At the heart of Argentina’s wine country lies the desert oasis of Mendoza, famed throughout the world for its luscious red wines, particularly its delicious Malbecs. Mendoza is both a city and a province, nestled in the west of Argentina, in the shadow of the snow-capped Andes and close to the border of Chile. The wide avenues of Mendoza city, known for its Art Deco architecture, are lined with lush greenery which is fed by a unique system of irrigation ditches that carry the meltwater down from the mountains.
Mendoza is well-known as a jumping-off point for discovering the endless wineries of the Cuyo Region and for adventures into the Andes. Travel to Mendoza is well-suited to all kinds of visitors. Whether you’re a budding wine-enthusiast or into more adventurous pursuits such as rafting and hiking, Mendoza has something for everyone. If you visit Mendoza you’ll find that the city has a thriving cafe culture, but it is after dark that the true character of this lively city reveals itself. In Mendoza, it’s not unusual for local restaurants to open for dinner as late as 9 or 10 pm. Filled with nightlife spots, Calle Arístides is the go-to street for pre-dinner evening drinks, and of course, local wine is top of the menu.
A trip to Mendoza is often included as part of an overall tour of Argentina since it’s conveniently located on Ruta Nacional 7, the long road which connects Buenos Aires to Santiago in Chile. The best time to visit Mendoza is during the spring or autumn seasons when temperatures are mild. If you visit Mendoza in early March you’ll be treated to the annual Fiesta de la Vendimia, a celebration of the grape harvest, complete with grape blessing ceremonies, parties and culminating in the crowning of a festival queen.
Of course, all who travel to Mendoza have one thing on their minds: wine! After all, this is one of the most important wine-producing regions in the world and it’s hard to beat a glass of full-bodied Mendoza Malbec.
Taking a wine tour in Mendoza is a highlight of any trip to the area. There are a staggering 1,500 wineries spread out across three wine-making regions: Lujan de Cuyo, Valle de Uco and Maipu. Endless vineyards stretch out across the vast plains of Mendoza, an area of brilliant viticulture and breathtaking natural beauty. The wine-makers of Mendoza take great pride in their products. There are few places in the world where you can experience the passion for wine, from grapevine to glass, as you can in Mendoza.
You can pick and choose the wineries you’d like to visit or join an organised wine tour of Mendoza. Most of the wineries offer tours of the vineyards and cellars, followed by a delicious wine-tasting session. Many even have on-site restaurants so you can enjoy the flavours of Argentinian cuisine and wine together. Full and half-day winery tours are popular ways to enjoy the wines of Mendoza, and you can probably fit in 3-4 different wineries into one full day tour. A holiday to Mendoza is incomplete without taking a wine tour!
The heart of Mendoza city is Plaza Independencia. This vast square is a lively hangout spot with a large fountain, shaded by trees on all sides. Just off of the main square are four smaller squares: Plaza Chile, Plaza San Martin, Plaza Espana and Plaza Italia, all with a distinct vibe and plenty of bars and cafe terraces to sit and people watch.
Landmarks to visit on a trip to Mendoza include Area Fundacional, home to the fascinating archaeological ruins of pre-Columbian Mendoza, the Central Market, the best place to pick up local produce and great value wine, and the extensive Parque San Martin.
Parque San Martin is a vast urban park with a large picturesque lake and the perfect place for a post-lunch afternoon stroll or a romantic picnic. Constructed in the 1800s, Parque San Martin is also home to the Natural Sciences Museum, a football stadium and a golf course. If you visit Mendoza you should make time to walk to the top of Cerro de la Gloria, on the western side of the park. At the top of this small peak is a huge memorial in honour of the Army of the Andes, plus the views across the city and out towards the Andes are more than worth the walk!
Once you’ve explored the extensive wineries and spent some time soaking up the ambience of Mendoza city, there’s plenty of exciting day trips to enjoy in Mendoza. White-water rafting on the Río Mendoza, horseback riding in the Andean foothills or hiking in the Alta Montana are just a few of the more adventurous pursuits available in the surrounding area. For something a little less taxing, visit the Cacheuta Thermal Baths, one of the more relaxing things to do in Mendoza. A popular day trip, these thermal baths boast an amazing setting, nestled amongst a backdrop of breathtaking mountain scenery.
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