Photo Courtesy of Martín Benitez
Mendoza, one of the ten great wine capitals of the world, has evolved into a world-class tourism destination. A desert oasis resting in the Argentinean foothills of the Andes mountain range, Mendoza has earned the moniker “the land of sunshine and good wine.” The region is bursting with over a thous…and picturesque wineries growing Mendoza’s famous malbec grape. You’ll also find internationally acclaimed chefs pairing top-quality wines with unmatched gastronomic experiences. For adventure-seekers eager to explore the Andes, the province is replete with adrenaline-pumping outdoor pursuits including hiking America’s highest peak—Aconcagua.
What to know before you go to Mendoza
Mendoza’s peak season falls between December and April, which coincides with summer and the wine harvest. Most Mendoceneans flee the city in January, when temperatures hit 90 degrees, to pass their month-long vacation on the breezy shores of Chile. The first week of March, Mendoza celebrates the harvest season with its most impressive festival—Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia. The winter months July and August attract skiers and snowboarders from around the world to carve up the hemisphere’s premier mountain resort—Las Leñas.
Don’t forget to pay Argentina’s reciprocity fee online and print the receipt before you leave for the airport. If you are traveling directly to Mendoza, it is preferable to fly through Santiago, Chile (SCL). Reserve a window seat on the Santiago-Mendoza flight to enjoy jaw-dropping aerial views of the Andes. If you fly into Buenos Aires Intl. Airport, Ezeiza (EZE), you will have to take an hour taxi ride with your luggage to Aeroparque (AEP) to catch a domestic flight to Mendoza. Mendoza’s Francisco Gabrielli Intl. Airport, commonly known as El Plumerillo (MDZ), is located about six miles (or 30 minutes) from downtown Mendoza. Taxis are safe and easily accessible at the airport.
Downtown Mendoza’s beautiful tree-lined streets are made for strolling—just make sure you don’t slip into an acequia, the irrigation channels lining the sidewalks. The Mendoza City Tour Bus and the Bus Vitivinicola are great hop-on, hop-off options for exploring the city and surrounding wineries. So too is the Tranvía de Compras trolley, which loops the city’s microcenter. For jaunts outside the city center, taxis or remises (private cars) are ideal. Sometimes it can be cheaper and safer to hire a remise with a driver for the day rather than rent a car, as Argentineans tend to drive aggressively like the Italians. Touring wineries by bicycle has become a popular travel endeavor. You can also ride the shiny new Metrotranvía light rail from downtown Mendoza to Maipú.
One would be remiss to not visit the Uco Valley, which lies roughly 40 miles south of downtown Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes. The terroir of this region yields many of Mendoza’s famous wines. International investors and prominent winemakers are flocking to the area and building state-of-the-art wineries with world-class restaurants and boutique hotels. It’s a heavenly way to enjoy a bottle of malbec, mouthwatering beef, and unparalleled views of the Andes landscape.
Mendoza is the place to wine and dine if you’re a cultured carnivore. Be prepared for copious amounts of meat and malbec, large lunches, late dinners and long nights that last until the wee hours of the morning. Reputable chefs provide gourmet gastronomic experiences downtown and at many of the renowned wineries. When it’s time to sober up, sample Argentina’s famous yerba maté, an energizing tea sipped from a wooden vessel with a metal straw. If tea isn’t your thing, dive headfirst into Mendoza’s thriving café scene.
Mendoza was originally inhabited by the indigenous Huarpe tribe, who created a complex irrigation system to bring water from the mountains to the desert landscape. In the 16th century, Mendoza was colonized by the Spanish, and in more modern times the city experienced heavy European immigration (predominantly Italians), resulting in a strong Catholic influence. Today, wine has put Mendoza on the international map, attracting travelers from around the world to enjoy this charming, slow-paced city.
La Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia is Mendoza's largest festival, which celebrates the wine harvest. Beginning in January, the city comes alive with regional folkloric events that culminate in March with music, dancing, parades, crowning of the Queen of the Vendimia, and of course, winetasting. El Carrusel and La Via Blanca parades lead up to the night’s central act in General San Martín Park’s amphitheater, attracting over 40,000 spectators. It’s a world-renowned event not to be missed. During Easter week, the Classical Music Festival with over 40 concerts takes place in select wineries.
Mendoceneans know how to use the afternoon siesta, which occurs every weekday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. During the summer months, temperatures are sweltering and locals typically eat lunch and then take a leisurely afternoon nap. In contrast, you’ll find Mendoceneans out and about during siesta in the wintertime soaking up the sun’s warmth. Year-round, locals tomar té, or enjoy “tea time” around 5:00 p.m., noshing on a serving of coffee and pastries. When exchanging money in Mendoza, locals advise travelers to familiarize themselves with Argentina’s “dollar blue” currency.
Nora Walsh is an award-winning writer and perennial traveler who splits her time between Mendoza, Argentina and New York City. Fluent in Spanish, Nora has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and has also lived in Spain and Costa Rica. She’s Travel + Leisure’s Latin America correspondent and writes for numerous publications focusing on experiential travel, luxury hotels, spas, dining and design. She explores the world with a passionate curiosity documenting her travels and life abroad on her blog Patchwork Compass. Follow her adventures on Instagram @PatchworkCompass and Twitter @patchcompass.