You will never run out of things to do in Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza thrives below the tourist radar. This is the scrappy, proud capital of Mendoza province. It doesn’t take a back seat to cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, the capital city. Mendoza has its own wide array of attractions going for it. And there are many, but I think the top three things to do in Mendoza are to visit its tree-shaded center city, experience its wine culture and enjoy its adventure travel options.
WANDERING MENDOZA’S PLAZAS
Much of Mendoza was reduced to rubble during the devastating earthquake of 1861 that killed 5000 people. As the city rebuilt, it created five airy plazas in the city center designed to provide some safe open spaces in the event of another disaster. These have become the cornerstones of the city, especially on the weekends. At the biggest and most popular square, the Plaza Independencia, ice cream and yerba maté vendors sell their goods while kids run around, and locals relax on park benches listening to the bands that congregate in little groups. Wander from here to the other four plazas and you get a good sense of the city’s layout. In Mendoza’s Financial District, the Plaza San Martín is dominated by a statue of the general who led Argentina to independence. Plaza Chile has the best children’s playground, like a little amusement park. Plaza Italia is dedicated to the country that gave Mendoza so many immigrants -there is a statue of Romulus and Remus and a fountain with 1,400 ceramic tiles from the Cathedral of Bologna. Plaza España, with its green spaces, is arguably the most beautiful of all.
A perfect mourning or afternoon in Mendoza is to stroll through these plazas stopping for lunch or coffee at any of the numerous cafes on the popular pedestrian avenues. And don’t miss the outstanding architecture and whimsical street art around every corner.
EXPERIENCE MENDOZA’S WINE CULTURE
Many visitors to Mendoza are wine lovers that go with the express purpose of visiting wineries and experiencing tastings. Argentina’s wine industry dates back over 500 years. Today the country is the 5th largest wine producer. Mendoza was awarded the 8th Wine City of the World in 2005 and its reputation continues to grow, especially with its flagship wine, Malbec. You might be surprised about the history of the famous Malbec wine. The name “Malbec” loosely translates into “poor taste” in French. It originated in France where it was considered a second-rate wine, hence the name. Vines were brought over from France to Argentina and planted in a different environment which just happened to be ideal for this particular grape. The vines flourished into what is today one of the most popular wines.
HOW TO VISIT THE WINERIES
There are many ways to visit the wineries. Among the most popular is to rent a car. This option will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace. But with 1500 wineries to choose from, you may want to maximize your visit with a guide. One guided tour option is Viatour which includes a lunch with wine pairings. Biking your way around the wineries has become increasingly popular. And, of course, riding horses between the vineyards as part of a horseback riding winery tour has got to be one of the ultimate Argentina experiences. As any winery tour you take will involve sampling, you may want to take the hop-on-hop-off bus, that travels a loop through some of the best wineries. This way you can sample to your heart’s delight without worrying about getting tipsy on a horse or getting stopped by local authorities.
Accommodations in Mendoza are plentiful. Choose from cozy boutique hotels in the center of the city to homestays near vineyards. Check them out here.
The winery tours themselves are leisurely and educational. The guides explain the history of the vineyards – did you know many vineyards have their own patron saint? After a tour of the wine-making process, it’s on to the samplings, reasonably priced selections all in beautiful surroundings. Exceptional wineries visited include BodegaA16 and Bodega Dante Rubino.
With growing tourism in the wine regions and the wide variety of things to do in Mendoza, the city is successfully adding adventure tourism to the selection of things to do in Mendoza. The activities include whitewater rafting, zip-lining, trekking and horseback riding, locally known as “cabalgatas.” Also available are tours to the surrounding spectacular Andes region including Aconcagua the highest peak in the Andes mountain range. Mendoza Viajes specializes in adventure tourism.
Learn about the other great wine regions of the Americas
What are some of your favorite things to do in Mendoza? We’d like to know.
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