Dan and I visited Mendoza in November on our trip to Argentina! I liked everything about Mendoza, and recommended it as a short getaway to anyone in northern or western Argentina or northern Chile.
Mendoza is in Western Argentina in the Cuyo desert region, and it is the capital of the Mendoza province. The city is a popular spot for wine production and tourism. While best known for wine, Mendoza has a number of adventures for the outdoorsy. Its near the Andes mountain range, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside Asia. There are opportunities to hike, fly fish, partake in extreme sports, etc. But, we didn’t come to Mendoza to be extreme, we came to drink wine, and drink wine we did!Mendoza city was lovely. I enjoyed the city and would love to return to spend more time (maybe when we eventually go to Chile…it is closer to Santiago than Buenos Aires). For planning purposes, Mendoza is a small city. You can walk everywhere. It is safe. People are nice. There’s no getting lost. There is good food and excellent wine, everywhere. Mendoza is a great introduction to Argentina and South America, especially for travelers new to the continent and/or nervous or slow travelers. Many people spoke English and everyone we encountered (including random construction workers) seemed happy to try to help out tourists – a bit more comfortable than some other South American locations I have visited, and in a good way!
While Mendoza does have activities aside from wine tourism, Mendoza is largely about the wine, and the wine hits you as soon as you leave the airport; there is a vineyard at the airport! Yes, a vineyard at the airport! Can I move here? Please. Wine tourism/sales/etc. is a huge part of Mendoza’s economy and it is highly promoted. Everywere you turn there are wine bars, wine tours, free glasses of wine…I loved it!
We arrived mid-morning and immediately checked into our hotel (ahm, hostel). As in a lot of places check-in is mid-late afternoon in Mendoza, so we went ahead and booked the night before so that we could take advantage of Mendoza as soon as we arrived. Note – if you do this, be sure to inform the hotel so that they do not give away your room. After checking in, we changed some money (at a safe place recommended by our hostel, email me for details) and went for a walk through town. As I mentioned, Mendoza proper is quite small, extremely walkable and very safe. We walked almost the entire town in approximately two hours. There are not any real “sites” to see – it’s just getting a feel for the city. There are a few squares of interest, including Plaza Independencia and Plaza España and a park, Parc San Martín, but the main point of interest is the town itself. There are tons of cute restaurants, ice cream shops, bars and stores in which to waste away the day. I really enjoyed just walking around town our first day, stopping as we saw fit. It made for a nice introduction to Argentina and Mendoza.
The lovely and free parks!
When starting our walk, we had a specific lunch spot in mind, but it turned out to be closed for lunch. We ended up stopping at a random Peruvian restaurant – Sabrosura. We were definitely the only gringos in the restaurant, but the food was good and so cheap. I ordered an unexpectedly large lomo saltado with fries, sauce and grilled tomato for US $5.50. Dan order a glass of wine for US $3, and it turned out to be the entire bottle…oops! The restaurant carried Cusqueña beer, which was my favorite beer when we were in Cusco, Peru, what a treat! While we did not intend our first proper Argentinian meal to be Peruvian, this restaurant is totally worth checking out if you are looking for some Peruvian cuisine on your Argentinian vacation, or if you are in this area.
After lunch, we walked a little more, ending at Vines of Mendoza’s tasting room for our first proper tasting of Argentinian wines. If visiting Mendoza, you will almost certainly hear about Vines of Mendoza. The company promotes wine tourism and has its hand in a lot of business/events/tours, etc. in Mendoza. You can count on Vines of Mendoza to do a good and professional job, but it is definitely not the cheapest option in town…just FYI. If you like wine, Vines of Mendoza’s tasting room is an informative introduction to the local vines. Vines of Mendoza offers several tastings to choose from at various price points, or you can order by the glass. The wines are from a variety of vineyards throughout the Mendoza province and from Vines of Mendoza’s own vineyard. The waiter/sommelier talked to us before recommending various tastings. I choose the Recuerdo Experience, which included a sampling of the main wines produced by Vines of Mendoza’s winery in the Uco Valley, both red and white. The waiter/sommelier explained the history behind each wine and gave tasting notes. I really enjoyed the Torrontés, a wine made from a white grape native to Argentina (and I don’t usually go for whites!). Vines of Mendoza also serves small, tapas-like plates, but we stuck to the vino!
We ended our day by dining at Azafran – a top-rated restaurant on Trip Advisor. The dinner was pricey, but very good (although certainly not the best in Argentina). The restaurant is decorated impeccably, and it seemed more popular with travelers than locals.
Our second day was spent on a full day wine tour with Trout and Wine to Luján de Cuyo. I initally thought this tour was pricey at about $US 150 per person, but it was totally, totally worth it. We visited four wineries, had a 5 course gourmet lunch with wine pairings and were driven around by a private driver and our very own tour guide. We also received a welcome package, which included a delicious bottle of wine, a free glass of wine at Vines of Mendoza for each person and tickets for 24 hours on the double-decker tourist bus that goes around Mendoza. This tour was most certainly the highlight of our time in Mendoza, and actually all of Argentina for me! I enjoyed the tour so much, it will be the subject of my next post! Stay tuned!
After a nap (plan for this, its much needed post all-day wine tour), we went back to Vines of Mendoza for our free glass of wine.
To cap off our Mendoza weekend, I insisted that we stop by a local, craft brewery, Antares – to try their craft beer. Craft beer in Mendoza, one of the great wine regions of the world, you may ask? Yes, Antares is a quite popular Argentinian craft brewery with a location in Mendoza (though not the original). Antares is located right on the main “party street” – Avenue Villanueva Aristides – which is also the street of our hostel. We found seats at the bar and ordered a sampler. The beers were very good, and, while not as good as the wine, were very solid craft beers. Also, the brewery was packed with locals. A great local feel in Mendoza.
To sum up my weekend, Mendoza was a fun and easy starting point for our trip. The wine and hospitality were top noch. I would recommend Mendoza to anyone traveling to Argentina or Chile who has even a slight interest in wine.
Have you been to Mendoza? Planning a trip? I would love to hear about your experience!
STEAL THE TRIP
Where we stayed:
Chill Inn Hostel, 385 Aristides Villanueva Avenue, Cuidad, Mendoza, Tel: +54 (261) 420-1744.
The hostel facilities were adequate, the price was cheap and the staff was extremely helpful. The location was great – right on the main “going out street” and a short walk from anything you could possibly want to do in Mendoza.
Where we ate:
Sabrosura: San Juan de Dios 331, Guaymallén, Mendoza, Argentina, Tel: +54 261 432-2509
Azafrán Restó, Sarmiento 765, Ciudad Mendoza, Argentina, Tel: +54 (261) 4294200
Where we drank:
Vines of Mendoza, Av. Belgrano 1194, City of Mendoza – 5500, Tel: +54 (261) 438-1031
Antares, Arístides Villanueva 153, Ciudad, Mendoza, Tel.: (0261) 423-8327