Every year we compile our list of recommendations for the best things to do, taste and see in Mendoza. It’s that time again, and this time we’ve given you a bunch of bucket lists so you can tick off all the ‘musts’ of Mendoza.
The Bucket List for Foodies
You have to have a steak or two while you are in Argentina. It is the quintessential dish to try. Great bifes are served up in classic restaurants like Don Marios and La Marchiagani, as well as classy joints like Francis Mallmann and Nadia OF. But the top place for a Bife and Malbec combo has to be at winery restaurants. Where else can you get a perfectly cooked steak washed down by a great glass of wine that has rolled straight from the barrel room? Recommended winery restaurants are Terruño at Club Tapiz, Ruca Malen, Casarena and Melipal.
The best ice cream in town is a fiercely contested title in Mendoza. While there are many names in the running, none will disagree that Mailho is certainly one of the top joints on the list. This small local chain offers a wide variety of addiction-inducing Italian style ice creams and sorbets. What should you order when you’re there? Crema Mailhó, a creamy concoction made from almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanut butter and chocolate.
M.Moreno on the corner of Martinez de Rosas, (261) 428-6298
These deep fried sweet treats are a South American favorite and Churrico, a Mendoza restaurant since 1969, serves them up like no one else. The classical churro is a filled with warm pastry dough, and occasionally piped full of melted chocolate. However, that’s just the jumping off point. Churrico offers every possible variety: dulce de leche, marmelades, fruit and more. They also offer coffee and a variety of foods.
O’ Brien 120 – San José – Guaymallén (261) 445-5348
Flame-roasted goat cooked over an open fire is a culinary tradition celebrated annually in the Malargue province of Mendoza. Known as Argentina’s “National Goat Festival,” during the first two weeks of January this culinary cause attracts thousands of chefs and foodies alike who gather together to celebrate folk music and dancing, all over a steaming hot plate of barbequed goat.
Dulce de Leche
Argentina´s take on caramel is a home run for anyone with a raging sweet tooth. However, not all dulce de leches were created equal. Though you can find one variety or another in every kiosk and supermarket, keep your eye on the lookout for the Vacalin brand, with black cow spots. It’s creamy texture and subtle notes of roasted coffee make it a delicious treat. Not to mention that if you’re looking to bring some home with you, head over to Mercado Central and purchase Vacalin Dulce de Leche packaged in plastic bags.
The Bucket List for History Buffs
The San Martin Trail
Who says the past is best read about in an armchair? Mendoza offers both history and the big outdoors in the form of the San Martin Trail – the epic trek across the Andes made by the main man of Argentine history General San Martin and his invading army at the beginning of the 19th Century. Companies such as Trekking Travel offer 5-day packages on a saddle and in a sleeping bag under the big sky, following the hoof trails of the Liberator. Or you can jump in car and go check out such historical sites as Manzano Historico (the Historic Apple Tree) in Valle de Uco where the General gave his troops a famous pep talk. A more curious site is Las Bovedas, an egg shaped colonial foundry in Uspallata used as a camp by the Andean army.
Museo Universidad de Cuyo
The purpose built Museo Fundacion in the city’s old quarter may look good but it is thin on genuine exhibits. Much more intriguing is the basement of the Literature & Philosophy Faculty at the University campus in San Martin Park. Here you’ll find a treasure trove of pre-Colombian artefacts including the personal belongings of an Inca princess found on the slopes of Aconcagua. Her mummified body is unfortunately not on display but her worn clothing and brightly colored head dress make a visit there fascinating and poignant none-the-less.
La Rural Museum
Rutini winery in Maipu is one of the best stocked wine museums in the World and a must do for any amateur wine historians. The plethora of exhibits includes Victorian era pumps and engines, and Spanish Inquisition style bottle corkers. The star item however is an ancient wine press which is basically a hollowed-out cow turned upside down with the intended grape juice made drip from the bovine anus into a leather bucket. It makes you glad to be born in the age of stainless steel.
The Bucket List for Adrenaline Junkies
With more than 20 years in the business, Argentina Rafting is the go-to guide for adrenaline seekers looking to enjoy a little white water action during their time in Mendoza. The company has a base camp located in Potrerillos where guests are fully outfitted with equipment and a restaurant overlooking the riverbed.
Amigorena 86, (261) 429-6325
Climbing & Hiking
Hotel Ayelen, located in Penitentes, offers a concierge service to link up mountain enthusiasts with local hiking and climbing guides. Excursions can range anywhere from a half day to up to a week long, and can be tailored to fit any and every fitness level. Though guides may sometimes have extra gear on hand, it’s best to rent equipment in downtown Mendoza before heading up to the mountains for your hike.
Ruta 7Km 165, Los Penitentes, (261) 425-3443
When it comes to hitting the slopes, Las Leñas is the biggest name in the game, and for good reason. It offers downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross country trails, and heli-ski excursions. Located 6 hours southwest of Mendoza city, it’s possible to make it a day trip, though most skiers opt to crash in town and stay on the slopes for a few days.
Andean foothills make for perfect launch sites for paragliders looking to catch the breeze and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city below. Parapente Mendoza is a local company that offers tandem flights for travelers hoping to catch a little wind beneath their wings. Mendoza’s semi-desert climate and 300 days of sunshine offer practically ideal weather conditions for paragliding and excursions go out daily.
http://www.parapentemendoza.com.ar/ Av Zapata 389, (261) 429 1442
If you’re eager to get out into the open air but would rather someone else’s legs did the grunt work, a horseback ride in wine country is the perfect, gentle adrenaline hit. You can get some more serious heights by taking a ride in the foothills of the Andes, or you can gallop more freely and fiercely trying a chukka or two of polo. But for those who want the foot fancy feel of horseback without any work, you can take a trot around the vineyards with Trout & Wine’s tours in Nieto Senetiner.
www.troutandwine.com Espejo 266
If you’re looking to bring home something other than a mass-produced argentine trinket, Ayllu offers high quality, authentic artisanal goods from Central and South America. Goods range from painted pottery, embroidered weavings, woodcarvings, leather belts, clothing, house wares, and jewelry. Prices are reasonable, but expect to pay a little bit more than the average corner tourist trap. And before you take the thirty-minute bus ride back to downtown, stop by the in-store café and enjoy a bite to eat.
Ruta Panamericana 8343 Chacras de Coria – Mendoza (261) 496-1213
Las Viñas is located on the corner of Mitre Avenue and Las Heras Street, one of Mendoza City’s main drags. The expansive shop is filled with all the most popular trinkets, bobbles, and gaucho gear as well as a friendly staff eager to help you find what you’re looking for. Shelves are generously stocked with leather goods, woven textiles, silver jewelry, wines, chocolates, olive oil and everything in between.
Las Heras 399, 5500 Mendoza (261) 425-1520
Still searching for the perfect leather belt, bag, or jacket? Duck into Cueros Armando, a local leather shop in the heart of Mendoza downtown. You´ll find both women’s and men’s leather jackets as well as a variety of accessories in all colors – ranging from traditional leather treatments to the more fashion-forward varieties. Prices are generally very reasonable and paying in cash will get you an extra discount off the purchase price.
Las Heras 415 (261) 429-9616
Capibara pays homage to the life and style of the Argentine gaucho, and brings the rustic elegance of life on the range to a wide variety of personal and household souvenirs. The store is replete with silver jewelry, leather accessories, clothing, household decór and more.
Perú 1090 (on the corner of Sarmiento) (261) 429-9918
If by chance you have forgotten that Mendoza is not only a producer of wine, Verolio is here to remind you that local olive oils also deserve a place in the spotlight. This small restaurant and shop is the perfect place to pop into if you’re looking to pick up a few extra gifts. Their knowledgeable staff will lead you through olive oil tastings, teach you about the various olive varieties, and help you pinpoint the bottle that is right for you. The restaurant serves three artisan meals a day and offers guests prime seats for people watching.
Sarmiento 720, (261) 425 5600
The Bucket List for Party People
Mendoza´s annual grape harvest festival takes place every year in early March. The festivities begin months in advance, with celebrations across the province’s 18 different counties. However, it is most known for the final week of events – from block party style wine tastings to beauty pageant parades – all of which culminate in an outdoor show held in the Frank Romero Day Amphitheater tucked into the Andes foothills. Visitors to Mendoza can purchase tickets through a number of local tourism agencies online.
In the heart of autumn (early May), Mendoza’s hard rockers gather together at Monteviejo Winery (of the Clos de los Siete group) in the Uco Valley to pair great wine with live music in the open air. The festival first began as a way to celebrate the end of the grape harvest, and has since exploded into an annual tradition on Mendoza’s social calendar. Tickets are sold by various vendors throughout the city and can be purchased to include transportation to and from the event as well.
www.winerocktour.com/ 9 2622 403692, firstname.lastname@example.org
Classical Music on the Wine Routes
Every year during Holy Week, just before the Easter Holiday, Mendoza hosts a classical music festival that brings live music to venues throughout the city and the wine regions beyond. Classical Music on the Wine Routes offers two weeks of concerts and live jam sessions held in churches, wineries and green spaces within the province. Each day’s itineraries are packed with concerts across various locations. Tickets for the concerts can be purchased with donated powdered milk boxes and can be exchanged at the Ministry of Culture in advance.
www.cultura.mendoza.gov.ar (261) 449 5800
Since 2008, Mendoza has played host to the annual Tango Festival on the Wine Routes. Every September the festival features various local tango artists and musicians, many of which are recognized at the international level, and each of whom showcase their skills within Mendoza wineries, theaters and public spaces. Tickets for the concerts can be purchased with donated powdered milk boxes and can be exchanged at the Ministry of Culture.
The Bucket List for Mountain Moguls
Home to the highest mountain outside the Himalayas, Parque Provincial Aconcagua is a world-class destination for both hardened alpinists and weekend trekkers alike. For those not quite ready to tackle the 6,982m peak, the park offers single-day and multi-day hikes amongst grassy meadows and brilliant lagoons. For more information about the park and entry permits, visit http://www.aconcagua.mendoza.gov.ar.
Cerro Tupungato is Mendoza’s best-kept mountaineering secret, offering a challenging ascent to the 6,570m summit without the crowds of Aconcagua. This extinct volcano is located in Parque Provincial Tupungato, a protected area characterized by its remoteness and stark beauty. Glaciers, lagoons, and waterfalls are hidden between soaring Andean peaks. Recommended guide service: Argentina Mountain, http://www.argentinamountain.com. Lavalle 606, Guaymallén, Mendoza
Cordón del Plata
Dotted with peaks ranging from 4000-5000m, this sub range of the Andes is an ideal training ground for the burgeoning mountaineer. Don’t trust yourself with an ice axe? Check out skiing in nearby Vallecitos or multi-day expeditions on horseback. Recommended guide service: Cordón del Plata S.A.. http://www.cordondelplata.com. Information about skiing in Vallecitos: argentinaturismo.com.ar/vallecitos, Ski center telephone: 02622 488810.
Nestled amongst the gorgeous peaks of the pre-Cordillera, this lakeside village is a local hotspot for Sunday asados and quiet weekend getaways. Enjoy a picnic alongside the cerulean water, a trek in the surrounding hills, or an adrenaline-pumping rafting adventure. More information available at http://www.potrerillos.com.ar and http://www.argentinarafting.com.
The most accessible hike from city center, Cerro Arco is a half-day adventure that boasts the best view of the city as well as an alluring glimpse into the pre-Cordillera. Those untroubled by acrophobia may opt for the quick way down the mountain: by parachute. Cerro Arco is the launchpad for many paragliding excursions. To get there, take the G3 114/115 to Puerta de la Quebrada. For information about paragliding, visit Argentina Rafting on Amigorena 86 (near the Sheraton).
For the snow lovers traveling to Mendoza, Las Leñas offers some of the best skiing in the Andes. The resort touts 29 runs, with the longest stretching an impressive 7km. Whether you’re looking to shred gnarly chutes or cruise down some more mellow terrain, Las Leñas has got it all. Open from June-October. For more information, visit http://www.laslenas.com.
The Bucket List for Green Goddesses
Nuts about Nuts
Mendoza is not a vegetarian-friendly place per say, but you won’t be disappointed with Mendoza’s delicious pistachios and almonds. The nut to wear the crown though is the walnut. In fact Tupungato in the Uco Valley is the Walnut Capital of Argentina (yes, that does exist). When you face the copious tablas and picadas, a sprinkle of nuts, raisens and bread become your saving grace.
These are popping up almost as quickly as lomito bars, and they offer the safest meat-free lunch option around town. They are also rather cheap which helps. Stock up on the salads, vegetarian lasagna, spinach pancakes, pumpkin milanesas and the infamous pancake tower. There are locations all over the city and the signs are usually decorated with flowers and vegetables. Usual operating hours are Mon – Fri, 12 – 15. Try out the one on España between Espejo and Rivadavia for a start.
Located about 10 mins out of the city centre this is a mecca for veggies with all sorts of vegetable curries, bakes and balls – meat-free fodor comes in all shapes, colours and sizes here. It is so saintly that it also has a no booze policy.
San Martin 453 (Godoy Cruz)
A veggie takeaway (or eat-in restaurant) is a bit of an anomaly on busy bar street Arisitides Villanueva, however Sabina is a happy solo soldier. Salads and veggie bakes are often heavily doused in salt, but there won’t be a whisper of even ham on the menu.
Also on the immensely popular Aristides street, El Mercadito does cool cocktails, happy tunes and a decent steak. But while your meat-loving friends dine on something juicy, vegetarians will also be well catered for with a good range of serious salads and plenty of hearty sandwiches. They also do a good carrot and orange juice.
Aristides 521, or in Chacras Viamonte 4961.
The Bucket List for Architecture Lovers
In the Uco Valley, this winery is an architect’s dream. With a beautifully designed temple to wine, the Greek ampitheatre shaped cellar is the central point of the bodega surrounded by handsome chambers for winemaking and tasting. It’s best view point though is walking from the art gallery between the vineyards and admiring Salentein amongst colourful desert flowers with the Andes backdrop. Oh, and there’s a chapel, restaurant, posada, art gallery and sculpture garden to boot.
Salentein, Ruta Provincial 89, Tunuyan. www.killkasalentein.com
Like a spaceship that settled in amongst the desert scrub of Mendoza’s winelands, O Fournier is fabulously avant-garde. While its architectural wow factor is certainly something, it doesn’t fail to deliver on functionality either as this is a top down vertical processing winery. The views are quite something too, and the restaurant is home to one of Mendoza’s best chefs: Nadia Heron.
O Fournier, Los Indios s/n, San Carlos www.ofournier.com
Uco Valley wine resorts
The Uco Valley has recently become a playground for the very rich. This year has seen a bumper harvest of luxury wine resorts with The Vines of Mendoza and Casa de Uco in particular battling it out for top architecture points as a wine hotel. Casa de Uco has been designed by its owner, renowned Argentine architect Alberto Tonconogy, who has made a mini metropolis of luxury in the middle of the Uco Valley with a unique hotel design with private pods and bungalows, a golf course, a heliport, stables, you name it. Nearby the Vines is constructed under the guidance of Bormida & Yanzon (well-known architects on the winery circuit) and is a set of private chalets with sunset terraces overlooking the Andes, a handsome restaurant with enormous rock walls and a glass gym cube in the middle of the vineyards with such beautiful views that even exercise becomes desirable. Watch this space!
The original architecture of Mendoza, this is the only relic that survives from what Mendoza used to look like before the 1861 earthquake. Here you can see ruins of the original church and also see artistic interpretations of the city’s architecture and centre before the high rise and apartment block was first introduced.
Easily one of the most impressive streets in Mendoza city, this is where the important figures of recent history all had their mini mansions built and many still exist today. You’ll see well-maintained enormous houses with security guards at the door as well as a handful of dilapidated and abandoned houses, which equally intrigue.
The Bucket List for Pampered Princesses
If you really want to get polished from head to toe, you might want to make a trip to this hammam spa where you can while away an hour moving from chamber to chamber to steam, sauna and scrub. The olive oil foam massage is a particularly indulgent way to finish your session. Entre Cielos, Guardia Vieja 1998, Vistalba www.entrecielos.com
Cavas Wine Lodge
If you want to indulge in some serious ‘me time’, this luxury wine lodge is one of the most indulgent of all. Take your pick of private treatments with olive oil and wine infused products and laze by the pool in the orchards and vines being served on hand and foot by the attentive waiters. Ruta 40, Lujan de Cuyo www.cavaswinelodge.com
The original spa date in Mendoza, the thermal pools are as old as time but in the last century they have been channelled into a picturesque series of stone pools in this mountain retreat. Different temperature waters offer enough fun pool hopping, but there is also a steam room, full body mud masks and a big buffet to entertain you. Termas Cacheuta, Cacheuta www.termascacheuta.com
One of the best things about being in Mendoza for a lady is just how incredibly cheap a manicure and pedicure are compared to home. You can get those finger and totsy talons trimmed, shaped and painted for less than $20USD. No excuses to have hobbit feet here.
The Bucket List for Winos
If you have not visited a winery while you are here, you obviously aren’t the wino you thought you were. Get your act together (or pay someone else like www.troutandwine.com to do that for you) and head out to what must be some of the most spectacular vineyard settings in the World. There are not many places on the globe that have one thousand meter high vines, jaw dropping architecture and ice-capped volcanoes in the background. Take your pick between Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley – there are almost 1000 wineries at your doorstep.
It could almost be a bucket for its size, the damajuana is Argentina’s demi-john – big bottle of wine that is best drunk at a barbecue and without remorse. This should be on any winos list to try at least once.
Vines of Mendoza Tasting Room
Your one stop shop for tasting lots of boutique wines by the glass. This tasting room in the city centre is ideal for any oenophile who doesn’t have the time or disposition to go to all the wineries themself. You can taste a hundred or so wines with just one journey here.
Vines of Mendoza, Belgrano 1194
The Bucket List for Yummy Mummies
Mendoza is child friendly. Whole families pack out the pizza restaurants after midnight and the many ice cream parlours do a roaring trade – literally. Whilst the province lacks any big, blockbuster theme parks, all the city’s main plazas have well-kept playgrounds, the mother of which is located at the central Plaza Independencia. Here you´ll find a virtual assault course of swings, slides and climbing frames. An adjacent mini-amphitheatre hosts the occasional clown and aspiring boy band and the underground indoor theatre runs a puppet show so convincing it frightens toddlers.
Parque San Martin
The city’s vast park to the west is Mendoza´s main attraction for the buggy brigade. The provincial zoo, children’s carrousel (la Rotunda de Calesita) and Natural History museum are a shade down-at-heel but will still fascinate most kids whilst the park’s many quiet laneways and wide open meadows make it perfect for cycling, rambling and general horsing around. Despite its size, the park gets busy on Sundays with lounging kith and kin, so go early if you do not want to jostle for shade.
Mendoza´s main shopping malls have the usual brain curdling amusement arcades and fast food strips that fascinate kids and horrify parents. One mall outlet however that satisfies both parties is Las Tijeritas in Jumbo, Godoy Cruz. This is a hair salon exclusively for kids with fun chairs, tables piled with toys and video game consuls to entertain the little ones whilst their barnets get a back comb.
Contributors: Amanda Barnes, Madeline Blasberg, Joe Gibson, Charlie O’Malley
Compiled and edited by Amanda Barnes
Illustrations by Donough O’Malley www.pencilrobot.net