Is Mendoza Argentina's best city?
Most visitors to Argentina head straight for Buenos Aires. You can hardly blame them – the steakhouses (parillas) are superb and the tango clubs (milonga) go longer and later than anywhere else. More adventurous travellers might make further to see the cafe culture and art galleries of Cordoba. But if you want to see somewhere that has yet to be discovered head north to Mendoza.
Mendoza has all the verve of the capital, but you won’t have to share it with the crowds, and cafes that rival anything in Cordoba. It’s also the wine capital of South America, with dozens of vineyards to explore in the shade of the Andes. Get there now before the secret gets out.
You can see the very best of Mendoza on our Argentina cultural tour
Taste Argentinian wine where it all began with the Catena Family
You’ll have no shortage of vineyards to choose from when in Mendoza – more than half of Argentina’s wine is grown in the fields that surround the city - but there really is no better place to start your introduction than with a tour of the Catena family vineyards. The Catenas planted their first grape in 1902 and have been at the forefront of bringing Argentinian wine to the world ever since. On their VIP wine tour you will not only have the chance to sample some of their award winning Malbec, but you’ll be talked through the tasting by their head wine maker. Each wine is matched with artisanal local cheeses served up inside the spectacular Casa El Enemigo.
Stand above the Americas at Aconcagua
If you want the best of the Andes, you need to meet Aconcagua. This is the tallest mountain in the Americas. Standing at more than 22,840ft it casts a shadow across the rest of the Andes range. Leave conquering the peak to the professionals and instead hike around the foothills. You’ll spy the snow covered peaks and the glaciers that cling to them, as well as breathing in some of the clearest air in the world. Don’t miss the side trip to Puente del Inca. This stone bridge has been inked bright orange by the constant drip of sulphuric thermal water.
Sink into the springs of the Andes
As amazing as the thermal waters are over the Puente del Inca bridge, staring at them isn't nearly as enjoyable as sitting in them. Slip between waves of warm water at Termas Cacheuta, where you'll find half a dozen pools filled with natural spring water at different temperatures. The riverside setting, nestled in the foothills of the Andes, is stunning, while the natural minerals in the water are said to work miracles on the skin. Head here as the weather turns wintery to warm yourself in the bath like water while watching snow settle on the mountains.
Meet the fire master at 1884 restaurant
You’ll be fed well wherever you travel in Argentina, but Mendoza is cosmopolitan enough to claim a couple of the country’s truly outstanding destination dining experiences. Francis Mallman’s 1884 restaurant set inside a beautifully restored 19th century winery has won a bagful of awards for its fine execution of Argentinian parrilla cooking over an open fire. If you think one high end steak tastes much the same as another, let Mallman change your mind. The steaks here are the best you’ll ever have, while locally sourced cheese, tomatoes and just about everything else that turns up on your plate are outstandingly flavoursome. As you would expect in Mendoza, the wine menu is more like a book and is every bit as stellar as its reputation suggests.
Sip Malbec on the roof at Alpasion wine lodge
If shuttle buses and bikes between vineyards still sound like too much of an imposition when there are so many wines to try, there are plenty of vineyards where you can stay the night. If you’re willing to travel about ninety minutes from Mendoza, Alpasion wine lodge and vineyard in the Uco Valley enjoys an enviable location looking out over the Andes. There is a pool, jacuzzi and roof terrace where you can try their 10-month aged Malbec. When you need a break from the bottle, you’ll find horse riding, fishing and white water rafting in the hills surrounding the property.