Chile Pt V: SPA to Salta via Paso Jama

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SPA Bus station

While doing the research, I found that the information on traveling between San Pedro de Atacama and Salta in Argentina was limited. It seemed that there were several operators which ply the route every few days and they could only be booked at the ticket offices.

Hence, after arriving in San Pedro de Atacama, we headed to the bus station to secure our bus tickets to Salta. Andesmar, Frontera del Norte and Gemini were the bus operators with service to Salta but only the Gemini office was open.

Different companies advertising their services

Gemini has service to Salta on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays while Frontera del Norte operates on Mondays and Thursdays. It cost us 20,000 CLP each and would depart at 9am.

Offices were closed

On the day of departure, we said goodbye to Victor and Fabian and arrived at the bus station at 8.30am. It turned out that Johannes would be on the same bus as us as well. Interestingly, we also ran into four SMU graduates who were on their grad trip.

Finally the bus arrived shortly after 9am and we proceeded to board the bus.

The driver’s name was Sergio Escanilla and he had driven for 1 hour and 11 minutes. The other driver would take over later in the service.

Unlike what I had expected, we weren’t driven to the Chilean immigration office. Instead, the bus left SPA and started climbing towards Paso Jama, the northernmost border crossing between Chile and Argentina.

The drive took three hours to reach Paso Jama and we would need to disembark with our bags to clear the immigration and customs. The Chilean and Argentine immigration worked side by side; after getting stamped out of Chile, we would move to the next window to get stamped into Argentina, the 6th country (4th South American one) of this trip. We also lost one hour of time, due to Argentina being one hour ahead of Chile during winter.

Funnily, Ying’s Argentine entry stamp indicated that she entered a day early! We only realized that when we were back on the bus but decided to let it go since it was unlikely that we would have any issue with it later on.

Looking back: Chile

Ahead: Argentina

Many of the passengers were actually Chileans heading to Brazil to support the team in the World Cup.

Chi-Chi-Chi Le-Le-Le Viva Chile!

Gemini is a Chilean company so no problem with Chilean flag

After all the passengers were back on-board, snack packs were distributed. That would be our lunch.

Ubiquitous South American snack pack

Pat in Pack

I was awake for most of the journey to Salta. The scenery outside and Young Guns in Spanish took turns to keep me entertained.

Northwest Argentina

Rolling hills

The bus made a short stop at Purmamarca where several tourists alighted. The town is the base to visit Cerro de los Siete Colores, part of the UNESCO Heritage Site Quebrada de Humahuaca.


Jujuy was the first major Argentine city from the border and more passengers got off the bus there. A second snack box was distributed after the bus picked them up at Jujuy.

More snacks

Güemes, final stop before Salta

It was already after 6pm when our bus rolled into Salta’s bus station. The service took around 8-9 hours and we were glad to arrive. Thankfully, Fernando, our Airbnb host at Salta, was already at the bus station to pick us up and we didn’t need to navigate Salta’s public transportation system.


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