Insider South America Series, Chapter 7: Mendoza, Argentina
Quick question: Do you like fine wine? Then Mendoza, the land of sun and fine wine has your name all over it.
If not, we are sure that after a few days in this magnificent part of Argentina, below the Andes mountains, in some of the most beautiful and prestigious vineyards on the planet, you will learn to love it.
With Mendoza located on the western side of Argentina, just over the border from Santiago, Chile, we can finally trade out the raincoats for singlets, shorts and sunshine. As the old saying goes, “sun’s out, guns out”.
Where to stay
So first thing to sort out is organising a hostel… which, as we all know by now, is always a constant battle trying to find the right one for you. Cost? Wifi? Free breakfast? Reviews? It can definitely be draining. The main thing to look for in Mendoza is location and a free breakfast.
Drinking wine all day can be exhausting, the last thing you will want to do is wake up, partly hungover and have to cook!
We stayed in ‘Hostel Internacional’, definitely a tourist hostel with it being full of more English speakers than we have been used to by this point. Which can be refreshing after a few months on the road with some basic Spanish! Overall was a good hostel with a free breakfast, good wifi, comfortable beds and a family vibe to it.
As you may have guessed by now, Mendoza is the wine and olive capital of Argentina. Which is the reason it is on so many peoples bucket lists, including ours. With myself being a wine enthusiast, I was not prepared to miss it! Ethan, at this stage not so much into wines, but, by the end of our time here, he loved it as much as I did!
Most hostels will provide wine tours (at a cost) for your convenience, or you can do it on your own. Being the independent stinges that we are, we decided to do it on our own. Very simple to do. The best thing though is you can’t beat the freedom of doing what you want, at the pace you want.
How to get around
The first thing you will need is a Iocal bus card, and you can find them from most corner stores. If you're not staying at Hostel Internacional, make sure to ask for the best way to get to the bus station “Urquiza”. Take the 811 bus at San Juan for an hour and get off at Urquiza, a one minute walk to Mr Hugo - a bike renting shop owned by a lovely old man.
Here you will pay 250 Argentinian pesos (about USD 6.50) for a bike, map and information with the location of the vineyards, so you're in for a full day.
But most importantly wine tastings at all of them it’s a good day out in the great Mendoza weather. Each vineyard produces its own, famous grapes, wines and olives. So it’s a hard job determining a favourite. Try to make it to as many vineyards as you can, trying as many varieties as you can.
Do you prefer your glass half empty or half full? By the end of our ride, we did not know the difference. Some varieties to look out for are the Chardonnays, Rose, Merlot, Pinot Noir but my personal favourite, only produced in this part of the world, keep an eye out for “Malbec” - by far our favourite!
The bikes need to be returned by 6:30 pm, which is not a bad thing as most of the vineyards finish up around then too. A great way to spend the day, and for you party people, the best pre-game sesh for the night ahead!
Top tip: Don't forget your sunscreen and water (wine does not count as water).
For unforgettable views
For the best views of the Mendoza, head up to Cerro de la Gloria (known as glory hill), which overlooks the entire city. A great place to see the sunset with a nice coffee or cheeky red. You will also see the Army of the Andes statue at the top which in its own right, is spectacular. With breathtaking views and sights of the Andes, it’s an excellent place to take photos and prove you did more than drink wine and eat olives in Mendoza!
Mendoza is also known for its varying hikes. One that I need to mention, and you need to include in your itinerary, is the Aconcagua trek. Standing at almost 7000 metres above sea level, it is the highest peak in the western hemisphere and a sight to behold!
You can do many hikes here as this particular national park 75,000 hectares of land. So make sure you have a map handy and your routes planned. Being only a 2-hour drive from Mendoza, it is simple to get to, or if you would prefer, you can book a guided tour through most hostels.
Well, this has only scratched the surface of activities available in Mendoza. If you really want to experience the lush vineyards, beautiful mountain ranges, the white water rafting and beautiful people of Mendoza… I guess there is only one thing left to do…Go!