Hands across the Andes

After the longest Covid lockdown in Latin America, I’m delighted to report that this weekend Chile is fully re-opening all its frontiers (Sunday 1st May). 


Chile locked down with Argentina in mid-March 2020, but while my adopted country fully reopened to all visitors (apart from vaccine refuseniks) on November 1st last year, its neighbours across the Andes have been ultra-cautious. 


Though it opened the international airport at Santiago before Christmas, most land border crossings were still closed, and strict quarantine imposed on all arrivals, restricting movement from Bolivia, Peru, and where I live in northern Argentina. 


Since our borders fully re-opened six months ago, we’ve seen a modest flow of foreign tourists, still well below pre-Covid levels: estimates suggest arrivals are at least 60% down on the first quarter of 2019.


Sixty five percent of arrivals from December to March have been from neighbouring countries (including Chile, as while we couldn’t travel from Argentina, they could come over here!) 


At Poncho Tours we’ve had more Brazilians than any other nationality so far this year, perhaps suggesting that many people are still reluctant to venture too far from home, because of all the added hassle of travelling in a Covid-19-afflicted world.  


A bugbear for our recent guests from the USA is that while they can enter Argentina without a PCR test, they are required to show proof of a negative test before flying back to their home country.    


Here’s the official Chile government guide to planning your holiday. You’re required to have full vaccination, insurance for Covid and to fill out a sworn statement, as with Argentina. Unlike Argentina, you may also be selected for random testing.


As you’ll see on the right (or below if you’re scrolling this blog on your smartphone), we run trips to Chile’s Atacama desert using both border crossings, at Sico (in Salta province) and Jama (Jujuy). We can also organise tours of Bolivia, where you’ll find the spectacular Salar de Uyuni. 


I’m glad to report we’ve already got a booking for a trip across the Andes in November.

3 to 7 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Chile: Atacama Desert

A dramatic journey across the Andes to the driest desert in the world, the Atacama in northern Chile.

This trip combines with the colourful canyon of the Quebrada de Humahuaca and (if you're doing a round trip from Salta) with the Quebrada del Toro.

There's spectacular scenery around every corner: mountains and volcanoes, flamingoes and vicuña: and the Atacama is ideal for desert night stargazing.

Click here to view map route.

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6 to 8 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Salares of Uyuni, Bolivia

The Bolivia salt flats are one of the true wonders of the natural world, the biggest in the world, and visible from space.

Experience an unforgettable tour of the Salar de Uyuni, where the lack of artificial light means there is always a breath-taking night sky.

This trip also includes an excursion through the multi-coloured Quebrada de Humahuaca, and can be combined with the Chilean Atacama desert.

Click here to view map route.

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3 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Bolivia’s high altitude wine

Allow us to introduce you to one of the world’s lesser known wine regions: Tarija in Bolivia. With vineyards at 1,850m, this is one of the highest altitude wine regions in the world.

The quality of wine, particularly its trademark Tannat red variety, has developed hugely over the last 15 years, while its traditional singani spirit distilled from white Muscat of Alexandria grapes is also excellent.

Join us for a unique and personalised experience in one of the emerging wine regions in the world.

This trip can be combined with hiking in Calilegua or a longer tour also incorporating the new wine region of Jujuy province, Fourteen Colours and Cloud Forest.