Do you like the idea of year-round sunshine and views of snow-capped Andean mountains? How about drinking wines straight from the vineyards? If so, read on for the lowdown on Argentina’s most famous wine region, in our Mendoza travel guide.
Mendoza city, the capital of the province of the same name, is considered a new city, after most of its historic buildings were destroyed during an earthquake in 1861. You can easily see its main sights in half a day, via a tour on foot or a public bus. It’s characterised by four large plazas, pedestrianised shopping streets, and a sprawling park, General San Martin, designed to be the lungs of this desert city.
Downtown Mendoza – Photograph by From Argentina With Love
Mendoza is known for its dry heat, which is a nice contrast to the stifling humidity of Buenos Aires. The province enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year and little rain, but temperatures drop at night, so pack some warm layers. As a general guide to Mendoza seasonality, spring and autumn are ideal times to visit, although winter brings the option of skiing. Here’s some rather impressive off-pisting to whet your appetite:
The region’s particular climate and temperature fluctuations from day to night are behind the not-so-secret success of its excellent wines. There are three main wine regions: Maipu (closest to the city), Lujan de Cuyo (approx. 30-min drive) and the Uco Valley (around 1.5 hours away). Most people get around by arranging a bodega tour or by hiring a bike.
The province has around 100 bodegas open to tourists, which means there are far too many to list here in our guide to Mendoza, but try see a couple of the impressively large ones (Salentein and Trapiche are standouts) and don’t miss a couple of boutique places (such as Vina El Cerno, Bonfanti and the much-loved Carmelo Patti). While you’re in the region, be sure to see the impressive Museo Nacional del Vino (National Wine Museum), a brilliant example of Argentina culture, which can found at bodega La Rural.
You can’t miss the Andes as they are almost everywhere you look, but you should spend at least a day getting even higher into their midst. The Alta Montaña route takes you up to the Chilean border, with views of Aconcagua, the highest peak in all the Americas. Take an organised trip, hire a car or hop on a regular bus. There is plenty of opportunity for trekking and various extreme sports. Rafting is the region is particularly outstanding. Try www.argentinarafting.com, who aside from being whitewater specialists can also get your adrenaline flowing via ziplining, rock climbing and abseiling. Alternatively, you can try paragliding (www.mendozaparapente.com.ar) or horseriding through the mountains (www.horseriding.com.ar).
Here’s a look at what to expect from zip-lining, alongside a colourful crashcourse in local swear words:
There are plenty of bodegas offering hearty lunches and dinners, with expertly paired wines to wash it down. In the city centre, take a wander down Calle Arístides Villanueva for the biggest concentration of bars and restaurants. For a real treat, head to the stylish 1884, run by famous Argentine chef Francis Mallman, while Azafran has a menu that spans specialties from across the country. Olive oil fans should try the country-kitchen-style Verolio. And the best new restaurant in the leafy Chacras de Coria suburb is Dantesco, with it’s extensive menu and wine list, stylish decor, and relaxing gardens.
Where to Stay
Luxurious travellers won’t regret making a beeline straight to Cavas Wine Lodge or Club Tapiz. Alternatively, Bohemia Hotel Boutique is a good central choice. For hostels, try Dama Juana, which has its own bar, or the award-winning Lao Hostel.
Want to keep up-to-date with Mendoza travel tips? Follow these English speakers on Twitter: welcomemendoza, MendozaSun, WineRepublicARG, LatinAmerExpats and michaelhevans. In Spanish, try ciudaddemendoza and MendozaEventos.
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