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Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza: A Destination Guide

Introduction

 

 

Mendoza is an absolute must-visit for wine enthusiasts visiting Argentina, and ever more so if you’re a Malbec lover. Situated at the foothills of the Andes mountains, there is more to this famed wine region that meets the eye. Wine might be the big draw here (and we do love our wine), but the incredible outdoor scenery is not to be overlooked. Join us as we explore the incredible landscape that make Mendoza a worthy stop on your Argentina itinerary. 

Know Before You Go 

  • Currency: Argentine Peso (ARS). The USD to ARS rate is currently about $1 USD – $18.65 ARS, and inflation is fairly regular occurrence in Argentina, so be sure to check local prices before you visit.   
  • Airport: The main airport is Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport (MDZ)
  • Language: As with the rest of Argentina, Spanish is the primary language, though given the high tourist visitor rates, English is widely spoken
  • To/From the Airport:
    • Taxi: A taxi from the airport to Downtown Mendoza wil cost approximated $250-$300 ARS. If you’ll be staying further away (Valle de Uco), it might be best to get in through with your hotel to arrange a private car. Expect to pay anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 ARS depending on where your hotel is.
    • Uber/Lyft: Rideshare apps are not currently available in Mendoza, (rather unfortunately).
    • Car Rentals: Renting a car in Mendoza is relatively reasonable (around $550 ARS or $30+ USD a day), but keep in mind most (if not all) rental agencies will only have manual cars available.
  • Getting Around:
    • If staying in Downtown Mendoza, the city relatively walkable, and cabs are not dififcult to find.
    • If winery hopping, a private car (or scheduled tour group) would be ideal as there are different winery areas and getting from one winery to the next is not particularly convenient on foot.
    • In Maipu, located 20 minutes from Downtown Mendoza, bike rentals are a popular way of getting from one winery to the other. Maipu Bikes rents theirs for $150 ARS a day.
  • Tipping: 10% is standard when service is good.
  • Credit Cards vs Cash: While most restaurants and shops in downtown Mendoza take credit card, it’s best to carry cash when visiting the wineries, as most have signal issues when it comes to internet, so processing credit card transactions can be timely and take multiple tries. Most wineries charge around $200 – $300 ARS ($10-15 USD) for a tour and tasting.
  • Best Days to Visit – Many wineries are closed on Sundays (especially in Valle de Uco), so be sure to inquire about days of operation when making plans. Some wineries, typically those closer to downtown Mendoza are open on on Sundays, just be sure to ask.
  • Neighborhoods
    • Downtown Mendoza – Where you’ll find plenty of hotels, restaurants, and nightlife in the area. A 20 minute cab ride from the airport.
    • Maipu – The closest winery region to downtown Mendoza, it’s a popular area to bike rent bikes and hop around from winery to the other. 
    • Lujan de Cuyo – Just a bit further past Maipu, situated on the Mendoza river. 
    • Valle de Uco- The furthest of the three regions (about an hour or so from Downtown Mendoza), located at the base of the Andes mountains. 
  • Visiting Wineries – Reservations are absolutely required for about 98% of them. They fill up quickly, though you can make them as late as the day before (though expect popular ones to be booked).
  • Transporting Wine – While you won’t be allowed to mail wine home from wineries, it is possible to bring it back home. Within Argentina you can carry on up to 6 bottles of wine in the cabin, but once you leave the country, you’ll have to check-in a bag. Many specialty wine shops will sell packaging that is safe to transport wine in. Keep in mind once you return to your home country, you’ll have to pay tax on the wine (typically 3-5%).
  • Must-Try Food: A visit to Mendoza would not be complete without a glass of wine (Malbec, the most popular grape grown locally, is a must) paired with Argentinian steak. For those with a sweet tooth, be sure to try some alfajores – a cookie typically filled with dulce de leche. An on the subject of dulce de leche – be sure to have some before leaving Argentina.
  • Dining: Most Argentinians eat meals on the later side, so expect 1 PM to be prime time lunch time, and many restaurants may not be open for dinner before 7 PM. Busy dinner time is around 9PM.

See & Do (& Drink)

Downtown Mendoza 

If choosing to stay in the Downtown Mendoza area, you’ll find plenty of hotels, the convenience of (small) city life (think: bars and restaurants), plus a few sights to see along the way. 

  • Paseo Sarmiento – A pedestrian walkway, lined with trees, shops, and restaurants. Most dining options here are casual, and are typically open even outside of standard meal times.
  • Plaza Independencia – Centrally located, the square is known for its (very blue) fountain of dancing water. You’ll find plenty of artisians lined on the square walkways selling their crafts, and don’t be surprised if you walk right by an impromptu street show.
  • Avenida Sarmiento – On the other side of Plaza Independencia sits Avenida Sarmiento, which is home to some of downtown Mendoza’s most popular restaurants.
  • Avenida Aristides Villanueva – Most of Mendoza’s nightlife is clustered on Villanueva, where you’ll find bar after bar on this lively street, with plenty of outdoor seating, when the weather is agreeable. Also a great place to grab a (reasonably priced) quick bite between prime dining hours.
L-R: Paseo Sarmiento, Fountain at Plaza Indepencia, Lighting display at Plaza Indepencia, Outdoor seating at Avenida Aristides Villanueva 
  • Parque General San Martín– Located a 30 minute walk (or a 10 minute cab ride) from the Plaza Independencia, this breezy park is a gorgeous place to spend a sunny afternoon. Enter through the inticately crafted iron gates, brought to Argentina from England, and walk through the paved roads, gorgeously lined with trees as you make your way to the Fuente de los Continentes (Fountain of the Continents). There’s plenty to see at the park, but to name a few, keep an eye out for the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, a stadium used in the Argentina 1978 World Cup, the Mendoza Zoo, and the Cerro de la Gloria monument, representing the Army of the Andes’ liberation of Argentina, Chile and Peru from the Spaniards. The man-made lake, located right by the Regata Club, is an ideal spot to relax and take a break from winery hoping (if you’re so inclined), and you’ll find many doing the same. You’ll find a few restaurants in the park as well, a couple of which overlook the lake.
L-R: Gates at the entrance of Parque General San Martín, Tree lined driveway into the park, Fuente de los Continentes, Lake at the park

The Andes Mountains

  • Parque Provincial Aconcagua – If you manage to find some time in your schedule, a visit to Aconcagua National Park is a must. Known for being home to Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain point in the Americas, there are plenty of other sights in the park, such as Potrerillos Dam, a scenic point on the Mendoza River, and the Puente del Inca, a naturally formed bridge over the Vacas river. Those short on time can find numerous companies that operate day long tours up the notable Route 7, but experienced trekkers can make their way up the famed mountain on foot (permits can be obtained independently or set up with a trekking tour group). Whether heading up on foot or by bus, be sure to do so well in advance, as this is a popular activity in the area.

Wine Country

If you’re in Mendoza, you’re likely here to visit the wineries. The majority of Wineries are located in three areas – Maipu, the closest to downtown Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, located a little bit further out, and Valle de Uco – nestled at the foothills of the Andes. A trek to Valle de Uco will take over an hour by car, but you’ll find some of the region’s best wineries (and views, if we’re being honest). No matter where you end up, a visit to a winery (or perhaps a paired lunch tasting) is an absolute must on any visit to Mendoza.

 

Maipu

  • Bodega Lopez – From downtown Mendoza, you can take the light rail (Metrotranvía) to Parador Gutierrez and walk a few blocks to this winery. Tours are free (English tours are at 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM, Monday – Saturday, and 11:30 AM on Sundays) and end in a tasting of two wines (also complimentary). The lunch at the winery restaurant is good and reasonably priced. PS – train tickets cost $8.50 ARS – an incredibly reasonable price for getting around Mendoza!
  • Bodega Santa Julia (Familia Zuccardi) – This winery owns 4 estates in the Mendoza area, with their Maipu property being their second largest. They grow Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Torrontés at this estate, but for you can find other varieties at their other wineries in Santa Rosa and Valle de Uco. On our list since they’re open on Sundays!
  • Trapiche – On our list possibly for the gorgeous architecture. While this winery was originally based in nearby Godoy Cruz, it relocated to its current location in 1912. It was so popular that a railroad was built to allow them to easily ship wine to Buenos Aires. The rails still exist today, but are no longer in use.
  • Other worthy mentions in the area DiTomasso and Tempus Alba

 

Lujan de Cuyo

  • Bodega Ruca Malen – This winery, located in the Lujan de Cuyo area, has become known for their lunch offerings, which include tapas served in their garden. If you’re staying downtown, this winery is located a quick 20 minute drive away from the city, so it’s an easy vineyard to visit if you’re short on time. Lunch was priced at $1100 ARS during our visit, but prices do go up seasonally, so be sure to ask for an updated rate when you make your reservation. Open on Sundays.
  • Bodega Cruzat – We’ll admit that the Mendoza area has no shortage of delicious wines, gorgeous views, and malbec, so we’d be remiss not the mention Bodega Cruzat, who stands out for offering sparkling wines in a sea of reds. They offer guided tours three times a day, Monday through Saturday, at 9:30 AM (you read that right), 11:30 AM, and 3:00 PM. You can call to make a reservation, or request one on their website. (PS – Heavily exported sparkling wine maker Bodega Chandon is also based here, but we always recommend trying something more local to the area.)

 

Valle de Uco

  • Clos De Los Siete – Comprised of four wineries, this initiative, founded by famed wine conossieur Michel Rolland, churns out small batches of wine made up of grapes from each of the four vineyards. When visiting the property, each winery is separately located (though all in the same general area, so be sure to schedule a different tour at each of the four (Monteviejo, Cuvelier los Andes, DiamAndes and Bodega Rolland) if you’d like to visit them all. We visited Cuvelier los Andes, one of the smaller wineries and loved our personal one-on-one tour (since no one else signed up for one!). Our tasting involved 6 different wines, starting with a malbec rosé, and nuts and dried fruit to snack on. And the view wasn’t half bad.
  • La Azul – Quite possibly my favorite winery we stopped at, this tiny winery churns out limited batches per year, but offers tasty (and generous!) pours. The rustic/ranch-y loungy dining/drinking area didn’t hurt either. This winery also serves up lunch, so be sure to make a reservation if you’re interested.
  • Domaine Jean Bousquet – Run by a French winemaking family who opened up shop in 1997, this winery also serves up a pretty fantastic lunch, which includes generous pours of wine (including a wonderful sparkling wine to start the meal). As you enter the restaurant section, you’ll surely notice the BBQ area, where meat served up with your meal is cooking on the grill. Lovely lakeside views and comfortable outdoor couches makes this a great stop on your wine tour.
  • Bodega Salentein – One of the largest wineries in the region, you’re most likely to find this wine outside of Argentina. Worth a stop for their impressive cellars and gorgeous vineyard views. Most tours are given in Spanish, so be sure to ask for a tour in English if needed.
  • Bodega Andeluna – This winery’s tasting room and restaurants are reminiscent of a quaint French countryside chateau. While the wine is not to be missed, the food also receives high marks here, so if you can get a reservation, you absolutely should. The kitchen, which opens up into the the dining area, allows guests to see the chefs whip up some amazing dishes (six courses paired with wine). Oh and the mountain views from the restaurant aren’t half bad either.

Eat

  • Azafrán – Located on Avenida Sarmiento, this charming spot offers some pretty incredible dishes. The empanadas were pretty incedible as was the corn pudding (a special of the day) topped with a generous portion of mozarella di buffala. The mushroom risotto was very mushroom-y (a little but too much for me, but a delight for any mushroom enthusiast). Meanwhile, the trout cappellacio was fantastic. Wine lovers should be sure to inquire about seating in their wine room. Main courses at dinner cost anywhere between $250-$500+ ARS ($13-$26 USD), but those looking for a good deal should stop by for lunch where you can snag a three course meal for around $500 ARS.
    Av. Sarmiento 765, 5500 Mendoza, Argentina
    http://azafranresto.com/
L-R: Restaurant interiors, Empanadas, Trout cappellacio, Mushroom risotto  
  • Avenida Aristides Villanueva – There is plenty to eat and drink on this street, but be sure to check out El Mercadito, a quaint little restaurant serving farm-to-table style home-cooked dishes. Try to snag a seat outside in the garden area if you can. For bar food, we loved El Palenque, a very laid back spot serving local beers on draft and plenty of hearty snacks and dishes. Be sure to try the empanadas and the incredibly juicy chicken milanesa. Speaking of beer, be sure to check out Antares, a local microbrewery where beers are brewed on site. Be sure to try all the beers by ordering a ‘degustacion’ (beer flight).
L-R: El Mercadito, Corn empanadas at El Palenque, Chicken milanesa at El Palenque, Exterior of Antares 
  • La Marchigiana – A popular Italian restaurant located a few blocks north of the Plaza Independencia, you’ll your standard Italian fare here. Rated well on Tripadvisor and Yelp, this one wasn’t one of our favorites in Mendoza (though their wall of celebrity guests might make you question that statement). Skip the seafood based pastas and opt for the gnocchi.
    Patricias Mendocinas 1550, M5500EAV Mendoza, Argentina
    http://marchigiana.com.ar
L-R: Interior of La Marchigiana, Spaghetti frutti di mare , Gnocchi
  • Famiglia Perin – Opened in 1947 but three brothers from Italy, today, this gelateria is still run by the third generation of the family. The menu is extensive and overwhelming, but service is friendly (though most staff speak limited English). Warning – scoops are larger than you think! The exteriors (and interiors I suppose) are reminisent of a 1950s scoop shop, and are delightfully open until 2 AM – perfect for a scoop on the way home from a tasty dinner.
    Sarmiento 799, 5500 Mendoza, Argentina
L-R: Chocolate ice cream at Famiglia Perin, Flavors of the day
  • Francesco Barbera – Another Italian spot in the area, known for their fresh made pastas. If you happen to stop by, opt for a garden table if weather permits. Closed on Sundays
    Chile 1268, M5500EOL Mendoza, Argentina
    http://www.francescoristorante.com.ar/

Stay

While there are plenty of hotels located much closer to the wineries (and some pretty fantastic boutique properties in the Valle de Uco area), staying downtown gives you more options and flexibility in terms of doing & seeing. Here are our picks:

  • Park Hyatt Mendoza – Situated footsteps from the Plaza Independencia, this centrally located hotel offers modern, updated rooms with mountain views. Room rates range from $150 – $250 USD
    Chile 1124, 5500 Mendoza, Argentina
    https://mendoza.park.hyatt.com
  • Sheraton Mendoza – Spacious rooms are very reasonable rates make this hotel a good choice in the area. SPG elites will have access to breakfast on the top floor, which boasts views of both the Andes Mountains on one side and the city of Mendoza. Read our full review here. Room rates range from $100-200 USD
    Primitivo de la Reta 989, 5500 Mendoza, Argentina
    http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/
L-R: Exterior of the Park Hyatt Mendoza, Exterior of the Sheraton Mendoza, Lobby at the Sheraton Mendoza, Suite at the Sheraton Mendoza
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