Mendoza is without doubt, my favorite city in South America thus far. It’s a beautiful, tranquil (most of the time), cultured city with plenty to do in the surrounding region, particularly if you like wine and mountains. It is home to probably the best wine I have tasted (at least best value for money) and the surrounding Andes region is truly spectacular. I will surely be returning here in years to come.
Mendoza supposedly receives 223ml of rain per year. I’m not sure if it was due to El Nino or what but it was raining at least half the time I was there and I wouldn’t be suprised if it reached that figure within a couple of weeks.. Despite the supposed lack of rainfall, Mendoza is probably one of the greenest cities I’ve ever come across. The streets are lined with approximately 100,000 beautiful green-leaved trees which form a canopy over pretty much every main thoroughfare. The water for the trees and the vineyards (bodegas) comes from artificial irrigation sourced from runoff from the nearby Andes.
So what to do in Mendoza..
Mendoza is after all, the wine capital of Argentina. For good reason. The wine here is incredible, it’s very very difficult to find a bad Malbec, even the bottles costing you $3-4. Unlike the steak, the wine is certainly not overrated and a good way to really test it out, is to go on a wine tour.
You can choose the guided option, available at practically every hostel and hotel or you can choose to head out on your own. I talked to a lot of different people who did either one and there doesn’t appear to be a huge difference in the price. It appears you can get a slight discount at the wineries if you take a guide and it saves you the hassle of organising it yourself.
If you choose to do it yourself, the best way is to take a local bus out and rent a bike from Mr Hugo’s. The wineries are in fairly close proximity and well marked so you won’t have a chance of getting lost.
If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, Trout & Wine tours comes highly recommended (as a 2-day option)
You can choose to camp up there, stay in a refugio or even just make a day trip to check out the sites (although I wouldn’t recommend this, it’s a long way to go for a day..) I’ve already written a fairly detailed post about Cordon Del Plata so check it out for tips and recommendations.
The place to kick off a big night out is Ave. Villanueva Aristedes. This street is packed with bars which flow out onto the street on both sides. You’ll usually find the locals sitting down to a meal and a few quiet drinks before getting a little rowdier later on. There are no clubs allowed around the main city area in Mendoza so you’ll find this street pretty subdued, even though it usually stays open until 4/5am.
If it’s dancing and rowdiness you’re after, there are a few different options, but be prepared to travel! Ruta Panamericana near Chacras de Coria seems to be the most popular venue, it’s about 15km out of town and has quite a few different options. Otherwise they seem to be a little scattered around..
We had one ridiculous night out when one of the lads from the hostel we were drinking at decided to have a play around with his tinder account. He found a local girl who invited us all round to her place (there were probably 10 of us) with the promise of taking us to a local club later on. When we arrived, the place by all accounts appeared to be a brothel.. It was full of young Asian girls who each had a room with their name labelled on the door as well as designated fridge space. After a little detective work, I was convinced we were partying in an Argentinian whore-house.
Not to be put off by such trivialities, we played beer pong and other common brothel drinking games and even went for a stroll down to the local shop to stock up on supplies. One of the guys was so drunk he fell into one of the open gutters (which are a real hazard in Mendoza) and I for some reason, bought 48 empanadas. As my mum always says, it pays to be courteous at brothels.. After a few more shenanigans we were told it was time to head to the club. We were herded into taxis and driven at least 30 minutes to what appeared to be a park in the middle of nowhere. A park with a lot of security.. We got out and made our way through the entrance to what was probably the biggest club I’ve ever seen. It was huge! There were at least 7 or 8 different venues playing different styles of music all surrounding a huge outdoor setting in the middle. Problem was, we were the only ones there..
We had arrived at 12:30/1ish and it wouldn’t be until at least 3am when the club started to fill up. By the time we left at 4, there were still people flooding in, despite the fact it was belting down with rain. Such is the lifestyle in Argentina..
*I actually met one of the girls who came out with us at a bus station in Santiago a couple of weeks later. She insisted the brothel was in fact a ‘hostel’ but I still suspect otherwise.
Just like skydiving anywhere else except of course, being in Mendoza, you have the option of drinking win on the way down.
I can’t actually find any info about it online so you’ll have to book with your hostel or a local tour agency (you’ll see signs everywhere). It’s also incredibly cheap, around $100 for a 12,000 feet jump. (As a comparison, back home in Australia it works out to about $300)
There are numerous options when it comes to horseback riding around the Mendoza region. You can take a winery tour, go on a half-day tour up to the nearby hills or take a multi-day tour exploring the Andes.
Your hotel or hostel should be able to organise any of these tours for you.
Whether you plan to attempt to go to the summit or just want to take a bus ride out for a few snaps, the Aconcagua Provincial Parque is perhaps the number 1 reason why people flock to Mendoza between December and February each year.
If you are interested in climbing to the 6,962m summit, check out this guide I’ve put together on climbing Aconcagua.
If you’re simply interested in a day trip out there, or a trek up to one of the base-camps, it can be easily arranged through a local guide such as Inka Expeditions, or you can catch a bus out there and do it yourself. *Note you still need to obtain a permit even for short treks into the park. These can be obtained from Mendoza’s tourist office, San Martín 1143 (Bring cash).
Plaza Indepencia is located right in the heart of the city and is often used as a central .. from which to find other destinations. On weekends it has a large market setup containing dozens of stalls selling crafts, artwork, bags, accessories and all kinds of other trinkets. (Be sure to grab yourself some caramelized peanuts, word of warning though, they’re addictive!) There are also bands that set up spontaneously by the main fountain which provide a little entertainment to a tranquil evening.
San Martin is a huge park about 20 minutes west of Plaza Independencia. It contains a zoo, a botanic garden, a lake, a small stadium and around 20km of pathways to keep your legs pumping for hours. Be prepared for a very solid day out if you decide to explore this area on foot. There are small trams that can take you around if you get too tired.. (Note- consumed too much vino the night before)
Catching local bus 20/21 will get you to the base of Cerro Torre, a small peak overlooking the whole city of Mendoza. It’s a fairly easy hike, taking around 1-1.5 hours with a word of warning- it can get hot. Take plenty of water with you and you should be sweet.
You also have the option of organising to paraglide off Cerro Torre through and arranged tour. I know a few people who did this but claim it was rather boring.. might be a better option to go with skydiving instead.
*You will see numerous signs offering guided tours up Cerro Torre. There is absolutely no need for a guide.. the bus takes you practically right to the base and there is nothing hazardous on the trek. It’s also practically impossible to get lost, the path is very clear.