We have spent 2 weeks travelling west through the diverse country of Argentina. Our last stop in Argentina took us to Mendoza, the bustling city at the foothills of the eastern side of the Andes. We arrived by coach after a 10 hour overnight bus from Cordoba without any drama.
Travellers are drawn to Mendoza for it’s mountaineering, hiking, horse riding and other adventure sports. Mendoza is also the route to Santiago (Chile) through the border, for those travelling through South America.
What we got up to…
Hiking: Round 1
Our first hiking experience in Mendoza was up to a viewing point of the Andes Mountains. The guide from the morning walking tour had recommended walking straight from Plaza Independencia until we got to the top of a hill. On Maps.Me (a great app for maps without using data), we headed to the closest viewing point to his instructions, being Cristo De Los Cerros.
The walk was truly stunning with streets lined with trees with bright yellow leaves. Trees in Mendoza are all gifts from other countries, as nothing grows in the dry desert land. The artificial irrigation system that uses the snow from the Andes, is also quite impressive. It runs besides the roads to feed the plants and allows them to bloom.
Our route was blocked by a couple of streets that were guarded by a Security Guard so we simply walked to the next street with no barriers. Hind sight is a wonderful thing, but it turns out we shouldn’t have maybe done that!
At the top of the Cerro (‘hill’) was a rather strange monument but there was a huge viewing platform to see the Pre-Andes. What an incredible view we had! We tend to take in the scenery for a while before getting out the camera’s. After-all, pictures are to remind you of the moments you have experienced… they shouldn’t be the experience. This was the perfect place for our picnic sandwiches and snacks!
After this much needed break from the climb up, we headed down the other side of the hill. We were trying to avoid the 2 streets that were protected by security and thought we could simply walk round. Well… you know what thought did haha! A motorbike and a car with security weren’t too impressed and pulled us aside. They wanted our passports, to see in our bags and even took photographs of our belongings! I remember thinking… ‘I wonder how much hand-cuffs would hurt!?’ Through broken Spanish and the life-saver app of Google Translate we managed to communicate. However, we were still unsure of what we had actually done wrong. Next, we were asked to get in the car which reluctantly we did. They wanted to know where (‘donde?’) on earth we managed to ‘get in’. They refused to look at our map and wanted directions to where we entered. After what felt like a never-ending journey, we were told to ‘Vamos’ (go!). They didn’t need to tell us twice… we were off haha!
After much discussion with locals, we believe we entered a private neighbourhood where the rich and famous live. We may have been trespassing accidently and they wanted us to prove who we were. Let’s hope there were no burglary’s that afternoon, or we may not be able to leave the country haha!
Hiking: Round 2
The second hike, was much more peaceful and enjoyable with the volunteers from Hostel Club. With support from a mountaineering guide, we jumped on a bus to Petrerillos and began a steady hike. This is a small settlement just south from Mendoza city centre. We walked through the town, jumped across streams, climbed up the hill to a view point of the Pre-Andes. The views were incredible and I then realised why we were unable to cross the border to Chile… the snow! We took a well deserved picnic break at the top with the dogs that had accompanied us, and I even enjoyed a Mate drink (with honey is the trick!).
As we returned to the town we stopped at an artificial lake in Petrerillos. It looks so tranquil and is a great place to stop for a well deserved Empanada from a local vendor nearby. The bus ride there and back was 110 ARG (approx £3).
Argentina is the 5th largest producer of wine in the whole world! So when in Rome… we of course visited a winery! There are many tour options available to visit many wineries in a day. However, we chose to visit one famous winery in Maipu called Bodegas Lopez. They offer 2 English Tours a day, we went to the 4pm one.
The wine production system is incredibly impressive! They Lopez family have been producing wine for more than 100 years and now make 84 cases every 5minutes. I was pleased that they have 0% waste. Anything they do not use is sold to other companies for production of olive oil or may even end up in your skincare. The red wine is aged for at least 10 years! On the tour we saw the rows of wine barrels that have the smallest little door on them. I cannot believe that the staff fit through these doors to clean inside the barrels. Each barrel is drained and cleaned once every 6 years!
On our free wine tasting tour we learnt how to hold our wine, swill it, smell it before most importantly tasting it! We were surprised to find that we fell in love with a white wine, the sweetest we have ever tasted! Once we realised we got 15% discount on already cheap prices, we walked away for a bottle for the evening for 90 ARG (£2.50).This was used in a white wine sauce for our chicken dish and we enjoyed the rest over tea.
You can easily get to Maipu by utilising the train line. Remember you need a RED BUS card that you top up at local shops that show the RED BUS sign in the window. The card costs 19 ARG and each journey costs 11 ARG.
There are 4 Plazas that surround the central Independencia Plaza. It is well worth taking a steady stroll around all 5 parks. This includes Plaza Italia, Espana, Chile and San Martin.
Where we Stayed
Our hostel stay at Hostel Club, really made our stay in Mendoza a great stay. The hostel is ran by loyal volunteers who all bring a positive and fun atmosphere to the hostel. Some of the volunteers specialise in different areas such as Mountaineering, Wine and Cookery. They are able to give great advice, offer tours at competitive prices or just simply take you out for the day with no additional costs. As mentioned above, I joined the volunteers for a day trip to the mountains and had a fantastic day! If cooking isn’t for you, there are volunteers who cook lunch or evening meals for only 100 ARG (£2.71 approx). You are always greeted with a smile by the volunteers!
The building feels like a mansion with wide winding stairways, large rooms and Victorian style bathrooms! In the reception area you will find the weeks worth of activities including wine tours, ping-pong tournaments and mountain hikes to name a few. We stayed in 2 different dorm rooms during our stay and found them to be comfy, clean and bright. There is a large bathroom next door to Room ‘Argentina’ that even had a bath! Down the main corridor is a male and a female bathroom with showers and toilets. We stayed in a dorm room with a private bathroom for a few nights but wouldn’t say it is necessary to spend the extra when the communal bathrooms are just as good. The showers are always HOT too! On this same floor, is the medium sized kitchen with plenty of supplies to make a good meal. The oven even works which is a bonus! We were treated to homemade bread made by a volunteer in this kitchen.
This floor is the communal space featuring a bar area, TV area, ping-pong, eating area and outside space. The bar area is where the breakfast is served in the morning, with coffee, tea, croissants, breads and spreads including Dulce de Leche of course! If you are leaving early before breakfast hours, the staff are great and will wake early to ensure you are fed before leaving! The TV area was great for the Mister to relax and watch the England matches. We spent most evenings playing ping pong with other guests and volunteers. It was a great way to get to know people and improve my ping pong skills! There are plenty of benches and tables to eat at with electric sockets a plenty to work on your laptops. In this space there is an indoor BBQ area, where they host Asado evenings too… a real treat if you get the chance to have an Asado evening. Read about our Asado night in Buenos Aires! The outdoor space was a great sun trap to dry our clothes or relax with a beer. While we were staying there was Chilean guests who were in a band. We really enjoyed listening to there music on the roof top for the evening.
Throughout our stay, the volunteers turned into friends and that’s what made our stay even more special. We were invited on trips, invited to eat with them and we returned the favour by cooking our wine inspired meal for our new friends too. I highly recommend Hostel Club for the great atmosphere, activities on offer, the facilities and the location within Mendoza.
Go the Distance in Mendoza,