taking its clear waters to Peulla which was our next stop. We stopped here for a bit and our guide told us, we were very lucky to see the mountain top in all clear, it doesn’t happen very often.

Fun Fact: Mount Tronador is an active volcano and it has 7 glaciers; 4 in Argentina and 3 in Chile. It also has three summits, Chilean, Argentinian and international which is the highest one. One of these glaciers is black. It is named Tronador or Thunder mountain because the falling pieces of glaciers sound like thunders.

Throughout the rest of the drive, Peulla rive flowed on the right-hand side, we stopped for a few minutes at Puente Tronador and then at the Twin Waterfalls. One of the twins was apparently absent that day but it was gorgeous nonetheless.

Chilean Customs Checks and Entry

The first thing we did when we arrived in Peulla were the border immigration and customs checks. We had to hand in a police paper which was stamped along with the passport. Make sure to hold on to this, you will need it at the exit.

Note: You cannot bring any animal, plants or anything made of them into Chile. You can be fined a hefty amount if you are in breach and you need to sign an affidavit at customs check. If in doubt declare it. I ate my leftover 2 bananas there.

Peulla

It is a small town of 100 inhabitants which is mainly for this border crossing. The valley it is located in is absolutely gorgeous in terms of views and the lunch with the view of mountains around was to die for. While it was expensive the food was fresh and salmon was to die for.

We got some 2 hours for lunch and roaming around Peulla before our last lake crossing at 16:30.

The town doesn’t have much but the walk from the hotel to the ferry docks was beautiful with panoramic views of the lake, a waterfall and lots of very persistent bees.

I arrived around 4pm to the docks and found a beautiful beach with 2 more waterfalls. The day was getting hotter still so I decided for a quick splash. The clear cold water was divine!

Ferry 3 – Lago todos Los Santos (All Saints Lake)

This was my favourite part of the whole trip. The docks or Puerto Peulla is absolutely beautiful. This lake is also called the Emerald Lake because of the colour of its water.

Note: If you can try to grab a seat on the right-hand side for this part of the trip.

It was an hour-long trip full of beautiful surprises. We left the dock behind and headed towards the other side of the lake.

Note: The tickets you will get at the beginning of the trip will be used for boarding here, hold on to them.

After a little while, we turned towards the right-hand side and then started the magic show. Until it was all typical green Andean mountains and then appeared the first volcano; Puntiagudo. It has a very sharp pointed top which almost looks like a cone on the top. The volcano tip was covered in ice on its top, It must have a very small crater. I mistook it for Osorno.

Then came the unmistakable volcano Osorno. It has a presence of its own and you instantly know why it is so important despite being one of the three in the area. (4 if you count Tronador which is a bit far). It kept getting closer and I totally fell in love and almost forgot Puntigudia.

The journey kept bringing us closer to Osorno until we arrived at Puerto Petrohue (pronounced Petro-Way).

Bus 4 – Petrohué to Puerto Montt

The last boarding was tiring it was the last before we reached Puerto Varas. The guide gave us some information about the area especially Ensenada. On our left-hand side was Rio Petrohué, flowing through the mountains between two active volcanoes with its full might and beauty.

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Ensenada

Ensenada was the next town which is quite small, well you must be slightly crazy to willingly live between two active volcanoes. The last time an eruption happened was in 2015 and the town had to be evacuated. Some of the houses collapsed under the weight of ash alone.

Soon enough we arrived at the start of the area, one of the deepest lakes in South America and the deepest in Chile; Lago Llanquihue (pronounces Yaan – kee – way). Most of the life in this region especially touristic activities revolve around this lake and Osorno.

It was a smooth drive and I saw some nice beaches with people on them, totally patting myself on the shoulder for packing my swimming trunks.

It was almost 8 pm when we arrived at Puerto Varas main square at Del Salvador outside the Turistur offices which operate Chilean part of the journey.

There was a bit of chaos to being with but as the day went by you forget all about minor things and get lost in the views, the scenery and your luck that brought you to that spot. It was a day of reflection, beauty and being grateful.

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Have you done this journey in winter or in this or opposite direction, I’d love to hear your experience as well!

 

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