We went to Mendoza for a weekend getaway. We spent in Chile, more than a week, skiing in Valle Nevado. Mendoza is a short flight form Santiago, Chile so why not to stopover and taste their famous wine and lamb.
Mendoza is famous for great wine - especially Malbec. The city is located at the foothills of the Andes Mountains - the longest mountain range in the world. Andes are covered by glaciers and the water from melting ice is providing constant hydration to vines. The great terroir that includes soil, climate, and of course mountains are key elements to get a delicious wine.
We landed on Friday afternoon, and after renting a car we went straight to the city center where our hotel was. We wanted a small, not expensive car, so we got a Chevrolet Classic. It was very, very basic standard - I don't remember when last time was that I had to turn the knob to open the window, AC wasn't included, and we always had to close doors from inside before leaving the car - sounds like back in time right?
Mendoza is a relatively small city, you can walk everywhere. As the city is more about food and wine than anything else, leaving the car parked at the hotel and walking around sounds like the best option. There is also plenty of wineries that are open almost everyday till 5 pm. The best way to visit them is to buy a tour. Your hotel definitely can arrange it for you. You can visit wineries by yourself, but in most cases you need an appointment. We were passing a lot of wineries, but the gates were closed and there were no sign/information about tasting.
We prioritized mountains over wineries and we spent almost the whole Saturday in the mountains. Aconcagua is the highest peak in South America. It's also the highest peak in the world, when excluding Himalayas. Darek's love for the mountains won over love for wine. There was no doubt that we had to go to Aconcagua National Park, even though it was a 300 km drive (one-way). On the way, we passed some wineries - it was amazing how huge and nice they were. It was quite evident that this region made it's money of it's wine. All the wineries are fancy mansions, surrounded by huge fences and gates.
Most people fly to Mendoza, but you can also drive through the mountains from Santiago de Chile to Mendoza, Argentina. Route number 7, was the one we took to the park. However, as this route connects Chile and Argentina you can only imagine how many trucks were there - quite a lot! There were some passenger cars, but tourists are still a niche.
The trucks didn't surprise us that much, but the number of control points did. Somebody stopped us almost every 30 minutes. As long as we were going towards Chile they were fine and let us go without any questions. On the way back they asked us many times where we were coming from. Each time we showed them a ticket to the park since their English wasn't the best. That was a good trick and proof at the same time.
Aconcagua National Park is named after the highest peak in South America. The parking we found was also a starting point for all the hikers who wanted to get to the top. You need to have around 1 days to get to the top. It's not really a technical hike, but because of the high elevation you need to have enough time for acclimatization. Also at such a high elevation your speed is much slower than on a lower elevation.
For those who just want to see the mountain from a distance there are two hikes - one 15 minutes, and the other around 1h. Of course, we took the longer one. Even though it was winter time, there wasn't much snow on the lower elevation. However, there were a lot of clouds, and we couldn't see the mountain in the full picture.
Darek was hypnotized by this mountain and said it's really calling him. He really wants to hike it one day. The permit costs around $1,000, but a doctor consultation and helicopter in case of emergency is included in the price. To increase your chances you have to be in great physical condition, and ideally get a proper workout at least 6 months before the hike.
The park is very beautiful and it must be gorgeous during the spring! On the way back, we stopped to see Puente del Inca. This is a rock formation, made by glacier, and hot springs. Once there was a spa, but now it's only ruins. Anyway, the rocks look amazing, and it's a very unique place. You cannot walk there - you can only admit it from the distance, but it's still worth stopping there for a while.
We went to Mendoza just for he weekend, so Saturday was our farewell night. We celebrated our vacations, in the Azafran restaurant, great choice! Everything was awesome! Amazing food, delicious wine, and a very nice waitress. First, when we get there in our hoodies they warned us that the table we wanted is only for two hours. We didn't plan to stay long anyway, so we agreed to finish before 9 pm. However, as we were drinking more wine, ordering second bottle, ordering more food as everything was delicious they allowed us to stay as long as we wish. They said that somebody cancelled the reservation. I don't think this was true, but we didn't care much - we enjoyed the dinner!
I liked their wine cellar. The restaurant didn't have a wine cart, rather you just go to their wine cellar and select the bottle you want. Of course, if you should need help, the sommelier will be right with you. It was perfect end of our vacation. We had a blast skiing in Chile, and an amazing time in Mendoza. Hopefully, one day we will go back there again. It's definitely worth to fly 7h to have the best lamb in the world. You can also fly to New Zealand for as delicious meal as in Mendoza. Still South America is closer for us.