Many have heard of Mendoza because of its famous Malbec. Absolutely go to Mendoza for the Malbec, but also go for everything else that it offers: a culture of centuries-old farming families, delicious food, romantic Argentinean countryside, hot spring spas, and the mountains. Mendoza is the perfect travel destination for food lovers and outdoor lovers, or people like me, who love both. Spend a day wine tasting and the next hiking in the Andes. It's South American paradise. After traveling to Mendoza once, I can almost guarantee you'll want it on your itinerary every time you return to Argentina. I spent 3 days in Mendoza, and wish I'd had even more (travel like you'll return, right?). Read on for my top recommendations to make the most of your time in Mendoza.
There are countless wineries to visit in this region. Uncorking Argentina helps you build your own custom wine tasting tour, recommending their top wineries and working with your tastes to make sure you have your ideal experience. A tour with them includes an air-conditioned van, three winery visits with tastings, lunch at one of the wineries, water, and a super friendly, English-speaking driver.
We started our day off with a tour and tasting at Bodega Cruzat, one of Mendoza's premier bubbly wineries. While gazing at gorgeous views of the Andes beyond the vineyard, we learned that Bodega Cruzat is one of the only Prosecco wineries that uses the classic method - where the bubbles are created by turning the yeast over and over in the bottle over several years.
Our second stop was at the century-old Mendel Wines. This gorgeous, old-school winery specializes in Malbec and red blends. The winery uses modern stainless steel barrels, but all the wine is still aged in the old clay rooms where it has always been made. We had the tastiest wines of the day here, and ended up buying a few cases to bring home.
Tip: Plan your visit to Mendoza at the end of your trip to Argentina. It's a lot cheaper to buy a padded wine box and check the wine that you buy on your flight than to ship it directly home.
Our last stop was Bodega Vistalba, one of Mendoza's top-rated wineries - and one of the most picturesque. We didn't do a tour here, but we had an incredible multi-course lunch with wine pairings.
Wine happy, we returned to our hotel in the afternoon and laid by the pool. Looking back, it was one of the best days of our entire Argentina trip.
If you have the time, split your stay between a hotel in the city of Mendoza and in Lujan de Cuyo, a little wine town about 30 minutes outside of the city. If you don't have time for both, focus your stay in Lujan de Cuyo. Here, you'll be out in the countryside, within easy driving distance to all the wineries and with your pick of beautiful wine-themed hotels. We stayed at the lovely Villa Mansa Wine Hotel and Spa, and I'll never stay anywhere else in Mendoza. Located in the heart of Lujan de Cuyo, this adorable boutique hotel was the perfect place to relax after a long day of wine tasting or hiking in the Andes. It had a spacious outdoor pool, grapevines everywhere, and three adorable Bernese mountain dogs to play with. The restaurant at the hotel was delicious, and, though we didn't stay in them, they even had wine barrel-shaped rooms to rent! The staff was incredibly helpful anytime we needed a car or anything else, and the spa gave fabulous massages.
To get the full feel of this beautiful region, rent a car for a day and head out into the Andes. A perfect one-day trip is to check out Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas. We were easily able to rent a car through our hotel at the last minute. Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Upsallata for a lunch of empanadas and to see the Puente del Inca, an old hot spring bathing area. It's closed to swimmers, but really neat to see regardless.
The highlight of the day was our hike at the base of Aconcagua. After paying the park entry fee, we continued to the trailhead and were able to hike a fairly easy loop trail at the base of the mountain. If you have more time, make this trail longer by hiking all the way to the first base camp of the mountain.
On the way back to Mendoza, we stopped at Potrerillos Lake for cocktails at Gran Hotel Potrerillos. Aim to catch golden hour over the lake, and it will make the perfect end to a gorgeous day.
Though it's a splurge, this is an absolute must-do on any visit to Mendoza. Francis Mallman has gained international acclaim for his rugged, classic Patagonian food (you might know him from Netflix's Chef's Table). Even when you're not dining out in the wilderness with him on one of his culinary expeditions, you'll be able to taste the quality of his ingredients at his dine-in restaurants. 1884 is his original restaurant, and the ambiance, food, and experience overall were superb. Arrive early to grab a cocktail at the bar before your reservation - and be sure to come hungry; your meal will be preceded by many different types of bread, and you'll want to try them all.
Even if you don't stay here, the city of Mendoza is worth exploring for a day or even just an afternoon. Some highlights to check out are Lago del Parque General San Martin, Mendoza's largest and most beautiful park; Plaza Independencia, a large park in the center of the city with lots of beautiful statues; and Peatonal Sarmiento, Mendoza's main walking street, a great spot for shopping, eating, and people watching.
With an outdoor seating area featuring lots of twinkly lights, Dantesco' Ristorante is one of the most romantic restaurants I've ever eaten at.
Now that you've added Mendoza to your bucket list, don't forget to log it as a wish list trip in your Thatch account! Once you're ready to start planning it, we'll have all the tips to share with you about how to travel around Mendoza and any other great spots to hit while you're there!
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