A woman walking down a road through a Mendoza vineyard overlooked by mountains and hills.

Mendoza Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts
A woman walking down a road through a Mendoza vineyard overlooked by mountains and hills.

Mendoza Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts

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Overview

The capital city of the western province of the same name, Mendoza is a beautiful city resting in the foothills of the Andes. It sits underneath the highest peak in the western hemisphere – Aconcagua - which stands at a staggering 22,835 ft/6,960 m. Argentina’s fourth largest city is a bustling and energetic metropolis that basks daily in a perpetually warm and sunny climate. Despite its size, Mendoza’s atmosphere feels more fitting with that of a peaceful small town though this takes nothing away from its cosmopolitanism.

A wide stretch of beautiful mountains

The avenues, parks, and plazas of Mendoza are lined with trees and the surrounding suburbs overflow with gardens and orchards making this one of Argentina’s most pleasant and attractive cities. It also boasts some of the finest wine to be found in the world, understandably a key attraction for visitors and travelers in the region.

Geography and Climate

The Andean Mountain chain runs along the western side of the Mendoza wine region, acting as a divider between here and the famous wine regions of Chile. This gives the two regions very different characteristics and, consequentially, different characteristics of wine. Mendoza does not share the same influence that the Pacific Ocean has on the Chilean climate, making it a much more dry and arid landscape.

Mendoza weather guide

There is around 300 days of sun in Mendoza making the weather most pleasant for travelers, the temperature averages between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit during summer months. This does also mean, however, that irrigation is an essential measure to supply water to the vineyards and other agricultural areas – the city itself is crisscrossed with irrigation canals and small rivers providing water to its parks and natural areas. Plentiful water supplies can be derived from rivers that source from melting glacier water in the Andes and also from boreholes scattered around the region. The suitability of Mendoza for wine growing is amplified by excellent fertile soil that is composed of loose sand layered over clay.

Geography & Map

Mendoza, provincia (province), is located in western Argentina. The northern city of Mendoza is the provincial capital.
Mendoza province extends eastward from the high peaks of the Andes Mountains, which form its boundary with Chile.


Elevation
746.5 m (2,449.1 ft)


City Population
1,209,000

map of mendoza

Transportation

Getting to Mendoza

There is a bustling Bus Terminal (cnr Avs R Videla & Acceso Este, Guaymallén) from where several services operate. Mendoza is 13 hours by bus from Buenos Aires and between 6 and 7 hours from Santiago, Chile. It is a travel hub and all areas of the countries can be accessed by bussing from here. In addition to Santiago there is also a selection of other international routes. These include to Lima, Peru (60-70 hours) and Montevideo, Uruguay (22 hours) along with a few destinations in Brazil.

Mendoza is also served by an international airport, a short transfer from the city. The two principal carriers are Aerolíneas Argentinas/Austral who have several daily flights to and from Buenos Aires (less than 2 hours) and LAN Chile who operate flights twice daily to Santiago, Chile (less than 1 hour)

Getting Around Mendoza

The public transport system within Mendoza City is centered on buses, trolleybuses and taxis. The trolleybuses come from as far afield as Canada and are more comfortable than the city buses yet they are not so fast and the system is not as extensive.

For those looking to access the wine regions of the Mendoza district, it is possible to rent a car though for a comprehensive tour we offer an excellent and all inclusive package exploring the best of South American Wines.


History

Various indigenous groups occupied the Mendoza area prior to Spanish arrival; the Incas, the Puelches and most notably the Huarpes - a peaceful tribe who had developed a sophisticated system of irrigation and agriculture.

The city was first colonized from Chile in 1561 and was named Mendoza by Pedro del Castillo in the name of the Chilean governor. At first the Spaniards found it difficult to continue the agricultural traditions of the natives and so were not committed to developing the area.
With the introduction of vineyards and olive groves, however, it soon became commercially viable to farm here and trade with the region flourished. This boon was also supported by slave labor and the rerouting of rivers for irrigation.

Andes Army Monument featured in San Martin Square in Mendoza, Argentina

After becoming governor of the newly created Cuyo state, the famous Argentinean José de San Martin based himself in Mendoza. Here he would raise an army that would lead him to success in both the Chilean and Peruvian wars of independence against Spain.

Earthquake and fire all but destroyed the city in 1861; much of the modern city consists of low buildings and wide streets to prevent future misfortune.

The new urban design in combination with the introduction of a railroad consolidated the city’s role as the economic center of the region.

In 2008, National Geographic listed Mendoza as number 10 in the top historic sites of the world, showing recognition for the fascinating past of this important wine growing region.


Museums

Mendoza hosts a range of different museums displaying historical and cultural works of interest to any traveler in the city.

A fossil of a giraffe inside the Museo de Ciencias Naturales in Mendoza, Argentina

Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno: located in the very centre of the Plaza Independencia, this is a charming little art gallery that has a permanent exhibition of Mendoza Art ranging from the 1930’s to the present. Paintings, ceramics, drawings and sculptures are on display amongst other pieces.

Museo de Ciencias Naturales: This museum has a great collection of stuffed animals and fossils which include an ancient female mummy.

Museo del Pasado Cuyano: This is located in a beautiful 19th century mansion and is a great place to explore the history of the city. In particular it displays various memorabilia of the General San Martin.

Museo del Area Funcional: Another good history museum which includes an investigation into pre and post-earthquake Mendoza. This includes photographs, dioramas and models that recreate the history and development of the city, and also several historical preservations such as city sculptures and archeological finds.


Attractions and Activities

Mendoza is a tranquil city that is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The multiple verdant parks and plazas are perfect for walking, relaxing and soaking up this atmosphere. There are a variety of cultural events happening here meaning there will always be something going on to interest travelers.

In the city’s heart is the giant Plaza Independencia which is shaded by a large variety of trees (hardwood trees, cypress trees, palm trees, eucalyptuses, magnolias, and acacias) and features an elegant semicircular fountain display. The square was designed by a French architect just 2 years after the earthquake in 1861 and has since been renovated on two occasions. It is flanked by leafy streets lined with cafeterias - a popular and traditional meeting place for Mendocinos. It is also open to a variety of public activities and culturally there is always a lot going on: an arts and crafts market takes place over the weekend and there are a variety of other happenings such as concerts, fairs, markets and theater.

A water fountain in the heart of Plaza Independencia in Mendoza, Argentina

Another attractive location, Parque General San Martin can be found to the west of the city. It is an extensive park featuring beautiful gardens, elegant sculptures and a tasteful rose garden amongst other details. There are several beautiful grassy areas that are perfect for sports or for picnicking in the pleasant weather. Worth a visit here is the Zoological Gardens, which hosts over 1000 native and exotic species and is considered one of the most important in South America. There is also a large lake which often hosts regattas – the banks make the perfect spot to view the entire surroundings of the park. Buildings onsite include the Malvinas Argentinas football stadium, an amphitheater and The Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. A spectacular view of the city can be found at the peak of the Cerro de la Gloria, or “glory hill” where there is a monument to the famous general San Martin and his victorious army.

General San Martin Park Gate in Mendoza, Argentina

The ruins of the Jesuit church San Francisco are a good place to explore the colonial culture of the city. This church and school was built in the eighteenth century and maintained by the Jesuits until 1767 after which it was handed over to the Franciscan order. The ruins are the last remains of the colonial era in Mendoza; the foundations were amongst the only structures left standing after the city was leveled by the 1861 earthquake. The Flag of the Andes - the standard for San Martin's army - was first blessed here.

A large 18th century San Francisco church stands infront of a blue sky

An absolutely stunning and gorgeous park, Plaza España is perfect for a peaceful walk or a rest on a tiled bench to admire the gardens and the elegant fountains. Charm abounds in the details of this plaza, with ceramic tiling, shining wax floors, an Andalusian patio, wrought iron street lamps and an abundance of trees all adding to the tranquil ambience. There is an Artisan fair on the weekends to stock up on some local handicrafts.

People walking through a park surrounded by huge green trees


Food and Drink

Mendoza Food and Drink - Wine

The dry and sunny Mendoza region is ideal for cultivating grapes and producing delicious wine. It has now come to be known as the ‘wine capital’ of Argentina due to the fact that many world famous wineries are located in and around the city.

A woman walking through a beautiful vineyard with mountains in the distance

Traditionally the Mendocinian wine industry has been based on the pink skinned grape varieties of Cereza and Criolla Grande - a quarter of vineyard plantings are still composed with these types. However, their importance for winemaking has significantly declined with the import of stronger varieties. Malbec is now the most common grape on the vineyards followed by Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Each grape type gives its own distinctive qualities to the wine; from the deep ruby of cabernet to the smooth texture of the merlot to the character of the chardonnay. But for those looking for something uniquely Argentinean, travelers should opt for the malbec, a rich and tasty red wine that is becoming increasingly recognized across the globe. Although malbec is grown in other parts of the world it is extremely well suited to the Mendoza climate giving the malbec wine here a quality and depth that is unrivalled.

Mendoza Food and Drink - Bodegas

The best place to sample the local wine is in the very places that they are produced: “Bodegas” (or wineries). These are always friendly and welcoming to visitors and usually host a variety of interesting events centered on the culture and harvest of their wine and grapes. Visitors can always be assured of a tasting session with the house wine and a platter of sumptuous regional olives. The best time to visit is during the harvesting season in March and April.

Wide stretch of vineyards surrounded by a blue sky

Travelers should at least take a couple of days to explore the vineyards in Mendoza but certainly there is enough on offer to devote a couple of weeks to this pleasure. The list of bodegas in and around the city reaches over 1,000: La Rural, Finca Flichman, Carina E, Tempus Alba, Viña el Cerno, López, Reyter, Tapaus, Tierras Altas, Bodega Familia Zuccardi, Dolium, Nieto Senetiner, Fabre Montmayou, Chandon, Norton, El Lagar de Carmelo Patti, Séptima, Renacer, Catena Zapata, Cavas de Weinert, Alta Vista, Lagarde, Tapiz, Viña Amalia, Familia Barberis, Luigi Bosca, Viniterra, Cava de Cano, Ruca Malen, or Hacienda del Plata are just a few of those worth a visit and a tour!

La Rural is one of the finest bodegas. 16km outside the city, it has a traditional and authentic atmosphere and a delightful Museo del Vino where the history and process of producing this popular drink can be explored. Visitors are also treated to a wine tasting session where the delicious wine produced on-site can be quaffed.

Another excellent wine experience can be found at the Catena Zapata. This vineyard is owned by Dr. Nicolas Catena, an economist from Columbia University who is widely given credit for bringing the attention of Argentinean wine to the world. Some of the most recognizable Argentinean wines are produced at his bodegas, and Catena Zapata is amongst the finest. The vineyard itself is also most striking; it is built in a pyramid shape styled like a Mayan Temple.

The Familia Zuccardi vineyard offers perhaps the most memorable wine tour in Mendoza. This is rounded off with a succulent asado lunch of which each course is complimented by a different Zuccardi blend; the perfect way to while away a lazy afternoon. The Zuyccardi family also hold an annual open day in which the different varieties of wine produced can be tasted. This is usually on the third Saturday in November.

Mendoza Food and Drink - Local Specialities

Mendoza, as everywhere in Argentina, has a rich and varied culinary tradition. Below are just a few of the local specialities.

Asado – cooked on the barbeque

Asado de tira or tira de asado – barbequed spare ribs.

Bife de chorizo - the prime steak cut, meatiest slice with the lowest fat proportion

Bife de lomo - tenderloin or filet steak.

Cantimpalo – a peppery sausage used in pizzas, empanadas, soups and stews.

Choripan – Chorizo (Sausage) and pan (bread), quite simply put a sausage sandwich, sold by street vendors, at football matches and at festivals.

Chimichurri – A most delicious Argentine sauce, usually blending together olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, parsley, roasted capsicum: an ideal compliment to succulent Argentine meat.

Dulce de leche – a rich and creamy caramel-like spread used in Argentinean desserts, most famously the alfajor, which sandwiches dulce de leche between two soft biscuits.

Empanadas – pastries filled with a meat and veggie mix, very similar to Cornish pasties. Popular varieties are carne (beef), pollo (chicken).

Escabeche – a popular condiment made with olive oil, wine vinegar and herbs.

Fiambres – pre cooked cuts of meat served cold.

Locro – soup or stew dish served with hominy, often made with a mix of various ingredients, including vegetables, sausage and cow intestine, topped with scallions and garnished with paprika, cumin, and chilli pepper.

Medialunas – semi circular, or “Half-moon” pastries. Popular at breakfast with a fresh coffee.

Parilla – a barbeque or steakhouse.

Mendoza Social Calendar - Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (March)

On the first weekend of March there is a popular festival to mark the end of the grape harvest. Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia is a somewhat riotous celebration of wine, winemaking and their importance to the local economy. This has become amongst the most important festivals in the country and is celebrated for several weeks surrounding the key festivities with traditional and cultural folk events in abundance.

A woman strolling through  a beautiful vineyard holding a glass of wine

During the main event, dancers, performers and decorated floats engulf the Amphitheater in Parque San Martin and the key plazas and wineries across the city.

A Reina Nacional de la Vendimia (National Vendimia Queen) is selected from beauty queens who have been chosen from 17 surrounding districts; the beauty pageant remains an important element of many South American festivals.

The festival is rounded off with a vibrant firework display resembling the explosive merriments of this joyous and wine fuelled event. Those who want to attend should book in advance, as hotels and flights can be difficult to find at the last minute due to the high number of visitors that the festival attracts.


Hotels

Accommodation in Mendoza from luxurious, world-famous hotels to three-star comfortable but elegant establishments. Below are some Argentina for Less Recommendations.

A woman getting a relaxing massage in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Mendoza Argentina

5 star

The Park Hyatt Mendoza is the epitome of luxury and style. With high speed internet access, dual phone lines, cable/satellite TV, dataports, safe-deposit boxes, mini-bars, 24 hour room service, and a 24 hour concierge service, this hotel accommodates the needs of any business traveler or tourist. Additional guest services include a two story casino, a fully equipped spa and gymnasium, an outdoor pool, a garden, and a sun deck, as well as a range of outdoor activities including rafting, trekking, sport fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and snow skiing.

4 star

The four-star boutique Huentala is ideally located in the heart of Mendoza, only a short walk from the central square, Plaza Independencia, and from all the city centers fine restaurants and bars. The hotel recently underwent a complete redesign with a beautiful transformation of the architecture, rooms and decoration. It features 44 classic rooms, 20 suites with full lounge facilities and 1 presidential suite. There are also interconnected rooms for families if requested. The hotel offers a number of premium comforts for guests including free wireless, room service, a Jaccuzzi, swimming pool and fitness center and even pillow menu to help you get a full night's sleep. For people with families there are baby sitter facilities.

3 star

Opened in the spring of 2004, the Hotel Argentino offers a refreshing combination of elegance and affordability. Overlooking the Plaza de la Independencia, the hotel features a pleasant and delicious restaurant, a cozy bar, an outdoor pool, laundry service, room service, and massage services. The Los Girasoles Bistro has a tasty breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea. The hotel's 46 rooms all include mini fridge, safe deposit boxes, cable TV, sommier beds, wireless internet, and direct access to national and international calls. The excellent amenities and friendly service will flawlessly compliment your exciting Mendoza tours and adventures.


Restaurants

Wherever there is excellent wine afoot then travelers can rest assured that they will find superb restaurants to accompany. Below are some recommended haunts in Mendoza.

A row of wine barrels lined up in Mendoza, Argentina

1884 Francis Mallman, 1188 Belgrano, Godoy Cruz,, Mendoza, Argentina

For those who are looking for a special occasion, the world renowned 1884 Francis Mallman will not disappoint. This is located in the suburb of Godoy Cruz which is 10 minutes travel by cab from the center. Its delicate and refined decorations make the perfect ambience for a specialty of the house, which include lechón (pork) andchivito (goat). The food is chiefly Argentinean but is inspired by French styles and flavors. There is also a large wooden stove outdoors which can roast a fantastic chicken. There is also a bodega and art gallery attached adding an extra bit of class.

Azarafan, Sarmiento 765 | Belgrano and Perú, Mendoza, Argentina - $45-$60

A meal at Azafran will be a definite hit. This is in a stylish and cozy location serving an excellent and original variety of lunches and dinners. Travelers shouldn’t be put off by the top end pricing – this is perhaps the most exquisite restaurant in town and the service – which includes assistance in choosing wine from the wine room - is of the utmost quality. There is an adjoining wine shop and a gift shop selling some delicious local condiments and gourmet foodstuffs.

La Carmela, Aristides Villanueva, Mendoza 5500, Argentina - $15-$20

Just a short stroll from the Plaza Independencia, La Carmela is an excellent restaurant and a popular haunt of locals. It has a range of sandwiches, salads and light snacks that are satisfying, filling and affordable. All of the food is delicious and service is most attentive.

Bistro M, Chile 112, Mendoza, Argentina - $12-$18

Another quality Mendoza restaurant is “Bistro M” which is incorporated with the Park Hyatt Hotel. This serves up hearty local dishes with a twist of French cuisine. Regional fineries on offer include Argentine beef, chicken or lamb, chivito (goat). The prices are very reasonable, and a bottle of wine from the extensive wine list makes a natural and welcome accompaniment. An open kitchen also allows guests to view their meals being made from scratch.

Av. Juan B Justo 161, Mendoza, Argentina - $5-$20

In the city center is the popular Anna Bistro which serves up a great variety of good quality Argentinean cuisine. This is a delightful restaurant with a peaceful garden, laid back music, colorful décor and friendly service. Perfect for kicking back and relaxing with a nice steak or a glass of wine.


Nightlife

Mendoza isn’t renowned for a vibrant nightlife scene, but nevertheless there is some offering for activities after sun down. The most obvious place to head is to one of the wine bars which have a jovial atmosphere and, naturally, excellent wine. There is also a concentration of bars and clubs on Arístides Villanueva Ave. or “Beer Street” as it is more popularly known. The Plaza Independencia also usually stays lively – especially from Thursday to Sunday - until long after sun down and is another good place to go for live music and theater.

A group of people sitting at tables in a bar in Mendoza, Argentina enjoying the nightlife

The bodega with the best evening atmosphere has to be Vines of Mendoza which has a casual atmosphere and an innovative approach to wine tasting. Wine can be bought in individual glasses or in “flights” (a selection) at a reasonable price, and service is accompanied by the expert wine knowledge of staff. Private booths are also available.


Sports

The most popular skiing destination is Las Leñas, around a 1 hour drive from Malargue airport in the province of Mendoza. Built in 1983, this is a relatively new ski resort, yet it has become very popular with locals and travelers alike. The outstanding frozen and mountainous landscape combined with the warm and snug atmosphere of the resort probably go a long way to explaining this.

Two hikers hiking up a hill in Argentina

Proximity to the Andean Cordilleras makes Mendoza an ideal base for many outdoor activities and adventure tourism. Options in close proximity such as mountain climbing, trekking, river rafting, wind sailing, and several world class ski destinations.


Snowy mountain tops in Las Leñas, Argentina

Another good skiing center is Los Penitentes which is 167 km (104 miles) from the city of Mendoza along the highway to Santiago. The complex stands at 2580 meters above sea level against the backdrop of the impressive Mt. Aconcagua. There are 26 runs with crisp powder snow and of differing drops and lengths. Novices and experts alike will find routes amongst these.


Health and Safety

It is best to drink bottled water while traveling in Mendoza as anywhere through South America, especially in rural areas, to prevent contracting any harmful parasites or water-borne illnesses. If no bottled water is available, be sure to travel with water purification tablets or boil water for 15 minutes to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

Mendoza is considered to be a safe city with a good police presence but travelers should still be on their guard. Theft is always a risk in South America and this is no less relevant in the serene and care free surroundings of the city. There have been economic woes for some poorer residents of Mendoza and as a result, pick pocketing and bag snatching are reported with some regularity. Though tourists are not always the main target, travelers should always take care to look after their possessions. In particular, care should be taken by people who are heavily laden with luggage or with valuables.

For those travelers who choose to rent a car to explore the city and wine region, take care to plan out a good route before setting off. Naturally when driving at night, drivers should be sure to stick to well-lit and populated streets and should never stop in a darkened area.

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