Mendoza, a city of about 115,000 inhabitants, sits east of Aconcagua – the highest mountain in South America, in an area of plains and foothills. With the Andes as a backdrop and a sunny climate with low rainfall, it’s no wonder Mendoza draws visitors from around the world. They come for the wine and the food but there’s more to Mendoza than spectacular Malbec’s – the signature grape of the area.
Accessible by plane, it’s also an especially scenic eight hour bus ride away from Santiago, Chile. I can’t recommend that experience enough.
Here are 5 things you’ll want to try in Mendoza.
Start with a wine tour.
Mendoza is home to an incredible 1,500 plus wineries accounting for about two thirds of Argentinian wine. If you haven’t researched which winery to visit ahead of time, then have your hotel make recommendations. Don’t try to fit in more than three or four in a day. The wineries run the gamut from small, family run operations where you can see the cement holding tanks they used in the past to sleek modern, all stainless affairs like Bodega Norton. Meals at wineries are notoriously excellent as well but be sure to book in advance.
There’s nothing like having a few exceptional bottles of wine in your hotel room over your visit – reason enough to start your stay with a tour.
Cycling in Mendoza
What better way to visit wineries – at least in my opinion than on a bike. You can rent one on your own in some of the mini regions like Maipú or Chacras de Coria or go with a local tour. Maipú is the most popular area for it also offers a wine museum and olive oil tours – another one of the fun ways to explore the area.
Some of the bike companies to consider are Bikes and Wines (we used them but consider asking for more biking and less tasting or you won’t cover much ground) Mendoza Wine Bike Tour and Mr Hugo – a family run bike rental located in Maipú.
Hiking in and near Mendoza
Mendoza is surrounded by dry hills and many of them make a perfect hiking destination. Terrain though can be rough underfoot and temperatures can soar. This is country where it’s worth hiring a guide for the local knowledge. Carry lots of water, wherever you go.
Exceptional hiking can be found a few hours’ drive away from Mendoza in the Andes. One option is to head to the beautiful Laguna del Diamanete, located in a moonlike landscape at 10,500 feet. Again, a driver and a guide will ensure a safer journey.
Explore Chacras de Coria
Not far from downtown Mendoza, you’ll find Chacras de Coria, a leafy, green suburb with slightly cooler temperatures. It’s fast becoming a gastronomic destination. It’s also close to many of the bodegas so it also a good spot to stay overnight. On foot, it’s an easy and colourful area to explore but watch the broken down sidewalks that will trip you up if you don’t pay attention. When it comes to dinner, don’t do what we did and show up at 8:30 PM. Nothing happens until 9 PM but the food in this place is worth the wait.
There are lots of choices when it comes to horseback riding. Tour a winery on horseback, ride for a half day to a day in the nearby hills or head off into the Andes for an overnight adventure. Hotels are great at helping you set up any of these tours. If you head for the nearby hills, you’ll get a scenic overview of the area, but it gets hot on a horse.
We spent four nights in total in Mendoza. In hindsight, I wish I’d had another day for a hike in the Andes and another day for the wineries. I think the rest of the group would have been fine hanging out by the pool.