Things to Do in Mendoza
Watched over by the mighty peak of Aconcagua Mountain—among the highest peaks in the world outside of the Himalayas at 22,837 feet (6,961 meters)—Aconcagua Provincial Park is a dream for hikers, with remote valleys, glacial lagoons, and towering peaks, all with sweeping views of the Andes Mountains.
Potrerillos is a town with an artificial lake outside of Menzoa that is a destination for rafting, kayaking, hiking, and fly-fishing. Visitors can also opt to go horseback riding or do some mountain biking. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and cypress forests, Potrerillos is a particularly scenic location for an outdoor adventure.
This natural stone bridge, once used by local Inca communities to cross the Río de las Cuevas in Mendoza, stands above the ruins of an old hot springs spa. It was formed by glacial melt, with sediments from the ice creating bright orange and yellow hues that make it a photogenic pit stop on the way to Aconcagua Park.
With a history dating back to 1883, Trapiche Winery(Bodega Trapiche) is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the Mendoza wine region. Along with its award-winning malbecs—exported to more than 40 countries around the world—the winery produces a wide variety of wines including sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, syrah, and chardonnay.
Argentina’s answer to Napa Valley, Mendoza ranks as the largest winemaking region in Latin America, with more than 800 wineries. Some of the best wines come from Uco Valley, an area with 250 annual days of sun, little rain, and a cool microclimate that's known for malbec, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and tempranillo grape varieties.
The name Andeluna comes from a combination of the words Andes, in the foothills of which these grapes are grown, and luna (moon), which the winemakers say impart magic and inspiration to their winemaking. Andeluna harvests Argentine grapes from vineyards originally planted 125 years ago by early Italian immigrants. These are brought to a 48,000 square foot winemaking facility for the de-stemming, crush and fermentation. Andeluna was started in 2003 under the tutelage of one Argentine and one American investor, H. Ward Lay, of the Lays potato chip fortune.
The winery is located in Tupungato, Argentina, near Mendoza, and here they grow Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, all at altitude, in this case at up to 4300 feet above sea level. The winery features classic architecture with views of the Andes Mountains, over some of the area’s prime grape vines. There is a bar, tasting room, reserve tastings in the wine cellar where they also store 1,200 barrels of wine, and a kitchen and dining room for gourmet lunches.
The Achaval-Ferrer Winery traces its history back only to 1998, shortly after the beginning of the Malbec boom in Mendoza. The winery is Argentine and Italian owned, and the winemakers all have decades of experience extending back to far before this project began.
The boutique winery has four different vineyards on which grapes are grown, representing four different terriors with flood irrigation that decreases the chances of phyloxera. In some cases, there are cherry or olive trees lining the vineyards. Grapes are harvested by hand, and in the early morning hours. In case of hail damage (which happens occasionally), damaged grapes are removed from the plants to keep bitterness at bay in the final product. These practices, as well as several others (such as low density of plants), keeps production low, but quality high.
The Bella Vista Estate in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo is on the south bank of the Mendoza River, and this is where Achaval Ferer receives visitors for tastings and winery tours.
Wild whitewater-rafting at its best surges along the Atuel Canyon (Canon del Atuel), a gorge stretching from the Nihuil hydroelectric reservoir in Mendoza Province.
Kayakers, windsurfers, jetskiers, river-rafters, cyclists and all kinds of adventurers head to the canyon to take on the rapids and rugged landscapes, carved over the centuries by wind and water.
The river is bordered by steep cliffs, and natural rock sculptures formed by the elements have whimsical names like the Hanging Gardens, Monsters, Toad and Enchanted City.
A huge magnet for visitors, the Atuel region has a great range of hotels, country clubs and outdoor adventure facilities to choose from.
Follow Ruta Provincial 144 to the Nihuil reservoir for expansive valley views, or travel to the neighboring Valle Grande reservoir for more whitewater rafting on the River Atuel.
Mendoza’s expansive General San Martin Park(Parque General San Martin) is a landscaped oasis in the formal European style in the city’s west.
With ornamental fountains and classical statues, a lake and monuments, the park was created in the 1890s following English and French landscaping traditions.
Grand entry gates lead to pathways winding through the park, passing 34 sculptures along the way. Boats play at regattas on the lake, and the rose garden is traced with walkways.
Take in views from atop Cerro de la Gloria with its statues to the Andean Army, and stroll past more than 300 species of exotic trees.
The park also has a zoo inside its 307-hectares (758 acres), home to lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes and monkeys.
On the banks of the Mendoza River and surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Andes Mountains, the Cacheuta Thermal Spa (Termas Cacheuta) offers a picturesque setting for a spa retreat. Fed by natural hot springs, the spa features various thermal baths and hydrotherapy pools, along with mud baths, saunas, and spa treatments.
More Things to Do in Mendoza
Rising up from San Martin Park, the Hill of Glory (Cerro de la Gloria) is one of Mendoza’s most recognizable landmarks. Perched on a small hill, the 14-ton bronze monument was designed by Juan Manual Ferrari to honor the Army of the Andres, who fought during the 19th-century Battle of Independence.
Opened in 1999, Bodega Tierras Altas was one of Mendoza's first boutique wineries. Run by the Arizu family with more than a century of experience in winemaking, the winery (bodega) produces malbec, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec rose wines, as well as a range of extra virgin olive oils.
Mendoza is celebrated for its leafy squares, and Plaza Independencia is the town’s most important square, meeting place and central hub.
A crafts fair is held here from Thursdays to Sundays, and there’s often live music or street theater playing free for the masses.
People-watching is one of the favored pastimes, along with skateboarding and soaking up the sunshine.
The square was founded in 1861, following the earthquake, marking the center of the new city.
The square takes up several city blocks and is planted with a mix of pines, palms, poplars and flower beds. Ornamental lamps provide lighting, fountains dance in the sunlight and wrought-iron park benches provide seating.
The terrace in the center of the plaza hosts events, and is home to the city’s Municipal Museum of Modern Art.
The Bodegas Salentein, located in Mendoza’s Valle del Uco (Uco Valley) has the largest “cool climate estate” in Mendoza. The estate covers almost five thousand acres, over 1,000 of which are planted with grapes in three different plantations, ranging in altitude from 3,000 to about 5,500 feet. They plant 80 percent red and 20 percent white grapes, and are well-known for their malbec, merlot, chardonnay and pinot noir wines.
In addition to wine tours through the cellars with more than 5,000 barrels, and tastings, the winery also has a restaurant and wine bar serving Argentine food beside their award-winning wines. There is also an exhibition space called Killka which houses paintings by Argentine and Dutch masters. Finally, there is a chapel on the grounds, inspired by Andean architecture, with earthen walls, which features lead and granite sculpture and benches carved from old olive trees. The chapel is shaded by carob trees.
Luján de Cuyo is another part of the Mendoza wine-producing region (in addition to Maipú), and was the first Argentine wine-producing region to establish its own appellation of origin. It has a long history of wine production, and is best recognized for Malbec, which is made from a grape that is originally from Bordeaux. In Luján de Cuyo, they also produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, San Giovese, Barbera and other red wines including Pinot Noir. Among whites, there are several for which they are well known, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.
In the area of Luján de Cuyo, there is also cultivation of olives and almonds, and there is some adventure tourism, including rafting, rappelling, horseback riding, parasailing and hiking, though of course some of the main activities here is visiting wineries and enjoying the local foods. Luján de Cuyo has a high concentration of vineyards, and has more than 35 wineries that are open to the public.
Most wine tourism to Luján de Cuyo starts in Chacras de Coria, a town popular with wine and food lovers, which maintains its traditional character, including wide boulevards overhung with old trees.
The area of Mendoza is well-known for wine, with production here having started as early as the 1500s. But it was not until the 1990s that Mendoza became world-renowned for its production, mainly of reds. The vineyard Finca Decero is a newcomer to the game, built with foreign (Swiss-American) funds, to plant and construct a sustainable, hand-made vineyard “from scratch,” (as the name de cero means). Decero makes mostly single vineyard wines, inspired by one of the founding family’s connection with Napa Valley in California.
Remolinos Vineyard, one of Decero’s most famous, is located in the highest reaches of Agrelo, in Mendoza, at 3500 feet. With the area’s warm days and cool nights, and small, naturally occurring circular gusts of wind provide perfect conditions for their wines, specifically Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, though they also make blends with Petit Verdot and other varieties, much of it by hand, and all of it aged in fine-grained French oak barrels. Decero’s first wines came out in 2004, and their wines are consistently high-scoring in competitions and magazines.
In the foothills of the Andes and just an hour’s drive from Mendoza, the wild landscapes of Villavicencio Natural Reserve(Reserva Natural Villavicencio) offer scenic hikes through ravines and mountain valleys. A wildlife hot spot, the reserve is also known for its natural springs, the source of much of Argentina’s bottled mineral water.
In 1959, the French Champagne house Moet & Chandon established its first overseas subsidiary, Bodega Chandon. Learn how it pioneered the production of sparkling wines in Argentina by combining traditional French savoir-faire with the diversity of Argentine high altitude terroirs on a visit and tasting.
This winery that grows organic grapes is easily accessible from Mendoza, in the Uco Valley, with the closest town being diminutive Tupungato. Domaine Bosquet dates to the 1990s when the Bosquet family, with a long history of winemaking in their native southern France, came to Mendoza. They eventually bought land in 1998 at the current location, where they grow grapes at approximately 1,200 meters in altitude, which makes it one of the highest altitude wineries in Mendoza and in the world. Much of the harvest is done by hand, and Domain Bousquet prides itself on combining French and Argentine traditions.
The winery has a capacity of 2.5 million liters, divided among Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, a sweet Malbec and a sparkling wine. The grapes are certified organic, and the Domaine Bosquet has been certified as fair trade as well. They offer four different types of tastings, including one that is all Malbec, and another that gives samples from the various lines, such as Reserve or Grand Reserve.
One of Mendoza's most cutting-edge wineries, Bodega Renacer has incorporated new technology into its Argentine winemaking process since 2004. A collaboration between owner Patricio Reich and renowned winemaker Alberto Antonini, the contemporary winery is renowned for its excellent malbecs.
The artistic hub of Mendoza and a popular meeting place for locals, Plaza España offers a tranquil retreat, just a short stroll from the central Plaza Independencia. The striking centerpiece of Plaza España is a beautifully tiled fountain, overlooked by a series of mosaics depicting scenes from Argentina’s Spanish colonization.
Stroll around the grassy lawns, settle on one of the mosaic-tiled benches for a picnic lunch or visit on the weekends, when a lively artisan’s fair takes place and local musicians provide impromptu entertainment.
Eerie shapes carved by the elements are a feature of Ischigualasto Provincial Park, a massive geological area of canyons and desert.
Looking like something from a surrealist painting by Salvador Dali, the wind-eroded sandstone sculptures rise from the arid desert floor, surrounded by cacti and red rock cliffs.
Some of the oldest known dinosaur remains and most complete Triassic fossils have been found in these Argentine badlands, revealing links between the dinosaurs and early mammals. Some of the fossils found have been up to 180 million years old.
The desert landscape is also known as the Valley of the Moon, its petrified tree trunks and fossil ferns proof of a more fertile period in its history.
The rich fossil remains from 45 million years ago have led to the park being included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
While most of Mendoza's wineries specialize in rich reds, most notably malbec, Bodega Cruzat has carved a niche for itself producing sparkling wines. Founded by winemaker Pedro Federico Rosell in 2004, Cruzat grows pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, and produces a selection of fine white and rose sparkling wines using traditional methods.
The highlight of Mendoza’s San Francisco Church (Iglesia de San Francisco) complex is the Renaissance-style pink stucco basilica dating from 1875.
The Franciscan church replaced the original Jesuit structure that was destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 1861. Venerated throughout Mendoza, the church is the hallowed home of the miraculous Virgen del Carmen de Cuyo, patron saint of the liberating Andean Army.
The basilica also houses the tomb of the daughter of General San Martin, and is celebrated for its elaborate altar, Virgin’s chapel and priceless religious artifacts.
The church is a National Historic Landmark and one of Mendoza’s most important features.