We didn’t know a lot about the town of Mendoza but were forced to make a stop there as there are no buses that go direct from Buenos Aires to Santiago. We asked the man at the ticket counter whether there was a lot to do in Mendoza to which he replied, Yes, a lot. Not completely convinced, we decided to book an overnight in Mendoza. Well, turns out he was right & we ended up staying a few nights longer!
About the area
The city of Mendoza is surrounded by wine regions. The town itself, is cute, but nothing to particularly fave about. However, the wine regions that border Mendoza are definitely worth a few days of your time. The three main wine regions that border the town of Mendoza are Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley. Unless you are on an organized tour, it is wise to dedicate 1 day per area. We had two days and visited the Maipu and the Lujan de Cuyo wine regions.
Maipu is a backpackers haven. Backpackers particularly love Maipu as they can hire bikes for the day and drunk ride from vineyard to vineyard. It sounds like a fantastic idea but in the scorching heat of summer, we decided we were happy to spend more time enjoying just one vineyard, than biking to two or three. However, if you would like to rent bikes Mr Hugo is the best rated bike vendor in town. He rents bikes for 100 Pesos per person ($6 USD) which also includes a glass of wine & empanadas. Mr Hugo provides maps with a wine route that you can follow. Looking to visit a winery which is in walking distance from the bus, we decided to visit Bodegas Lopez winery. The winery included free tours of the factory in english, followed by a complimentary tasting. The tours run Monday to Fridays 11:30 am to 15:30 pm every hour and only at 11 am on Saturday. There was no pressure to buy afterwards however, the wines were very affordable ranging from 70 – 150 pesos. Unlike many places in Argentina, you can pay for your wines by credit card here.
To get to Maipu, you can catch the local bus (bus #182) which will only cost you 7.5 pesos with the RedBus card. You can’t get on the bus without purchasing a RedBus card. You can buy RedBus card for 20 pesos at any convenience store in town which has a RedBus card logo on the door. You can buy one card between 2 or more travellers and just swipe the card multiple times as you enter the bus. Alternatively, if you are inclined to take a tour, the most affordable tour company was Bus Vitivinicola which will provide you with a hop on hop off style wine tour for between 500 – 600 pesos per person ($30 – $40 USD).
Lujan de Cuyo
To get to Luis de Cuyo, you can catch the local bus (bus #19) which will only cost you 7.5 pesos with the RedBus. If you follow the bus route on google maps, this bus drops you within metres of Filisofos Winery, which I would highly recommend to enjoy a bottle of wine or have lunch. Filisofos is an inauspicious setting for a winery, situated directly on a commercial and residential road adjacent to the highway to Santiago, Chile. At first, this didn’t seem very appealing as it lacked the gorgeous country vineyard setting but as you walked through the gates, a ‘new world’, quite different from the residential street, appeared before your eyes. This was one of the very few wineries that opens on a Sunday in the Mendoza area. As this winery did not offer a tour or tasting per say, we bought a bottle of their Malbec wine (100 pesos) and enjoyed in under their beautiful patio setting, right in front of their gorgeous vineyard.
Where to Stay?
For some reason, accommodation is a little more expensive in Mendoza (than for instance, Buenos Aires) & we struggled to find a decent place to stay within our budget that was reviewed well. We ended up staying at Hotel Milena which only set us back around $40 USD a night. While it was older style accomodation, the staff were really nice & helpful, the location is close to the bus stop and the rooms were to a decent level of cleanliness. They also included a breakfast which was tasty and fresh but minimal. It consisted of croissants, scones, marmalade, coffee & juice.
What to eat in Mendoza?
Being located in Argentina, there is no shortage of a good steak in Mendoza. For a decently priced steak, head to Paseo Sarmiento street, where you will find a street lined with restaurants selling steaks for around 160 pesos with a light salad or fries. For something other than steak, we particularly enjoyed the Argentinean style pizza & empanadas served at Los Inmigrantes Pizzeria. For lunch, all the wineries in the surrounding area are also known for serving particularly good food.
Note: If you have a choice on what day to come to Mendoza, come during the weekdays. Some wineries are closed on Saturdays and most wineries are closed on Sundays.