Finally blogging again, yay! My excuse is that the internet has been TERRIBLE, but really we’ve just been mega busy and also pretty lazy. I’m writing this from a hotel room in Potosi, Bolivia – the highest city in the world where it has randomly started snowing, but more on that later.
Since the last blog about visiting Iguazu Falls we have been to Mendoza, Buenos Aires and Salta in Argentina, the Atacama Desert (kind of) in Chile, and made our way across the salt flats in Bolivia in a 4×4, so we clearly have a lot of catching up to do. We loved Argentina and want to write about all our favourite things to do in Mendoza as we spent more time than planned there!
We changed our travel plans due to being a bit shattered and spent around a week relaxing in Mendoza, and had a really good time. Sadly a couple of days after we rocked up, the weather turned and we went from 25 to about 5 degrees which we hadn’t quite planned for, but we still got out and did plenty. Mendoza was around a 4 hour flight from Iguazu, via Salta, and is most famous for its amazing wineries which specialise in the production of Malbec, clearly a great destination if you’re fan of red wine like we are 🙂
Rather than doing a day by day itinerary as we’re tight on time and have so much to write about other places, I just thought I’d share a few of the best things to do in Mendoza – we think anyone visiting the city should partake in all of these activities if time and budget allows.
The Best Things To Do In Mendoza – A Wine Tour!
There’s a lot of options for winery tours in the vineyards around the city centring around 2 main areas – Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu – meaning you can walk, cycle, take bus tours or even hire a car (if you’re not planning on drinking too much!). Our hostel recommended Lujan de Cujo as a better area, describing Maipu as more of a tourist strip of bodegas, although we visited both and found them pretty good.
As the weather was crappy and I was coming down with a cold, we didn’t get to cycle round which is supposed to be one of the best ways to spend a day, but we did do a really good mini bus tour where we visited 3 wineries and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar production farm. We were the only non-Spanish speakers on the bus, so every time we arrived somewhere we were given an English speaking guide and pretty much had a private tour of each stop which was a bit of a bonus for £20 each. Of all the things to do in Mendoza, this is by far the most popular with most travellers and possibly even the best!
This was probably our favourite part not just of Mendoza, but the whole of Argentina – Asado is traditional Argentinian barbecue, and the ones we went to included loads of beautifully cooked steak, sausages and as much red wine as you can drink. The meat is usually grilled, often on an open fire, and isn’t marinated – just seasoned with plenty of salt before being slow cooked.
If you’re a meat eater and a fan of steak, you’ll eat better steak in Argentina than anywhere else in the world – in our experience! As things to do in Mendoza go, it’s also not too expensive – in a mid range Parilla restaurant we typically paid around £7-£10 each for an amazing steak with accompaniments such as grilled veg, salads and roast potatoes, and you can get a decent house bottle of Malbec for about a fiver. It gets a bit more pricey in Buenos Aires and some of the more touristy restaurants, but there are plenty of bargains to be had.
We’re obviously travelling on a budget which can be tricky in countries like Argentina, especially when you want to do as many things as possible, but this is definitely one to enjoy.
Before this trip Rob had never been on a horse before, and after an interesting experience on a camel in Egypt, wasn’t too sure if it should be on the to do list. I, on the other hand, pretty much solely planned Argentina into our itinerary for the purposes of drinking wine, eating steak and horse riding through the desert (probably not in that order).
When deciding on the main things to do in Mendoza we chose to do a sunset horse riding trip, followed by an Asado back at the ranch with plenty of Malbec and some guitar playing, and it’s honestly one of my highlights of the whole trip. We had a great group, including an awesome Dutch couple in their 70s who were backpacking round South America, and the weather was beautiful – watching the sunset over the Andes in the distance was stunning. We also went horse riding in Salta, which was also amazing – a bit more expensive but the horses were a little more lively and we covered more ground as it was flatter and easier to navigate. In terms of cost it’s around £40-£50 for horse riding and the asado afterwards, so pricy, but worth every penny! Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of the actual asado – we were so hungry we’d eaten it before we realised!
Exploring the Andes
This wasn’t really part of our original plans when we were looking at things to do in Mendoza, although we figured if the weather was good we’d try and do some hiking, but again, this turned out to be one of the most memorable days we’ve had so far. After a few days of cold weather we decided to embrace winter and went on a “High Mountain Experience” trip by bus into the Andes – had no idea what to expect other than the guy running the hostel telling us to be prepared for it to be really cold. We put on literally all the layers that we’d brought with us which wasn’t that many as we planned to buy our winter clothes in Bolivia or Peru for cheap, and were anticipating 20 degrees plus until we reached that point, and headed out to the mountains.
Our first stop after a quick picture opportunity at the manmade Potrerillos lake – near the valley where 7 Years in Tibet was filmed – was a sleepy looking town where we parked up outside a shop hiring out ski clothes. The decision to spend £15 hiring snow boots, trousers and gloves was probably the best decision we’ve ever made – by the time we arrived up in the mountains, it must have been about minus 5, maybe more with windchill, and we were completely unprepared with our travel clothes!
Top Tip: Whatever you do on this trip – prepare for cold weather!!
We stopped at a small ski resort for some cheesy snow pictures and hot chocolate before setting off again for Aconcagua Provincial Park, home of the Aconcagua Mountain which is the highest peak outside of Asia at almost 7,000 metres high. This place was seriously incredible – the mountain range up close is stunning, especially from the Park. Lots of people travel to climb Aconcagua, but with an estimated success rate of about 60% and many fatalities, it’s not one to be taken lightly. As far as things to do in Mendoza, this is one for the more extreme travellers amongst us. Perhaps one for the bucket list if we ever come back perhaps.
Finally, on our way back to Mendoza, we stopped at Puente Del Inca – a point near the Chilean border where a natural bridge forms an archway across a river and where hot springs can be found for bathing. This trip was seriously amazing – and I’m so glad we decided on the off chance to see what it was like!
Most travellers only spend a few days in this part of Argentina, but there are so many things to do in Mendoza depending on what kind of thing you like – from white water rafting to mountain climbing for those travellers who are a bit more extreme, to fine dining and incredible wines, we’re already planning to come back at some stage and explore further.