Nestled right along the eastern slope of the mighty Andes, Mendoza is both a province and city in Argentina. The dry climate and cool nights make it perfect for growing grapes, yes, the varieties used to make wine. Of the many cities the Gringos have visited, this one holds a top ranking… here’s a video to show why and then we’ll dive deeper if you’d care to see more!
Wine and Dine
Obviously while being in the Napa Valley of South America, one must enjoy the wine. You can go as expensive as you’d like, but we mostly stuck to the house Malbecs, which they occasionally serve in ceramic penguins, just ask for the “pingüino.” It is about a half a bottle of wine and great with the assortment of empanadas that must also be part of your Argentina checklist.
You can find the Pingüino at the popular Palenque Tavern located on Aristides, a great place to kick off your night on this popular street that hosts many other great bars and restaurants. It really seemed like we couldn’t go wrong, but some of our other faves were Chachingo Craft Beer, Beerlin, Brader Hops and our local pub Patio Cervecero Héroes Carranza… Ok, ok! They are all breweries or tap houses, what of it!? The beer in Mendoza is top-notch and will help you with any craft beer fixes that you may miss from home. Mendoza isn’t all about wine! Cerveceria Dowel was our favorite, making a perfect IPA. We tried to visit their brewery near Tunuyán, but it was under construction at the time. Luckily you can still find their beer all around Mendoza!
We did have one exquisite meal of note at the Casa de Campo out near Maipu. Maipu will be covered in a moment, but if you find yourself hungry after checking out the vineyards, this is a great place to stop. They have several 3-course meals to choose from and can offer great advice on a nice bottle of wine to pair with the meal. Lovely folks there!
Bike through Wine Country in Maipu
A very popular way to stop by a few wineries in the same day is to ride a bike through winery alley off of Urquiza Avenue, just outside of Maipu. You can rent from Maipu Bikes and they will furnish you with a map and recommendations on the best route for your specific taste and wallet size. WARNING: DO NOT try and do this on a Sunday. Not only are the bike shops closed, but so are all the wineries.
Of course, what really set Mendoza apart for the Gringos was the amazing loop we did on some 250cc Honda dirt bikes. We went with Mendoza Renta Motos and couldn’t have been happier. It was around $40 a bike for an 8am -8pm rental, the bikes ran great, and the guy at the shop helped us draw up the perfect route to see it all in a day. The road to Termas Villavicencio is nice and paved, a straight highway to the mountains. After that, you will have fun, but manageable dirt roads to Uspallata, a great place to stop for a nice steak lunch. Then, cruise off your food coma and take a stop at lake Portrerillos, where you can find some other fun dirt trails to ride near the water. Finish the loop zipping through the many tunnels back into the city which starts with the suburb of Lujá de Cuyo. We didn’t have time, but the Termas Cachueta is a natural hot spring that our friends told us to visit. They smelled nice (as hot springs do) as we sped by…
Here are some things that may seem quite strange to foreign visitors and things you should be aware of before arrival:
Bad Bank Fees
While you will find many different banks, there are really only 2 companies that seem to preside over them, one with a flying “B” logo and the other Link. While they both have horrible fees, Link is always cheaper. However, I have HEARD, but without success in securing, that the flying “B” logo allows you to pull out up to $8,000 ARP which is nearly $216 for a $10 fee. Link limits seem to be $4000 ARP for a $6 fee. So, you’ll have to pick your poison, whichever one you do, it won’t be good. However, do not take their suggested amounts to withdrawal and always shoot for 4-8K, under the “other amount” section. Try multiple numbers, but 4, 6 and 8 (we hear) are the usual winners. The best plan is to bring USD and exchange them once you land.
Nothing Good Happens on a Sunday
As mentioned above, Mendoza takes their Sabbath seriously. It is the time to relax and have an all-day cookout (known as a parilla) with family and friends. This is tough on tourists with a go-go attitude, but you should definitely call ahead to see if places are open before heading that way. Google Maps info is not always reliable on this front. Your best tactic will be to make new friends and get invited to one of their parillas!! You’ll find Argentinos super friendly and this idea really isn’t so far-fetched if you yourself are friendly.
Dinner at 10pm
It will be tough to find a restaurant open for dinner before 8, and primetime is definitely closer to 10. Most restaurants are open until 1 or 2am during the WEEK. The same goes for bars. Happy hour is somewhere in between 6-9 and people who dance have to wait until 2am, finishing the night at 5 or 6 when the sun kisses them goodnight. We wish we could recommend dance clubs, but we’ve never been able to stay awake long enough to see what they are like…
Mendoza has a neat trolly and a great bus system, however, you will need a card to take any of them. Cards can be bought and reloaded at almost any kiosko (corner store)!
If you are planning to stay long-term, it is definitely worth investing in a sim card. Data packs are cheap and offer at least 3G service in the city. However, you must register your card to use it, the process remotely took about 3 days, but you may be able to handle it quicker at a designated Movistar or Claro store. If you are working while abroad, a sim card is not an option: if I had to say one bad thing about Mendoza, it’s the wifi — slow and unreliable. If you have important meetings or other work that requires solid wifi, you’ll need to keep the mobile hotspot ready as back up.
Mendoza, the Place to Be!
There are many more mini sights to see, but I think those are beaten to death in other blogs, hopefully this one will help enlighten you to a different side of Mendoza, Argentina. Feel free to ask additional questions in the comments or find us on Facebook Messenger for DMs!