Mendoza is the capital of the province of Mendoza but it is more famously known as the Argentinian capital of wine. Framed in leafy tree-lined streets, multitudes of bodegas, or wineries, proffer some of the world’s finest wines for sampling. You can spread a blanket in the shade of a vineyard, sip some of the best Malbec and watch the brilliant sunset over the Andes mountains.
Other than their famed wines, Mendoza also carved its name in history books when the Army of the Andes led by General Jose San Martin, fought and won Chile’s independence from the Spanish in 1817.
This relaxed city slows any frantic traveler with a calming siesta in the afternoon and is an excellent resting place for the night before vineyard-hopping at the various wineries scattered across the surrounding rural areas. Be prepared to drive as there is not much public transport in these areas and each location can range from 20 minutes to an hour and a half from the city center. You can pop by Plaza Chile, Espana or Parque General San Martin on the way and soak in some of this city’s tranquility.
The region is split into five main areas that produce wine. Maipu and Zona Este are home to ancient bodegas with centuries of history. At the foot of the Andes lies Uco Valley which is the modern wine-making hub presently and San Rafael, whopping three hours away from the capital. Last but not least, Lujan de Cuyo, the center of their malbec prowess. Make your reservations early, although guided tours among the wineries are ample, they get snapped up quick like fresh produce in the morning market. You can also attempt a bodega-and-bike tour around the Uco Valley or Lujan de Cuyo areas if you think you can hold your drink well.
Feast your eyes upon the marvelous sights of the Andes mountains as you cling onto your vessel when you whitewater raft your way down the Rio Mendoza, or whoop with joy atop a ski resort at Las Lenas which opens between July and September every year. Those looking for less dangerous but no less thrilling adventures can enjoy activities such as ziplining, kayaking, fly fishing, and even horseback riding. For experienced equestrians who want something more advanced, MacDermott’s Argentina offers five-day tours crossing the Andes mountains.
For a fantastic taste of fine dining, head down to Siete Cocinas, where their head chef Pablo De Rio will present authentic Mendozian cuisine: succulent baby goat baked for several hours in a clay oven packed with roasted pumpkins and sweet onions. You can also take your pick of the best wine selection in the city at the Siete Cocinas to pair with your main meal.
Hop by Fogon at Bodega Lagarde for lunch as they offer six stunning courses such as steak grilled to perfection and organic tomatoes to pair with their prodigious wines. Lujan De Cuyo also offers mouth-watering street food at Ezequiel’s at Calle Cobos and Ugarteche’s Ruta 7 which sells gigantic sandwiches filled to the brim with hand-cured Iberian ham and an olive oil drizzle.
Other than their excellent vineyards, you can grab a cold pint at the multitudes of pubs and kiosks in Aristedes, famous for its bustling nightlife that stays open until dawn on weekends. Beerlin and Hangar 52 are the top picks for their cerveza, Spanish for beer, gardens. If you crave something a little fancier, pop by Gingger; a cocktail bar opened by mixologist Sabrina Rodríguez Cuack, the winner of the El Gran Bartender, a popular reality TV show in Argentina.
Stay in elegant vineyard lofts at the excellent Entre Cielos in Luján de Cuyo. At $470 per night, these rooms are the most expensive on the list, but for good reason. The hotel offers a selection of eight such lofts each equipped with its own living space outdoors, decorated with Malbec vines, along with its range of superb suites. It is even outfitted with a truly exceptional hammam or Turkish steam bath, and an outstanding restaurant that serves weekly barbeques and supplies guests with a complimentary bottle of wine.
Bodega Salentein’s lodge in Uco Valley also offers 16 roomy suites decked in a rustic, homely design that underscores the vineyard’s idyllic country atmosphere. Double rooms start from $200 a night with breakfast served. For those with a tighter budget for accommodations, never fear, for at $65 a night, room only, the NH Mendoza Cordillera house travelers in its convenient placed in the central downtown area, minutes away from the Plaza Independencia.
Shop Shop Shop
Don’t forget your souvenir shopping at the Mercado Central located at Las Heras 279 which is a central food market where locals and tourists alike flock to do their everyday shopping. However, if you’re looking to pick up some wine you overlooked at the wineries, look to Sol y Vino. It houses a wide variety of local vintages for you to consume there or take home to share with family and friends. Insider tip though: most wineries sell their own wines at a cheaper rate so buy yours there!
- Be prepared to stock up on the Argentinian peso and pick up some Spanish vocab for a smoother journey. You never know when it’ll come in handy!
- Tipping is not compulsory but it is generally recommended to tip at about 10 percent of the total bill.
- The small city is easily traversable on foot or by the metrotranvia, their local tram system. Just grab a Red Bus magnetic card and you’re set to venture out in the city.
- For aspiring master photographers, go on a short drive to Cerro de la Gloria hill where the Army of the Andes monument is erected for that perfect shot of the city amidst the mountains.
- Last but not least, if you take a remis or taxicab, you can carry a maximum of six bottles of wine as hand luggage when you exit the airport.
With so many delights to offer, Mendoza is sure to be one of your most enjoyable holiday destinations. Whether you’re a gourmet, experienced kayaker, or even a shopaholic, Mendoza has something for everyone.