With more than 330 sunny days, a near perfect climate with desert-like temps (meaning warm mornings and afternoons and cool nights), and a unique terroir for growing grapes, Mendoza is any world-traveling oenophile’s dream come true.
It’s also full of activity options ranging from leisurely to extreme. Spas, vineyards, and shopping destinations cover quite a bit of this western-central Argentinian turf, just as adventure awaits in the form of white water rafting, horseback riding, fly-fishing, parasailing, hiking, and biking.
There’s plenty to pique the interest of every kind of wanderer, and this list serves as the ultimate conduit to do just that.
Spend a Day Winery Hopping
Mendoza, Argentina is considered to be one of the nine wine capitals of the world (alongside the likes of Napa Valley, Bordeaux, and Tuscany). When you really want to learn about the area’s history, culture, and prized export—Malbec—you begin at family-owned winery Bodega Catena Zapata. The story of Nicolás Catena, his daughter Laura, and how the Adrianna vineyard came to be is almost better than the wines themselves, but definitely do not leave without sampling the Nicolas Catena Zapata, Adriana Vineyard Malbec, and Adriana Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay. Others worth tasting while in the area include El Enemigo, SuperUco, Viña Cobos, Achaval-Ferrer, and Susana Balbo. Salud!
Relax at Argentina’s First Spa+Hamam
Entre Cielos built the very first Turkish-style Spa+Hamam in not only Argentina, but all of Latin America, so it’s only fitting you enjoy a day of pampering and vinotherapy treatments here in the land of red wine. Wind your way through their six-stage circuit, making the rounds in humidity, steam, and temperature-controlled relaxation rooms before lying on a very enjoyable hot stone. Then, indulge in their exclusive “Between Grapes” service, which includes a grape seed body exfoliation, anti-aging grape extract wine bath, and 50-minute-oil massage. Entre Cielos is also an ideal hotel to stay at if you are looking to be closer to the center of Mendoza city (15 minutes away to be exact), and it even features a loft suite built high above the vines on stilts, with a bathtub terrace and exposed views of the sky.
Explore the Reserva Natural Villavicencio
Known for their natural springs, the Reserva Natural Villavicencio sources most of the mineral water found in Argentina. This protected land is also teeming with wildlife (they’re a part of the refuge program of Argentina) and surrounded by the striking beauty of the Andes mountains. So if the thought of camping under the stars (within earshot distance of pumas) peaks your interests, spend a night at a nearby campsite. The closest are in Las Heras and Uspallata, but don’t retire to your tented quarters until you’ve had a an authentic meal in the area at Parador Villavicencio first.
Experience Argentine Cuisine
There’s certainly no shortage of traditional asado in Argentina, but with two restaurants in Mendoza (1884 and Siete Fuegos) and one in Buenos Aires (Patagonia Sur), it’s safe to say you’re in the backyard of enigmatic and legendary Chef Francis Mallmann. As one the most celebrated personalities in the entire country—and probably the world at the moment—there’s no denying many foodies flock to Mendoza just for his live-fire cooking. To experience the true art form that is the wood-burning movement, however, you have to head to Siete Fuegos at The Vines Resort & Spa. Savor signature dishes like nine-hour rib-eye steak with chimichurri, flawlessly charred empanadas from the clay oven, slow-grilled plums and peaches, and baked provolone cheese with fresh tomatoes, while you witness the gauchos in action.
Set Out on Horseback in Valle de Uco
Located 75 miles south of Mendoza city and nestled in between the Tunuyán River and the Andes Mountains is the picturesque Uco Valley that pretty much looks like a still out of a movie set. It's that stunning. And since caballos (horses) are everywhere here, there’s no better place to take advantage of your surroundings and saddle up. Just be sure to time your trek to witness the sunset. The skies burning orange over the vineyard-carpeted landscape is truly a one-of-a-kind sight.
Stay at the Eco-Friendly Casa de Uco Hotel
Pulling up to Casa de Uco Vineyards & Wine Resort, an architectural behemoth that’s set against a rugged backdrop, is breathtaking to say the least. For starters, the rooms are gorgeous. Most have private balconies (and the bungalows have rooftop jacuzzis), but all feature super comfy beds, smokey Fuegia bath amenities, a bottling of their latest vintage of Malbec, and some seriously plush bathrobes. Another reason to check in? For the decks and patios brimming with ‘braseros’ (small Argentine fire pits) made for sipping vino in front of the Andean mountain range. There’s also an upstairs game room with a telescope for stargazing and a restaurant that sources most of its ingredients from the hotel’s very own garden.
Shop the Mercado Central
There’s something unique about seeing a city through its markets, and Mendoza is no exception. The bustling Mercado Central (that opened its doors in 1883) is not to be overlooked. Jam packed with rows of vendors peddling everything from meats and spices, to dry goods, wine, olive oils, and produce, you could literally stroll around for hours inside this magical mecca and never tire of the sights, smells, and sounds. It’s also ideal for a quick lunch, given the countless eateries selling pizza, sandwiches, and empanadas to the hungry masses.
Climb Mt. Aconcagua
Mendoza is home to the highest mountain outside of Asia, with Aconcagua clocking in at 6,960.8 meters or 22,837 feet. So if you’re up for the challenge, click around aconcaguaexpeditions.com to research your expedition options. There’s the normal route that doesn’t require herculean skills and offers security on the mountain, an acclimatization process with a two-night stopover to make sure you don’t shock your body. Plus, your gear—tents, kitchen sets, stoves, and ropes—is carried for you. Or take the “360 Polish traverse route” that allows you to see more: Plaza Argentina in the Polish Route and Plaza de Mulas in the Normal Route.
People Watch at Plaza Independencia
When in the city you can’t bypass Plaza Independencia, which is their biggest plaza, and green space complete with dancing water shows in the fountains, concerts, fairs, and street performances. You’ll also stumble upon a myriad of artisans selling their wares and you can step inside the theater and modern art museum to learn more about the vibrant culture scene in Mendoza. It’s centrally located to pretty much everything else worth exploring in the vicinity, so plan your day around visiting this landmark attraction.
Try White Water Rafting
When you need a break from the grapes, head to the river. Potrerillos Explorer is a boutique outdoor adventure company that specializes in white water rafting trips and their pros will help you navigate the rapids in small groups with the top equipment. So if you didn’t bother packing a wet suit, helmet, and life jacket in your carry-on bag, that’s no problem. Plus, if you’re looking to document your day of aquatic fun, they’ll also take videos and photos of you along the way to upload to your ‘gram once you return to dry land.
Take Part in the Annual Grape Harvest Festival
You can experience the region's most famous festival if you happen to be there in late February or early March. La Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, or The Grape Harvest National Festival, was founded in 1936 and brings together thousands of tourists and the crème de la crème of winemakers to celebrate harvest season. And as one of the world’s top ten harvest festivals (alongside Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts), you don’t want to miss a chance to party Argentine style throughout the 10-day affair which includes performances, fireworks, and a parade of ‘reinas’ (queens) throughout the streets of Mendoza in colorful chariots.
Lounge in the Cacheuta Thermal Baths
At the Termas Cacheuta, located outside of Mendoza on Ruta 82, you can expect to get really dirty in the best way possible. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., there’s plenty of time to drench yourself in localized mud, splash around with the kids in the water park, relax in the thermal springs and floatariums, and take advantage of numerous massage therapies. There’s even a brewery and regional buffet lunch that many claim is the high point of the day.