Mar 5, 2024
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The Visviri Pass: A Remote Andean Border Crossing

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The Visviri Pass, one of six international border crossings between Chile and Bolivia, cuts through the heart of the Andes Mountains at a breathtaking altitude of 13,435 feet (4,095 meters) above sea level. Open year-round from 08:00 to 22:00, this remote pass offers a challenging and unforgettable adventure.

  • Elevation: 13,435 feet (4,095 meters)
  • Location: Arica y Parinacota (Chile), La Paz (Bolivia)
  • Coordenates: 17°35′41″S 69°28′54″O
  • Road: Mostly Gravel Road
  • Border: Open all year from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm

From Chile, access the pass via the municipality of Visviri, the country’s northernmost town. Reach Visviri by either the A93 road, which runs parallel to the Chile-Bolivia border, or the A23, cutting through Chile from the Pacific coast. Nestled just 3 km from the pass, Visviri has a strategic tri-border location near Peru. This bustling town maintains active trade with its neighbors. On Sundays, the market explodes with local crafts, foods, and even smuggled cocoroco – a potent Bolivian liquor exceeding 90% alcohol!

Arriving Visviri, Eugenio Salzmann

Getting Charana, on the Bolivian side, Emilio Aillach

On the Bolivian side, Route 19 leads to the pass from La Paz, 220 kilometers to the east. Here lies Charaña, a town etched in history as the meeting place of dictators Augusto Pinochet and Hugo Banzer in 1975. Their declaration restored diplomatic relations between the two countries after a bitter period stemming from Chile’s use of the Lauca River.

A Drive to Remember (or Forget!)

The gravel Visviri Pass tests the mettle of both drivers and vehicles. The steep ascent and lack of oxygen create a formidable challenge. Rain can transform the pass into a treacherous, muddy obstacle. With just over a thousand vehicles crossing into Chile in 2013, this pass remains a hidden gem.

The surrounding Andean plateau is home to Aymara communities who primarily herd llamas and alpacas. Alongside locals, you’re likely to encounter intrepid tourists on bicycles or by car. The stark, awe-inspiring landscape demands to be photographed. For this journey, a 4×4 vehicle is essential. Stock up on water and supplies, fill your gas tank at every opportunity, and don’t forget warm clothes – nights in the high plateau are frigid.

Additional Notes

  • Altitude: Visviri Pass sits at 4,095 meters. Discrepancies exist about the town’s altitude – sources range from 4,056 to 4,069 meters.
  • Distance to Arica: The distance from Arica, on Chile’s Pacific coast, to Visviri varies depending on the source – expect between 205 to 265 km.
  • Visviri Weather: The high plateau climate brings significant temperature swings between day and night. Expect icy winds and frigid nights with year-round dryness. [Consider embedding a live weather widget for Visviri here]

Visviri Pass in Google Maps

Bolivia · Chile · South America

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