Wine, wine and more wine. If you somehow came to Mendoza without knowing about its most notable export, you’re probably the only one. The city’s located in the heart of the Cuyo region, a desert area known internationally for its impressive output of Malbecs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.
Aside from wine connoisseurs, climbers and hikers are the main visitors to drop in on Mendoza, which is situated close to the highest non-Himalayan peak in the world, and a great spot to start and ambitious assault on the Andes. For those who enjoy the outdoors, but have a slightly tamer disposition, the Parque Saint Martin offers great walking opportunities, too.
For all its worldwide reputation, Mendoza is an interesting city in part because of its strangely backwards feel. While the irrigation system, which keeps the city moist amongst the desert, is impressive, it also regularly floods the roads entirely. There are still an array of seasonal festivals, most small but inviting, though the harvest festival is still a major annual draw. Local people spend ample time on the streets, making for a sociable vibe and one of the best spots in South America to settle down and focus on learning the local lingo.
Most tourists head out of Mendoza on a bike tour of the wineries (the free samples are great, but don’t drink so much you get lost, and remember the same wines are almost invariably cheaper in the local supermarkets), exploring the substantial vineyards and snapping away at the soaring mountain backdrops. Plenty of companies will organize the whole thing – bikes, maps and opening hours – for you in advance, and while you might feel like you’re following a bit of a beaten track, this really is the essential local experience.
The local nature is truly spectacular, and being an Argentinean hub, you’ll more than likely be dropping in on Mendoza at some stage, so you may as well make the most of it. Perhaps it’s not the ideal stop off for the more sober minded, but for those who like to throw back bottles of wine and chat away with the locals, Mendoza is ideal.