Map of Argentina and Chile
Argentine chilean border Argentine chilean border Argentine chilean border

A fragile border

Argentina and Chile share a long border – about 3,500 km. There is something very weird about this border which delimits administration of two countries that merged into a set called by the old geographers: "Magellanic Land, belonging to the Patagones and Caesars".
Tracing Argenina and Chile's border was a puzzle for geographers and diplomats. From the day after they signed both nations’independence (1818 and 1816 respectively) and all along XIX century, there was only tension which could lead to military intervention. In 1881 they signed a treaty in which a fragile and partially satisfactory for both countries compromised was reached: the Andes Mountain Range would act as a natural border for about 3,500 km, but neither Chile nor Argentina would be granted access to both seas, as desired. A long line, as if it were a great sword cut, was established, without paying attention to details. But in fact, in America, "details" are equal to vast lands, even as big as a department in Europe.

Chile got the Pacific whereas Argentina got the Atlantic. Broadly speaking, that's the way it was negotiated. And they both divided among themselves the end of South America, what Columbus called "the continent's tail" – a territorail division which splits Tierra del Fuego into two yuxtaposed parts.

Argentine chilean border
Many geographical and diplomatic mistakes were made when dividing the South American lands as well as when delimiting the borders. All this inspired Don Miguel Yrrazabal to write a very critical book which was published in 1930.
Fourty kilometers south of Futaleufu, the region of Palena was still under dispute by Chileans and Argentines in 1965, with arbitration under Great Britain.
At the times of Pinochet's dictatorship, both countries where very close to war. It was necessary to call Pope John Paul II who acted as a “symbolic” mediator between Santiago and Buenos Aires. In Chile, the shortest story concerning borders meant a book of at least 100 pages!

Even today crossing from one country to the other takes time and can also be a bit tedious. All along the whole Mountain range, there are loads of entry points. Obviously, the most important ones are situated in the biggest cities; however, there are entry points which are truly pintoresque and are found lost at the top of a hill, at the end of a road or they just appear out of nowhere.
In the Chilean side, Pinochet's greatest challenge was to build the Austral Road – a zigzag road that crosses the Chilean Patagonia for 1,200 km south to reach the end of the world, as if it were a migrant bird, without having to go through Argentina. This colosal idea took many working people’s lives (you can have the proof by just casting a glance at a map of Chilean Patagonia and its fjords)

In Patagonia road map, Villa O'Higgins is a town represented by a small dot located on the shores of a lake, at the end of a line as thin as a thread, a never ending broken trace marking the Austral Road. It is easy: the trail does not go further away. To the east, Chilean lands hit with the border of Argentina. To the south, Villa O'Higgins Lake ends at the foot of an immense white glaciar, with blue reflections: the "Ice Field". It is not a place where you can take some ice for your drink at the aperitif time, but an amazing and well frozen land – as big as three French departments. Another planet, cold and inhospitable, long – about 300 km from north to south.
Contemplating this barrier which is impossible to pass, at least due to its appearance, locked among the Andes Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean, carved by loads of fjords and islets. All in all, it seems to be the end ofthe world, crossing to Argentina wuld be the only way out to continue south. Unless...

Previous article: Three children on Llullaillaco's summit
Next article: Chiloé: the island of the Mapuches
Travel to Peru and Bolivia See also the Journey to Peru and Bolivia ...


Patagonia in all seasons menu. For example, according to the climate, from Bariloche, in Patagonia Argentina, it is possible to go to Puerto Montt, in Chile, crossing successively three lakes by boat, as did the Jesuits and the first German settlers. I offer a tour that leads to the Pacific Ocean. It is quite long, but the beauty of the sites - forests, volcanoes and crystalline lakes - is such that it is worth to be carried. The Argentine side, cross the west arm of Nahuel Huapi and Lake Puerto Alegre and, the chilen side, Lake Todos los Santos. Moving from one lake to another by bus. This tour is feasible in all seasons, but in winter, it takes two days to reach Puerto Montt, stopping for one night at Peulla. We returned to Bariloche by air or by the same way, after a night in Puerto Montt. Borispatagonia is also responsible for visas to go to Chile and to book hotels. In Patagonia, winter and summer are tourist seasons. In summer, besides explore the surrounding, many activities are available: climbing, torrent fishing, sailing, horseback riding, hiking, rides, visits to Aciendas... In winter, the main activity is, of course, skiing, especially in July and August on the side of the Andes, but not only: snowshoe hikes, thematic tours, many walks to admire the beauty of Patagonia Argentina and Chile in this season, due a unique light, the warmth of the people of Patagonia... Just to talk about, I get goose bumps!