The journey to Las Leñas involves much more than an overnight flight and a free shuttle from the airport. For us, figuring out the best way to get here was much harder than it could have been. So if you’re looking into a ski vacation in the Andes, here’s a straightforward guide to making travel plans that will save you a lot of time on the phone and in front of the computer.
Catch a flight from your nearest international airport to Santiago, Chile. We flew on American Airlines out of Dallas / Fort Worth. Once in Santiago, you won’t leave the international terminal, and will book one of the several, short daily flights over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina.
Planning our itinerary that far was easy; however, figuring out the best way to get to Las Leñas from Mendoza is less clear.
You have two options for getting to Las Leñas from Mendoza. The first: hire a 1-3 person private car for $500 USD. (We chose not to.) The cheaper option is to take an early morning bus.
One bus line, CATA International, runs directly from the station in Mendoza to Las Leñas. It leaves everyday at 2:30 AM, arriving at Las Leñas just before 8 AM, and departs at 5:30 PM for the return trip from the resort back to Mendoza.
You can—and should—book these bus tickets in advance. To do so, you will need to call CATA directly with the number provided on their web page. CATA does offer online booking, but you will not be able to fill out the required registration fields even with American credentials, and may run into problems trying to pay with a foreign credit card from outside Argentina or Chile.
A quick note on cabs in South America: it is rare (if not impossible), to find one that can carry more than a single ski bag and one person. Hence, to transport ourselves 8km from Mendoza’s airport to the bus station—with two 200cm ski bags and two average sized duffels—we had to hire two separate taxis.
Keep in mind that most flights from Santiago will arrive in Mendoza in the mid-afternoon, so you’ll have a good ten hours before it’s time to be at the bus station. We recommend spending ~$15 USD to get a room at a hostel. It’s well worth it. You’ll have a bed to rest in (great when you’ve just spent over 9 ½ hours on a plane) and a place to store your luggage while you take a walk around town in search of a bar or a restaurant. Also, the front desk at the hostel can call and reserve a cab (or two in our case) to get you to the station. It’s a good idea to get there 30 minutes ahead of time to allow for any confusion about which platform the bus leaves from.
The coach buses that service longer distance trips, like the CATA line to Las Leñas, are generally very comfortable. They also come with a spectacular view.
If you are able to stop staring at mountain scenes like this, you should be able to catch up on sleep during the ride into the Andes. You’ll arrive with time to get settled in you accommodations, and get a bite to eat before hitting the mountain.
5 comments on “Getting to Las Leñas”
One question that I have since we’ll be taking the exact same journey: DFW -> Santiago -> Mendoza -> Las Lenas. Do you have to pay two reciprocity fees? One for Chile and one for Argentina? Would it be worth it just to bus from Santiago to Mendoza so as to avoid the second reciprocity fee?
We’ve never paid any fees during our trip, Of course, those are subject to change, so this may have changed for US > Argentina travel. In any case, supposing there is one for Argentina you will not have to pay two fees (also one for Chile) IF you stay in the international terminal of the Santiago airport. If you want to exit the airport and check out Santiago, you will have to pay that entrance/reciprocity fee. Good luck on your trip!
We have usually gone through Buenos Aires and then the Aerolineas Argentina flight to Malargue, which is about 45 minutes from the resort. I think the flight is booked as a charter and makes 2 trips a week. The other option we had was to fly into San Rafael and take the bus. Mendoza was the third option and the least desirable, although I heard it is a great city to visit.
Thanks for the tip, Craig.
For other folks considering that option, I was under the impression that the chartered flight to Malargue is only able to be booked through Las Lenas. That is, if you’re going to be staying at one of the resort hotels. Has that been your experience?
We had booked our trips through SouthAmericaSki.com when we used the charter into Malargue. So am not sure if they were able to do it because they booked us into one of the higher end hotels there, or travel services can do it regardless of accommodation. I know the San Rafael option is a standard route flown from Buenos Aires.