Mendoza is full of cultural things to see and do. Lose yourself to the sounds of tango as you sip on the finest drip of Malbec. Fill your belly with a mouth-watering parilla asado (BBQ), visit a local winery or participate in the debauchery of Vendimia, one of the largest wine festivals in the world. But, guess what, there is a lot more to Mendoza than just wine. To truly immerse yourself in Argentinian culture go and checkout a milonga or watch a local folkloric music group. And ofcourse, don’t forget to have a Malbec or two for me.
Soak in the atmosphere
Set in a dry, arid area, Mendoza feels like a green oasis when you arrive. Green leafy trees line the streets which help keep the city nice and cool even in the thick of summer. There are numerous plazas that are perfect for people-watching, mingling amongst the locals or just relaxing with a book. Checkout Plaza Espana, the old Spanish style plaza is beautiful.
Vendimia Wine Festival
By far the best time of the year to visit Mendoza is at the end of February for the Vendimia Wine Festival. One of the largest wine festivals in the world, the tradition dates back to the 17th century and marks the beginning of the wine harvesting season. Overnight the city transforms into a carnival with parades, food stalls, music, people dancing and young women competing to be crowned “Queen of Vendimia”. During the major parade the queens throw local produce to the crowd, whatever the region’s speciality, grapes, apples, pears, watermelons and so on. It can get a little crazy, while I was watching the parade one of the grapes hit me in the face and the girl behind me got hit in the nose by a pear. But it’s all in good fun. The main event is a concert that attracts over 25,000 people. Make sure to get your ticket early as it gets sold out quickly. There is so much to see and do. It is a really great time to visit this city.
Traditional Music and Dance
Many different regions of Argentina have their own unique musical styles characterised by the use of local instruments, dress and dance. Checkout El Retortuno restaurant for some amazing folkloric music. You are unlikely to find any other gringos here. They have different folkloric shows weekly, simple but mouth-watering food and the restaurant itself is beautiful! Don’t be put off by the location, as the restaurant is located near the bus terminal, in the poorer side of town, it is well worth the trip, just catch a taxi, they are cheap here.
EL Retortuño (173 Dorrego St., Guyamallén) +54 261 431-6300 https://www.facebook.com/elretortuno/?rf=207438965941794
Milongas in Mendoza
Tuesday: La Interzona, 276 Yrigoyen St., Tel (261) 4-24 69 60
Práctica del Centro Cultural Leonardo Favio, 423 Pedro Molina St., Tel (0261) 155-17 94 38
Thursday: La Pipistrela, 165 San Juan St., Tel. (0261) 156-02 69 26 https://www.facebook.com/Pipistrela-Tango-Mendoza-Argentina-Clases-y-Milongas-213029182048336/
Friday: Plazoleta Vergara’s Milonga, Vergara square (only in summer, cancelled in bad weather)
Saturday: Milonga “Samedi” 423 Pedro Molina St., Tel (0261) 155-17 94 38
Sunday: Milonga con Ana and Luis, 22:00hrs, Av. Belgrano 417, +54 261 420-1336 http://anayluistango.com.ar/en/#diapositiva-milonga-2
Salsa Dancing in Mendoza
- Luv-Bar, San Martín 2379 (Alameda), Phone: 0261-2001227 Tuesdays through Saturday from 21:00 to 5:30 https://www.facebook.com/Luv-Bar-Rest%C3%B3-291194927567036/
- Rey de Copas (on the corner of Corrientes and Rioja St. – tel. 4-257486) , https://www.facebook.com/reydecopas.restobar
- Rumbo Perdido San Martín 631, Godoy Cruz https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rumbo-Perdido/252140104801591
Tango Dinner and Show
If you don’t mind splurging then you could watch a tango performance while sampling a traditional Argentinian BBQ at the Park Hyatt Hotel. On every Friday 21:00 ‘Noches de Tango’ at Grill Q – Parrilla Argentina, Park Hyatt Hotel. Address: Chile 1124. Tel: (0261) 441-1225.
The obvious one. This is a very popular activity and you have a big choice of tour companies (can be booked in the city center, online or through your hotel). I organised my winery tour through my hostel and loved it. We visited 2 wineries, an olive oil factory and a chocolate factory. That half day tour set me back 450 AP (AUD$45). It pays to shop around and do some research about the type of wineries you’ll be visiting. The quality of the wineries vary so make sure you are visiting reputable ones. You can also hire a car or a bike, grab a few mates from your hostel and do it on your own. But be sure to check with the wineries beforehand because some only accept people in organised tour groups. A few locals have advised me that a wine degustation at a local wine bar is much better value for money, especially if you are a connoisseur, as they can tailor it to your tastes.
In addition to winery tours, you can go horseback riding, experience a traditional Argentinian asado (bbq) and many more.
Feeling peckish? Checkout ‘El Mercado Central (on the corner of Las Heras and Patricias Mendocinas St.).
Where to Stay in Mendoza
Mendoza’s center is Plaza Independencia, which is a large plaza in the heart of the city. Plaza Independencia is surrounded by 4 smaller plazas. I recommend you stay within this square, it’s where all the action. My pick would be to stay near Plaza Italia. This is a every good location, walking distance to shops, restaurants, public transport. Nice, quiet neighbourhood but only a couple of minute walk to all the action. Do NOT stay near the terminal!!! Its far from everything and is unsafe. The taxi from the terminal to the center of the city is about 50 pesos. Taxis are very cheap.
I have been to Mendoza 3 times now as it is very close to Santiago Chile, where I currently live and go regularly to cross the border to renew my tourist visa. Each time I stay at the Gorilla Hostel, owned by a friend of mine. I could not recommend it enough and do go and checkout their reviews.
Getting to Mendoza
From Buenos Aires to Mendoza
You can fly or bus into Mendoza. It is a 16 hour bus ride if you are coming from Buenos Aires. I came from Valparaiso, Chile and I caught the bus using Andesmar and CATA. Personally I prefer CATA because the buses are a lot newer, the seats are more comfortable and the service is better.
From Santiago, Chile to Mendoza
The trip from Santiago/Valparaiso to Mendoza is beautiful and takes you through the Andean mountains. It is well worth it, especially if you can hire a car. But a word of warning, the border crossing can be lengthy. I was there at the end of summer holidays (end of February) and was stuck for 5 hours at the border. 5 freaking hours! I have heard that a few days earlier people were waiting 8 hours to cross. So stock up on food and water for your trip. There are some food stalls at the border if you get hungry. Yay!
If you have any questions let me know and Ill try my best to answer them!