We arrived at San Pedro de Atacama or the driest place on Earth and realised we would eventually want to take a bus
to Salta in the days that followed. We had read though that there were only a few buses a week with one or two companies, with the internet not providing much to dispel those rumours. We decided to investigate the route locally to work out how to take what some will call the most picturesque bus ride in all of the Americas.
What followed for us was many strange occurrences which unfortunately meant that we never got to take the bus from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta. However, we did find out all of the necessary information to do so which is what we are able to provide for you now. We feel it is better to put this information out there so that others can find it, as the only other source for this route is at the bus station of San Pedro!
By visiting this bus station, we immediately dispelled most of the internet rumours. There are actually 4 bus companies that make the trip from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta, with a bus leaving every day of the week except for Mondays and Saturdays. Here are the details for all of them:
We had read that this company were one of the better ones for the price for the Salta route, and were also told at the bus terminal that for the price they also provide a small snack along the way. The pricing for this service (as of June 2017) is 20,000 Chilean Peso.
The schedule for Geminis is:
- Tuesday at 9am
- Friday at 9am
- Sunday at 9am
This is probably the company we would have gone with if we could have gone. The timing for the ride would have been 12 to 13 hours, depending on the business of the border crossing
Andesmar was the most expensive of the bus companies traveling from San Pedro to Salta, meaning as backpackers we wouldn’t have considered them. They also advertise buses of up to 15 hours, which may actually be the real journey time with border crossing (who knows!).
The upside to them though is that they provide ticket options for meals, with the prices for “no meals” only being slightly cheaper. The pricing we received was 31,000 Chilean Peso for the option with no food, and 31,500 for food (not much difference). The schedule for Andesmar is as follows:
- Wednesday at 8:30
- Sunday at 8:30
Pullman looked like a good option for us as well, with a similar setup to Geminis and a very nice man selling the tickets. The pricing for them was 20,000CLP with a journey of 12-13 hours – the same as Geminis (but we’re pretty sure without the snack).
The bus schedule for Pullman was also quite similar to Geminis (with an extra day), with Pullman going on the following days and times:
- Wednesday at 9:30
- Friday at 9:30
- Sunday at 9:30
Frontera del Norte
This company didn’t even get a look from us as it did not fit our scheduling, however they also sell tickets for 20,000CLP, with buses taking 12-13 hours. It feels like they are around to fill in the gap, as their schedule is as follows:
- Thursday at 9am (**UPDATE: this has now changed to 7:30am)
Being the only company that goes to Salta on Thursdays, you might be in luck if this is the day you choose to leave San Pedro de Atacama.
To help out everyone and to put the schedule into perspective, here is a photo from the bus terminal in San Pedro showing bus days and times to Salta (as of June 2017):
With the information out there, you may be wondering why we did not end up taking the bus to Salta. Why not take one of the more beautiful bus rides we could take on our journeys?
Unfortunately for us we came to the driest place on the entire planet just after snow (that’s right, snow) had fallen! This also meant that snow had fallen at the very high border crossing between Chile and Argentina (at around 4,000m), approximately 1.5 metres of the stuff!
Unfortunately again for us the border was closed, and would remain closed for well over a week after our first arrival into San Pedro. We ended up booking cheap flights through Sky Airlines to Santiago!
Now in San Pedro you can of course take buses to other towns in the north of Chile, including to the town of Calama where we ended up flying out of to Santiago. The picture below shows all buses leaving San Pedro, for your information and convenience of planning your own trip:
We hope that bus information can be useful to those looking for it (like us previously!). If you do end up taking the trip, leave a comment and let us know if it it as beautiful as they say!