Mendoza, a vibrant town offering up delicious food, the most incredible wine and more exciting activities & excursions than probably your time (& your budget!) will allow!
Set with the most magical backdrop, the Andres mountains, Mendoza is a red wine lovers dream. Even on the smallest budget you can enjoy some of the finest Malbec the world has to offer. Although the grape originates from over the pond in France, Mendoza now dominates the international market when it comes to Malbec and there is no better place to enjoy it than in the sunshine in this beautiful town.
We first visited Mendoza in 2016 and loved it, vowing to return one day. We are lucky that 7 years on we were able to visit again. Neither of us have particularly fond memories of the town, but we both loved the excursions we did from here & of course the wine! Whether our memory failed us, or the town has massively changed, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Mendoza town itself is now jam-packed with beautiful plazas, delicious restaurants, lively bars and is a lovely place to spend time.
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Activities & excursions from Mendoza
1. Take a wine tour/visit a vineyard or three!
This can be done in a variety of different ways:
You can book onto a full or half day bus tour (we don’t recommend self-driving unless you have a teetotal friend. Why would you want to spit out all that lovely wine!?).
Go on a self-guided, or guided, bike wine tour.
You could jump in a taxi to the vineyards.
Or there is even a “Wine Bug”, which is very similar to the beer bikes you see on many stag do’s across Europe.
There are 3 different areas to explore; Maipu (the oldest region), Uco Valley & Lujan de Cuyo. On our most recent trip we went to explore the Maipu region on a really easy self-organised tour with Maipu bikes. This is definitely the cheapest way to get to see some of the vineyards. On our previous trip to Mendoza we went on an guided bike tour of the Uco Valley which was also really fun & more scenic than Maipu.
There are loads of booking agencies in Mendoza & most hostels will arranges tours as well. Due to the current situation with money in Argentina I wouldn’t recommend booking online, unless you can arrange to pay in cash when you arrive, as you will not be able to take advantage of the Blue Chip rate & will end up paying double. See Western Union withdrawals to maximise your money for more information.
2. Horse Riding in the Andes
We opted for a 2 hour sunset tour which ended with a BBQ, lots of wine & a bonfire, which was awesome. We were picked up from our hostel at 3:30pm & driven 30 minutes out of the city to a small ranch where we were assigned our horses. All horses looked extremely well looked after & were well behaved.
Neither of us had ridden a horse since we were a young child and even then we would have just been pulled along, but experience (or lack of!) did not cause any problems. We were given a few basic instructions on how to direct the horses, but they generally all followed the lead horse without really any need to do anything, allowing you plenty of time to enjoy the amazing scenery!
After the ride you head back to the ranch for a gorgeous steak dinner accompanied by lots of wine, the perfect end to an extremely enjoyable evening.
We paid $ 10,500 (£27/$32) per person through our hostel, which we both agreed was amazing value for money.
3. Hiking with rappel
On our first visit to Mendoza, we booked on this trip. We had never heard the word rappel before & had assumed that to be the guide’s name! Rappel, as it turns out, is in fact abseiling, which we only realised when our guide started pulling ropes & helmets from his backpack!!! Luckily neither of us are scared of heights! 😂
The trek itself wasn’t challenging but it was beautiful to be out in the Andes!
Our trip into the Andes was full of surprises! Not only did we naïvely not realise we would be abseiling, but our last stop was unexpectedly at hot springs, which definitely weren’t mentioned unless “with” means hot spring in Spanish!! We, as you can understand, we did not pack swim wear for a hiking trip, but our guide said not to worry as there is the option to rent or buy swim wear at the springs 😯
To avoid our mistake either pack some just in case or ask the hostel/tour agency if the current trip involves a visit to the hot springs!! Current price $8,000 (20.50/$25)
4. Visit the hot springs of Cacheuta
The hot springs were absolutely beautiful & it is possible to visit them as a stand-alone trip, not just bundled in with hiking. If hiking isn’t your thing & you want a relaxing trip which does not involve drinking wine this could be the trip for you. Current cost (as of November 22) is $ 5,000 (£12.80/$15).
5. Plaza Independencia
Spend an hour in the day or evening at Plaza Independencia. It’s always buzzing with people. Whilst we were there most recently, they had live music in the plaza which was free to watch & loads of craft/gift stalls around the outside. In the evenings, when there wasn’t a lice act on, the fountain comes to life with coloured jets of water ‘performing’ in time to music. It was really impressive & addictive to watch.
6. Go River Rafting
For the thrill seekers out there you can make good use of the snow melt waters from the Andes and go white water rafting. Rafting can be done all year round but the summer months (December to February) the rivers will be a their fullest. There are different difficulty levels available so there is something for everyone.
Where to stay in Mendoza
Sadly the fabulous hostel we stayed in 7 years ago appears to have closed. I wonder if it didn´t make enough money offering free, unlimited wine every night between 6pm & 8pm!! This time we stayed at Hostel Lagaras, which was about 20 minute walk from the main square. The hostel had a really friendly vibe, the free breakfast was tasty & all nice & clean. If you are planning a visit to Mendoza it’s a great budget option at $ 10,375 (£29/$35) for a private double with shared bathroom.
Places to eat & drink in Mendoza
Where to eat in Mendoza
This is a vineyard in the Maipu area. If you’ve read our Maipu Bikes post you’ll know we didn’t visit when touring the other vineyards and instead came back a few days later to enjoy a leisurely lunch here. We would highly recommend booking in here for their tasting & wine pairing lunch, it was delicious and extremely reasonably priced. $ 7,000 (£18/$22) per person for a 5 course lunch paired with wine. To get there you can either jump in a taxi, which costs roughly $2,600 (£7/$9) one way, or catch the bus for $ 40.
Khoasan Thai Food Mendoza
If you fancy something a little different this Thai place my hit the spot. Not the most authentic Thai food we’ve ever had but a tasty meal none the less.
We went here for lunch one day & the food was really good & the staff were very friendly. The chicken Shawarma was particularly enjoyable.
La Barra vinos & carnes
Calling all carnivores, this is a great steak house in Mendoza. If you sit in back courtyard, you can see the chef cooking the steaks on the BBQ.
Tip: don’t ask to sit right next to the BBQ as it gets very hot!!
Great wood fire pizza in Mendoza. A lot of Pizza in Argentina is American style, deep pan, but these guys serve a much more authentic Italian style pizza. Great crispy thin base pizza & their Caesar salad was good too.
Amazing ice cream at cheap prices, a small was just $ 190 (£0.45/$0.60)!! They even serve Malbec flavoured ice cream!!
Where to drink in Mendoza
Vico Wine Bar Mendoza
Nice wine bar with a great selection of wine by the glass. We had a lovely cheese & meat platter washed down with a couple of chilled glasses of local bubbles in the sunshine.
Cerveza Berlina Mendoza
Fun bar on a pedestrianised restaurant & bar street. They serve some amazing craft beers & next door they have a wine bar too with a great selection of wine by the bottle & glass.
Where to get a decent coffee in Mendoza
Mokka Coffee Store
Nice coffee spot just off Plaza Independencia. They have a light & airy café or grab a take-away to drink in the plaza.
Getting there & away
Mendoza is in a great spot for piecing itineraries together, it won’t be a case of ‘is there anywhere to go from here?’, more likely, ‘which way do I go?’! As always, if there is a bus to take we’d normally opt for that over a flight, but if jumping on a bus isn’t your thing, Mendoza does have an international airport. Below are some options you could take by bus for inspiration!
To the west you can take the bus to Santiago in Chile. There are multiple buses everyday that take between 8-10 hours and the route is serviced by Cata & Tramat. This journey can be undertaken overnight to save on some accommodation cost, or during the day to marvel at the Andes as you cross.
One thing to bear in mind with this route is that it is susceptible to weather conditions, especially in winter months and snow and ice can sometimes cause closures. Whilst we were in Mendoza the first time we ended up with 3 extra days in Mendoza, but hey there are definitely worse places to be stuck!
To the north you have Salta if you are still thirsty for more wine. The bus route up to Salta, has 5/6 departures a day serviced by Flecha & Tramat & takes between 18-21 hours, I know that sounds pretty rough for someone not used to South American buses, but they are very comfortable! If you are going for this journey cama seats are probably a good idea to give you maximum comfort. We did it in semi cama, which was perfectly fine, but if you book a little further in advance you will often find the cama seats aren’t that much more (see South American buses explained for more details).
To the south you have the beautiful Bariloche in the heart of the Patagonian lake district, the journey time here is 18/19 hours with either Tramat or Cata.
And to the east you have the vibrant capital city of Buenos Aires, which is only a 14-16 hour bus ride away! 😉 There are multiple companies servicing this route, all of which run overnight, departing between 2:30pm & 8pm & arriving the next morning.
For up-to-date information on buses & times we normally refer to busbud, however as mention in many of our other articles, it will cost you more money to book through them. Ignoring the service charge they add on, for foreign tourists “Cash is King” in Argentina at the moment and so booking online won’t allow you to take advantage of the blue chip rate (for more information see Western Union Transfers, Argentina).