Mendoza On a BudgetMendoza, located in the foothills of the eastern side of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, is a city known for its vineyards. Seventy percent of Argentina's wines are produced here, and Mendoza is especially known for its world-famous malbecs.
An earthquake in 1851 which killed more than 5,000 people prompted a rebuild of the city incorporating larger squares, wider streets and sidewalks in hopes to provide safe spaces in case of future disasters of similar magnitudes. This, in turn, has contributed to Mendoza's unique wide boulevards and the spacious ambiance of the city. Adventure travelers will likewise find plenty to enjoy as Mendoza is also known for mountain-climbing, horseback riding, rafting and hiking activities.
The months of October through April are considered the best times to visit the city, as it covers the planting and harvesting seasons, the weather is pleasant and is optimal time for winery activities. If you're looking to avoid crowds, autumn (April and May) would be an ideal time to visit.
SightsLocated in the heart of the city, Parque Generale San Martin has more than 11 miles of pathways to take a stroll, bike or even visit the zoo. Be sure to visit the Hill of Glory monument to learn the history of San Martin, view historical scenes, and take in the panorama of mountains and city.
Visit Plaza San Martín, Plaza Chile, Plaza Italia and Plaza España, each located within walking distance of a few blocks from the central Plaza Independencia and displaying water fountains or cultural monuments corresponding to each of their respective names.
Half a day is plenty of time to explore the Potrerillos Dam, an artificial lake created by a metallurgic company, 18 miles away from Mendoza and 4200 feet above sea level. Visitors are welcome to go swimming, fishing, horseback riding or just come to appreciate the beautiful scenery.
Those seeking a less-touristy natural scenery can take a day trip to visit Laguna de la Nina Encantada, which is about four and a half hours by car from Mendoza. Created by volcanic lava, it is a mystical break away from the city to walk, bike and picnic while taking in views of the crystal clear lagoon.
ActivitiesResponsible biking under the influence is welcome with Mendoza Wine Bike Tours, which offers both half day and full day well-organized scenic bike tours through Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo, including five-course meals, depending on the package you purchase.
Those on a budget will be happy to find that many wineries offer free wine tastings, including Bodega Carmelo Patti and Pulenta Estate Winery.
Los Pingos Horse Riding takes beginner and advanced riders alike on safe rides with well-trained horses through wineries in the hills to see sunsets over the Andes.
Parque Provincial Aconcagua is Mendoza's most popular park and features Cerro Aconagua, the highest peak in the world, outside of Asia. Adventurous climbers should expect to take between 13 to 15 days to climb to the summit, while non-climbers can take photos of amazing vistas and stay at the base camps.
Popularized in the movie, "7 Years in Tibet," the Puente del Inca is a natural bridge formation which passes just over the Las Cuevas River in the Andes and is a sight to see inside the Pargue Provincial Aconagua.
Thrill seekers can go tubing and rafting with Potrerillos Mendoza Rafting in the Mendoza River for half-day, full-day or two-day excursions or paragliding with Mendoza Parapente, for an unforgettable 30-minute flight over the Cerro Arco at 5250 feet above sea level.
For relaxation away from the city, visit Parque de Aguas Termas Cacheuta for its natural hot springs and spas.
For nightlife, walk down Aristides Villanueva Street, where you'll find plenty of pubs, bars and restaurants to begin your evening before heading to the discos or to Plaza Independencia for spontaneous live outdoor music. Just a note: Mendoza accepts casual dress in discos.
The biggest festival of the year is the Grape Harvest Festival, a 10-day festival which takes place every year starting on the first Friday in March and is celebrated in the streets of Mendoza with parades, theatrical performances, music and dancing, and of course, food and wine pairings.
Food and DiningDon't be surprised if you find restaurants empty in the evening, as locals typically eat dinner after 10 p.m. Keep in mind that many wineries have special tasting menus with 5 to 8 courses paired with wines at a set price, so be sure to arrive hungry!
If you're willing to splurge, Bodega Lagarde combines a beautiful setting in a rustic garden with an exquisite tasting menu and never-empty glasses of wine. Cava de Cano begins with a table full of starters with plenty of vegetarian options and offers five courses, finishing with celebratory champagne and cigars.
Casa de Campo is a popular spot for lunch and its regional specialties of roasted rabbit and suckling pig. For an eclectic menu of European fare and reasonable prices, Anna Bistro features delicious ribeye, fish and lamb dishes, as well as vegetarian options, of which the gazpacho is a huge hit.
Night owls will appreciate El Mercadito's late hours and clean eating menu, featuring plenty of fresh greens as well as hearty dishes like lasagna and bife chorizo in a warm and inviting atmosphere on the terrace.
The budget-conscious will appreciate El Palenque, a casual restaurant famous for its empanadas and house wine by the glass, also open late. For an authentic and humble Argentine experience, Don Claudio serves mouthwatering lomo sandwiches and house wines at a reasonable price.
TransportationThe safest way to get the center from Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport, which is 5 miles from the center of the city, is to take a taxi or remis (private car), especially at night.
The center of the city is compact and easy to walk, but to get to the vineyards, buses and trolleys are the cheapest ways to go, not to mention that they rid you of the burden of appointing a designated driver.
Renting a bike will also allow you to get around the center more quickly; don't forget to haggle and check the bike before you take it.
Mendoza is also well-served by public buses and trolleys. Buy and recharge a magnetic RedCard at kiosks to pay for your ride or else you'll have to pay with coins, which may be hard to find as they aren't commonly used. The RedCard also works for Metrotranvia, the light rail, which serves the greater Mendoza area from the Old Mendoza train station to the suburbs. For late night transportation, take a metered taxi.
Car rental is also an option, though it will be more expensive to hire in Argentina than in other countries. Car rental agencies can be found at the airport.