Wining, dining, and horse-riding in Mendoza

What better way to spend a bank holiday weekend than basking in the sun in one of Argentina’s most important wine regions?

Bodega Tempus Alba

(Disclaimer: Due to hyperinflation in Argentina, all prices listed are subject to frequent increases, and based on the blue exchange rate at time of writing)

Last month I had the pleasure of heading West with some friends to spend Easter weekend in the beautiful city of Mendoza. This city had been on my radar since our trip to Argentina in 2019, and so I jumped at the opportunity to get away for a few days.

Keep reading to see what we got up to…


the journey

Argentina is an enormous country. Flights are by far the most convenient way to travel, but also the most expensive, and as students on a budget this is not always an option. Fortunately, there are lots of options for long-distance buses across the country, which makes visiting far away places more affordable.

We bought our bus tickets from the SobreRuedas office in Buenos Aires. Return tickets from Retiro to Mendoza with a semi-reclining seat – the cheapest option – cost us around £60 per person (subject to change depending on date/time etc). Fully reclining seats (coche cama) are also available for a higher cost.

The bus journey was scheduled to take 16 hours, but we were delayed due to roadblocks (unfortunately, very common in Argentina), which meant we reached Mendoza long after our scheduled arrival time. Aside from the delays, the journey itself was fairly comfortable as there is a toilet on board, and a stop for breakfast/a much needed coffee.


to do

Visit the Vineyards

A trip to Mendoza would be incomplete without a visit to a bodega (or a few), and the city is certainly not lacking options.

We chose to visit the Maipú region, where wine tastings are more budget-friendly and the bodegas are close together, so travelling between them is easy. For this reason, Maipú is a popular area for wine tastings and can get very busy during high season. We were fortunate to have gone on a quiet day, and had a great experience at both bodegas we visited. A good middle option is the area of Luján de Cuyo, or those with a bigger budget may consider one of the many private tours available online.

We started our day off at 11AM with a free self-guided tour at Tempus Alba, followed by a wine tasting on their beautiful terrace. We all chose the option which consisted of two smaller glasses of your choice, plus a large glass of their Tempus Pleno Gran Reserva, which cost us ARS650 (£2.6/$3.25) per person. I opted for the Malbec Rosé and the Syrah.

Other options included three small glasses of your choice (ARS500), or three large glasses of their premium wines (ARS2300). For those who aren’t big wine fans, there were a variety of other drinks options, as well as a food menu to enjoy on the terrace and look out over the expansive vineyards.

It is perhaps most common to hire bikes and cycle between the bodegas, but due to the last-minute nature of our trip, and the fact that it was Easter weekend, none of the places we called had availability. So, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and walk to our next stop.

Our next bodega was La Rural, which was opened in 1885, and is currently one of the most important producers of high-quality Argentine wines in the world. Entrance cost ARS950 (£3.5/$4.75) per person, and included a guided tour of the bodega with a very knowledgeable guide, access to the museum which hosts wine-making equipment from throughout the bodega’s history, and a tasting of their Chardonnay and Malbec. The ticket can then also be used towards the price of a bottle(/s) of wine in their shop. We pooled three tickets together and bought a box of six bottles of their Malbec. The tour and wines were excellent, and our guide was happy to answer all the questions we had.

Saddle up

Mendoza is not only famous for its wines, and so after our rather tipsy day in the sun at the bodegas, the next day we were ready to explore the beautiful landscapes on the outskirts of the city.

We booked a two-hour horse riding trek in the mountains through Get Your Guide, and we would definitely recommend it (they offer tours in both English and Spanish). The excursion cost ARS5300 (£21/$27) per person (including hostel pick-up/drop-off), and this was the cheapest option of the three. Other options included an authentic asado (barbecue) after the ride, or a traditional folk music session at sunset, each with additional costs. Our guide Fernando was fantastic, and patient with the group as we had varying levels of experience with horses. Towards the end of the ride, he showed us how to gallop, and feeling the wind against your face as you’re speeding past the Andes was certainly enough to shake off the wine hangover from the day before!

Go for a dip

On the final day of our trip, we headed to the beautiful lake in Potrerillos to make the most of the fresh air before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.

Round-trip bus tickets cost us ARS310 (£1.25/$1.55) per person (bought from the Andesmar ticket counter in Mendoza’s bus terminal), and the journey took around 1hr15mins each way.

The lake is stunning, and the surrounding area has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activities. We hired kayaks from a truck on the lake itself, which cost ARS700 (£2.8/$3.5) per person for an hour including the hire of life jackets and wetsuits, and they had both single and double kayaks available. After, we sunbathed and ate our lunch on the bank of the lake, enjoying some well-deserved rest.

There is a café where the bus drops you off, and there was also a foodtruck selling various dishes on the lake itself, but we opted to bring a packed lunch to keep costs lower.

Before heading back to the bus stop, we climbed up part of the Sendero Cerro Cocodrilo to get even better views of the lake from up above. It is possible to scale it further, but we were short on time as we had to return to Mendoza to catch our bus back to Buenos Aires.

It was a perfect excursion to kill a few hours before a 16-hour bus journey, but you could definitely spend more time there to make the most of the activities and beauty it has to offer.


Accommodation

We booked this trip very last minute, and because it was Easter weekend, prices for accommodation were higher than usual. We booked a three-person room at Portillo Apartments, and the room was clean and spacious, with a balcony, bathroom, and kitchenette (microwave, fridge, kettle). This was perfect, as we wanted to keep costs down by buying food from the supermarket for breakfast and lunch. Per person it cost around £60 for three nights.  

Shortly before getting locked out on the balcony…

Where/what to eat

The food scene in Mendoza was unexpectedly brilliant.

On our first night, we ate at Cocina Poblana – we ordered sharing platters of hummus, babaganoush, taboule, stuffed vine leaves and falafel etc., and it went down a treat after spending so long on the bus.

Bernardino Gourmeteria was also fantastic: we shared smoked aubergine, falafel, and Spanish tortilla between three and it came to ARS1300 (£5.20/$6.5) per person. The food was absolutely delicious (we bought loaves of bread from here for our breakfast the next day), and the waiter was extremely knowledgeable – he gave us wine pairing suggestions for the dishes we had ordered.

On our final night, we made a reservation at La Central Vermuteria (a recommendation from a fellow bus passenger and Mendocino). It is a small plates restaurant, and every dish we ordered was sublime. Between us we ordered hummus and focaccia, pumpkin salad, beetroot with ricotta and blackcurrant, black beans with broccoli, and a cheese plate.

Another notable mention was Famiglia Perin for late-night ice cream to fuel my helado addiction.

If you’re not ordering DDL ice cream, you’re doing it wrong…

Arístides Villanueva is a long street full of bars and restaurants which transforms the small city at night. We also enjoyed Chirolas Bar (close to Cocina Poblana). Drinks in the bars cost similar to what you would expect to pay in Buenos Aires (around ARS800 for two cocktails at Happy hour).

Money-saving tip: areas out of the centre offered much cheaper prices on food and drink, and the same goes for within the bus station, walk a bit further round the corner and you can get two slices of pizza and a drink for the same price as a coffee in the central part of the terminal.


Thoughts on mendoza

The city of Mendoza itself felt very small compared to the grandeur of Buenos Aires, but while we were there they had an Easter festival with a market in the Plaza Independencia, a light show in the fountains, and activities organised by the local government for people of all ages.

There are so many things to do in Mendoza that you could definitely stay for longer than four days if you have the budget for it. During my research for the trip I saw companies offering paragliding, thermal baths, ziplining, and white water rafting, to name a few. There is also the beautiful Parque San Martín, which unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit. 


Here is a map of places I saved in Mendoza:

 

Have you tried any of these activities in Mendoza, or do you have any suggestions for things we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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